Leading Author Tamsin Calidas took time out from her busy schedule to share an insight into her life by revealing her top seven things that we and her readers should know about her. These include how she went from photography to writing and her favorite tipple in this very candid chat.
I like to write immersed in raw nature
My first words are raw sketches in nature. Immersed in weather, light, sounds and raw elements your impressions are uncensored. Often poetry or word patterns fall onto the page before prose. It is important not to restrict the creative process but to give it the freedom to find you. It is like flooding a lens with light. It is a process of the heart that is porous; it goes beyond a linear thought process of the rational mind. Later, I will return to these first impressions. Often I salvage natural objects. Touch, scent, texture all help to retrieve the raw stimulus. I find these tactile prompts and talismans help me to find the right words on the page.
I am a painter and photographer - writing is still relatively new:
I always thought I would work in the visual arts. I am first and foremost a painter and a photographer. Writing came later. Now I realise how my love of imagery works across different genres, and is indelible to crafting language. You learn to sculpt and mould patterns and motifs into the bigger canvas, weaving a multilayered fabric or tapestry. Writing is not dissimilar to working with nuance and interplays of colour, shadow, light - yet it arguably offers more scope. It is porous and can be honed by rhythm, deeper archetypes and metaphor. I am drawn to the role of silence in language - not just in speech, but on the page.
My favourite prose is the word Blue in the Thesaurus Dictionary
When I was a child, I opened a Thesaurus. It was an incredible discovery. I could not read many of the words so I found the primary colours. The page fell open and my finger traced the word ‘Blue’. It was an overwhelmingly metaphysical, and sensory experience. It was like diving deep into the ocean, and after, surfacing to gaze at an infinite dome of constellations and sky. That day I think my imaginative and physical body was forged creatively. I was four years old. I started to devour words. That experience has stayed with. I have always loved stories involving journeys, and still love reading myth, legends, and of the symbolism of medieval and Arthurian quests. I think this is linked to that first experience of immersion and how language asks us to connect to something sensory, primal and archetypal that I sensed in that slow dive into midnight sky blue.
My favourite drink is Angusturas Bitters with Tonic Water.
I love making this as a long drink in a clear rounded glass. The Angusturas is a rose red and dissolves spiralling into the clear liquid. It is like watching an oil droplet weave and dance in turpentine. It is a beautiful spiralling journey - it takes us from an external place of observation into something more deeply immersive as our our imagination journeys. A sprig of mint, or juniper and it tastes fresh. For hot summer days, a slice of lime adds tang. Taking a sip, I imagine then I am not in Scotland, with a jumper, wrapped up against the elements - but on an island in Greece. The landscapes are actually quite similar. And this drink brings both of these loved destinations very close.
Writing is not always comfortable
I love writing but sometimes starting a new project is an uncomfortable process. It keeps you awake at night, and sometimes ideas filter through sleep, so you never truly switch off. It comes to find you when you are not expecting it. It also makes reading fiction difficult, as you cannot afford to lose sight of the voice that is calling you. Sometimes I wonder which is hunter and which is the quarry. It is like being on the scent or trail of a wild creature - only those roles keep shifting. You need all your senses alive and vigilant to catch each subtle hint of movement. Sometimes that demands quietness and patience, and at other times you have to move fast, and move without questioning where that may lead you. Tracking a new idea is like that - one thing for sure is that its pursuit can take you into unknown territory. The effort then, getting it down on paper, is to find your way home.
My most creative time is a 4am
I love to rise early with the sun. In summer months, the nights are never truly dark - they are filled with a white gloaming light. I find that time magical, and it is also a source of creativity. Your own creative sun is at its zenith so you mirror those white nights. The days are long and the nights feel short, so I sleep less and write more. It is perhaps stimulated by the long daylight hours outside. We are all creatures of nature - our bodies are ancient, instinctive. It helps to reset our own circadian rhythms to the natural world. To remember we are elemental at heart.
My lover is Nature
I have been so long on my own I don’t miss having a partner or relationship. I have close friends and family that I am in touch with, by letter, online and phone and sometimes I wonder how I managed my personal and creative life given over to the small routines of a more conventional life, shared with another person. I do miss intimacy - close smiles, laughter, that feeling when you know someone is thinking of you with love - and of course I am open to the future and beautiful unknown connections still to come. Who knows what unrealised beauty that may still gift. Yet I am deeply immersed in the wilds around me, so life is rich and abundant. That source is elemental. It is unconditional and inspires such deep love, empathy and connection, it does not feel lacking. We are born into nature. Connecting with that deeper love, is beyond anything else I have ever known.
I am an Island by Tamsin Calidas (Doubleday) is out now in e-book and audio, and available to pre-order in hardback:
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