Eleni Cay is a Slovakian-born poet living in England and Norway. Her award-winning first collection was published by Parthian Books and her second poetry collection Love Algorithm is forthcoming by Eyewear Press. Her most recent poems appeared in Acumen, Atticus Review, The Cardiff Review and Poetry Ireland Review. Eleni is known for her filmpoems, dancepoems and multimedia poetry, which have been screened at international festivals and featured on Button Poetry. The Love Virus is Eleni’s debut novel.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
I wrote my first book in Slovak when I was twelve. The title was ‘The Spring in My Heart’. It was a teenage novel about a girl called Katie. It was printed in fifty copies, my sister made a beautiful cover for it. My latest book was written in English, the story is an e-book, audiobook, paper-book, accompanying website. The main character is still called Katie, so I kept the connection to her, but the language, style and readership, have changed over the years.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
Just like many other children, I enjoyed playing with sounds before I could speak words, and when I could speak some words, I enjoyed when they rhymed as they do in lullabies. So if we compare the distances, then the walk to poetry was the shortest, followed by fiction and then non-fiction.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
Loads of note-making, writing, re-writing, with occasional verses readily available in the mind factory.
4 - Where does a poem or work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
Poems begin in small happenstances, novels begin in more predictable places. Both need equal attention to make it into a book.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I am a huge introvert and any conversation beyond four eyes can be stressful for me. I prefer when others do the reading and I play some piano in the background.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
It varies from book to book, from poem to poem. I guess the perennial question that animates my writing is the question of Love (with capital L). Love towards the living and non-living beings of water that surround us, that constitute us, and that we keep on ruining and repairing.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
The writers I admire use their platforms to spread beauty, knowledge and truth.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential for final proofread, and difficult for pieces that deliberately deviate from conventions.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Listen before you speak, read before you write, live before you judge.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
It is their cross-over that I find most appealing (which is why I ended up writing a verse novel).
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I have no writing routine; I write when I can. My typical day begins with a small bowl of rice, a big cup of green tea and a smile.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Chopin or Bach.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Minty smell of menthol candies at my grandfather’s flat (that’s the place I used to call home).
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
All of the above, and also dance, architecture and technology.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
The list is long! Top contestants for this year are to read Bashō in original, kiss by the Northern Lights and start my own apple orchard.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
I am a full-time researcher and a part-time writer, my dream is to swap the time proportions.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I tried dance, music, painting, but I guess the linguistic mode is closest to my natural abilities.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I am not a fan of films; I have seen only a handful in my life and are yet to see a great one.
20 - What are you currently working on?
A sequel to The Love Virus.