In this week’s Q&A Monday, we’re thrilled to feature poet and script-writer, Dean Fraser-Phillips. Dean and I used to belong to the same online journaling community back before the term “blogging” was even coined. Through a shared interest in writing, we came to be friends in real life too. Originally from the UK, Dean recently moved to Sweden, where he is now based. He shares his extraordinary journey with us.
How did you come to be a poet? Did you always write poetry from a young age?
I was around the age of four or five when I wrote my very first poem. In high school, I was heavily influenced by Pam Ayres, and I recall writing short songs or poems that poked fun at my teachers in a lighthearted way.
However, I only really began to write poetry seriously around the age of 18 or 19, for people’s wedding anniversaries or retirement. Then, at the dawn of the Internet age around 2000, I began to publish my poems online.
In 2006, at the end of a five-year relationship, I decided to quit my day job (I worked in IT for the UK government), leave London and move back to my hometown in Bristol. During that period, I wrote the most emotionally-charged poetry. I started a blog which I used as a platform for my poems, and over time, I began to receive very encouraging feedback. Ironically, I was dealing with severe writer’s block then—whilst in the past I could easily finish a poem in five to ten minutes, the poetry I wrote in Bristol involved a much longer process.
It was about 2010 when people started to ask me where they could buy my poetry—before that, I certainly had no thought of publishing a book. So in 2011, I compiled what I considered were my best works and published my first poetry collection, Under a Moonlit Sky. I followed up with a second volume of poems earlier this year, entitled Albion Equinox.
Was there any particular reason behind the move to Sweden?
I had just turned 40, and after having lived in London for almost 15 years, the fast pace of life was beginning to grind me down. The far more relaxed environment in Sweden therefore appealed to me. And as a writer, this quieter lifestyle has been more conducive for creativity—I truly feel that my being in Sweden has made my writing more reflective and emotional.
What were some obstacles you’ve faced in your poetry-writing?
When I did decide to put a collection together, the hardest part was trying to collate the ones that I considered would appeal to a wider audience. Finding a balance between happy, sad, light, positive, dark, and moody poetry was not easy! Moreover, in those days, I used a typewriter and could not afford a printer, so most of my earlier works were hand-written. Presently, the advancement of computers and technology certainly has helped. But I do still recommend that poets or writers retain the act of writing by hand sometimes—it really can be therapeutic.
How would you describe the kind of poetry you write?
I would call my work ‘resilience’ poetry. Most of my poems are about overcoming the odds and bouncing back from adversity. My most popular poem is “The Phoenix who Survived”—I wrote that while waiting for a plane, inspired by an autobiography I’d read about a musician who beat her addictions. Since then, “The Phoenix who Survived” has been used in films, musical plays, and one woman even had some of the words tattooed on her back. I will always continue to write poetry that continues to help and inspire others.
What is the most common misconception people have of writers or poets?
That we are all coffee-drinking people with goatee beards and glasses who tend to sit in Starbucks all day watching the world go by. I am the complete opposite! I am not a huge coffee drinker and rather than cafes, I mostly draw my inspiration from people I meet in bars—they always have an interesting story to tell. And despite what many may believe about writers of any sort, we work very hard!
What and who do you like to read?
For the past three or four years, I have been reading a great deal of Stefan Zweig, a wonderful Austrian writer who was way ahead of his time. I highly recommend his novella, Letter from an Unknown Woman—it’s almost 100 years old, but still strikes many chords with today’s society. I also absolutely adore books by Stephen Lawhead. His Albion volumes on Merlin, Arthur and Lancelot are epic. There’re less about dragons or lightning bolts; rather, he writes with a fantastic historical view on ancient Britain that just brings the reader to a time that only the mind can conjure up.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I have a full-time job in Stockholm as a project manager, but I devote around 2–3 hours a day to writing. I wake up at around 5 am, reach the office by 8, I’m home by about 6 pm, and I write until about 8 or 9 each night. The time I spend on my daily commute to and from central Stockholm can be quite conducive for creativity in that it allows my mind to wander freely.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
Right now, I am taking a break from poetry until next year. I’m writing my first movie script about women’s football here in Sweden. It’s a documentary-style film on the world of women’s football and how it is far removed from the men’s game. Many female players have day jobs because football makes them little money. They constantly have to challenge the prevailing view that women “cannot and should not be playing.” Since moving to Sweden, I have become a large fan and supporter of one of Sweden’s top teams and I would not miss a game for the world!
Name 3 adjectives that best describe you.
Realistic, Resilient, Attentive.
Any advice to aspiring authors out there?
I would say don’t infrequently write . Even if you just write one or two paragraphs a day, it will mean that the creativity continues in you. Also, don’t be afraid to mix old and new techniques. There is no such thing as a “perfect writer.” I still write, by hand, as well as using the latest iPad or Mac apps to improve my writing. If there is one thing I know now that I didn’t back when I first started, it’s that the only opinion of how good your work is belongs to you. There are always going to be critics and haters, but they are usually the ones who just wish they had your talent.
Thank you Dean for graciously sharing your experiences with us. For a limited time, he will write a personal poem for each buyer of either of his books on any subject of their choice. Visit his blog at www.deanthebard.com/blog to find out more about him and his works.