Hello again friends, bloggers and muses,
This week’s Behind the Author interview is something quite special to me, and I am so excited to share this one with the world. Today’s guest is enigmatic, poetic and beautifully talented. She has agreed to tickle my fancy by answering a few of my prying questions. As always, my goal is to pick apart the successful, satisfy curiosities and to have fun doing it. Once again, I bring the fun for you to enjoy!
Today’s Guest: Shreya Vikram of The Midnight Ember
If you are not familiar with any of Shreya’s work, then I highly recommend that you do yourself a favor. Visit her blog and enjoy some tantalizing poetic-prose experiences that will draw you in and keep you coming back for more. I’m personally, a big fan of hers.
Mathew: Hello Shreya. Thanks for joining me for this interview. My first question to you in a nutshell, what has the journey been like for you, from the dawn of your blogging existence to the present? How have things evolved?
Shreya: I think that in every you take, that person on that road never truly recognizes change. It’s hard to point out how things have evolved when every second is in motion.
I can remember a starting point. I started this blog overnight, quite literally. Chose a name (I went by Natalie Swift initially), a domain ( The Darkest Tunnel then), a tagline (can’t remember what it was), a first post. None of these exists anymore. My old alias is dead, as is my blog name. I’ve taken down almost all of my initial posts. Styles of writing, of design, of personas: they’ve shifted so often and so rapidly, it’s hard to remember why or how things changed.
My own life, my insecurities, my weaknesses, my inhibitions- all very much alive and well- have grown and evolved in parallel with my page. In this sense, everything and nothing has changed. An audience of fifteen thousand- despite being something I’m constantly in awe of- is only more of one. There is no new-found confidence, no security. Your style is never right, your flow is choppy, your emotion contrived, your design terrible.
Any movement, really, in art is both insignificant and infinite.
Mathew: The tagline on the Midnight Ember is that you blur the lines between prose and poetry, and you do this well which is why I find your posts make for great compulsive reading. However, you have another tagline which you state represents the style of your writing, “Never lying, nothing true” – reality twisted by fiction. How much of your writing is inspired by your reality and how much of it is a work of your imagination?
Shreya: This is an interesting question.
How much of any fiction is fiction? No matter how hard you work to stay out of your story, your personal narrative is always syncing with the characters’ narrative, in a sort of metaphor. I used to think I wrote fiction. A large part of that was my refusal to admit that the person on that page was me. I didn’t recognize her at all, or maybe I didn’t want to recognize her. In retrospect, I see myself in everything I’ve written. Writing has always been more of a revealing than a creating for me.
Even today, I almost never know what I’m going to write. I start at someplace I think will ‘work’, toy around for a while, write a sentence, delete it, start over, two more words, delete it, walk out, walk back in, five words, blank screen. And something happens between here and the next phase, where an hour passes like a second, and I’m staring at a complete story with no idea of what I was thinking when I wrote this.
To answer your question, I’m not sure I agree with that anymore. Everything is true. Even when I don’t know it. To imagine is only a new connection made, from the tangible to the intangible.
Mathew: Do you feel that blurring the lines between fiction and reality preserves you as somewhat of an enigma to your loyal followers?
Shreya: I have been accused, and often, of loving my mystery a little too much. But the way I see it, detail doesn’t always equal connection. To me, resonance has always been something fleeting, rare. Like a crossing of shadows: obscure and precious. It’s never made sense to me to drawn lines between truth and fiction. I was reading Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous a while ago, and what he’d done with his story reminded me of what I was trying to do. Explore a life without the constraints of the physical world.
Mathew: One thing that I’ve personally appreciated about you, is that even with your success, you are not above taking the time to connect with your readers. Would you say that this is part of the reason for your success?
Shreya: This is more of a personal choice. I’ve always felt intimidated while commenting on blogs, especially bigger ones. I’d take up to fifteen minutes just to find the right phrasing for what I want to say, what I felt when I read their piece. Comments have always been something special to me. And when I didn’t see a reply, even the simplest thank you, it was frustrating. The same went for emails, or any other correspondence, really.
The fact that there’s someone out there who’s willing to take the time out of their day to say something to you is precious, and so many of us have forgotten it.To have someone say I hear you, I understand, I felt that is precious. We’re all craving that sort of an acknowledgement.
As for as readerships go, definitely. If you refuse to acknowledge your readers, there won’t be any left.
Mathew: We’ve also spoken briefly in the past and you had mentioned that your blog is currently not for profit because, let’s admit, ads are ugly and don’t produce that much of an income. Have you ever thought about releasing a book of your poetry though?
Shreya: I have. I don’t have any plans as of now, mostly because I want to settle into my style, hone my prose, settle into myself before I think of publishing. Or maybe I’m procrastinating. I don’t know.
Mathew: You’ve mentioned on your blog that you are giving up WordPress in the near future for a website of your own design. How is this going to serve the evolution of The Midnight Ember?
Shreya: The new site is going to be hugely different from my current one.
I’m breaking all my rules with the design, all the usual conventions. I wanted the design to be not just a canvas, but also a tangible extension of the prose. It was important to me that every thread- right from the home page to the comments section- wove itself into a sort of experience.
The writing by itself will probably evolve as well, as it always does. So far, I’ve stayed in the prose side of writing. I do want to push past my comfort zone into poetry as well. I think my work will always be a hybrid of sorts, but the balancing act is one I’ve never managed to master.
Mathew: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. I am extremely grateful to have you as a guest for my Behind the Author segment. I would like to leave you with one more question to close the interview, something fun and personal. Are there any authors out there who have inspired you? What do you like to read most?
Shreya: I draw inspiration from writers all the time. I’m a bit of an obsessive inspiration hoarder. I write down everything that resonates with me on flashcards. I have three shoe boxes full of flashcards to date.
But if I had to choose the writer who’s had the most impact on me, I’d say Margaret Atwood. The utter arrogance of her prose gets me each time. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on, though I tend to lean towards literary fiction and experimental writing. I don’t always love it, but I do love seeing writers take that risk and write the story for the sake of the story, not the reader. There’s something pure and rare in art as a means into itself. Think: the ending of Magnolia (which is a movie you have to watch, if you haven’t already).
Thank you for having me here, Mat. It’s been a pleasure connecting with you.
Again, you may click here to visit The Midnight Ember.
Shreya Vikram, everybody. As always she allows us just a taste of her identity, her insatiable drive, what makes her unique and propels her forward. There’s something intriguing about a person who is so mysterious.
If there was only one word that I could use to describe Shreya’s work – it would be intensity, and that intensity comes through even in answering these simple questions of mine. Not only intensity, but honesty without shame. It takes courage to be present as a three dimensional human. She’s capable of being both confident and uncertain. She is both proud and full of doubt. If she seems enigmatic and mysterious, perhaps it is because she is a bit of a mystery, even to herself? All I know, is that I love her for it.
I feel as if the greatest art is built upon a foundation of strong emotion. Suffering, pain, vindication, redemption, bountiful joy and great sorrows. Perhaps this is why the term ‘tortured artist’ has been coined? I’ve always felt as if the best work that I’ve produced has come from that place of inner struggle, self-doubt and emotional overflow. A great artist instills great emotion in to their work, so there needs to be a deep well to draw from. Alas, another Behind the Author comes to an end, and I would like to leave you with a quote from one of Shreya’s favorite author’s, Margaret Atwood.
“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.” – Margaret Atwood
Thanks for joining on this week’s, Behind the Author!
Questions? Comments? Leave them down below!