My Life as a writer
When did you first realise you wanted to write for a living?
I have always written and created largely music and songs where I would create, record and perform them at parties, at folk clubs and for festivals. It was a natural part of my life and started when I was about 10 years old. This continued into later life as I started to write songs, short monologues and sketches to perform. I was fascinated by live performances and my family took me to see many of the musicals and shows. Every year, I also took part in the village shows so I learnt to act, play and create collaborative art with others. Later I started to study music, theatre for my college studies and then specialised in performing arts at university. I continued to songwrite, creating lyrics, sketches and monologues that I would perform. At this time, I also helped to run a songwriters night, so that other writers and musicians could come together to share their work. At the same time, I would perform my original songs in clubs in the West End, such as the 12 Bar Club in Denmark Street and occasionally I would do festivals. Writing my own lyrics and music felt really liberating and gave me a new voice. I first started to professionally record my own songs with Graeme Holdaway who was to become my producer for several of my music albums. All the songs recorded were original. I crafted lyrics by imagining myself into the characters and lives of the songs. At times I would record myself and listen back to check that the full story had been told through the music.
Which writer, past or present, do you most admire?
I admire different qualities in many writers. A songwriter, activist who was quite controversial and fascinating was the songwriter Nina Simone. She had a way of giving new meanings to lyrics, her original songs are powerful and songs such as Four Women and Mississippi Goddam are powerful. The lyrics are brought to life through the music, the improvisation, the way in which the music builds as she works with the musicians around her.
What was your first published (or performed) credit as a writer?
My first CD called Stacey J. Douglas which contained my original songs and I self-published it via a music distributor. This was recorded and released in 1999. My producer Graeme Holdaway from the UK and I went on to work together over a period of 40 years. In writing the lyrics, they can change slightly. They can feel different when I practise and write them at home, or at a gig and then in the studio, the words need to be sung with a moment of truth. I may not sing them in the way that they were sung yesterday, so the nuances and meanings of the words may change subtly.
Which piece of writing work are you most proud of?
I’ve just written a Chinese Jamaican play and after moving to work temporarily in China, I was fascinated to find out about Chinese Jamaican history. Hence, I am writing a play and am now working on it with a cultural editor. It was wonderful to interview three Chinese Jamaicans and to create the characters, setting and scene for the play.
Who or what inspires you to write?
I often choose to write about aspects in life that are harder to talk about, feelings, thoughts and emotions that cannot always be expressed. Identity and belonging also interest me, as travel has been a large part of my life in the past few years. I have also written about the underdog, the martyr and the victim within my work as it is so prevalent within society. It’s not that I’m looking to find answers but to give life to the issues at hand through writing and giving voice to it.
How do you switch off when you’re not writing?
I love music and it’s been a companion for most of my life. I trained initially as a classical guitarist and then became interested in singing. I’ve dabbled in playing lots of different instruments as I teach music and trained as a music therapist/music teacher. It’s something that I enjoy as I can play by myself or meet up with others to create. There’s an intimacy in playing music, a hidden speech that I can access and it is very calming and liberating.
Which one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I think it’s important to persevere and to find aspects that interest you. Also exposing oneself to lots of different styles of writing. I find live performances such as music and the theatre, watching good quality films, also nurtures me and inspires me. Reading and other creative pursuits, anything to free up the senses and of course travel. My travels all over Asia have really enabled me to see things differently, in a new light and this has fuelled my writing and creativity.
Why are you a member of WGGB?
I wanted to belong to an organisation, to feel more connected. There are many writers around me but I really wanted to be able to feel that I was being held and being part of a guild as a writer who is experimental and a traveller is vital to me. As I am concentrating on bigger pieces of work, I will need more advice and support as I will be employing others to work with me. And I hope this will be the start of much more.
I was a songwriter in the UK from 1982-1996. As a child and student I created my own lyrics, songs and little monologues and dialogues that I would perform or record. I performed at local events and community festivals and I was in several bands.
I was also a songwriter/recording artist and performer in the UK. Stacey J. Douglas, my first CD, was released independently. To support myself I worked as a musician, music therapist and teacher. I recorded a further three albums independently in the UK.
I have also been a songwriter/recording artist and performer/music host in China/Singapore and Hong Kong where I recorded another three albums of original songs independently and also toured and did short performances, some theatrical of my own creations, at events and for parties. I currently host jam nights for poets, singer songwriters and musicians to come together.
I’m black British and I have travelled all over the globe, I currently have a temporary contract in China and write in my spare time. My first play is due to be released this year.