Writer Interview: J.S. Watts

J.S.Watts is a British poet and novelist. Born in London, she now lives just outside of Cambridge. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in publications in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the States, including Acumen, Mslexia and Popshot (and, of course, Peeking Cat) and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. She has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Read our interview with her below.

When and why did you first start writing?

I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but I’ve been writing for almost as long as I physically could. Originally it was because my teachers told me to, but I really enjoyed creative writing, though I don’t think we called it that back then. My earliest memory of being successful with my writing was at the beginning of junior school when one of my poems was entered by the school into a local poetry competition. It didn’t win first prize, but I think it came second. So writing has featured memorably in my life from quite an early age. According to my mother, I started writing even earlier. She claims, in the way that mothers do, to have a copy of my first ever poem written for a school assembly when I was four or five. I think she feels it has blackmail potential.


What do you enjoy writing, and what do you find yourself writing about most often?

I enjoy writing poetry and prose equally. My output includes poetry, short stories, novels, book reviews, blog posts and articles. If the topic interests me, I enjoy writing about it. The act of creating something out of words is extremely satisfying.

As to what I write about, I guess it’s basically the human condition. Superficially, my subject matter is very diverse, both in terms of genre and theme. My poetry collections cover a broad range of subjects. My first novel, A Darker Moon, is literary dark fiction based on an ancient myth. My second novel, Witchlight, is contemporary paranormal fantasy with a touch of romance. At various times my writing has encompassed horror, dark fiction, science fiction, fantasy and paranormal, literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry and includes subject matter as diverse as the sea, death, the craft of writing, myth and legend, robots, balloons, memory and soup. The underlying theme to all of it, I guess, is humanity, people, the human experience, what makes us tick.


What was favourite book as a child?

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. As a child, I was an avid reader and virtually lived at my local library. I fell in love with many, many books. Ones that have lodged themselves in my memory include (in no particular order, or reading age): The Moomin series by Tove Jansson, The Paddington Bear books by Michael Bond, The Orlando the Marmalade Cat series, anything by Doctor Seuss, The Sword at Sunset and The Hound of Ulster by Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Flicka series by Mary O’Hara, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and a whole raft of books about myths, legends and fairy stories from around the world. Oh, and I really shouldn’t leave out the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I could keep going for a lot, lot longer, but lists of books become boring after a while and these books are all so fabulous I wouldn’t want anyone to feel bored by them.


Who is most supportive of your writing?

I value the support of everyone who’s ever read or published one of my poems or stories or has bought any of my poetry collections or novels. You guys make it possible. Thank you.

My mother is a fan and I’ve several close friends who listen to my drafts, buy my books and turn up to poetry readings when they can. The cat is less supportive. He just expects to be fed and feature in my work at every opportunity. He tends to be disappointed on both counts.


What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in the name of writing?

Mmmm, another difficult question. What’s weird? I have been told that being a poet is unmitigated weirdness in its own right.

I’ve performed my poetry in some really interesting places: castles, mansions, museums, art galleries, cellars and dungeons, as well as pubs, clubs and libraries. The location of Crosswords poetry night in Nottingham is pretty unusual. It’s in a cave underneath a pub that used to be a Victorian Music Hall. Certainly performing my poetry in a cave felt weird, but nice weird.


What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?

Like all writers, I hate receiving rejections of my work. I don’t think it ever gets any easier, but as rejections are an integral part of being a traditionally published writer you just have to take it on the chin and carry on.


Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.

In terms of individual pieces of work, that’s a bit like asking which of your children you love most. I don’t think I can do it, and even if I could, I really shouldn’t.

More generally, I’m proud of the fact that, to date, I’ve published six books (four of poetry and two novels). I’m proud that my work has won a few prizes here or there, or at least been mentioned in dispatches. I’m proud of the fact that my writing has both moved and entertained some people along the way.


What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?

How long have you got? Currently, I’m waiting on a publication date (probably 2019, I’m guessing) for my third novel, Old Light (which is a sequel to my second novel, Witchlight). I’m in the middle of writing my fourth novel, Elderlight (which will conclude the Witchlight trilogy). I’m working on a new full collection of poetry. I’m writing individual short stories, poems and book reviews.

Looking forward, I hope to publish many more books. I’d like to perform in parts of the country I haven’t yet performed in (I’m open to invitations). I’d love to win a high profile, prestigious prize for a piece of my writing and I’d really love to write a moneymaking best seller (but the last two are definitely more dream than reality).


J.S.’s poetry collections, Cats and Other Myths and Years Ago You Coloured Me, are published by Lapwing Publications, as is her multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her latest poetry pamphlet, The Submerged Sea, is published by Dempsey & Windle. Her novels, A Darker Moon – dark literary fiction and Witchlight – a paranormal tale with a touch of romance, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press.

For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk


Would you like to take part in an interview for the Peeking Cat blog? Email editor@peekingcatpoetry.co.uk

Peeking Cat Anthology 2018 Now Open For Submissions!

It’s that time again – we are now accepting submissions for the Peeking Cat Anthology 2018!

We are accepting:

  • Poetry
  • Flash fiction (up to 2,000 words)
  • Artwork and photography (please bear in mind that in the print copies of the book, these will be published in black and white only, but they will be in colour in the Kindle version.)

Send up to three poems and two stories in one email – either in the body of the email or as one attachment. There is no limit on how much artwork you can send. Please clearly indicate whether your submission is for the anthology or the magazine when emailing us. To find out more about the anthology, take a look at the 2017 edition.

Deadline: 31st August 2018

Welcome to the New Peeking Cat Website & Forum!

Hi all!

You might have noticed we’ve had a bit of a facelift around here. I’ve moved the website from Blogger to WordPress, which means we have an exciting new addition to the website – a forum!

I tried to keep the website as similar to the old one as possible because we still need to have all the same pages and blog categories, and I also love our background image kitty with those striking blue eyes. So I hope it’s not too much of a change for everyone, but I am excited that we have our own dedicated place on the site where we can chat.

One of the best things about Peeking Cat is the community, and that has been particularly apparent in the past couple of months when we had our first ever online book launch. The forum is a place where everyone can talk about writing, get advice, share work in progress, and meet new writer friends. It’s also a place where you can find out the latest news from Peeking Cat and let me know what you would like to see on the website and in the magazine. Who are your favourite Peeking Cat poets? What do you think could be improved? And there’s a final area where we can chat about anything else that doesn’t fit in the other forums.

You need to create an account to start chatting in the forum, which only takes a minute and you can do that here. If you’re wondering what to do first, start by introducing yourself and saying hello to everyone else in the welcome forum. I hope to see as many of you as possible there!

Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine Issue 31 – November 2017

Issue 31 is here, and now available to read right here on the Peeking Cat Poetry website! If you enjoy reading the magazine, please consider buying a print copy for only £2.99 excluding postage.

How to download: Click on the arrow icon in the top right-hand corner of the PDF below to open it in a new window. In the window that opens up you’ll see a download icon in the right-hand corner.

5 Things I Learned From Our First Online Book Launch

Two weeks ago, we had our first online book launch here at Peeking Cat Poetry. I thought of having a book launch because I wanted the release of our new anthology to be extra special – a real event. During the event, an attendee said it was her first online book launch and that she was interested to see how it worked. Well, so was I! And that brings me onto the first of five things I learned from organising and hosting our first online book launch:

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Peeking Cat Anthology 2017 Online Book Launch Roundup!

Hello all! As promised, here is a roundup of events from our first ever online book launch! The launch took place on Sunday 15th October for two hours, and it featured interviews, competitions, and more to celebrate the launch of Peeking Cat Anthology 2017! If you missed the event, don’t worry because not only is everything on the Facebook page, but I’ve put together a summary of everything that happened, right here.
Continue Reading “Peeking Cat Anthology 2017 Online Book Launch Roundup!”