A Ten Question Interview With The Artist… Melissa Lee-Houghton

Why do you write?

Because I don’t feel anything. Because I have an aptitude for philosophising through but not in sympathy with language. Because I hate words for inflicting silences on me. Because my mother told me I have too much to say for myself. Because I was told not to.

What books do you read?

Essays. Human vitriol. Dead white men. Psychoanalysis for the fatally flawed. Poets I like who don’t write like the other poets. Excess and correspondence in a file called ‘RUIN’. Dystopias that can’t even hope to be as fucked up as this reality we made so real.

What inspires you?

Bear Grylls. The lack of empathy of people who work in professions we subconsciously associate with empathy.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?

Essentially, it was always a way of getting away from myself. I tried other things but this was the thing that stuck. Other people seemed to like it. It was cheaper than heroin or oil paint.

How do you deal with rejection?

I have a conversation with an ever loving God who rewards me with gentle dreams about insidious homicide and retribution. Some forms of rejection in life are not bearable or manageable; someone telling you they don’t like your poems is just not important. You either keep doing it or you don’t, but if you don’t, it’s no one else’s fault.

Who are some writers you admire?

Everyone who ever wrote a letter. Particularly: ‘Dear Betty, I hate you. Love, George.’

Is writing the only artistic medium you do?

It’s the only artistic medium I don’t. I imagine myself writing, and thus I write. But I don’t do it. Most of what I do is not even writing, it’s thinking. It’s also experience. The writing is just the documentation of the thinking, and the experience.

What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?

Dope is a stupid drug. Don’t have sex with people you don’t like. Learn how to be alone before loneliness kills you. Be angry at the time. You’re definitely not going to die until you’re at least thirty four so stop trying so hard to kill yourself.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Survivalism is also a great career option.

What is your writing process?

I think a lot, I read, think more, and occasionally write it down. A lot of it depends on how well I drown out the noise in my head and what is left, or how carefully I avoid silence. Much of the day will corrode my capacity to make sense of it, so it’s really just picking the right moment to attempt to elucidate something, and it’s as useful when it works as when it doesn’t. The process is a twenty four hour task – if I knew what it entailed or thought about it too seriously I wouldn’t be able to write anything.


Melissa Lee-Houghton is a fiction writer, poet and essayist, and her third collection, Sunshine, is published by Penned in the Margins. Her poem, ‘i am very precious’ which features in Sunshine, is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She won a Northern Writers’ Award this year for her short fiction. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Granta and The Rialto.



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