Right. Sooooo…you may notice in place of the usual photo of the poet there is, instead, an owl. Short story is this – last year I designed the poster for Poetry&Words and went to town drawing a great number of the poets as owls. The overall response to this was one of general enthusiasm and a few of this year’s poets expressed disappointment at not being owl-ised this year – none more so than Anna Freeman who refused to give me an interview (that may or may not be an exaggeration) unless I draw her as one. Ergo, the resulting image below.
I spoke to Anna, a Glastonbury veteran, about her first Glastonbury Showcase spot, her novel, TV dramatisation, camping preferences and if she had a favourite illustrator. Hmmm…
I’m pretty good! I’ve got a mini bakewell tart so, you know, pretty good. Looking forward to seeing you.
Your novel, ‘The Fair Fight’ is doing quite well out in the world – critically acclaimed and selling very well. Has your expectation of being a successful novelist matched up to the reality?
I’m sorry, I’m just too important to think about that. I’ll have one of my people get back to you. Um. Really I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d definitely call it successful. The hardback has been doing well as hardbacks go, but the paperback comes out soon and that’s when you really know whether it sells. I don’t think about it much or I go weird. I’m much more comfortable being anxious about the second novel.
I understand the BBC have optioned the book for dramatization. In an ideal world, which actors would you want to play your fantasy cast? In particular the two main protagonists, Ruth and Charlotte?
I don’t know much about actors, tbh. But the woman who’s in charge of the development at the BBC definitely thinks like me about it – they can’t be too pretty. Nothing about the dramatisation should be prettied up.
It’s not an accident that my two female protagonists don’t look the way that women are told they ‘should’. One of them is covered in smallpox scars and the other has had half her teeth knocked out. The book is largely about their gradual empowerment, and part of that – though definitely not all of it – is about overcoming the pressures that women are under to look a certain way. The book is grimy and blood spattered. The cast have to be as well.
It’s quite a leap to take from writing poetry to a full blown novel. What were the writing challenges you encountered in making the transition?
You need loads more biscuits to do a novel than you do for a poem. Don’t underestimate that.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on?
I’m doing this Q&A for my friend Scott because he promised to draw me an owl. But after that I’m going to have another go at writing a bit more of my second novel. It’s a thriller set in the fifties. We’ll see if it turns out okay – I can’t tell. It’s either pure rubbish or a work of genius. One of those two.
I’m also going on tour with my show, Animal, starting in the spring and ending at Edinburgh Fringe 2016. It’s a show I’ve been writing for AGES (Really ages) with Chris Redmond and the Tongue Fu band. It’s a spoken word comedy about life choices and spirit animals, set to live music, and it’s one of the funnest things I get to do.
You’ve played the Big G a couple of times before, but this will be your first Showcase gig. What can we expect? Will there be book reading and poetry? Or just poetry? Or just book-reading? Will it be funny? Will you be wearing a hat?
No hats. And I don’t think novel either. I’ll just do my very best to be funny. And not too hungover. That’s the plan.
You’ve played your fair share of festivals. What makes Glastonbury different from the rest?
The size, to start with! But also it belongs to me in a weird way because I’ve been going to it since I was a kid.
What has been your favourite Glastonbury moment?
A couple of years ago, with Bohdan Piasecki, Deanna Rodger, Adam Kammerling, Erin Fornoff and Dan Simpson, dancing to The Destroyers. I was stone cold sober but I was so filled with pure joy that I thought, “Surely someone’s spiked me. I can’t be having this much fun sober. No way.” That’s the kind of thing my OCD brain thinks. But it was just a magic bit of dancing time.
Which acts are you looking forward to seeing at the festival?
My sister’s band, The Jolenes. I love them. All-female bluegrass high energy dancing. I don’t care who else I see. Genuinely. I don’t like making a plan. I just let what happens, happen. I’ll end up watching a lot of the poets, because the line up is ace and it’s where I live in the day.
Quick fire Camping questions…
Airbed or roll-out mat?
Airbed all the way. I’m not a HEATHEN.
Cider or lager?
Lager. I might be from Bristol but cider makes my stomach hurt.
Do you put your towel over the dome of your tent to dry?
Um. Probably. If I’ve bothered to wash enough for my towel to get wet.
Do you bother with Guy ropes?
Of course! There’s no point having a tent if people aren’t going to fall over it in the night.
What colour wellies can we expect from you?
Whatever’s cheapest…? Or my massive army boots.
If you were forced to ditch one of these two, which would you lose – loo roll or torch?
Oh god. Why are you messing with my head?
Trapped in a tent with – Michael Eavis or Michael Palin?
TRAPPED IN A TENT! Why am I trapped in a tent? I’m going to be way more worried about how to get out than who else is in there. I’ll pick whichever of them has a pocket knife we can use to cut a new door. Or the sharpest teeth for gnawing.
And finally some quick but VERY IMPORTANT questions…
Do you have a favourite poetry blogger?
This is a blatant bid for flattery but I’ll let you get away with it because none of the other ones have drawn me an owl.
Objectively, who do you think the best illustrator of authors as owls is?
Haha! I hadn’t read this question when I anwered the one above. I can’t do it, Scott. It makes me feel grubby. Even if I do have one of your prints framed and hung up in my house.
Which poet are you going to give a signed copy of your poetry book ‘Gingering the World from the Inside’ to, upon your immediate arrival at Glastonbury?
Oh, oh, I know this. Is it Hegley? I’m pretty sure it’s Hegley. *emoticon of a face blowing a raspberry*
(I’ve owed Scott a copy of my book for a shamefully long time in exchange for one of his that he actually remembered to post.)
The extremely talented Anna Freeman will be performing her showcase spot in the Poetry&Words tent on Sunday 28th at 2pm. DO NOT MISS IT!!! Find out more about Anna here: http: www.annafreemanwriter.com
Still more to come!