Interview with Rhiannon and Ashley
Hi, both! Welcome to my author page and blog. I’m currently reading the poetry book you both collaborated on entitled, “A Voyage of Poetic Discoveries (Rhianno & Asley Poetry Collections Book 1).” So far, I can see that you have quite different styles of poetry, yet each poet’s work seems to complement the other. It will be lovely for readers to get to know a little more about you and your work. 😊
1. What gave you both the idea to decide to collaborate on a poetry book together?
RO: I think we both have a mutual appreciation of each other’s poems. Ashley’s really speak to me. Initially, we would joke about putting a book out together but secretly I wanted to.
AO: Our writing styles are very different, but in many ways, we share some common ground in the stories we want to tell and the pictures we want to paint.
RO: We are very different writers but that’s why it works… We touch on similar themes. It would be a pointless collaboration if we wrote in exactly the same style. It’s been a dream working with him because we never argue, there’s no ego clash, we just get on with our books and trust each other’s judgement, and we have a laugh too!
AO: I think the idea of the book initially came from the time when someone in our online writing group made a typing error of my name by dropping the letter ‘h’ from Ashley, and Rhiannon quickly turned it into a poem about some kind of monster called Asley. So I instantly responded by dropping the ‘n’ from Rhiannon and doing a poem about a Rhinoceros called Rhianno, and so Rhianno & Asley came to be. Both poems are in the book.
2. I read at the beginning of your book that you both belong to an online local creative writing group and that’s how you encountered one another, can you tell me a little about your friendship and the group?
RO: I joined the Merthyr online writing group at the very start in October 2019. I hadn’t really written anything since my late teens. I’d decided I wasn’t very good at writing and lost confidence. There was a challenge on the group to write a poem about the moon… So I did and it opened up something inside me and I’ve been writing ever since.
AO: I’d read somewhere that poetry helps with the craft of screenwriting in terms of writing with brevity. So I joined the group and just got instantly drawn to Rhiannon’s poems and writing. She’s always been very supportive and fun in the group.
RO: Yes, something connected…like a jigsaw piece slotting into place, and our books were born! 😊 The current situation is very frustrating but it’s been such a plus to make a good friend like Ashley and to have shared this little creative journey together. Kept me going over the last year.
AO: And funnily enough, in all this time we still have never met in person due to the pandemic. All our correspondence for this book and those to follow have been via email and messenger or on writing group pages.
3. Do you write anything else besides poetry?
RO: I mainly write poetry but I really enjoy writing short stories too. Also monologues. I’m currently working on a book of horror shorts.
AO: I’ve completed my first feature film screenplay, and I’m half-way through a second, which has been on hold for a while, as the poetry has taken over a little. But I plan on getting it finished soon.
4. Is there a special place where you like to pen your poems?
RO: Not really, although I did enjoy writing them while sitting in the garden over summer. Often an idea pops into my head at silly o’clock in the wee hours and I have to grab my phone and try and get it down – sometimes I’ve woken up and can’t make head nor tail of what I’ve written! I wrote a poem at the bus stop once, and there was one written in the toilets of a pub in town
AO: I just write when and wherever the moment takes me. I mostly write in Notepad on my phone, I used to wake up regularly at 3 am with ideas or sometimes complete poems in my head, so I’m able to quickly type them in. For my screenplays, I mainly use my laptop on a small desk in my front room.
5. What do you think is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
RO: I sometimes have to rein myself in as I can get carried away… Have to tell myself that not every poem should be the length of The Iliad/Odyssey.
AO: With poems, I’d probably say the proof-reading mainly. With screenplays, I’d say the research that’s needed to go into the writing. There can be so much to find out just for the small details.
RO: The editing is a bit of a pain but I’m quite thorough with that. We both are.
6. Have you ever suffered from “Writer’s block”?
RO: Yes. There are times when nothing seems to come to me or the words just won’t fit. It’s frustrating but has only ever been temporary touch wood.
AO: Not really as yet touch wood.
RO: Had to laugh at a time when Ashley was freaking out about his so-called writer’s block… Felt concerned for him till he said something along the lines of ‘I haven’t written anything since this morning!’
AO: We do have a laugh and a bit of banter between the writing.
7. What, to you, are the elements of good writing?
RO: Sincerity, heart and feeling. I like stuff to spark an emotion in me… Joy, sorrow, even anger. I want to smile, to laugh, to cry. I love great storytelling and characterisation. I love to find beauty in a piece of writing.
AO: I think the right word choice can give you the ability to touch someone’s heart and soul and make them feel the emotions.
8. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
RO: A lot of it is from my own memories and experiences. Family holidays. My loved ones. Sometimes a song or story catches my imagination. Some of my ideas come from observation, or just a random word or sentence. I get lots of inspiration from Ashley and his work too.
AO: Initially from life events and my feelings to those events, like the loss of loved ones and friends. Now just things I see or feel in life, or from things I read like your book ‘The Workhouse Waif’, Lynette. And as Rhiannon said, we both support and inspire one another.
9. Are you working on any writing projects at the moment?
RO: I have some of my work being featured in upcoming anthologies, and as I mentioned earlier I’m also working on a book of short stories which are quite dark. There’s also a series of short stories of mine that Ashley is interested in converting to a screenplay so it looks like he’ll have to put up with me for a bit longer yet.
AO: Well Rhiannon and I have two books out at the moment with another three that we are still working on for our Rhianno & Asley Poetry Collections. I’ve got three poetry books of my own planned, one personal to me, one about my hometown of Merthyr and it’s past, and one covering a compilation of poems that I’ve written to date. Oh and I’ve still got my second screenplay to finish.
10. Out of all your poems, which one is the closest to your heart and why?
RO: Oh, there are a few that hold a special place in my heart for various reasons. Ones that have been written to express joy. I have a poem called ‘The Incessant Rain’ which is a bit of a nod to Edgar Allan Poe. ‘Frozen Glass’ is important because it was a sort of starting point for mine and Ashley’s collaboration. There are some pieces I’ve written that are personal and come from a darker place – they are cathartic and help me to process my thoughts. There is a poem I wrote for my husband which means a lot too.
AO: I wrote ‘Life’s Last Song’ over twenty years ago after my father’s passing. It just means so much to me and got me back writing again. It was read out at his funeral and still brings a tear to my eye. It’s so personal to me.
11. Who is your favourite poet?
RO: Ashley. His work strikes a chord. His poetry is genuine and heartfelt, and I really admire how he can say so much so deftly and succinctly because I tend to write sprawlers 😊
More generally speaking I like quite varied poetry. I love Edgar Allan Poe for one. Really love ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’ by Grace Nicholls… but I tend to read novels more than poetry.
AO: I haven’t read much poetry by famous poets, the most I’ve read is within the Merthyr Writing Group and in a couple of other online groups where there is so much talent. Out of those, my favourite is Rhiannon, whose writings just speak to me, they have from the start which is why she’s my writing partner and we’re sharing this poetic journey.
12. If someone was to ask you to describe to them what a poem is, how would you reply?
RO: I would say that a poem is something beautiful that makes you feel.
AO: I’d say, a poem is a piece of writing that sends out a message while expressing feelings and emotions in various forms.
13. Who or what inspired you to write poetry in the first place?
RO: I had some amazing teachers in primary school who encouraged me creatively and I was fortunate enough to have brilliant teachers throughout secondary school too. More recently, being part of writing groups have provided me with writing challenges and introduced me to different forms of poetry. Ashley has kept me enthusiastic and our collaboration has been inspiring.
AO: I first started writing poetic verse following the passing of my Grandparents, my Father and two close friends. I felt that putting my thoughts, feelings and memories down in writing helped me release some of the pain and grief and was a way of coping with my loss while trying to come to terms with it.
14. You both live in Wales which is described as “The land of poets”, does living here inspire you at all?
RO: There is beautiful scenery and a lot of history which inspires me. I’m from the North West of England but my name is a clue that Wales is a country that resonates with me! It is living here that gave me the opportunity to put pen to paper (and thumb to phone!) again and that has been so important to me.
AO: Very much so, all the beautiful scenery, and history. I’ve had many inspirations and written many poems about our beautiful countryside and its history, especially local history. From The Merthyr Rising and Dic Penderyn to Morlais Castle, amongst them.
15. Do you think there’s such a thing as a bad poem or a bad poet?
RO: Poetry is subjective so hard to say something is bad exactly, but I hate really pretentious writing. Poems that try to be overly intellectual. If I read something that is just wanting to be clever it leaves me cold. By all means, write cleverly but balance it out with humour or emotion or something to make it relatable.
AO: If it means something to just one person then no, I don’t think there is a bad poem or poet.
16. What would be your absolute writing dream?
RO: I have a lot of dreams but at the moment I’m just enjoying the journey. I’m rediscovering myself and I’m falling in love with writing all over again. That’s a dream in itself. It’s great! 😊
AO: That would have to be seeing my screenplays eventually made into films.
17. Has a poem ever had such a profound effect on you that it’s stirred your emotions in a powerful way? And if so, what happened?
RO: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. I do feel very emotional when I’m reading. ‘The Fat Black Woman’s Poems’ which I mentioned earlier and Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’ make me feel so uplifted. They are just so joyous! Celebrating the beauty and strength and sexuality of women. I love to get really transported and I’ll laugh and cry, and ultimately feel so satisfied. Sometimes I’ll even feel amorous… like with Thomas the Tank Engine…😂
‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ blow me away with the passion/obsession elements and the intensity. Some poems/books have inspired me to write on a similar theme, and some I haven’t been able to stop thinking about.
AO: When I joined the Merthyr Writing Group there was one poem that just blew me away compared to the others, it just stood out. It just drew me into the story. The atmosphere, the imagery, the sounds of children skating, I could feel the pain of a woman trapped beneath the ice. I just instantly felt, wow! I remember commenting on what I thought it was about and later suggested a change of title to the writer which they were happy to accept. The poem turned out to be ‘Frozen Glass’ which is in our first book, and yes Rhiannon was the writer.
18. And finally, where would you like to see yourself as a poet/writer five years from now?
RO: I hope I’ll still be writing and learning more as I go along. I hope people will enjoy my work, and I hope that Ashley will still be my writing partner.
AO: Still writing poetry but probably at the Oscars collecting the award for best screenplay. We have to dream; we have to believe.
Thank you both for taking the time to answer my questions!
Rhianno & Asley: A Voyage of Poetic Discoveries (Rhianno & Asley Poetry Collections – Book 1)
Rhianno & Asley: Seeking Poetic Lands (Rhianno & Asley Poetry Collections – Book 2)
Additional link for Rhiannon:
Rhiannon has two poems in ‘Beautiful Ways’ a poetry anthology for/by people who have been subjected to abuse. Proceeds go to a Women’s Centre and a Domestic Abuse organisation.