Name: Mona Williams
Date of birth: 27 July 1943
Place of birth: Mackenzie (now called Linden), on the Demerara River, Guyana, South America.
Now living in: Palmerston North
- What is your favourite food?
- West Indian pepperpot - made with "easreep" (a South American Indian preservative) - and rice.
- Do you have a nickname and if so what is it?
- "Bones" my brother calls me. "Boyee" my mother calls me.
- How do you relax?
- a. Put on "Songs of the Auvergne" by Kiri Te Kanawa, climb into bed with a hot water bottle, pull the duvet over my head, and drift off to sleep.
b. Go for a holiday to Paris, for a month, every three years.
- Who inspired you when you were little?
- Leontyne Price - an African American opera singer who overcame prejudice to sing in all of the great opera houses. And Adrianna James, my great-grandmother.
- What were you like at school?
- At primary school, for the most part, I was high-spirited. In high school (I was a black pupil in a white colonial high school) I was confused, angry, a misfit, often on detention and under threat of expulsion. I was also suicidal. Things changed for the better when I learned ballet, from 13 years onward.
- What was your favourite/most hated subject at school?
- My favourite subject was History - because I liked the teacher and she liked me. I did not hate any subject, but because I did not like the maths teacher, I found I could not learn maths. I dropped it in the fourth form.
- What was the book you most loved as a child?
- My childhood did not have books. It had the Bible only, and my great-grandmother told me the stories again and again. I discovered books in high school and loved a collection of poems by Stephen Spender.
- Which person from the past would you most like to meet?
- a. Vaslav Nijinski - the Russian ballet dancer.
b. Coffey - who led a slave rebellion in British Guyana
c. King David - of Israel.
- Who is your favourite author/children’s author?
- Adult authors: Chaim Potok and Amy Tan.
Children’s author: Ursula Le Guin.
- Why did you want to be a writer?
- I did not have a conscious wish to write. I wrote because I had to - I was broke and needed money. Then I was in pain, emotionally, and had to write, to make sure that I became able to understand my life. Then I found I could not stop writing.
- Do you have a special place where you write your books?
- I need "head-space." I need time to talk through the chapters of my book first, because I can’t write until I've talked the ideas through (this can take years). Then I shut myself in a room with curtains over the window, and write longhand.
- What’s the best thing and worst thing about being a writer?
- I come alive when I write. I see colours, I become silent and hear exactly how people speak; I become aware of the connections between things. I love life. But I withdraw into myself, I don’t see friends for months and I keep losing my house/car keys. I become completely absent-minded.
- If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
- An opera singer or a ballet dancer.
- What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
- Read, Read, Read.
Think about the ways the writer constructs his/her story. Look carefully at the words she uses.
Write a little every single day.
(I "talk through" a little bit every day.)
This interview is from 2002.