I was born at the park Nursing Home, Port of Spain (now St Clair Medical centre) at about 4am on the 24th April 1965. Early memories of Trinidad include a jelly fish invasion at Toco and sitting on a bamboo pole covered in bubbles, not knowing they were jelly fish, ouch. I was sent to a girl’s convent boarding school in the UK at the age of thirteen and have spent my entire life, since then, travelling between the UK and Trinidad. Today, I live in London, where I mostly write and teach creative writing. I recently invited my editor out to Trinidad to launch my second novel, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle at The Reader’s Bookshop, in St James. On the way home from the airport, driving through Maraval, I saw her staring out the window at the hills. I’ve written a lot about the hills which you see everywhere in Port of Spain. …she said: “God, now I see at you mean.” I loved the way she was looking with such awe at Trinidad and she hadn’t even got out of the car. “I still stare too, when I come home,” I said to her. Yeah, I find myself staring a lot in Trinidad, at everything. Funkiest place on earth.
I’m a writer. That’s about all I’m good for. Should the career dry up, I’ll pack up and go see the rest of the world. No other plans.
WHEN + WHERE?
I write at home, mostly in the mornings. I write in my pyjamas or a twenty-year old pair of track pants which have lost their elastic and are always falling down. I never make my bed till I’ve finished writing: it’s a superstition. A rumpled bed works for me: rumpled up bed = rumpled up brain = good writing head. I write first thing, hair like a haystack, teeth unbrushed, eyes only just unstuck. Tons of coffee and toast. I don’t like to talk to anyone for the first few hours of the day. I lived with a poet for most of last year. He didn’t surface until 2pm most days. He wrote all night so our writing habits matched. I need to write with naked hands, no rings or anything on my fingers. Sometimes, I rub Neutrogena hand cream into my hands while writing: often I stare out the window at the ginger Tom cat who lives opposite and waits for hours to be let in. That cat’s patience has something to do with how I feel about writing. Eventually, he always gets let in.
Electric freckle. I read that in a poem. See? I write because words turn me on. It’s something of a fetish. Words bring me out in spots, in electric freckles. Crunch…banana…dugong…patchouli. I love the phrase ‘Sayonara, baby’. I love formal language and any type of slang, dialect or invented language. I love the language of the young, the old and the crazy. And as for creolised words, don’t get me started. Oh, Geeed, always makes me laugh. Trinidadians are linguistic acrobats.
PLEASE SAY SOMETHING DEEP ABOUT ART:
The truth is a moving target.
ASK AND ANSWER A QUESTION OF YOUR OWN CHOICE:
Q: Have you ever fantasised about meeting Patrick Manning?
A: Many times. In my fantasies, I win him over and he agrees to give me lots of money to start up a writer’s house in Port of Spain. I fantasise that Patrick Manning has read my book, even likes it. I also fantasise that he wants to have me shot. If he banned my book, I’d be very proud of myself.
BTW, WE SHOULD ADD:
Monique Roffey was this month shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel The White Woman on the Green Bicycle (Simon and Schuster UK). She is also the author of Sun Dog (Scribner). Her third book, an erotic memoir, With the Kisses of his Mouth, will be published in June 2011. She has been an RLF Fellow, Arvon Centre Director and teaches creative writing for English PEN, the MA at Goldsmiths, The Arvon Foundation and Skyros Writer’s Lab. This is what she looks like:
Photo courtesy the artist.
FIND out more about Monique' Orange Prize shortlist here. This/discourse/has/no/start(middle)end is an interview series featuring Trinidad artists. SEE more here.