Ten years ago today, I sat up in bed with a cup of tea and the laptop, messing around with WordPress. In honour of 10 million hardbacks reaching its 10th birthday and the forthcoming staging of Kitty, Queen of the Washhouse, it is time to turn the tables on the writer, playwright and prolific interviewer, John Maguire. These 20 questions all come from interviews he has conducted over the last decade…
10mh: Who are your influences or the artists/writers you admire?
Charles Dickens, Sam Shepard, Paul Auster, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters, Anais Nin… but to be honest the list is endless.
10mh: How do you approach a new piece of work?
I write daily, gathering scraps of material, one liners and stories. If I am working on a particular project, I look at art, music, film that I feel intuitively will link to it. This helps me work things out in my head. I love writing first thing in the morning before the dawn, when anything seems possible.
10mh: Is there one tool that you could not do without?
My small writing desk, I retrieved it from a skip, it was being thrown out of a boss little restaurant in Liverpool called Bistro Pierre. It is a battered dining table for two and it now has lots of quotes, ink stains, spillages etched on it and it survived a fire in the studio.
10mh: Describe a typical day in THE BLUE ROOM studio.
As I have what can be described as a portfolio career, I generally spend the beginning of the day in the studio. It is called the Blue Room after a line in the Bowie song Sound and Vision, ‘Blue, Blue electric blue, that’s the colour of my room, where I will live.’
I burn incense, drink strong black coffee and write. The rest of the day is generally a mix of meetings, walking tours, work on a community project in L13, MyClubmoor, depending on the day of the week. If I have the luxury of a full day in the writing studio, I like to write, eat and go on a massive walk, returning home to read and catch up on old school correspondence, sending friends letters and postcards.
10mh: What qualities do you think make a fantastic story?
It has to hook and make you feel glad to be alive. To make the things we forget in the everyday, senses, tastes, things we see and hear become more apparent. Make the subconscious, conscious. It also has to inform and entertain.
10mh: Describe your work in five words.
Passionate. Positive. Resilient. Humorous. Energetic.
10mh: Do you have any rituals once something is finished?
Once something is finished, I am generally straight on to the next project. I like starting a new sketchpad/notepad.
10mh: If you could stage a play in one building/place where would you and why?
I have always wanted to stage a play in the small concert hall at St George’s Hall, it is absolutely mesmerising. Charles Dickens, who gave his penny readings there, described it as,
“The most perfect room in the world.”
Next, I’d like to have something on in Drury Lane, London and then Broadway, New York City.
10mh: Can you craft a poem in seven words?
All my plays really are like poems.
10mh: Do you have a favourite piece to date, if not just one, what is it that you like most about your work?
KITTY: Queen of the Washhouse is my favourite piece to date as I feel it encapsulate the strong Scouse women now and throughout history. That resilient fighting spirit.
WEAVE, the story of a Scouse girl with a possessed hair extension is also a favourite. Arabella is a contemporary tough lady, who is very dear to me, ‘I will only have a man’s name tattooed on my body if he can ejaculate gold and chocolate.’ WEAVE will be staged with the same team behind Kitty on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th May 2019.
10mh: Pick a favourite music album / What is your favourite music to dance to?
I cannot pick one particular album: anything by Bowie, Blondie, John Grant, Goldfrapp, St Vincent, Annie Lennox, Marianne Faithful, Grace Jones… I like to dance to Madonna but my interpretation of Vogue looks like I am having some kind of seizure.
10mh: Which architecture inspires you?
Art deco, gothic Victorian or any type of cottage/log cabin in the middle of nowhere.
10mh: What films do you go back to again and again?
Rear Window by Hitchcock and Better Davis’ back catalogue, The Anniversary, All about Eve, Now Voyager, The Letter…
10mh: Which book can you not put down?
Patti Smith’s Just Kids.
10mh: What are the standout moments in your career so far?
BRUISE in Manchester Pride 2012. A play about gay domestic violence that covered a dark period in my life and a play called PASSING THROUGH which was kind of my eulogy for my Nan Francis Stewart, an exemplary human being.
10mh: Who would play you in a film?
A cross between cartoon characters Johnny Bravo and Snagglepuss.
10mh: If you could be an animal, which one would you choose and why?
I’d be a magpie as I like to take shiny things, little bits of treasure and create.
10mh: What is the best piece of advice you have received so far?
Doubt is a thief that often makes us fear to tread where we might have won. William Shakespeare.
10mh: Do you have any advice for new artists starting out?
Writing is not about inspiration it is about application. Just write and keep at it, plus read every day.
10mh: What are your ambitions for the future?
To keep working and developing, to become the best playwright I can possibly be.
To own a small plot of land surrounded by silver birch trees and a happy homestead filled with books and laughter.
Kitty, Queen of the Washhouse will be staged at St George’s Hall, Liverpool on Saturday 16 March.
Follow John on Twitter for more updates.