Smoking With Roderick Leyland

Read the Story December 15, 2004

Existential humor—a horse’s satirical take on Sartre. What dark corner did that emanate from?

Dark corner indeed. My mother often asks why I don’t write something happier. Happiness doesn’t teach us anything. The existential point of view has helped me in my struggle to come to grips with middle age. My wife and I live in a house overlooking a field where horses graze. When it’s wet they shelter underneath the trees in our garden which overhang the field. One particularly miserable, drizzly day, while they were sheltering, they spoke to me.

Does your training in the theatre help or hinder your writing process? Do you read your work aloud as you go?

My theatre training does help: I had to learn to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. So why not a horse? Yes, I do read out loud and, as I write, I play all the parts in my mind.

What limitations or boundaries, if any, do you set for yourself as a writer?

I realised some time ago that my writing wasn’t commercial. That gives me the freedom to write what I like, when I like, how I like. But there is a price: you plough a lonely furrow. Ezra Pound said: “Nothing written for pay is worth printing. ONLY what has been written AGAINST the market.” I think, that without realising it, I’ve been writing against the market all the time. Boundaries: I wouldn’t deliberately upset anyone with what I wrote.

How big a part does the culture that surrounds you play in your work?

I don’t think my immediate culture plays a part in my work. I write about difficult relationships and death. Universal themes.

We all know what makes writing difficult. What makes it easy for you?

Writing is easy when you tap into a rich vein and words write themselves. The difficulty is finding that vein. It’s also easy when I read someone else’s work which sparks an idea. Virginia Woolf, Raymond Carver and Martin Amis spring to mind.

About the Author:

Roderick Leyland was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1949. He was trained as an actor and worked in the theatre. He has also worked in retailing and financial services. Stories and articles have appeared (or are forthcoming) in SmokeLong Quarterly, BuzzWords, Peninsular, Countryside Tales, Scribble. He lives and works in Brighton, England.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.