Roseanne Cash: 'I've been a writer for twenty years, it just hadn't been coming out as prose.’



Already famed for being the daughter of Johnny, and for an impressive country music career of her own, ROSEANNE CASH explains why she has turned to writing stories.

Words: Damien Love

For any author. the appearance of their first book is a fraught experience. as the product of countless hours of nurturing and solitary labour is sent finally blinking out into the world. For Roseanne (‘ash.

country singer and daughter of the great Johnny ('ash.

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the publication of her debut collection of short stories felt ‘like being naked in a whole new way”.

After nine albums. a of handfuls of number one singles on the American charts and a Grammy Award. one would imagine that (‘ash would have long ago conquered such feelings of nervousness: perhaps following the issue of her first few records. back in the late 7()s. ()n the contrary. she explains. if anything the apprehension has intensified with the passing of time. ‘I was more unconscious back when I started.’ she says. ‘but with the book. I had a lot of myself invested. l was prepared to be hurt.‘

While (‘ash's book Bur/[4’s Of Water comes assured of a ready made audience. hand in hand with this goes the burden of the critical establishment‘s

innate reluctance to allow people to break free of

pigeonholes fashioned for them. ‘You make a target of yourself.‘ she says. However. it is perhaps because of the very 'nakedness‘ of the collections stories that Bur/It’s ()f ll'urer succeeds. Like the best of her music. writing is extremely intimate; themes

'He thought the father described in one of the stories was him, and I had to assure him, y'know: “No, it’s not you, dad.” I Roseanne Cash

recognisable from the songwriting run throughout the book the exploration of self. the passing of time. realisation. loss and acceptance.

"l‘he stories didn‘t seem that far afield from the subject matter of my songwriting.‘ she agrees. ‘Y'know. I‘ve been a writer for twenty years. it just hadn't been coming out as prose. So it wasn‘t that far removed -— it wasn‘t like I became an actress or a brain surgeon or something.’

The characters populating Cash‘s writing tend to be women. somewhere between their mid-thirties and early forties. slightly out of step with the rest of the world. The stories chronicle the events. large and small. through which they achieve some little epiphany— the birth of a child; a visit to a childhood neighbourhood; the sight of a man bleeding in the street.

The author herself admits to being surprised by her writing. as the stories carry her to places she had no intention of going. in ‘Part Girl'. a woman travels to Paris to usher in middle age. leaving the demands of her life and gaining some measure of balance among the deserted churches of a foreign city. ‘I started writing that story when in Paris by myself. and I had no idea . . . l was in tears when I finished. to see where she had gone. this very small but very real attempt to begin the second half of her life. I felt a lot of compassion for her and for myself.‘

(‘ash describes the book‘s appearance as ‘an evolution.‘ continuing the process she began when she first decided to leave Nashville and develop as a songwriter outside the mainstream country circuit. Of course. the biggest shadow over her early career was the Mt. Rushmore-sized one cast by her father. So how has the god in black responded to his daughter's literary bow‘.’

‘He was quite moved by it.’ she says. ‘He called me and he said that he didn‘t realise that I had all of these things to say. Of course. he had his own opinions about it too. He thought the father described in one of the stories was him. and I had to assure him. y‘know: “No. it‘s not yoti. dad."

Bodies Of Water by Roseanne Cash is published by Gollancz at £9.99.

; is published by Macmillan at £72.99.

preview BOOKS

The Write Stuff

The editor behind Scottish writers Irvine Welsh, A. L. Kennedy, Alan Warner and Janice Galloway is a bit of a writer himself. His first book of poems A Painted Field is just out.

NAME: Robin Robertson. AGE: 41.

PREVIOUS JOBS: After I did my two degrees, I was a labourer digging fields in Aberdeen for about two months.

ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: It was the same as anybody's, l sup- pose. ljust scribbled in my bedroom for many years, finally shaking off most of the influences that young writers always have and sending poems to magazines, the usual tedious apprenticeship. I always thought I had it in me.

DAILY ROUTINE: I get woken far too early by one or other of my two daughters, make some breakfast in a depressed trance and try to scrab- ble the family out of the house and then go to work. Then I spend the day having to sit in tedious meet- ings and reply to angry letters and then go back and deal with the chil- dren and then try and read some of the manuscripts I get sent. I use my holiday allowance I haven't had a holiday in four years and go off to Ireland or Scotland to get some writing done.

INFLUENCES: David Jones, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane and all the writ- ers I publish at Jonathan Cape. AMBITIONS: I want to write another book and given the state of my finances it may have to be a

novel . . . No, I'll write another book of poems at some point. I don't think I'll leave it for twenty years again.

FEARS: The only things that I find disturbing they're not really fears are being in the same room as a trapped bird and I don't especially like being in the same room as a rat but I'm generally pretty blind to most of the mortal fears.

INCOME: Not nearly enough for what I do, which is usually about a 100-hour week. My income from poetry is about £500 a year. (Brian Donaldson)

I A Painted Fr‘e/d by Robin Robertson

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