Posts Tagged ‘Culture Colony’

Second and final part of my August 2010 interview with Culture Colony’s Pete Telfer

Tracy "sex life" posterWhat kind of opinions have been expressed (about Blackout and the Naked Reading)?

It’s like this, many come because I’ve got no clothes on and some read because of that and then I get letters saying things like ‘I cannot accept that your main character is…’ because they got drawn into the story as a result of the naked reading, and many identify with, love or get drawn into Tessa’s journey.  Tessa is the main character of Blackout (some would say my alter ego).  And there are those who point-blank refuse to watch the naked reading but want to read the book (as if this lends them some sort of moral or intellectual high ground).  And there are those who only want to see and hear the naked blonde writer reading.

I can’t pretend I don’t enjoy it; I’m a combo quiet-thoughtful writer and blonde exhibitionist who loves to read to people, I’m not doing it for others, I’m doing it for myself and if there are people who get drawn in along the way then great.  I’ve received opinions from more men than women, obviously.  A few of them have warned me to move away from the naked route and stick to just writing the words. They worry that I’ll get tarnished, corrupted, and so on.  I’ve had proposals of marriage, declarations of love and filthy dirty propositions that, in retrospect, are hysterical.  Even though at the time I felt sick.  I also get responses that say how brave, honest and courageous I am to read naked.  Because a writer bares her soul in so many ways, I’ve done it physically as well.

Explain this: Is the Pen mightier than the naked female body?

I used that as a hook to get people interested before the naked reading went up on the website.  Looking at that question now I think, ah, I’m using the naked female body like a weapon, a sword.  It shocks people and starts a battle… I was asking the question because I suspected that we live in a world where nudity and sensationalism are more valued than art, and I wanted the response to be  ‘no, no and thrice no!’  But the answers that came back were both negative and positive.  Some said ‘yes, we like your body better than your pen’ and some said no.  At this point it seems to be even, sadly.  But then I think well, what do I think?  Is my pen more mighty than my body?  Of course it is, to me.  But I’m a bit weird like that.  Writing is a very personal thing to you, more so than nudity… I write almost in secret.

Tracy in the room she calls her 'shrine' surrounded by naked photographs of herself.

Tracy in the room she calls her 'shrine' surrounded by naked photographs of herself.

I am less self-conscious about posing nude than I am about showing my written work to readers.  Because the words, they come right out of my heart, soul and  mind, they are way more important to me than what I pose as for a camera.  I’m not dissing the camera, and the photos and performances are also very dear to me, but the writing, ah! The writing goes way deeper and showing my work to people is something I avoided for a long long time, because I was so self-conscious about it.  The written word has tremendous power over me, it can penetrate me so deep, naturally I am wary of opening my self up to criticism through the writing because of how much the work means to me.

Does the naked writer persona damage the writer in you?

I think it does because there’s a battle going on between this exhibitionist and the other side who is very private, very contemplative and solitary.  I think if I had to make a choice then the naked blonde would go.  Because the actual act of writing is not a choice; I am compelled to do it and will continue to write whether people buy my work or not.  The naked blonde has opened doors, got me attention and caused a readership to start growing so I am thankful to that side of me but she takes so much energy to maintain that I’m already considering leaving her behind… and as I’m saying this I’m thinking ‘yeah, yeah, maybe one day, but not yet… I’ve got more performances in me… I’m just getting started.’

Why is writing so important to you?

I mean, you could have chosen modelling or acting, why has writing been more important?

As I said, it’s not a choice.  The compulsion to write has forced me to move continents, abandon people, places and things, and turn down all sorts of opportunities.  I’m not as driven to success as you might think.  I am driven by this innate sense that ‘if it gets in the way of the writing it will eventually have to go.’  If I’d really wanted to be an actor I would have stayed in Hollywood.  Every day I used to walk down Hollywood Boulevard with this little vixen on my shoulder saying ‘you’ve got to write, you’ve got to write, go home.’  Took me six years to give in to it.

What great themes are you exploring in your work?

Whether they’re great or not is a matter of opinion.  A recurring theme seems to be meaning of life in this modern society of ours where being famous has superseded ambitions like becoming a surgeon or a scientist.  I’m writing about sex and sexuality, the differences and difficulties between the man and woman. Madness is another one of my obsessions, or so-called madness.  And death.   What writer isn’t fascinated by death?  Oh yeah, and hypocrisy, because I see so much of it, and I’m a hypocrite too – not a proud one, just a hypocrite.  Judgmental to the core, of others, but of myself much more so.  I’m also obsessed by self-obsession.  That’s what all the photographs are about, in some ways. I live with all these images of myself and I use myself as a mirror to the world, to life, death, God, to all those things. This business of self-obsession could be negatively narcissistic or not.  I mean I don’t sit down and gaze lovingly at myself, I look at myself on film, in the mirror and I study myself and others and from that study I produce stories.

Tracy mirror words

Rembrandt used himself constantly for study…. I’m not that different to any other artist, maybe it’s just irritating to people who can’t take the whole ‘naked blonde’ thing.  That’s it!  I’ve just got it, it’s a Rembrandt thing I have going on… aha!  Yeah but Rembrandt used himself because there was no one else… Look around, Pete, it’s just me here…  I like the Rembrandt idea, it fits.  I’m keeping it for a while.  All those photos are of different people, different people inhabiting one body, mine!  And all those people are in my writing, somewhere.  Or maybe it is just superficial self-obsession, a symptom of the generation in which I was born.  Oh I don’t know.  Anyway, enough about me, what do you think of me?

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing ‘Tales From the Hollywood Bus Stop’ or ‘The Dark Side of Tinsel Town.’  It’s about those six years I spent in the city of dreams, based on the life of the strangest casting director I ever met.  I’m gonna blog it in cyberspace but in Dickensian serial style.  Thousand words per chapter, one chapter per month.  And I’m gonna do a short story version performance of it to introduce the story.

Tracy - surrounded by words

What will Tracy do next?

You know yesterday I was thinking it’s time to move on.  I haven’t thought that for a long time.  I’ve  got all these plans to write all these stories and I worry that I’ll die before I finish them all.  If I knew what Tracy was gonna do next then maybe I could outsmart her and calculate my way into staying put so that I can just write.  But she’s unpredictable.  And often I move from need, because I have to earn money to eat to live to write and all that stuff.  What Tracy does next is out of my control.  As I’m speaking I’m realizing I sound slightly schizophrenic.

Oh fuck!

Culture Colony - Y Wladfa Newydd

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Tracy at homeWriter Tracy Williams has a pole in her bedroom………no, it’s not the nationality of her lover.

It’s hard to describe Tracy Williams, she certainly defies being categorised, boxed, understood and made safe.

She’s been a nude model and a Hollywood actress among many other things and as I get a tour around her lonely house on the bleak moors of the Brecon Beacons I see a pole in the bedroom. The same kind of pole that young ladies perform unbelievable acrobatic feats on, usually wearing a layer of baby oil to the delight of gentlemen frequenting night spots in the cities. A bit unusual half way up a Welsh mountain. Another career opportunity maybe? I don’t pursue this line of enquiry very far……. It’s her love of writing that I’ve come here to talk about with Tracy. Maybe it’s more of a need to write than a love?

Tracy in the 'Pole Room'

Tracy in the 'Pole Room'

You live in the middle of a huge landscape – is this inspiring?

Very much so.  I’ve been wanting to live where I now live for a long long time.  It took ages for me to accept that I didn’t belong in cities like London and Los Angeles, because there’s a part of me that loves all that hyped up type living.  But here, in the middle of nowhere I know I’m in the right place.   Every day I look out of my window and think ‘this must be a dream, it’s too beautiful, I don’t deserve  it.’  For me walking mountains, silence, or the sound of the wind whistling through the house at night is amazing, and it helps me to write.  I’m not saying that’s the only way to write, I’m saying that’s what helps me as a writer, you know, grass, trees, air, peace and quiet.  I get inspired to write by all kinds of things, though.  And I’m not just living here because the environment is conducive to writing.  I’m here because I need it, for my soul.

Do you find reading essential to being a writer?

Reading came first for me, I was taught to read very young and I was read to every night as a child.  I used to love standing up in class and reading out loud.   I started reading books that were way too advanced for me at a very young an age.  I wanted Stephen King when I was ten, you know, and I used to read that sort of stuff in secret, or I’d be told off.  By sixteen I was reading Plato.  I didn’t get given these books by any one, I found them myself.  It was like a sixth sense about the kind of stuff I wanted to read, I could just sense that I needed to know what was written between certain covers. I can’t imagine a life without books.  Also, the more I write the more reading becomes a pleasure because it gives me permission to hang back and let someone else do the work.  At the moment I’m reading Hemingway and he’s blowing my mind.   But I do have to admit that whenever I read a writer who gives such good prose I often sink into despair over the notion that I can never possibly compare as an artist.  That’s when I lose the faith in my own work.  But it’s not painful enough to stop me from reading.  I read so much, I wake up in the middle of the night and read, I can’t stop.  I like music and painting and theatre and film (I don’t like television) but the highest form of art for me, the one that touches and influences me the most is literature.  I can’t imagine a writer who does not read.

Blackout’s Naked Reading: What is Blackout?

Blackout is my first novel, my first child.  It’s about conflict between apathy and ambition, England and Wales, and Technology versus Mother Nature.  It was written out of rage and sadness, frustration and confusion over what I experienced and observed going on the ex-coalmining valleys of South Wales.  Blackout is an analogy for a state of mind and a yearning for something beyond the quick-fix let’s-get-famous culture I think the generation-X-ers and beyond are now a slave to.

Why did you choose to be filmed reading the first chapter naked?

It started as an idea to combine my naked modelling with the writing.  I have been posing nude since the age of 17, and when my website was being built I had this mass of photos I wanted to put on the website.  We decided that I would do a reading of Blackout, recorded for the site and I myself  suggested I should read it naked.  I’m not sure why, still asking myself why…  Some would like to chalk it off as a cheap marketing/publicity stunt and for a while I thought ‘okay, that’s what it was’ but it’s beyond banal attention-seeking, there’s something underneath the whole nude reading that even I, as yet, have not discovered.  It’s not as simple as I realise.  I don’t know, if I had the answer, believe me, I’d give it to you.

Did it work?

That question implies that I had an end result in mind when I got naked.  But I really didn’t. It was an experiment that was highly personal.  In some way, of course, I wanted it to get people to buy my book.  If that was the sole reason then I would say the naked reading did not work, because the book has not sold well.  But the responses I’ve gotten to the naked reading have been vast and varied.  I like to take action from my gut instincts and see what the results are – I don’t usually have an end in mind.  My gut instinct said, ‘read chapter one naked’ that’s what I did and the results, well…. I’m not sure if I’ll be reading naked again, but I reserve the right to change my mind.

Have there been consequences for the Naked Reading?

Some good, some bad consequences.  I love the fact that it got so much attention and am nonplussed by just how intense some of the consequences were.  One guy showed up at my door, Blackout in hand, a lecherous look on his face.  That fucked my head up.  I’m gonna write about that one of these days.  I think that’s the main bad consequence.  Also I think the publishers in Wales have decided that, because of the nudity, I must be no good as a writer.  Consequences here are that they’re not open-minded enough to read the naked blonde writer’s work.  I’m pretty sick of that shit, especially when I get letters from publishers in Wales which have typos in them or which don’t understand what stream-of-consciousness is.  I’m really frustrated with the whole Welsh publishing and so-called Welsh literary industry.  The opinions from the general public (worldwide, including Wales) have been a lot more helpful, constructive and inspiring.

…. to be continued

“A pole in the bedroom” is the first part of a Culture Colony interview with Pete Telfer. Pete is an award-winning Film Maker, is based in the village of Ceinws near Machynlleth, and runs a television production company called Pixel Foundry. He is also the focus and force behind Wales’ underground creative community site – Culture Colony Culture Colony

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