The Caribbean Writer

An Interview With Caryl Phillips: I am What I am Because I was Born There

The following interview was conducted by telephone
on Dec. 15, 1994. Caryl Phillips was in Amherst, Massachusetts and Erika
Waters was in St. Croix.


EW:  I understand that you felt that you had to read before you actually started
writing and that you read a great deal. Do you think that is an important
place for writers to start?


CP:  Absolutely. I think reading and writing are intimately connected, so definitely. New
writers are defining themselves as writers by reading what other people
have written, in a sense trying to write books that have not been written
already. So you have to be aware of the gaps.


EW:  Right. Do you have advice for writers, particularly who don’t find success as
easily as you did? Do you think they should persevere?


CP:  They should persevere, but I don’t think they should write with the understanding
that they are going to make a living out of it. Not really. It depends
what you consider to be success. If success for you is only quantifiable
in terms of money, then I think that probably you are doing the wrong
thing. Money shouldn’t be the criteria for success in writing. Unfortunately,
we are in a commercially orientated world and it’s a fact of life that
people have to live and have to eat. They need money. I don’t think that
the ability to support oneself with writing necessarily relates directly
to how good or how successful or influential a writer would be.


EW:  I read that you had some nine months of enforced isolation in Edinburgh.
Do you think isolation is necessary for writers

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