Quick Fire Q&A with Peter Collins
by Christa Marie
Peter Collins is the author of ‘Psychic Impressions’, a creative nonfiction piece featured in The Selkie’s recently published anthology, Transformation. Transformation is a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that is either by writers from underrepresented/marginalised backgrounds, or representative of these groups. You can read the anthology for free here or by following the links at the bottom of this page.
Christa Marie (CM): What does the word ‘transformation’ mean to you? How did you approach this theme in your work?
Peter Collins (PC): For me, transformation is about shifting paradigms – overturning old understandings and forging a new consciousness. This was largely the driving force behind ‘Psychic Impressions’. I wanted to transform the consciousness of the reader, to narratively and structurally guide them into another mode of being and explore the concept of neurodiversity. Whether it be autism, mental health issues, or simply divergent perspectives. I wanted to highlight how vastly different peoples’ internal experiences could be and the inherent isolation of a person unable to operate in the way dominant social constructs demand. I approached the piece as a meditation – not a meditation to explore your own mind, but to explore the mind of someone else, someone who experiences the world in a way wholly unfamiliar to the reader. To exist, this world requires both the reader and the ‘guide’ to engage in some sort connection. In forging this connection, it is my hope to build understanding of neurodiversity on an emotional level, as opposed to an intellectual one, and to increase empathy between people – something I feel the world needs at the moment.
It is my hope to build understanding of neurodiversity on an emotional level, as opposed to an intellectual one.
CM: How important is it to have dedicated space for your work? Why are platforms such as these important for writers?
PC: In a highly commercialised world, with outlets competing for as many sales as possible, minority voices are side-lined in the mainstream in favour of voices deemed to have mass appeal. To me, that is a dangerous way to approach the arts – with work being filtered through various corporate committees, aiming to replicate earlier financial successes, many perspectives are simply laundered out of the system leading to homogenous outputs and an increasingly narrow perspective being elevated above others. This decreases humankind’s understanding of itself and isolates those whose experiences are not reflected in the mainstream. This is why it is so important to have a thriving sector of alternative outlets. Organisations such as The Selkie provide a vital platform for voices that challenge the dominant narratives, enabling space for richer insight and explore in greater depth the complexity and vastness of the human experience.
CM: How would you describe your creative process? Do you find it uplifting or exhausting?
PC: Gruelling! I’m a ridiculously analytical person, so it isn’t uncommon for me to spend hours or days on a single sentence to ensure it perfectly captures what I’m trying to relate, and even then, I’m rarely satisfied. I tell myself that this is due to the limitations of language, rather than my ability, and I’ll choose to believe that interpretation long enough to make it to the next sentence – but, yes, my ability is probably the issue. More generally, my process is largely driven by a desire to unpack and explore human interaction; being on the autistic spectrum, much of human behaviour is both nonsensical and fascinating to me. My writing has a tendency to pull humanity apart and analyse it in microscopic detail to wholly dissect characters and psychologies and reflect on their societal implications. Feeling that I’ve reached the ‘truth’ of a person or situation is where the thrill of writing lies for me.
Much of human behaviour is both nonsensical and fascinating to me.
CM: What other writers do you admire most?
PC: There are so many writers whose work I adore, but towards the top of my list would be the American playwrights Edward Albee and Eugene O’Neill. Their penchant for crackling dialogue, absurdity, and dark humour is something that chimes perfectly with my sensibilities. Discovering works like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Delicate Balance, and Long Day’s Journey into Night was truly defining for me.
CM: How do you measure success as a writer? What do you hope to achieve with your work?
PC: For me, there are two components of success: personal satisfaction and recognition. When you have those (rare) moments of feeling you’ve achieved the best you’re capable of, it’s a sublime feeling. When another person praises the work you’ve done, it’s priceless. Money would be a third component, but in the absence of that, I’ll take the first two. In terms of achievement, there is nothing better than having another person relate to what you’ve written. If anything I write resonates with someone or helps shape their understanding in some way, that is where success lies for me.
There is nothing better than having another person relate to what you’ve written.