What did you read during lockdown?
My lockdown started on 17 March, when I started to show Coronavirus symptoms, and ended when I accompanied a Black birdwatching group to Walthamstow Wetlands on 21 June. I read mostly poetry and short fiction. Standouts included Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen, Box Hill by Adam Mars-Jones, A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson and That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu.
Describe yourself/book in 15 words
Rainbow Milk is about a black teenager fleeing to the freedom of the big city.
What do you enjoy most from your wide range of talents?
Being so often able to impress my partner.
What does success mean to you?
Success gives me permission to get up every morning and read and write. I can take myself seriously because others are counting on me, and I feel less guilty about not having a “regular” job.
What two attributes are most important in your job?
Hard work and time management.
What do you find rewarding about writing?
I’m constantly learning more about myself. I often don’t know what I think about the issues I face until I’ve written about them.
What is your most frequently asked question?
Which bits of your novel are autobiographical and which parts are fiction?
What are your three best qualities?
Hard-working, loyal, helpful.
What do you get passionate about?
In a positive sense, I get passionate about educational reform (particularly when it comes to Black and queer history). I can’t stand it when people in privileged positions use their voices to apply further pressure on people who are marginalised. I hate that we are still under the leadership of what bell hooks calls the “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy”, at a time when we need leaders who can empower us all, inspire the end of structural racism and gender inequality, and prioritise the protection of our environment.
What is the worst job you have ever had?
I’ve had plenty of bad jobs, but nothing made me feel quite as low as three months’ physical labour in the Goods Inwards department of a Sainsbury’s.
What are you reading at the moment?
Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys, Memorial by Bryan Washington and the DVLA’s Driving: The Essential Skills.
What is your favourite quote?
“Classes of the intellect have little to do with birth”, or something like that. I’ve ascribed it to Proust but just tried searching for it and nothing comes up.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest?
Barack Obama, of living people; James Baldwin, of historical figures.
What keeps you up at night?
Two things: concern that I’m taking too much on and that I’m forgetting something important; guilty excitement at being able to do what I love.
Paul Mendez in conversation with Phoenix Alexander
Sunday 11 October, 4-5pm
Back to: Liverpool Literary Festival