The Voice behind the Stage: An Interview with Erin McGee

Earlier this year, Ivy Z.A. Edwards joined Stellar Quines for a work placement. During her time with us she has produced articles and interviews with creatives. Here she interviews Erin McGee who, in addition to being Stellar Quines Company Administrator, is a playwright and dramaturg. 

Can you please give a breakdown of how your writing process works?
I tell people that I am a binge writer. Which, for me, usually involves a night of being up until 2am writing 30 pages, followed by months of guilt and only writing the odd line in my phone when the inspiration takes me. Then repeat until the work is done and hope for the best. I am quite lucky in that some of my best lines, I think, have come from the weird notes I’ve jotted down in my phone. They can be things my friends and I have said, overheard café conversations, or just overly-dramatic thoughts after a glass of wine.

How long have you been playwriting?
I think the desire to write was always there, it just lay dormant for a while. I remember writing stories and songs when I was younger, and I experimented with writing a fair bit at QMU but it wasn’t until after my undergrad ended that I “properly” started. I was working full-time as a receptionist and trying to save money for a Masters and I thought “I need to do something creative”, and just impulsively signed up for Traverse Young Writers. After that, and after having my work really supported and getting to share it, it was just one of those feelings of knowing that that was what I was supposed to be doing all along. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What advice would you give to the other young writers you work with?
Sounds like the most obvious one but APPLY FOR EVERYTHING! Everything! I’ll apply for things that I know I have absolutely no chance of getting. There are lots of pros to it – you can get feedback, you can work out where you’re at, if you’re longlisted or shortlisted etc. – but also I think sometimes you just need the sense of accomplishment that comes with sending something in and knowing somebody is going to read it. It is a known thing that women are more reluctant to apply for things than men, and I am really glad that a lot of organisations are now acknowledging this. Women’s Prize for Playwriting recently tweeted “You are not an imposter. You are a writer.” so I suppose I would just like to echo that, and say that to everybody and myself more often.

What has been your favourite project to work on?
I think my favourite project is whatever I am doing at the time, really. I recently had a development for my play Crickets with Shift Theatre. Sarah and Connel are two of my good friends – it was so lovely to get the chance to work on something with people I went to uni with, after uni when we have all grown in our practice so much. That was the kind of thing we fantasised about when we were studying so that project has a special kind of magic to it.

Do you use your playwriting experience during your position as Company
Administrator for Stellar Quines?
There are skills which I think definitely overlap. SQ have always been supportive of my writing, not just saying that because I know they’ll read this, I promise! It means I am sometimes given projects with a dramaturgical basis to them.

Are there any current projects that you are working on at the moment?
I am currently part of the BBC Scottish Voices group for 2020 which is a huge change for me – I have never written for TV before. The other day I did have to remind myself that I could jump cut between scenes without wondering how the actors would manage it on stage! I am really enjoying the challenge though, and I think every day I’m learning more and more about my voice and who I am as a writer.