Liv Little

Little by name but with big ambitions, Liv Little has shown her talents to stretch far beyond the creative outlet that first set her on our radar.

Words by Fayola Douglas,
Brand Editor, Amplify.

Moving on from her role as gal-dem’s Founder and CEO to become President of the board, Little is now pursuing other creative endeavours. These include writing her first novel, Rosewater, which is scheduled for release in spring 2023.

Little’s talent lies in being able to identify a story and deciding on the best way to tell it. Her move into fiction and drama has allowed her the creative freedom to explore various themes, topics and wild ideas.

Slowing down to build worlds

During the pandemic, I went walking around Epping Forest, because walking was all we were allowed to really do, and I was listening to a horror soundscape. You’re looking at this normal environment but everything becomes creepy because of the sounds.

There are lots of places to seek inspiration – from discovering new places to seeing how people interact with each other, or viewing an environment through a new lens. Many characters I am working on are based on my observations of how different personalities move through life, through situations like grief or walking down the street. I find myself watching people and formulating little stories about who they are or what might be happening in their lives. You can find inspiration, ideas for storytelling, worldbuilding and character development anywhere.

Allowing yourself the time and space needed is important. In the past two years, I’ve slowed down my way of working and the way I show up, coming from running a business to writing stories and building ideas out. And that’s been key to me being able to explore and experiment.

gal-dem beginnings

I started gal-dem when I was 21 and in my last year of uni. I really wanted to connect with people and didn’t know that it would be as popular as it became, or that so many people would want to be involved with it. There was an energy of just going out and doing things and trying things. It was very DIY to begin with, then evolved into a business. I ended up with less time to feed the creative parts of my brain as you’re having to feed the business. It was an honour, I’m super glad and fortunate that I had that experience.

But as you near 30, you realise you are a different person to how you were at 21. On a personal level, I have experienced the loss of my dad and stepdad, and those moments of deep grief and sadness are reminders of what’s important and the fact we should be unafraid and go after the things we want.

An emotional experience

With my novel Rosewater, I want people to step into someone else’s world, someone else’s shoes, and to feel the journey and the process of the main character. I want them to find pieces of themselves in the story. I decided to write the type of book I would want to read. I see myself as a queer Black woman from south London. And in the story, there are places and moments I recognise. But alongside the specificity, there is also a universality in identifying with how we all have to show up and navigate through the world. I want people to connect with the characters either because they are frustrated with them
– they are challenging, or because they see themselves in the characters and want to root for them. They are flawed but people are flawed.

During the time I was writing Rosewater, I was going through the process of losing a parent. I had low moments, and in the book there are emotional scenes and writing them I would be emotional. I was able to draw on my lived experiences and feel the emotions from my own life and translate some elements of that into the book. The book is not about me but, as artists, there are pieces of us in everything that we do.

South London lover

Specificity is really important. When a show is situated within a specific place and world, you can feel the humanity in the situation and you feel something towards the characters. Normal People was set in Ireland and you could recognise these two young people falling in love, and even though that wasn’t my life I could feel the love and intensity they shared and be moved by their experiences.

With my novel there is a real specificity: we are in south London. You could say I am obsessed with writing about it and don’t want to leave it, but it’s important to me. The specificity doesn’t need to hinder mass engagement, audience or reach. I feel people can connect with Rosewater because they know what it is to be figuring
out where they fit into the world, or how we might have been impacted by the way we were shown love, in how we give love and show up.

The worlds that inspire me

There are lots of production companies, especially in the US, that I think are doing really amazing stuff. Lena Waithe’s company, Hillman Grad, is doing incredible stuff across books, film and TV. I think there’s an appetite and a space over there for the stories that obviously exist here, too. But in the US, I think there is more of an appetite and economy for a wider breadth of diversity in storytelling, which I find incredibly inspiring.

There is so much great work that exists in lots of different spaces and I try and consume as much of it as possible. One of the authors I love is Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun, and reading that was the first time I’d seen myself reflected in some way. She is a queer Jamaican woman and when I read Here Comes the Sun it was something I hadn’t seen before. Reading one of the poems about a Guyanese dish made me cry as it captured the essence of what that stands for from a cultural perspective.

The main character in Rosewater is a poet so my friend Kai-Isaiah Jamal, who is an incredible poet, wrote poems for my book. When I was imagining the main character’s voice, in my mind I could hear Kai, their sensibility and the way they tell stories in a way that is so incredibly moving.

Future worlds

When I was younger and running gal-dem, I remember saying I wasn’t going to be doing this forever. It is designed to exist beyond me and my personal desires for that community. As much as I’m in a different phase now, with its new team it will continue to evolve. I think
I always knew there were lots of things that I wanted to try. You have to lean into that part of life, accepting that things change. I am moving into this next chapter.

It is a treat to be able to write and have people read your work. I often joke that I have a fake job as I wonder: how is this real life? It is a huge privilege to share my writing and work with the world. I’m still learning and evolving as a writer but I want to progress and have that impact in my worldbuilding moving forward. Through every project, there can be an evolution or development. When I started gal-dem, all that energy and youthfulness helped to get that idea off the ground. But you can see the formats that I use to tell stories have changed, and I have moved away from the journalism space. It’s a process.