Thursday, 29 December 2011
Friday, 16 December 2011
Dee has provided us with an introduction to one of her less sympathetic characters. I thought, in view of the topicality of all matters financial, I would give you a banker. Sir Robert “Shagger” Muntham is regrettably unavailable for future novels, but he manages to annoy a number of people before being found strangled in his own locked study - thus giving Ethelred and Elsie a chance to investigate a seemingly impossible murder.
Here is Sir Robert making his entrance in all senses of the word:
It must have been almost three months before that when I had run into Rob Muntham coming out of the village post office. I had literally bumped into a tall, slightly stooped, grey-haired figure, who was attempting to enter as I attempted to leave. I was just framing a muttered apology when the man addressed me.
“Ethelred?” he said.
I must have looked blank because he repeated himself.
“Ethelred Tressider, isn’t it? You don’t recognise me, do you? I’m Robert Muntham.”
“Rob Muntham?” I said. I had a horrible feeling that I had sounded as though I was correcting him on the subject of his own name, but at university he had never been called “Robert” – he had been “Rob” or, more usually, “Shagger”. The new, fuller version of his name seemed to come with the gravitas that he had acquired from somewhere during the thirty-odd years since I had last seen him. And, thinking about it, he had also sobered up a bit since that last occasion, standing in the middle of the quad singing a song apparently addressed to a Zulu warrior.
He gave me a tight-lipped smile in response to my mode of address. “These days I am, for my sins, Sir Robert Muntham.”
“Ah, yes,” I said. “Congratulations. I read about it in the College magazine.”
“For services to banking,” he added.
“Ah, yes,” I said again. I wondered if he had really been given a knighthood for his sins. It seemed unlikely, even for a banker. Still, Sir Robert Muntham …
It’s strange how some of your contemporaries show wholly illusory promise, while others emerge unreasonably and gloriously triumphant. Shagger Muntham was unquestionably in the latter category. He captained the College rugby team and had narrowly missed a boxing Blue. His capacity for beer qualified him as some sort of minor alcoholic deity. He knew all of the words to “Eskimo Nell”. These things were held, in the College, to be much to his credit. On the other hand, even his closest friends never claimed to know what subject he was reading. He was the only person I know who was wildly congratulated on achieving a Third Class degree. The party lasted several days and ended with him standing in the quad .... no, I think I’ve mentioned that already.
Then, for while, we heard nothing of him at all. Only later did his apotheosis become apparent. He had descended on the City when the main academic requirements were a pair of red braces and brash confidence. One he had already. The other he had bought, presumably, at a tailor’s in Docklands. As time went by, we sometimes caught a brief mention of him in the national press. The College newsletter increasingly called upon him for short articles on life after university or to encourage us to give generously to some appeal for a new boathouse or scholarships for overseas students – each successive accompanying photograph showed him slightly plumper, slightly greyer, distinctly more pleased with himself. The articles on life after university at least showed no false modesty. If the Queen had been hoping to surprise Shagger, she would have needed to give him a lot more than a knighthood.
‘Tyler juggles characters, story, wit and clever one-liners with perfect balance’ THE TIMES
Sunday, 11 December 2011
I thought I would post a paragraph featuring Ella Appleby, the housemaid in The Lady's Slipper. Although she is not the main character she is the cause of much of the strife in the novel, and the person I have received most mail about. Although most of the feedback has been that she is a 'nasty piece of work' (to quote one letter) I take this to be a good omen for she has become the lead character in the next book, The Gilded Lily, and at least she is creating some reaction!
Saturday, 3 December 2011
|The Ridgeway above the Vale of White Horse|
By the time the kitchen clock struck seven I knew that my cousin wouldn’t be coming back. I abandoned my rehearsal of the cool response I’d planned for her return: I always knew you were just mucking about, Jess . . .
Jubilee is available in paperback and Kindle format.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
This is in the hope of persuading you to consider buying these books as excellent pressies, but also just because it feels good to look back and remember what you liked about your own work; it's easy to get wrapped up in negativity about previously published novels, but the truth is - these novels are good. They're great, in fact. They have something special, something that makes them unique and interesting and, well, publishable.
I'm going to start the ball rolling by returning to my first full-length novel, Three Things About Me. It dealt with seven people, each with a secret, trying to make a new life in the strange seaside town of Allcombe. The novel shared three months of their lives, from each character in turn, as they fell in love, fell to pieces, or fell off the side of the cliff.
Three Things About Me breaks a lot of rules. It doesn't have one main character, and all the characters are, in some ways, grotesques. And yet I felt it really worked, and drew together, and culminated in some joyous moments of revelation and retribution. It also allowed me a freedom to explore reality and fantasy at the same time - superheroes mingle with business executives, bullied teenagers deal with cultists. Looking back at it now, I'm very proud of it.
So here's the first moment where, in the writing, the book absolutely grabbed me and I knew I had to finish writing it. In chapter five, Alma (once a Hollywood superstar but now an overweight alcoholic trying to learn to be an administrator) is walking along Allcombe pier when she sees a little old lady standing in the top window of an old people's home. The old lady is holding up a sign of one word - HELP.
Alma enters the home and creeps up the stairs. Here's what she finds:
There was no light-shade to cover the naked bulb that hung from the high, artexed ceiling. A single bed with a bed rail had been pushed into the corner behind the door, and next to it stood a small chest of drawers in a plain style with an oval mirror fixed above it, a fine layer of dust sprinkled evenly over it. Cheap perfume and face lotion in dated bottles sat upon it, along with a plastic navy blue brush that was caked with grey hairs in a thick, tangled pelt. A brown armchair with a worn-through seat was pushed up against the window and a crumpled ball of white paper lay on the floor next to it.
The only colour in the room was supplied by a crocheted blanket that lay over the lower half of the single bed. It was huge and ugly, made of a thousand different colours from blood red to privet hedge green, whatever wool the maker could get their hands on she presumed, and it must have taken years to complete.
‘I saw your sign,’ Alma said, just to have something to say. ‘Are you okay?’ She turned back to the door and looked at the old woman who was listening at it. She was tiny, with a slight hump and long blue fingernails that looked greasy, along with her squashed up skin. Her grey straw hair was cut short and was thinning on the crown.
‘They’re killing us,’ the old woman said.
"Three Things About Me is available in Hardback and for the Kindle.
Monday, 28 November 2011
The arrival of my author copy a few days ago reminded me that I ought to post on the subject of my latest publication - a short story entitled “Conned” in the new Crime Writers’ Association anthology “Guilty Consciences”.
The CWA anthologies have been an annual event for a few years now and this one, like the last, is edited by Martin Edwards, who writes two excellent crime series, one set in Liverpool and one in the Lake District. This year’s stories include (other than mine) contributions by Robert Barnard, Ann Cleeves, HRF Keating, Peter James, Jane Finnis and by Martin himself.
Martin very generously described me in the introduction as being amongst “the most gifted members of the new generation of crime writers”. It is of course always an honour to be invited to contribute to the anthology and to join the very distinguished list of those who have had stories included in the past.
The cover has the names of the contributors in the shape of a dagger. I, it transpires, am the sharp bit at the end, which I also rather like.
The anthology is available at bookshops and on Amazon
Thursday, 24 November 2011
We are lucky to have Ann Weisgarber - double Orange nominee among our ranks. In case you hadn't noticed, she's on a blog tour at the moment with "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree". It has just been optioned for film by Viola Davis, star of The Help. What great news, hope it gets made, it would be a great film.
Ann Weisgarber’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Tuesday, November 1st: nomadreader
Wednesday, November 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, November 3rd: Linus’s Blanket - author Q&A
Monday, November 7th: A Bookish Libraria
Tuesday, November 8th: Man of La Book
Thursday, November 10th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, November 14th: Book Dilettante
Tuesday, November 15th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, November 16th: She is Too Fond of Books- Spotlight on Bookstores guest post
Thursday, November 17th: Book Club Classics
Friday, November 18th: Historical Tapestry - guest post
Monday, November 21st: Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, November 22nd: The Brain Lair
Wednesday, November 23rd: Broken Teepee
Friday, November 25th: Historical Tapestry
Monday, November 28th: A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, November 29th: My Bookshelf
Wednesday, November 30th: Elle Lit.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
- Yoghurt can be all things to all people. Sometimes people want exciting, adventurous yoghurt. Sometimes people want soothing, soft yoghurt. Sometimes people even want Greek Yoghurt, which explains why Captain Corelli's Mandolin was such a success.
- Commercial yoghurt is looked down upon by yoghurt purists. Yoghurt with chunkier fruit pieces is usually considered to be harder to get through, but more rewarding when you reach the end of the pot.
- Celebrities should be stopped from making yoghurt. They foist their horrible yoghurt upon the rest of us. That, or they lie, and get a professional yoghurt maker to secretly make their yoghurt for them. This is despicable. Everyone please stop buying these celebrity yoghurts before all the old-school yoghurt-makers go out of business.
- In modern times, yoghurts come with accoutrements, such as little corner helpings of crunchy flakes. Or yoghurt comes in over-processed tubes, to be sucked down and instantly discarded. We are dressing up our yoghurts, but surely traditional yoghurt is the best? However, it is good to be open to changes in the yoghurt industry. Eventually yoghurt-makers will no longer need packaging and will simply squirt their yoghurts directly into the consumers' mouths. This is to be desired. Apron sales will also go up.
- Yoghurt buyers are very susceptible to yoghurt packaging. Women yoghurt buyers like pink pots. Men yoghurt buyers like manly pots in bigger sizes. It used to be true that nobody over the age of twelve wanted to be caught eating a child yoghurt in a ridiculous brightly-coloured little pot in public, but nowadays it's much more acceptable to say you like child yoghurt. Getting in touch with your inner toddler, or some such rubbish. Still, child yoghurts are lots of fun, aren't they? That Harry Potter yoghurt was excellent.
- But, however you take your yoghurt, it will always be a very cultured thing to do.
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Anyway, the other day on the blog I was musing about how the five people I'd meet in heaven would probably be the people I least wanted to see (forgive me for coming over all Sartre there). And that made me think - what if I could choose? On the basis of wanting to learn something about how they did what they did? So I could become a better writer? Although, obviously, I'd be dead myself at this point and probably not likely to pick up a pen again.
Hang on, that raises another question - would it be heaven if I couldn't write in it? Or would it be heaven if the desire to write was taken away? Blimey. Too many questions. So here's the game.
Name the three authors you'd like to meet in heaven. I'm going for three because I can't spend all day on this. I'm writing a new book, you know.
Rule out Shakespeare. Shakespeare meets you at the gate, okay? In writer heaven, he's Saint Peter. So can you name three dead writers that you think could teach you something about your craft? Who would they be? Here's mine:
1. George Eliot. Because although I'm writing surreal crazy stuff at the moment, and have written crime before, all I actually want to write someday is Middlemarch. How did she create that town, and sustain it, and make us care for every single person in it? I have trouble making the reader really care for one.
2. Dylan Thomas. Because he had the gift of putting music in his poetry. And because Under Milk Wood has the best opening monologue of any play, and I include Henry V in that assessment. How do you write something that makes the readers hold their breath?
3. Graham Greene. Because he made the moral processes of the mind so clear to his readers, when I just get tangled up in a sticky web of emotion when I attempt that. Writing a clear psychological intent through a character without making it obvious, and without deviation - that's real skill.
So there you have it. Who would you like to learn from? And would it be heaven for you with or without the desire and the equipment to write?
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Friday, 5 August 2011
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Saturday, 2 July 2011
The latest in the Ethelred and Elsie series was published yesterday. This instalment takes them (as the title cunningly suggests) to Egypt. Though I have parodied Christie titles before (Ten Little Herrings, The Herring in the Library) previous books have not really had plots that noticably paralleled Christie’s originals. This time however Elsie and Ethelred board a paddle steamer that is more or less recognisable from Death on the Nile - or as Elsie puts it, "the general picture I’m getting here is the Ritz with a paddle attached to the back". Of course the characters, the motives, most of the action and the solution to the mystery are totally different from Christie's – but then there is such a thing as copyright. And as Elsie herself observes: “how likely is that you’ll get a bunch of murders, spies, writers and other disreputable people on board one small boat? And, if you did, why would you choose to shoot somebody in a place you couldn’t make a decent get-away from?”
It has already received some very nice reviews on It’s a Crime, Milo’s Rambles and Shots Magazine
Friday, 1 July 2011
If you might remember last year, I mooted a Macmillan New Writers' anthology, noting that there are a fair few of us who are short story writers. My initial thoughts were to publish a themed anthology, but I'm eschewing this for more of a showcase format, in effect to show off the writers here and the different genres covered. Then the unifying theme across the anthology will be our link with Macmillan New Writing.
This is how I think it will work:
Each writer wishing to submit a story will also submit an approx. 200 word brief on how they got here (i.e. published by Macmillan New Writing) and what genre they are writing in and why. This will accompany their short story (which has no word limit, but preferably below novella size) and their writer's biog with a publicity photo. The short story can be in any genre, any topic, and it can be previously published as long as you have permission to publish it in this anthology.
The deadline for the short stories will be 1st November. I'm offering this not just to the Macmillan New Writers here, but past writers too (I'll be getting in touch with Roger Morris and Michael Stephen Fuchs to see if they want to join in - if there are any others I've missed please tell me or contact them direct). The anthology has a working title of "All Paths Lead (to New Wharf Road)" and will be offered for free on Amazon through a e-publisher I'll set-up called "Thirst-e-ditions". If I get the chance, I'll build a website to advertise the book too.
I'll then bring together the stories, the briefs, the biogs and photos and create the anthology in a Kindle format (and later a format for iBooks and Epub). I'll also get the cover sorted out unless anyone wants to volunteer.
What I would really like as well as the stories, are two volunteer editors, to make sure it all hangs together. Are there any takers?
This might be a fair sized book at the end of the day, if everyone contributes. Like I've said above, the stories can be about anything, and in fact the more varied the better. I want it to appeal to everyone, something all readers can dip into, and if it costs nothing then that's all the better. I'll drum up some publicity through various sites I have contacts with, to ensure it gets a few reviews, and then it's just a case of self-promotion when you're able. The only down-side is that we cannot use Macmillan New Writing in the publicity. This is our anthology, and will be advertised as a new writers collection (without the Macmillan). We can mention the publisher in the biogs and briefs, and I will mention them in the "forward" for the collection, but that's about it. But I'd like to show that we are all still indebted to Macmillan New Writing for getting us on this road in the first place (as well as a big thank you to the likes of Will and Mike who put so much into that venture).
So… Anyone interested?
Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Monday, 20 June 2011
Monday, 13 June 2011
My own small contribution to the festivities is a panel discussion at Islington Central Library at 6.30 on Thursday 16 June, with two other local crime writers - Laura Wilson and Christopher Fowler. We'll be talking about our favourite crime fiction, the audience's favourite crime fiction and anything else that seems relevant at the time.
For details of this event click here
For details of other events this week click here
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
"Bev Morley has left a new comment on your post "Ask a Macmillan New Writer":
I have a question which I am guessing could be answered differently by every other writer, but could really do with hearing what has to be said on the subject...
The question is on the subject of time. Time, that is, for writing.
It is only in recent months that I have taken the plunge into "full time" writing - with some minor successes - and a lot of frustrations!
I consider my available time for writing to be Tuesdays to Fridays, from 9am to 3pm (the only time the house is quiet enough for me to write). The world and the laundry basket, however, seem desperate to conspire against me! My family see no difference in my "routine" as I am still at home, therefore lists of things I can do to fill my day still find their way onto the fridge door - a hazard, I suppose, of being a home based writer.
I would love to know how other writers manage their time, especially with the demands of family life still very much in the fore. "
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Congratulations, Ryan, on being published in your home country!
Friday, 3 June 2011
Thursday, 2 June 2011
...This time from our newest member, David Jackson, who has landed himself a two book deal with Pan Mac. This from the Bookseller:
"Pan Mac has acquired two titles from Pariah author David Jackson.
Will Atkins, Pan Macmillan editorial director for fiction, bought world rights direct from
Atkins said: "Few thriller writers, let alone relative newcomers, are able to combine wit, pace and explosive set pieces with such sheer style. "Callum Doyle is shaping up to be one of the great flawed heroes of the genre.’"
The Helper is lined up for February 2012."
Brilliant news, David, and we'll be looking forward to The Helper come 2012...
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Saturday, 14 May 2011
David Jackson's debut novel, Pariah, was published to great critical acclaim in March. Len Tyler caught up with him to ask him a few searching questions.
1 Your website already carries an interview asking most of the questions I wanted to ask! Maybe I could begin anyway by asking you a bit about yourself. What do you do when you're not writing?
I breed computer programs! That’s not a flippant answer, by the way. Like most debut authors, I’m a long way from the point at which my writing could support me financially, and so I also have a day job. I work as a university lecturer, which involves teaching and a lot of administration, but also research. In my research I create populations of software programs, I get them to breed, I tinker with their ‘genes’, and then I see what evolves. If that all sounds a bit science fiction/horror/downright freaky, don’t worry: none of my creations have yet escaped into the wild (he says, staring madly and rubbing his hands in glee as he commands Igor to pull the switch).
2 And you also write an excellent blog offering great advice for new authors (and old ones for that matter). How do you find the time to do it all? Are you a very disciplined writer, or are you just like the rest of us?
The day job (see above) takes up a lot of time, and then there’s the family of course – the helping out with homework, taxi service for the kids – plus all the chores that need doing around the house, and then there’s... But I’m not unique, right? We all have lives to lead, but if we’re serious about writing, we find the time. And if we can’t find the time, we make the time. Sometimes that has to mean making sacrifices elsewhere, like not watching that TV programme, or making do with an hour’s less sleep.
As for the blog: maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I wanted the blog to be about more than just random thoughts or self-promotion; I wanted to pass on some of what I’ve learned and experienced to others. Although I’m a new author, I have read and absorbed a lot about process, and I think there’s an audience out there for that kind of thing. I’m passionate about encouraging aspiring authors.
3 Like R J Ellory (and others), you live in the UK but set your books in the US. Why did you decide to do that?
They say ‘write what you know.’ Now this time my answer is slightly flippant because I actually hate that phrase. It’s far too confining. We’re writers. We have imaginations. We can go where we want do what we wish – at least on the page. I think that more useful advice is ‘write what you read.’ If you read only westerns, then you might find it difficult to write a successful teen vampire novel (or have they done vampire cowboys yet?) And what I read and enjoy most are US-based crime thrillers. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I don’t like any UK authors – I like lots of them.
Why do I prefer the US novels? If you were to put me on the psychiatrist’s couch I’d say it probably has something to do with my childhood. To me at that time, the most exciting programmes and movies were the ones with the gunfights and the car chases and the explosions, and they all came out of Hollywood. I guess I’m still a big kid at heart.
4 Writers are always asked whether their books are autobiographical. In this case, I hope most of it isn't! Did you draw on any real-life experiences though? Or did you base any character on yourself?
Pariah borrows from the Hollywood of my youth, so it has all the violence and gunplay as mentioned earlier, but made much darker for today’s audience. I can’t tell you the number of people who have said what a great movie it would make. Where it draws more directly on my own experiences, however, is in the characterisation. By that, I don’t mean that the characters are based on people I know (I am definitely not Doyle!), but that they have all the flaws and foibles of real people. Doyle is certainly not superhuman, but neither is he absurdly encumbered by physical or mental problems. He is an ordinary guy with a wife and a child. He makes mistakes, he can be hurt (both physically and emotionally) and sometimes he does things for which he hates himself. But don’t we all? I try to give life to all the characters in my books – even the minor ones – but most of it is still made up. The exceptions are in snatches of conversation I may have heard elsewhere. Some of the dialogue in the Doyle household – especially with the daughter – has come straight from my own family.
5 You say you're working on a sequel. Would you see this becoming a series or do you have other plans?
I knew from the outset that I wanted Doyle to last for longer than one book, so yes there is a sequel. In fact it has been written and is currently with Will (for those who don’t know, Will Atkins is the editor for Len, myself and all the other Macmillan New Writers). I’m hoping to be able to reveal some exciting news about this very soon.
6 You've had some great reviews. Are there any comments on the book that you particularly treasure?
The best comment (which I didn’t even know about until Ryan Jahn tweeted me) has to be the one that was in the Guardian review, which likened my work to that of Harlan Coben but then went on to say that I was the better writer! To be so favourably compared to a luminary such as Coben is praise indeed. But, to be honest, the comments that touch me the most are the ones that come from ordinary readers – the ones who tell me that they read it in one sitting or had to stay up all night to finish it. After all, they’re the people for whom we write, and so it’s their opinions that count the most.
7 And finally, how would you sum up the experience of being published so far?
Weird, but in a nice way. It’s a life-changing event that is impossible to prepare for. And it’s not just the interviews and the fan-mail and the negotiating and the networking. Everyone I know seems to look at me in a different light now. Maybe they’re just wondering how I ended up with such a warped mind.
Saturday, 7 May 2011
As part of the promotion of Little Girl Lost, which was released yesterday, Macmillan have produced a free e-version of The Stolen Child, a Devlin short story commissioned by Radio 4. The edition also includes the first two chapters of Little Girl Lost. You can get the Kindle edition at Amazon.co.uk.
Friday, 6 May 2011
By the way, this coincides with the U.S. release of the novel this month (finally).
Thank you all for your kind words.
Tuesday, 3 May 2011
Monday, 2 May 2011
Monday, 18 April 2011
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Saturday, 2 April 2011
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
As ever, I was impressed by just how many people are needed to make a motion picture – most of whom stand around a lot of the time looking cold and slightly bored. It can’t be efficient and I did wonder whether perhaps it wouldn’t be possible to train the electricians to be extras (or vice versa) or whether Daniel Craig couldn’t give the catering or make-up people a hand when he wasn’t needed on set. Filming began as night fell. Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures during the action, so I can’t provide you with a shot of anyone famous, though I got a good one of the door that Daniel Craig walks up to and rings the bell – a scene that we got to see many times, as re-take followed re-take far into the night. Those watching tried to remember which bit of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took place in Islington. The consensus was that the scene we were watching had originally been set in St Albans, but had been switched to London. It may be clearer when we see the finished product!
Today everything was being dismantled. A whole day’s work then for what will be a couple of minutes (or probably much less) of actual film. The general view of the local residents was that the whole thing had been rather fun, in spite of losing our parking for a day. The Sony/Columbia people were invariably polite and considerate, even when our dogs tried to get into a shot. For those who want to catch a fleeting glimpse of Lonsdale Square on film (and some other stuff set in Sweden) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is due for release in December.
Either way, his book is out, it's a first novel, and it's a good one.
He has a website here.
And a blog here.
That's all I got.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Malvazan had selected his outfit with care the previous night; scurrying around in the dawn gloom to find appropriate attire might suit Dravadan but such haphazardness was not the way to success. He performed a brisk ablution in the ewer by his bed—fortunately he needed to shave only a couple of times a week—and ten minutes later made his way down the stairs into the dining room where the table was laid for an early breakfast.To his surprise and contempt, his parents and brother were already at the table.“Ah, the sluggard!” cried Dravadan, his dark fringe hanging into his eyes. “The boy who lies abed till noon!” He spread some honey on a slice of bread and conveyed it to his mouth with more enthusiasm than delicacy. “You would think—”“Dravadan!” said his mother Flinteska sharply. “If you must bait your brother, at least do not speak with your mouth full.”Dravadan rammed the rest of the slice into his mouth and, for the moment at least, devoted his full attention to subduing it.Malvazan’s father Crostadan, head of House Umbinzia, raised his hands in a mollificatory gesture. “Can we not have peace at the breakfast table on a day like today?” he asked. “Malvazan, there is some minor amusement in such a habitually early riser being last among us. It would do you no harm to display a little levity.”Malvazan sat heavily as far from the rest of the family as the table allowed and reached for a slice of bread. “I am glad to be such a source of amusement,” he said. “It is good to know that a second son has some purpose.”Dravadan let out a belch which escaped explicit reproof, accompanied by a smirk towards Malvazan.Flinteska slapped her napkin down on the table. “Enough, both of you. Dravadan, as the eldest son you should show greater decorum; Malvazan, your invincible surliness oppresses us all. Today we meet the King and Queen of Gammerling: a pleasant demeanour is required.”
Saturday, 12 February 2011
The guys were some of the early supporters of Macmillan New Writing, hosting the release parties. For me, nothing comes close to the thrill of sitting on the stool behind the counter at Goldsboro and signing fifty copies of Rachel DuPree.
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
And so we reach the end of the MNW Round Robin. Sob. I’ll try to hold myself together for these final questions from Suroopa to me.
You are a fairly prolific and well published short story writer. Do you write them as and when a story idea strikes you or do you write many of them together with a common theme in mind? Are they linked to your novels? Do they remain a secondary form that nevertheless occupies a distinct imaginative landscape?
I get less and less short story ideas now. They all seem to get sucked into the novels, and that’s fine, but I do wish I could bash out a shortie once a week, as I used to. Quite often I don’t have an idea of what’s going to happen when I start writing a short story (or a novel, for that matter) so I wing it, and sometimes it works. I usually have a voice in mind, and that’s the only starting point. There’s never a theme or a planned collection.
The good thing about short stories is the amount of freedom they give me to make mistakes, and to write in other genres and styles. I can’t sustain anything very serious for too long, but I have written some literary short stories that I’m quite proud of. It’s also an excuse to push comedic elements to their limit, into slapstick sometimes, as with a piece like Spitting Wasps. And that story directly led to the character of Pru from Light Reading. But, you’re right, short stories are a secondary form to me, and they fit in around the novels, or not at all. And I have written a few short stories set in my seaside town of Allcombe but they never seem quite right. So yes, they must flow from a very different place, and that’s probably why I write them. They allow me to be a horror/sci-fi/slapstick,serious writer, which suits me very well. Talking of which…
Your novels do not seem to fit a distinct genre. Is that by choice? Does it work to your advantage? Do you write with sequels in mind?
It’s absolutely not by choice. I would love to fit, to be honest, because then I’d be more marketable. But the moment I try to write with a genre specifically in mind it all goes flat and boring for me. I think I’m constantly trying to entertain myself when I write. I aim to take myself, let alone the reader, by surprise. This is not conducive to how modern bookselling works. Publishers want a synopsis before you’ve begun writing, and they want you to fit on a certain shelf. I can understand that. I just can’t do it.
Here’s a snippet of a conversation I once had with a publisher:
Pub: I want you to go free! I see you as genreless! Just use that quirky, imaginative style of yours and don’t be concerned about where it leads, okay?
Me: So can my characters go into space, then?
This kind of sums up my writing career so far.
How do you relate to your characters? Do you visualise them in their entirety or do they take you by surprise? I find that you portray strong and rather intriguing women. You also have a strong sense of place. How instinctive are you as a writer? How do you research a place? What sort of readership do you want for the women you create?
For me it’s all about the characters, but they’re like real people in that no matter how well you think you know them, there’s always something new up their sleeves. And they are all products of place. I mainly research a place by living there. Luckily, I’ve lived in a lot of places so I have a few to choose from. They are never exactly the same in my imagination; you couldn’t draw a street map from my version and have a clue where you were standing if you took a day trip there. But I like the pretend and the real version to sit side by side. I don’t see why I have to be accurate.
I don’t tend to think about a certain type of person reading my books. Right now my offspring, the Munchie, is obsessed with what girls like to do and what boys like to do. I keep telling her that it’s perfectly okay to like Spiderman and fairies, but she’s not having it. I hope that anyone could enjoy my books, not just girls or boys. I’m not really a big fan of the whole ‘books for women by women’ thing. Or that only men should like Michael Moorcock or Iain M Banks. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, I didn’t write it with you in mind.
And finally, what is it about veggies that fascinates you?
I have to admit I don’t find vegetables that fascinating. I needed something to blog about, so I started listing the contents of my veggie box, and people seemed to enjoy it so I carried on doing it. Then, when Neil Ayres (ex-blog-buddy) redesigned our blog, he called it The Veggiebox. I felt I had to deliver more vegetable-based articles, so I started looking for vegetables in novels that I read, and I began to feel that all the novels I really liked had vegetables in them. And the ones that weren’t so good showed a distinct lack of veg. I don’t know why that is; maybe it’s indicative of a level of detail that I prefer in writing. I like to know what characters are eating and growing and placing in their fruit bowls and lunchboxes.
Vegetables (or fruit) make for a better novel. It’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Thanks Suroopa for the excellent questions, and thank you to everyone who took part or read along. Phew! And now we can slump back into our writerly slouches over our keyboards and get on with those novels. Chop chop everyone. There are onions out there to be sautéed, metaphorically speaking.