stories


Interview with Edward Marnier, author of Brief Encounters

 

Edward Marnier

Ed picBorn March 1949, Fordingbridge England.  Brought up New Forest and West of Ireland. Educated state and private schools. First job cinema projectionist. Worked at BFI, before various jobs in the film industry and becoming a film editor, winning a BAFTA award 1984. Worked in Europe and USA, where wrote two short film scripts. Now an oriental carpet dealer and sometime short story writer.

 

What made you choose a self-publishing service, rather than going it alone or pitching to a mainstream publisher?

Realism … I realised I was not technically confident to self publish and equally my material was not ‘up to’ showing to a mainstream publisher.

How did you choose your provider and what tipped the balance?

I started looking through self-publishing sites … and what they offered. I didn’t look for the cheapest – although it is interesting the different terms and descriptions of what is part of the service for such and such a fee … and what is extra. I was keen to find a site which seemed to have an understanding of the technical difficulties, formats, formatting etc.

In the end, the Matador/Troubador’s site was so much clearer and more straightforward. They provided information that allowed you the author – to make a decision as to which parts of their service you wanted, or needed. Other sites seemed to relish the fact that one might not be able to understand technically how to self publish; Matador seem to go out of their way to let you understand the options available and the costs involved.

What services did they provide?

Everything for an eBook to be available in various formats and various countries. Very switched on group of people. Good artwork for the cover. Excellent telephone and email contact. One never felt awkward about phoning and asking your representative questions. Just a really good experience.

And which were the most valuable elements for you?

Technical, grammar and spelling. Plus nice messages.

Were there any areas you felt could have been improved?

If you are as illiterate as me, it is quite hard for all the necessary suggestions and corrections to be highlighted against your page of script – but I am not sure there is any way around that – unless I learn some English.

 What advice would you offer other authors in the position of being ready to publish?

Go with these guys …  Matador/Troubador.

 
Tell us how Brief Encounters came to life.Brief Encounters cover

During the small bit of education I received – one of the few things I was good at was composition (as it was called). Compressing a chapter of some book into a single page, without losing the meaning or excitement of the story. And as I used to edit films, there seems to be something in me that loves the ‘cut to the chase’.

Where’s the best place to read your stories?

In bed with a friend … then at least you can have some fun reading awful lines aloud to each other – and sex and laughter can be pretty good?

 

Thanks to Edward for sharing his experiences.

Now a note of warning from me, JJ Marsh: Piranhas and Sharks

Authors seeking a self-publishing service – beware. Recently, a whole range of companies sprouted, helping authors get to market. Many charge a premium price and deliver poor results. How to be sure a provider is useful/reasonable/?

 

Take ten minutes.

Pour yourself a glass of something, kick back and relax.

And let me tell you a story …

The English Garden is part of the short story collection Appearances Greeting a Point of View.

AGAPOV cover

by JJ Marsh

Evie WyldEvie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop in Peckham, south London. Her first novel, After the Fire, a Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also short listed for the Orange Prize for New Writers and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. She is included in Granta’s list of Best of Young British Novelists 2013. Her second novel All the Birds, Singing came out in June 2013 from Jonathan Cape.

http://www.eviewyld.com/

Which book most influenced you when growing up?

Cloud Street by Tim Winton

Describe your writing space – what’s in it and why? And do you still sometimes write at the Royal Festival Hall?

 These days it’s more often than not a chain cafe – somewhere where I don’t feel bad about taking up a seat on just one coffee. I have dreams of a lovely writing room, but it’s hard to write from home, you need to be more disciplined than me. I can’t find the space at the RFH anymore – I think everyone cottoned on that it was great and now there are toddler groups everywhere.

Who or what had the biggest impact on your writing life?

 I think shyness had a large effect – listening rather than talking, and watching things closely.

The last couple of years have seen black clouds loom over independent bookshops. Are you optimistic for the future of Review?

Very.

Do you have a word or phrase that you most overuse?

 I say ‘awesome’ far more than I’m happy with. I say ‘no worries’ a lot.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Three and a half years so far.

Is there a book you were supposed to love but didn’t? Or one you expected to hate and fell for?

Yes – have always had a block with Austen – but I’m sure that just has to do with school. I’ve never started a book expecting to hate it.

How has your bookselling career aided your fiction?

Who knows! They are quite separate things to me.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

Not a single one – I think that if reading something is pleasurable then it’s a well written thing. It takes a lot to write something that someone wants to read.

You’ve been compared to Ian McEwan, Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas and Peter Carey. Do you think your writing has a masculine quality?

I try as much as possible, to be a person. Perhaps this comes out in my writing, I hope so.

Which book has impressed you most this year?

 The Gamal by Ciaran Collins

Will you write any more short stories? 

I’m always writing short stories – I haven’t published a book of them, but I’m always writing them.

If you were a dog, would you be a whippet?

I’d like to be a lurcher – in reality I’d probably be more like a bullmastiff.

 

 

 

The Next Big Thing – Raw Material

The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” three writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read.

I was tagged by Frances di Plino, author of Bad Moon Rising

http://francesdiplinoreviews.blogspot.com.es/

Frances di Plino impresses me enormously with her take on crime, psychopathy and gender attitudes. Her view is balanced, mature and addresses violence as what it is. She’s also a damn good writer in control of her material.

The authors I have tagged in my turn appear at the bottom of this post.

Ebook cover

Ebook only cover

What is the working title for your book?

Raw Material. The title was the hardest thing. Seriously, this book has undergone many redrafts, but the title remained elusive until I began thinking about the cover. The colours showed me the way.

Where did the idea come from for this book?

There’s a tiny kernel from a memory I can’t quite grasp. As a teenager, I read a book set in the Scilly Isles, in which a child is in the wrong place at the wrong time. That adventure triggered by accidental observation is at the root of one strand. The other – The Finsbury Park Flasher – just tumbled from my fingers as I sketched out the plot in my dentist’s waiting-room. Which is in no way a reflection on my dentist.

What genre does your book fall under?

Crime, but closer to Kate Atkinson than Karin Slaughter.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Undiscovered actors. I’d love to have the majority of the cast played by talented people who bring something fresh and unique to the part. As for Beatrice … I change my mind for every book.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

From deserted Pembrokeshire beaches to the shadowy underpasses of North London, Beatrice discovers protecting the vulnerable is far more difficult than it looks.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Both. I retain the English-speaking rights as an indie author, but I have an agent representing me for translation rights. I believe Beatrice has international appeal, despite, or possibly due to her classic Britishness.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

First draft, about four months. The edit, rewrite, redraft phase has taken another six. But as this is the second book in the series, many decisions had already been taken in book one, Behind Closed Doors.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

No particular books, but I’d point to particular European crime writers. Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon, Camilla Lackberg, Henning Mankell and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán are all authors who make great use of setting, culture and especially in the latter two, politics and food.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Pembrokeshire and the West Wales coast as depicted by artist John Knapp-Fisher. London boroughs and their distinct identities. And an urge to explore how the human mind is capable of performing appalling acts with the conviction that you are ‘doing the right thing.’

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Raw Material turns unfamiliar stones and shines a light on parts of our world we rarely consider. But much more importantly, it’s got a car chase.

Raw Material comes out in ebook and paperback on 1st December, via Triskele Books.

 

The writers I’m very proudly tagging are:

Richard Wright, who has been writing strange, dark fictions for over a decade. Currently living with his wife and daughter in New Delhi, India, his stories have been widely published in the United Kingdom and USA. Most recently, his tales have been found in magazines and anthologies including World’s Collider, Dark Faith: Invocations, the Doctor Who collection Short Trips: Re:Collections, and the Iris Wildthyme anthology Wildthyme in Purple. He is the author of the novel Cuckoo, and the novella Hiram Grange and the Nymphs of Krakow. His apocalyptic new novel Thy Fearful Symmetry, bringing the end of the world to Glasgow, was released in August 2012.

http://www.richardwright.org/

 

Charlotte Otter, a South African writer living in Germany. An avid reader, she grew tired of crime fiction that centred on the mutilated bodies of beautiful young women and set out to write a novel that didn’t. Her first book, Balthasar’s Gift, will be published by Argument Verlag mit Ariadne in Spring 2013. She is presently working on a second novel in the series, called Karkloof Blue.

Charlotte has been a crime reporter, corporate journalist and freelance writer and presently works in IT communications. She lives in Heidelberg with her husband, three children and a lot of books. www.charlotteotter.wordpress.com

 

Dan Holloway, who writes literary novels and performance poetry and would dearly love to be to literature what Tracey Emin is to art. He is also the MC of the spoken word show The New Libertines, and has just started an imprint for conceptual literature, 79 rat press. http://79ratpress.blogspot.co.uk

http://danholloway.wordpress.com

I’m lucky. And so are my dogs.

(My husband even more so.)

But back to the point. Many dogs, cats, ponies, chickens, rabbits and ducks are less fortunate and need help. This happens even more frequently during times of economic hardship when people are struggling to find enough for themselves, leave alone animal food and vet bills.

My sister works as a volunteer at an animal sanctuary. Grey and his brothers were one of the earliest rescue dogs to arrive. While Grey’s brothers were rehomed quickly, Grey was left behind. He had an ear condition which required expensive surgery and dedicated aftercare. The volunteers tried to raise the money for Grey via yard sales, a Facebook page and raffles. I spotted an opportunity.

I’m lucky. I know lots of talented generous writers and one brilliant designer. So I rallied the troops and together we created Fifteen Shades for Grey.

A blatant attempt to scoop up the casual browser who might be looking for something hot and steamy but discovers something  warm and furry.Everyone involved donated their work and skills for free. Just as all the sanctuary workers devote their time for free.

Fifteen Shades for Grey is a collection of short stories about animals, kindness and charity. Every penny goes to Wooffles Animal Shelter. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and most of all, you’ll be glad you spent your money on something that warms the cockles of your heart as opposed to … ahem … was that the doorbell?

 

 

EL James has kicked up a right ruckus with her Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s the digested version.

(To be honest, my first concern was how close a ‘spreader bar’ resembled a ‘Tracker Bar’.)

Good for a snigger, but the topic raised a familiar prickly heat. Not in the undercarriage, I assure you.  No, as is my wont, I began to worry.

Is it OK to fantasise about a dominant male while battling for an equal wage?

Does it matter if female erotica is crap on style but high on juice?

Are there men’s groups who agonise over the politics of Nuts?

Erotica v. porn. Titillate? Subjugate?

I’m still battling with my own attitudes to pornography. I grew up reading both sides of the debate. Andrea Dworkin and Anaïs Nin. It took me several goes to appreciate O. I’m yet to face Salò. (Truthfully, I doubt I’ll ever have the courage.) I salute Kate Millett.

So the new wave of something labelled as submissive “Mommy Porn” makes me wary. As if facing a goose cooperative selling home-made foie gras.

Of course women should feel free to enjoy kinky sex. Enjoy porn. What the hell, enjoy Tracker Bars, if it’s consensual with a notarized pre-nup. My problem is that so much ‘female’ pornography is filtered through the male lens of power. That’s what makes me feel uncomfortable about Christian and Anastasia / Bella and Eyebrows.

I rarely read erotica for the reasons above. Apart from Barbie Scott. In Scottland, sex can be many things. Passionate, smart and fun. Check out ‘Collar and Cuffs’.

Much crap has been spouted as a result of the new discussion of female fantasies, but the most dangerous is that it’s not fantasy. “It’s what all women really want.”

You might want to check that one first.

 

Christmas, 1992. Prague.

An artist’s garret. So very, very cold. Minus 15 at midday and cryogenic at midnight.

Czechoslovakia – belief-beggaringly beautiful; shimmering and grand. Prague’s snow-dusted pine trees, its bridges, its squares and bells all performed a flirtatious overture. Fine artists with guns, metal sculptors with cakes, and fashion designers with false eyelashes smiled and said welcome to Bohemia.

I read Milan Kundera under the duvet, wore three pairs of trousers and smoked cigarettes just for the warmth.

One night, we all went to a forest lodge near Pardubice and got naked in the sauna. After ten minutes intense heat, we ran through the moonlit trees, across the snow and leapt into a hole cut in the ice.

I jumped first. The shock of freezing water on my steaming body only just registered before hands dragged me out, wrapped me in warm towels and marched me back into the sauna for a reprise. My skin felt electric for days.

On the 31st December, 1992, we went to a party. Not your average New Year’s Eve but the night Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Our hosts were artists; Ivan was from Prague, Eva was from Bratislava. The music was loud but the stench overpowering. Beer cheese, the best-tasting Czech curd if you can get past the reek of vomit. I would have sworn I’d never smelt anything fouler, but when R. arrived, soaked in Calvin Klein and mouldy fake fur, I reassessed.

More beer arrived with strangers who staged a mock execution, for a laugh. Midnight struck. We shared vodka, kisses, pivo, hugs, schnapps and something dodgy in a small bottle which may have been Calvin Klein.

Ivan and Eva stood on the balcony in minus 20 temperatures, watching the fireworks explode and their country divide. No one interrupted.

I didn’t realise it at the time, overcome by excitement, cheese, beer and Eternity, but that time and place is stamped on my memory in full sensory detail.

I was there.

 

The astonishing attempt by QR Markham to create a plagarised spy thriller by lifting whole chunks from other books was exposed in its first week on the US market, largely thanks to Bond fans. (Cheers to Welshcake for the tip-off.)

It got me thinking.

How difficult is it to make a coherent quilt from chopped-up patches stolen from other people? Has he applied an artistry of his own or is he just a cheeky git who got rumbled?

One way to find out …

I’ve had a go at condensing an epic love story by pilfering passages from some of my favourites.

So, would your rip-off detector kick off when reading the below?  Or would you get suckered in?

And if anyone can correctly identify the appropriated books (and authors) in the next 24 hours, I’ll send you a prize so astounding that I haven’t even decided what it is yet. But it’ll be amazing, guaranteed.

 

The Trick of Love, by Sophie Feuille de Thé

HER

I am excited.

I have a sort of Christmas-morning sense of the library as a big box full of beautiful books. I want to read about paper-making in Kelmscott. The catalogue is confusing, so I go back to the desk to ask for help. As I explain to the woman what I am trying to find, she glances over my shoulder at someone passing behind me.

“Perhaps Mr Wright can help you,” she says.

I turn and find myself face to face with him.

I am speechless. Here he is, calm, clothed and younger than I have ever seen him. He’s standing in front of me, in the present. Here and now. I am jubilant.

 

On Thursday, as I come out of class and walk down the stairs, I spot him, but he does not see me; there are so many students milling about. I stop for a second. Somehow, if I can just look at him, take him in clearly when he is not trying to amuse me or impress me, something will come to me, some knowledge, some ability to make a decision.

There is something helpless about him as he stands there; his willingness to be happy, his eagerness makes him oddly vulnerable. The word that comes to me as I look down is ‘delighted’. He is as he appears to me; there is no other side to him. Suddenly, I shiver in fear and turn, making my way down the stairs and towards him in the lobby as quickly as I can.

 

Everyone knows how to love, because we are all born with that gift. Some people have a natural talent for it, but the majority of us have to re-learn, to remember how to love, and everyone, without exception, needs to burn on the bonfire of past emotions, to relive certain joys and griefs, certain ups and downs, until they can see the connecting thread that exists behind each encounter; because there is a connecting thread.

And then, our bodies learn to speak the language of the soul, known as sex, and that is what I can give to the man who gave me back my soul, even though he has no idea how important he is to my life. That is what he asked me for and that is what he will have: I want him to be very happy.

 

HIM

In the past, he had felt sympathy for friends, even the odd rush of compassion. But what he felt for her was something more unsettling, a feeling which was complicated by his continuing desire for her, which one night had not dispelled.

As well as this aimless pity, he felt awe at her composure. Her life began to look like a rebuke of his, with its privilege and hedonism. It appeared that through no fault of his own he was now faced with the responsibility of her happiness; that by playing with her feelings he had invited her to place her trust in him, and now it was his duty to redeem the horror or her childhood.

 

He had never been able to explain certain of the things she did. He had never been able to understand them either, thus making it impossible for him to avoid them. So there he was, panting in the corner, hoping to get saved by the bell, when she looked over at him and made a fist. It startled him. They’d never really hit each other. Since he was at least five yards away from her, he didn’t panic. He felt like a native in the jungle, wondering what that thing is that the white hunter is aiming at him.

This fist of hers – first she raised it up toward her mouth as if she was going to kiss it, then an instant later she put it through the kitchen window. For a split second, he thought he heard the window scream. The blood came spurting out of her arm, as if she’d just crushed a bunch of strawberries.

 

He had miscalculated.

Whatever happened he must not collapse. He had done that enough over C., and to no effect, and to collapse in this greying wilderness might mean going mad. To be strong, to keep calm and to trust – they were still the one hope. But the sudden disappointment revealed to him how exhausted he was physically. He had been on the run since early morning, ravaged by every sort of emotion, and he was ready to drop. In a little while, he would decide what next should be done, but now his head was splitting every bit of him ached or was useless and he must rest.

The boathouse offered itself conveniently for that purpose. He went in and found his lover asleep. She lay upon piled up cushions, just visible in the last dying of the day.

When she woke she did not seem excited or disturbed.

“So you got the message?” she asked.

“What message?”

“The message I sent telling you …”

She yawned. “Excuse me, I’m a bit tired, one thing and another.  The message telling you to come here, without fail.”

Since he did not speak, indeed could not, she added, “And now we shan’t be parted no more, and that’s finished.”

 

JW Hicks

How did you get into writing?
As an only child, I made up stories to amuse myself, scribbling them in exercise books bought in my local paper shop. When I taught 3-7 year olds, I discovered my stories went down a storm. As an exercise, I would begin one of my fantasies and ask the children take turns adding to it. We travelled in many surprising directions to finish the story to everyone’s satisfaction.

Are you more comfortable with novels or short stories?
I prefer the long haul of a novel.

Which books affected you as a young reader?
I loved Grimm’s fairy tales, liking sour rather than sweet. A friend of my grandmother’s, Aunty Alice, (I’m from Wales, children call everyone Aunty) gave me a copy of The Borrowers for my birthday, and I lapped it up. I collected Richmal Crompton’s William books. I still have that collection, still read and love them. Ah, but then in my teens I discovered John Wyndham and science-fiction; the start of a life-long passion.

Reading your work, I’m always struck by the distinctive tone you achieve. Is that a conscious choice?
I studied drama in college and I try to adopt the persona of my main character; try to be them. I dream his or her life, where they live, how they live and how they think. This colours the story.

What attracts you to writing for young adults?
I suppose, basically I haven’t grown up. I don’t think I ever will.

Another outstanding feature of your writing is the rich and imaginative vocabulary. Where does that come from?
Years and years of reading every kind of book I could get my hands on, old styles and new. The classics, historical novels, crime, fantasy and science fiction – anything and everything. I have all those words queuing inside my brain, waiting to appear on my computer screen in a splurge of mix and match. (I also have a thing for dictionaries.)

Which contemporary writers do you enjoy?
Charlie Huston is my top favourite – unique, with a writing style to die for. Then there’s YA author Suzanne Collins; her series The Hunger Games turns me green with envy.  I love Andre Norton. Not strictly speaking contemporary, but a fabulous YA writer. Oh, and Carol O’Connell, the crime writer – her detective heroine Mallory is totally original, intriguing and all round awesome.

Hearing your voice on the podcasts is a real bonus. Not just your lovely Welsh accent, but it fits the material so well. How strong is the influence of Wales on your writing?
The countryside my characters move in is Welsh; places I live near, places I visit. The towns have aspects of my South Walian town. Certain names crop up again and again. Screw Packet Lane is one, a feature of my childhood that disappeared in the re-generation of the 60′s.

You seem to be drawn to surreal, fantastic, post-apocalyptic landscapes of another time or place. Why is that?
It frees my imagination. No one else has entered this world, it is mine. No one else owns it and I can do what I like with it. It’s exciting, anything can happen.

What’s your current project?
A book for teens, Goyles. A dystopian tale, in which two teens and a wolfhound battle to save the world from man-eating monsters.

JW Hicks: A life-long story maker and story writer who took early retirement from teaching and signed on for creative writing classes run by Cardiff University. Soon after, she started writing her first futuristic novel. Her most recent, Modall, was shortlisted for the 2010 Dundee Prize for unpublished authors, while the first pages of Altered and This World and The Next came 2nd and 3rd in Words with JAM’s 2011 First Page Competition, judged by Andrew Crofts.

You can hear Jane reading from Altered, and another of her short stories, here.

In between the novels, she writes short stories; Time and Again in Whitby was published by Yorkshire Ridings magazine. Freeze Frame by Debut, and an eerie story Bane was recently shortlisted for the Meridian Short Story competition. Cats came third in Global Short Stories and Tied was published in the Short Fuses Anthology. Fever in the Blood won the Ouse Valley Short Story competition. Keys and Locks and Open Doors appeared on eastoftheweb.com and along with Watching was subsequently published in Words with JAM.

JW Hicks can be contacted via jill@wordswithjam.co.uk

I read this story two years ago or so, and it stuck with me. When I get excited about a book, short story, flash fiction, haiku; I tell people.
I told the story to Schmuckfenster, who was similarly impressed. So much so that he composed a track based on the tale.

And now you can hear both together as a podcast.

Immune
Touching, unpredictable and with echoes of ‘The Road’ or ‘I Am Legend’, Mig Living’s story, Immune, is part of “Zombie Chronicles”, a collection of zombie love stories.

Mig Living is a writer living in Austria. Before that he lived in Japan. Before that the United States. He blogs at metamorphosism.com. He also enjoys playing the cello, theremin and singing saw, and composing.

Inspired by the imagery, the atmosphere and the sounds, I Walked With A Zombie.

Schmuckfenster: Vintage synthesizers combined with contemporary technology. Eclectic music programmed with passion and wit.
http://www.soundcloud.com/schmuckfenster

You can listen to the podcast at http://wordswithjam.podomatic.com/
or you can find it on itunes.

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