Interview with Author, Kate Evans

 

(1) Can you tell me about yourself and when you started writing? Have you always wanted to be an author?

My love of books, reading and writing goes back to childhood. When I was at school, there was still a creative writing element to the English language O’ level, and I do remember getting a particularly good mark and dollops of praise for a piece I produced in class in preparation for the exam. I think that might have been when I began thinking that I could do something with writing as a career. My first choice was journalism and I did the National Council for Training Journalists one-year course. But, at that time (perhaps even still) my ideas around writing and journalism were too romantic – I thought my writing could change the world – and I didn’t have the sticking power. I went off in other directions: university; working in adult/community education; spending five years abroad working for a voluntary organisation. All the time I was writing along side, getting some feature article accepted by magazines and working on novels which I would submit to agents and get rejected. The turning point, was when I came back to the UK and began to struggle with depression. Writing became vital to my survival. That was sixteen years ago and since then I have: explored the therapeutic aspects of writing for myself and others; written more poetry; had more non-fiction published including a book on writing blocks; trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor; and begun to indie publish a series of crime novels.

 

(2) Can you tell me about your crime novels?

I have written the first two in a crime series based in Scarborough: The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival. The third, The Art of Breathing, is scheduled for publication on the 31st of October 2016. They all have three narrating voices. There is Hannah, a trainee counsellor who is working her way through her own depression. DS Theo Akande, new to Scarborough, who begins a relationship with Hannah’s friend Lawrence. And Hannah’s next door neighbour, Aurora, who struggles with post-natal depression. Hannah’s story towards well-ness is a continuing theme through the books, as is Theo’s efforts to establish himself and become accepted. The Art of the Imperfect deals with the death of psychotherapist and the shadow-side of the therapy world. The Art of Survival is about a little girl who goes missing. The Art of Breathing is based in a university and has a theme of story-telling.

 

(3) You use mental health in your novel(s) – why do you think it’s important to create diverse characters? Was your aim to increase understanding and help tackle stigma or something else?

I want my novels to reflect the world I know which is full of diverse characters with their strengths and vulnerabilities. Hannah’s story echoes, at least partly, my experience of depression. I wanted to explore ideas around the medicalisation of the condition and what we mean by well-ness. I do think there is often not enough acceptance of the range of emotions which we are prone to. We can fall into the trap of believing that certain feelings are not acceptable and should not be expressed. Whereas I believe there is a danger in suppressing emotions, both for the person suppressing them and for those around them, always with the rider of safe expression of feelings and that feelings don’t necessarily have to be acted on.

 

(4) Do you think writers have a social responsibility or not?
Absolutely. Words can be powerful, why else would dictators put some writers in prison and harness others to their cause? I still have the fantasy that my writing could help create a more compassionate, fairer world. If just one person reading my novels understands a little more about depression and also recognises that we all have our frailties and it is not weak to ask for help, then I’d be happy.

 

(5) How much research do you do before writing?

My novels are very character led, if I get their psychological and emotional landscape right then I hope the stories will work. I wrote my first novel when I was 19, and I’ve been writing about the characters in my present novels in different ways since then. I am also curious when I meet people, I like to ask questions, find out what motivates them. I hope all this has led to me creating characters within my novels which have depth. My novels are at least partly set in the therapy and academic worlds, both of which I have worked in, so I feel pretty confident about presenting them. I have done some research to try and get the police procedure and environment right, talking to acquaintances who work in the police, reading good crime novels, watching documentaries. In my novels, Scarborough and the sea are almost characters in themselves. I love to walk mindfully and then write, connecting with nature, this feeds into my descriptions.

 

(6) Do you have a favourite time to write?  How does your writing fit in with any other responsibilities, such as family or work?

I write best in the morning. I am pretty disciplined and good at keeping to a schedule, but then writing nourishes me, why wouldn’t I want to keep at it? My father died in 2013 and that gave me some financial security meaning I only do part-time paid work and I can focus on my writing.

 

(7) Writing has many highs and lows – how do you keep motivated?

I love the writing, the researching, the drafting, the crafting, the re-drafting. I do have a group of friends who are writers and we support each other by reading and critiquing our work. I’ve also paid a copyeditor (who is also a friend) to help me with my novels. The bit I find difficult is the publishing. There is so much to think about and co-ordinate and when you’re an indie everything falls on your shoulders. However, the bit I really hate is the marketing. It’s great to connect with readers – I do talks and events – but it’s so hard to get seen and picked up, especially when the mainstream media are only interested in traditionally published books, sometimes it feels grinding.

 

(8) If you could have a dinner party with four famous (dead or alive) writers, who would you choose and why?

Toni Morrison, what can I say, a great writer and thinker and phenomenal woman.

Ruth Rendell, a crime writer I’ve read and admired all my life.

Anne Sexton, the first poet I read who spoke about experiences – especially those connected to being a woman with depression – which chimed with mine.

Edith Sitwell. Born in Scarborough and a very interesting poet and woman. I’m not sure I’d like to be at the same table as her, she comes over as a bit scary, maybe just watch from afar.

 

(9)What advice would you like to pass on to new writers, or those thinking about becoming a writer?

Start writing, write, read, and write some more. Don’t get too self-critical too quickly. Hook up with supportive friends who also write.

 

(10) Could you give me the links for your books and social media links, please?

Website: http://www.writingourselveswell.co.uk

The Art of the Imperfect: https://goo.gl/JrGat2

The Art of Survival: https://goo.gl/6RPzk5

@kateevansauthor

Kate Evans on Facebook

 

Allison Renner – How I feel about books for those, and written by those with a disability

Allison Renner

 

 

 

You have a MLS degree from Texas Woman’s University School of Library and Information Studies and have a desire to specialise in delivering Library services for children with disabilities. Can you tell me more about this and the We Are Storytellers program?

 

I graduate with my master’s degree in library science in August; this summer I am completing the last step by doing an internship in my city’s library. They are allowing me to start a book club for adults with disabilities, and I’m so excited! I’ve previously volunteered and worked in a learning center for adults with disabilities, so I’m familiar with a certain group, but this book club will be open to the city’s population of adults with disabilities at large; I’m glad I’ll have a large audience for this because I think it’s necessary.

 

Library services for people with disabilities, period, are pretty lacking in this area; there is a sign language storytime sponsored by an outside organization, but the library doesn’t offer much. I am eager to start more programming like the previously mentioned book club, sensory storytimes, and more inclusive activities.

 

The We Are Storytellers program is something I started a few years ago as a volunteer at the learning center. I worked one on one with adults with disabilities to help them tell a story. If they could write and draw, they did it all, but if they needed help with the words, I would transcribe as they drew the illustrations and told the story to me. I was open to any type of story, but interestingly, each person told a fictional story, instead of one about themselves or their disability. I thought that shows a lot at how outsiders place so much importance on a disability, but the people who actually live with it don’t give it a second thought. We Are Storytellers was a great experience and I’m eager to start it up again as soon as possible.

 

2) I’m very impressed with your strong and enthusiastic social media presence with blog, podcasts and even YouTube videos. Can you give me the links of where we can find you, and tell me how this started out?

 

I’ve had a personal online journal since 2000 or so, sometimes public and sometimes private, so I’ve been familiar with blogging for quite awhile. I had to start a book review blog for a children’s literature class at school, so I went ahead and registered a domain name because I knew this is something I wanted to work hard on—for professional AND personal reasons. A few months in, I started an Instagram account with the blog’s name because I loved taking my own pictures of the books I reviewed on my blog. I was so happy to find that there’s an entire Instagram community that loves taking pictures of and talking about books, and they call themselves “bookstagram”. After I had that account for awhile, I noticed that some people would link to YouTube videos of them talking about books, so I watched a few and decided to try and create my own. There’s a whole community for that too, called “booktube”. I love making quick video reviews of books, but I found that I don’t LOVE being in front of the camera. I’ve subscribed to various podcasts for years now, so I decided to try my hand at that, too. It’s so much fun to have all of these outlets available to us via the internet, so I like trying them out to see what works best for me.

 

Blog: http://www.howifeelaboutbooks.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/howifeelaboutbooks/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/howifeelaboutbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hifabooks

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD56dpQDUXE_GcVPeHUTjdg

Podcast (via iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/how-i-feel-about-books/id1084125483

Podcast (via Podbean): http://howifeelaboutbooks.podbean.com

 

3) You are passionate about books with disabled characters/protagonists, and those books written by disabled authors. Why is this important for you? Do you think representation of disability is getting better?

 

I think books that have characters with disabilities help the public learn more about disabilities. It’s sad to say, but a lot of society is still ignorant about disabilities, and judgmental towards those people. I feel like not many people would research disabilities on their own, but if those characters are in fiction books, people will read these books and learn about disabilities without realizing they’re learning. I especially love books where the main character has a disability, and the story is told in first person, so the reader can really get inside their head and “feel” what it’s like to have a disability. I think that type of book impacts people the most and helps change their mindset. It’s important to me because I think people need to be more accepting. There was a push in this country to let gays marry, and now transgender issues are getting all of the attention; meanwhile, people with disabilities are still fighting for their civil rights. I think it’s an important issue to bring to the forefront.

 

I just read a graphic memoir about a girl who realizes she’s a lesbian when she’s fifteen, and the author said this in an interview:

“I’m really excited for the day when you can no longer presume that the protagonist is straight, or that they’re white, or that they have all their arms and legs. There’s this unwritten rule that the protagonist has to be a tabula rasa for you to be able to relate to them, and that a tabula rasa equals straight, equals white, and just that — it needs to, and everyone wants to be able to relate to other kinds of protagonists and other kinds of stories.” (link to article: http://www.mtv.com/news/2262523/maggie-thrash-interview/) I love how she stated things, and I think THAT is what needs to change in fiction—don’t assume every protagonist is X, Y, and Z. Go in not thinking about WHAT the person is and HOW you can label them, just realize they are a person.

 

4) Books written by disabled authors continue to be fairly rare, yet there is so much talent amongst the disabled community. How can we better support disabled writers on the road to publication?

 

I think it’s most important to judge books by their quality, regardless of who writes them. Unfortunately, that’s not the way most publishing companies work. They want big names for big sellers, or even celebrities who can’t write their own books. I think all we can do is show our support of writers who have disabilities; buy their books, read them, review them, recommend them, talk about them. That’s what I’m trying to do with my website and overall web presence.

 

My husband wants to start a publishing company that exclusively publishes books by people with disabilities. A portion of the sales would go to an organization of the author’s choice, related to that disability. I think it’s a great idea and I plan to help out with it as much as possible: editing the manuscripts, helping design the layout and covers, promoting it all over the internet and local scene… It might not make a huge impact, but it’s a start, and that’s all we can do. Hopefully, people like me and you and others can start a movement that raises awareness about people with disabilities and everything they’re actually able to do, and it will form a major support system (like your site!) that will help them reach their goals.

 

Guest Writer – Leslie Tate

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Leslie Tate to the blog to talk about his books and writing life.

Leslie lighting Sue at Purple Mikaela event

  1. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BOOKS

In my 60s novel Purple http://leslietate.com/shop/purple/ the book’s protagonist Matthew, ‘warehouses’ his experience, storing up impressions for future use as an author. In a similar way, when I was a London teacher, I kept promising to sit down and write my novel.  I imagined that one day a storyline would suggest itself and the words would flow, all I had to do was wait for the crucial lightbulb moment.  It wasn’t until the 80s when I studied a Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths’ College, that I realised inspiration from above wasn’t going to happen.  By reading the biographies of several writers I discovered that lyrical, flowing pieces were often the result of slow, patient, line-by-line work, going on for weeks or years,  It helped me get over the feeling that if I was a writer it had to come naturally or not at all, and so I schooled myself to the business  of endless revision. Since late childhood I’d admired poetry for it’s  original, figurative expression and unusual points of view,  I was a dreamy, romantic boy who took himself off on long country walks, reciting Wordsworth and trying self-consciously to enter the ‘poetic world’.  Later as a teacher, I lasted out the working week, marking and preparing all Saturday in order to leave time for writing a few lines of poetry in Sundays,  The job and having children drained me, progress was slow and a single poem might take me three months, but at least I was keeping my hand in.  In 2006, I met my wife, Sue Hampton and read her books   http://www.suehamptonauthor.co.uk/product/flashback-and-purple/     Understanding her writing. which has a classic feel showed me how the extended prose line is more tied together by meaning than poetry, But I knew from poetry that sound makes  absolute sense, so I sill test for rhythm and cadence, reading ‘out loud in my head’ when I revise.  I’ve always admired poets who stretch the language.  I immersed myself in classic poets and authors such as Lowell, Hughes, Woolf and Lawrence, trying to build an individual voice.  Reading American novels such as Carol Shields, Marilynne Robinson and Anne Tyler has pushed me towards a blend of literary and the conversational, and I’ve written two novels in that style then started a third before attending a University of East Anglia Masterclass in 2014,   I write about modern love from tentative awkward first dates ti passional late-life romance.  I want to communicate how it feels to be thoughtful and maybe at odds with society and at the same time involved in an intense, challenging love affair or a mistaken marriage,  I want to ‘look inside the book’ and show how the relationships we see all around us have changed during the 20th Century but as an imaginative act rather than a historical investigation.

 

2) ARE YOU A PLANNER OR A DISCOVERY WRITER?

The characters and the words I use shape my books. I don’t have a plot in mind, other than a general feel for the people and places I’m portraying. I head straight into the highs and lows of personal experience because I want to show people from the inside, as they are when they’re not  ‘presenting’, stripped of inhibition.  Of course I know that a novel can only show a fragment of who we are so I try to steer the book into challenging and deeply felt incidents I’ve experienced in order to get to the quick of things. But the books usually get the better of me and lead me into episodes that are equally challenging but belong to the story, rather than to me.  I often feel like an escape artist when I’m writing because my characters get themselves into fixes which don’t seem to offer any easy way out.  Fortunately, something usually comes to my rescue – a symbolic object, a key remark or a setting comes up where something decisive can happen.  If it doesn’t then I have to scrub that part of the book and start again.  If a scene does come together, I often find myself going back and writing in pointers to the new element that is going to change the story.

4) DO YOU FEEL THE WRITER/AUTHOR HAS SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES?

I feel a responsibility to the English language, so I aim to write something which grows out of the tradition while trying out new areas if expression.  I have to tell myself that ”best selling’ is no guide to quality,  To keep writing well without significant recognition I carry out a deliberate double-take when I’m editing,  I allow part of me to admire and enjoy the expressive flow, while another part comes down hard on all the flaws and blemishes, I’m resigned to the idea I may have worked for years in vain. All I can do is keep in touch with the world’s greatest writing and try to measure up, While most books published are deliberately dumbed-down, much acclaimed contemporary fiction sets out to dazzle,   It’s often brilliantly savage but ultimately dry and academic. I do believe that the discourse of novels contributes to the openness or closed-offness if an era and that our imaginations are currently limited by the post-modern and neo-liberal consensus.  In my own small way, I dream of changing that.

5) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK?

Purple  http://leslietate.com/shop/purple/  is the first in a trilogy. It begins with Matthew Lavender’s coming-of-age story, going up to university in 1969 and dating women while hiding his sexual naiveté behind a mask of wildness,  His story alternates with his gran Mary describing her harsh 1920s upbringing,  Mary’s story offers clues as to why Matthew and his parents are the way they are.  The two protagonists come together at the end.  Matthew’s section is deep and lyrical. describing the up-and-down, chaotic and posey business of attraction and repulsion, between fired up young people.  It’s also wildly comic when he escapes to a 60s style commune.  But I’ve made sure it’s true to life and not full of hype or nostalgia.  Mary’s section is direct and shocking, showing family conflict and rebellion.  Her upbringing is intensely individualistic, a theme which runs through the book. But Mary is a warm, likeable characters an accommodator who sees and shares things which go deep,  In both stories I’ve tried to create a fully rounded characters who change and develop as a result of what they go through.

 

5) IF YOU COULD PASS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE INTO A BUDDING WRITER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Don’t chase the market but study the literary tradition and write from the soul, using character and language as your guide.

Guest Writer – Mike Robbins

headshot Mike RobbinsI’m delighted today to welcome author and activist, Mike Robbins to the blog.

1)YOU’VE HAD A WIDE AND VARIED CAREER, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS?

It’s complicated! I was a journalist in London in the 1980’s but didn’t feel I was getting anywhere. and I didn’t enjoy the 1980s ambience; everything felt selfish and horrible. So in 1987 I became a volunteer development worker in Sudan. I stayed there for two years and never really lived in England again until 2002. My overseas work has involved combining communications skills writing, editing – with development work, especially in agriculture. I’ve lived and worked in many places since Sudan, including Bhutan, Syria and European countries.

2) DID YOU FIND YOUR WORK AS A JOURNALIST HELPFUL WHEN IT CAME TO WRITING?

My initial answer to this question, was to say ‘No, they’re very different.’ But I think journalism did teach me to think about what exactly I wanted to convey, and then do so, omitting the irrelevant. These skills do matter when you’re writing fiction, though not quite in the same way.

3) YOU HAVE WRITTEN AN IMPRESSIVE NUMBER OF BOOKS, SIX IN TOTAL, COVERING BOTH FICTION AND NONFICTION. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THEM?

Two of the nonfiction books are about my travels since 1987. The third is a heavyweight, academic book, ‘Crops and Carbon’, on the relationship between agriculture and climate change, based on my PHD thesis. It’s traditionally published (by Taylor & Francis).
One of the travel books, ‘Even the Dead are Coming’, is about Sudan. The other, ‘The Nine Horizons’, covers many countries, including Sudan, but also Ecuador, Bhutan, Brazil, and more. Readers have enjoyed this book but it’s a hard sell; readers are usually looking for travel books about a specific country,
Of the three fiction books, two are actually quite political. ‘The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzman’ was written after a long trip to South America. It’s about political violence , and about how a refugee from it would fare in Britain. It was written in 1991, but with the situation in Syria it feels quite contemporary. In the end, though, it’s really about Silvia – a young woman I came to like a lot as I wrote about her. I think it’s my favourite book.
The other book with political undertones is ‘Three Seasons’. It’s three novellas, each about one British social class at the time of Thatcher. The first one is about skilled working men. The second is about a revolting estate agent and the third is about the Master of an Oxford college. All these people found their roles and rights changing in the 1980s. Again, in the end it’s about the characters, but there’s a theme there about who we are and what was happening to us. It’s divided the readers; they either like it or not.
The third fiction book, ‘Dog!’is something different. It’s a bit weird.

4) ‘DOG! IS YOUR LATEST NOVELLA AND YOU DESCRIBE IT AS ‘A POWERFUL STORY OG LOVE AND LOSS, SIN, REDEMPTION AND DOG MESS.’ WHAT WAS THE INITAL IDEA AND WHEN DID YOU START WRITING IT?

The idea goes back a long way – to a British TV programme in 1976 when I was 18. In it a Welsh hypnotherapist, Arnall Bloxham, regressed three patients back into what was purported to be their past lives. I was fascinated, as was much of the rest of the UK. It occurred to me that if you come back, it might not be as a human. The idea of working this into a book, perhaps involving a dog, had been in my mind for a long time. I finally jotted down some story ideas a couple of years ago, and then in July 2015, stalled on another project, I suddenly started to write. It took less than five weeks.

5)I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED ‘DOG!’ AND FELT THE VOICE OF THE DOG WAS TRULY INSPIRED. DID IT TAKE YOU SOME TIME TO GET IT RIGHT OR DID YOU ‘HEAR’ IT FROM THE START?

It came straight away; I didn’t have to think of it at all.

6) DOG! IS ALSO MULTI-LAYERED AND IT ALMOST GIVES A BLUEPRINT FOR LIVING. wHAT’S THE FEEDBACK BEEN LIKE FROM READERS?

It’s been good, but has been varied. Usually people have been drawn in by the dog’ antics and the comedy at the start of the book, then caught by suprise when they realise what the book is really about. A few have found themselves thinking really hard at the end, and I like that.

7) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR WRITING PROCESS:DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE? DO YOU PLAN OUT YOUR BOOKS IN ADVANCE?

I’m mostly likely to write for an hour or so after I come home from work, in short bursts. I’m not good at finding time and I’m very bad at concentrating. I do plan out my books, in advance, but in the case of Dog!, only very roughly. That helped as the whole process was more spontaneous.

8) I’VE ARGUED THAT RISKS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE TAKEN WITH A SMALL PRESS OR WITH SELF PUBLISHING, AND THAT HAS OPENED THE MARKET UP FOR BOOKS WITH A CONTEMPORARY, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL (BOFH WITH A CAPITAL ‘P’ AND LOWER CASE) THEME. DO YOU AGREE WITH THIS?
I’m pretty sure you’re right. I’m sensing the same increase – and it includes poetry, which is interesting. Probably these books were always around, but publishers wouldn’t take them on because they didn’t seem to appeal to what traditional publishers saw as their mainstream readership, which was ipper=middle-class people like themselves. Also, books with a radical slant are going to appeal more to young people, who can’t afford hardback novels – actually who can? But they can find £1.99 for an ebook which they’ll likely read on a device. So, I suspect this is driven by the tech revolution.
But it might also reflect a growing frustration with mainstream politics. People aren’t listening to the establishment any more. They’re talking to each other instead. It’s a truism that people are getting less interested in politics, especially the young people but perhaps they’re as committed as they ever were, it’s just expressed through a system they think is unrepresentative and irrelevant, Books that say what MPs can’t or won’t are going to become more influential. There’s also a space there for satire which can be a lot more savage than it can in the mainstream media – for example the work of Rupert Dreyfus.

9) I ENJOY READING YOUR BLOG, WHICH IS INFORMATIVE AND FUN, WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND THIS? wHAT ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKS?

a) Twitter – https://twitter.com/mikerobbins19

b) Blog – http://wwww.mikerobbinsnyc.blogspot.com/

c) Facebook – https://wwww.facebook.com/mikerobbinsNYC

10) I REALLY URGE PEOPLE TO READ ‘DOG!’ CAN YOU TELL READERS WHERE THEY CAN BUY IT?

Dog! is available as an ebook for just 99c (US) or 99p (UK, or as a paperback from Amazon (US and UK) Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Indigo, iTunes and more.

Interview with author (A Blonde Bengali Wife) editor and tutor, Anne Hamilton.

It is with great pleasure I welcome, Anne Hamilton to the blog, to talk about A Blonde Bengali Wife and her writing life.
Anne Hamilton book cover
1)CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF – YOUR WRITING AND BOOKS, AND WORK?

I think I’ve been writing my whole life, but there have been lengthy periods when I’ve got side-tracked. Doing a degree in social work led me on a very particular career path for a long time, but over the last ten years, writing (and editing, teaching, mentoring) has been my main focus.At the moment I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. In 2010, my travel memoir, A Blonde Bengali Wife was originally published, but it has just (November 2015) been reprinted and re-launched as an ebook. This summer I also finished my PhD in Creative Writing, which included writing a novel. So, I have that manuscript finished, but in need of revising, for (hopefully) interested literary agents and then general publication. It means I’m slithering between the marketing and self-promotion required for one, and the final editing of the other.

2) HOW MUCH RESEARCH AND PREPARATION DO YOU DO BEFORE WRITING?

For someone who is addicted (and I use that word deliberately) to writing lists, I am curiously unable to warm to specific chapter plans and character profiles. That said, I’m definitely not one who starts out with a vague idea and lets the story tell itself. I tend to draft key scenes in a novel and link them – a bit like ‘joining the dots’ – and to write individual pieces about the characters; monologues almost, or imagining them in different situations (most of which won’t go into the book) and getting to know them that way. Chasing Elena is set on Cyprus (a place I’ve visited frequently) in 2004 and 1974, so I researched the history and culture of that for accurate background.
Does it change as I write? All the time! But what the process has done has removed the fearsome ‘blank page syndrome’ where I can’t think what to write – if in doubt write around the subject.

3) DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TIME TO WRITE? HOW DO YOU BALANCE THIS WITH OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES SUCH AS FAMILY LIFE OR OTHER WORK?

I’m a single mother with a five year old son who goes to school five mornings a week and to bed at (optimistically) 7pm. Whilst he is away/sleeping, I do as much work as possible and within that I make time to write. So, it’s less about having a favorite time than making the most of limited ‘free’ time. I’ve learned to work late into most evenings – not my natural inclination at all – and to allow my own writing occasional priority, which is difficult because it doesn’t bring the money in.
The best side-effect of having a baby, working and studying means I don’t procrastinate any more. I really don’t and I never thought I’d say that about myself.

4) WHAT PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS DO YOU FIND THE MOST IMPORTANT?

The writing process is like building a house. You need an original concept theme that seems feasible, you design and plan plotting, characterisation) how that might evolve. Then you lay the foundation (first draft), build on it (x more drafts), deal with any bits that fall down (rewriting) and then add the roof (editing). After that are any final snags and the cosmetic work (professional editing, proof= reading) and then you try and sell the result! A convoluted way of saying each part of the process is integral and builds on the one before it. However, my personal favorite is editing and to risk another analogy, to me editing is like a jigsaw – I know all the pieces are there, I ‘just’ have to fit them in the right places.

5) WRITING HAS MANY HIGHS AND LOWS. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?

I tutor Local Authority and Adult Learning classes in Creative Writing, and those groups keep me both grounded and motivated. I appreciate the face to face contact of real, grown-up people, for whom writing is an enjoyable pastime rather than a career and who want to have fun as well as learn. I’m definitely mercurial about my writing (ability) but whatever my mood, every Monday morning I look out of my window and remind myself of how lucky I am to be free to plan my morning my way. Who else can meet a writer friend/client for coffee and legitimately call it work?

6) DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND/OR BLOG?

After a very slow start with social media, I’ve had to hit the ground running. I started a blog in 2010 to mark the publication of A Blonde Bengali Wife. Now, I post in it about once a month and it’s really an open diary about writing, people’s achievements and the charity, Bhola’s Children (which is supported by income from the book). When i took the unlikely decision to self-publish the ebook reprint, and realised the marketing and promotion required, I had to learn about Twitter from scratch, build a Facebook pagem and get my head around things like blog tours…I couldn’t have done any of that without my colleague, and now friend Clare Morely http://www.myepublishbook.com and another friend I’ve only made through social media, Alison Drew.
I’ve seen the power of social media in marketing, but i still find it baffling. I’ve found it very friendly and supportive, not to mention informative, but it’s very time=consuming. (When does a writer ever get chance to write any more?) I suppose you could say I’m on the fence.

7) IF YOU COULD PASS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO A NEW WRITER WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Write. There is a vast difference between being a writer and liking the idea of writing, Fundamentally, it’s down to how many words you have on the page, and if you can keep going and finish whatever you started. It’s very easy to talk about writing, read about it, listen to everyone’s opinions about it – back to social media again – and dream about being the next JK Rowling or EL James. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but if you want to be a writer you need to put in the work; whoever said writing was 10% talent and 90% perseverance had a very good point.

Thank you Anne for a very informative interview! Good Luck with the relaunch of A Blonde Bengali Wife.
Anne Hamilton author photo

You can buy A Blonde Bengali Wife from Amazon

Anne’s blog is at
http://www.anne-ablondebengaliwife.blogspot.co.uk/
Her Facebook page is:
http://www.facebook.com/ablondebengaliwife/?fref=ts
Find her on Twitter:
@Anne_ABBW and @AnneHamilton7

http://www.bholaschildren.org
http://www.annehamiton.co.uk

Author Interview with Michelle Green

It is with pleasure that I welcome Michelle Green to the blog, as part of my activist-author series.
Jebel Marra

1) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK OF SHORT-STORIES, AND WHAT INSPIRED THEM?

I’ve written 15 interlinked short stories, collected together as JEBEL MARRA, in a particular place and time: Darfur, in 2005. I spent six months as an aid worker in West Darfur, near the beginning of what is now a 12 year-long war. I came back to silence in the UK, with barely anything visible in our media about the violence in Sudan, and I couldn’t stand it, so I started writing

2)WE NOW HAVE A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS UNFOLDING AS A RESULT OF THE CONTINUED HOSTILITIES IN AND AROUND SYRIA. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE WRITERS ROLE WOULD BE IN RESPONSE TO SUCH A CRISIS?

In a humanitarian crisis like the one we’ve seen erupting from Syria over these past few years, writers can bear witness, reveal, and write breath into the statistics and the rolling news feeds that too quickly become detached from the lives of the affected people – particularly those writers who are deeply connected to the area (I’m thinking here of SYRIA SPEAKS a recent collection of writing and art by Syrian artists). Writers have imagination as one of their tools, and with that, I think one of their roles is to find those crossing points where fact and possibility meet, to find language for things that seem beyond words, to speak about human experience – the inside as well as the outside. Writers can step into a pocket of silence, and speak.

3)IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK YOUR CAREER IN ACTING, AND WORK IN THEATERS HAS CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR WORK TODAY?

It wasn’t much of a career per se, but it did get me on the road to writing! I started acting professionally when I was 11, and spending that time with adults who built lives from playing pretend, from imagining and travelling into other people’s experiences, made me realize that that was actually a real job! Most of them also had other jobs of course, but they showed me that a creative life wasn’t just for the (rich) few…as long as you were willing to do whatever other work was needed to pay the bills. By the time I got to my twenties the frustration started to build. There were not a lot of decent roles for women, so I started writing.
I guess one thing that theatre gave me was the awareness of audience. Writing only really exists with the reader/listener, as some kind of shared imagining, and I kept returning to that as I wrote JEBEL MARRA.

4) YOU DO A LOT OF COMMUNITY WORK, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS?

I started in community arts a long time ago, working as an assistant alongside writer and activist, Louise Wallwein as she worked with a group of young refugees. I remember being blown away by how powerful that was: storytelling, in a group. It’s not ‘teaching’ in the formal sense, but more like creating the conditions for people to experiment and express, to write themselves and their worlds, and to do that together.
Since then, I’ve aimed for that with every group I’ve worked with. I’ve gotten pretty evangelical about creativity being an essential part of health – for individuals, families, communities – as I’ve seen it working again and again. I love it. It gives me hope.

5) WHERE CAN WE BUY JEBEL MARRA?

You can buy the book directly from Comma Press *which means they get more of the profits – support indie publishing!) at their website here:
http://www.commapress.co.uk/books/jebel-marra

6)CAN YOU SHARE WITH THE READERS OF THIS BLOG, A SHORT EXTRACT FROM YOUR BOOK?

The Waiting Room, extract from JEBEL MARRA

What I remember is this: summers so short and hot the grass barely had a chance. Running down to the Red River and the new roads beyond, winter salt still staining them pale grey. The two of us lying beneath a sprinkler, shirtless, with no hassle from anyone, our eyes squeezed shut against the sky.

I remember the wood frame skeletons of the new houses, a whole load of them sitting in crescents by the dike, making postcards of the sun as it set late and shone through homes so new they didn’t even have skin on them yet. I remember making our own worlds in those houses, racing up and down the stairs, shrieking as the bats came in at last light, sitting for hours with the orange cat as she licked her pile of newborn kittens.

One of the skeleton houses had a pool out back, a huge hole with no tiles yet, just pure smooth concrete. We threw in an old armchair that we dragged from the dumpster, doused it with lighter fluid and screamed with delight as it burned. Dizzy. Blew black stuff out of noses the next day, but told no one. A secret, A beautiful black-snot secret.

Now in Darfur, I get the same smell, a bottle full of burning petrol flies over the wall in the night, explodes on the ground and takes out two garden chairs and a ropey banana tree. It’s the same feeling I had that night with the armchair, but it’s all wrong this time, the wrong reaction in the wrong place, so I feel it, and keep it to myself. Everyone else is gasping, or shouting, or running to the street to see who could have thrown it. I just stand there in the dark watching it all, watching the smoke turn out the stars.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MICHELLE AND HER WORK HER WEBSITE IS HERE:
http://www.michellegreen.co.uk

Interview with Author and Activist, Paul Howsley

It is with great pleasure, I welcome fellow author and activist Paul Howsley to my blog to talk about his brilliant novel, The Year of the Badgers.
Paul Howsley book coveramazon - tyotb
SYNOPSIS: THE YEAR OF THE BADGERS
When the government issues pre-paid benefit cards to all on welfare, it doesn’t take long before the name-calling and rationing begins. ‘Badgers’ are becoming their own class. An unmovable, unenviable and unpaid class.
The never-ending cycle of low-paid work and high=cost living has one particular badger on the edge. With WorkPlace now the only means of employment, and offering no hope for improvement, he encounters friends in the same position.
The country is abandoning the poor and stigmatizing those on welfare, but no more will they stand aside.
Voices need to be heard,people need to help, and if not them, then who?
Life isn’t going to be easy, but no battle worth fighting ever is.

THE INTERVIEW:

1) WHY DID YOU WRITE THE YEAR OF THE BADGERS?
I am from the north east of England, closer to middle age than I ever imagined I would be, and trying, as we all do, to make sense of this tiny blue dot on which we find ourselves. The Year of the Badgers is my reaction to the vilification and demeaning of the poor, by politicians, media and some parts of society, It’s set in the near-future, a way of emphasizing and sometimes exaggerating possible outcomes of where I believe our society is heading. In this world, WorkPlace (workfare, where people work for their benefit allowance) is the only employment available to the working class and their ‘benefits’ are credited via a pre-paid welfare badge, hence the term ‘badgers.’
I was looking at how our society is becoming increasingly divided and how the rhetoric that poverty is a direct result of laziness and lack of aspiration is permeating every part of of our lives; TV shows, newspapers and politicians, they all speak with the same voice and the people it affects, they have no voice whatsoever. I wrote the story to try to offer those people a voice, to show how damaging being vilified for something beyond your control can be, how destructive it is to the mind, and that what you read isn’t always reality. I also wanted to show hope, to show that no matter how bleak it becomes there is always a crack for the light to get in, and one of the cracks I try to highlights is how much compassion is out there from so many people, helping and doing all they can to turn the tide of insatiable greed and self interested politics.

2)WE BOTH WRITE ON VERY SIMILAR THEMES, PAUL. WHAT WOULD BE THE ONE THING YOU WOULD LIKE READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?
One thing that has fascinated me after releasing the book is how each person takes away from it something completely different. I think, the most important aspect for me is that everybody, no matter how small it may seem, can make a difference, I think we should lift people up, not put people down and I hope the book shows that too.

3) DO YOU HAVE SOME SNIPPETS FROM YOUR BOOK TO ENTICE A READER?

This is at the beginning of the book; its how Badger sees himself and how with help from WorkPlace, things are about to change:

“Here stands Badger, a feckless, lazy, uninterested waste of human matter. The universe may have been evolving, collapsing into tiny pieces, creating, destroying, recreating for billions of years but yet here he is: the most useless person that has ever been. A complete and utter waste of atoms, even dark matter cannot pass through Badger. Today though that will change. All will change with the will of The People”

This piece is an example of newspapers reporting on the poor:

“He picked up the paper and read the article; it was just one of the many awful things he had read lately that portrayed the poor in an awful light. The badge had now become the symbol of the unemployed, the sick, the disabled, and the most vulnerable. Badger had noticed the media, just like any newspaper, swirled around anybody who they deemed too lazy or too stupid to work and it seemed , people believed what they read.”

Joanna is contemplating another forced WorkPlace assignment:

“Too fucking right they could do better, that’s my whole point. My going to work for the badge will bot change that, will it?” Joanna said, “And Pride? There is absolutely no pride in being used and cast aside every twelve weeks for someone equally replaceable. Do you see pride on the faces of people on the WorkPlace? I don’t. I see worry. I see weariness, I see downcast men and women, shuffling to and from work, ridiculed at the shops when their badge has ran out, shouted down in the streets with insults like ‘badger’ and ‘scum’ for simply doing all they can to survive. Pride, I don’t see that, and you know what else I never see? Any fucking hope.”

We all need a little hope, and sometimes a voice comes out from nowhere to offer it. This politician is going against the tide, but will people listen?

“The job of the politician is to speak for all people; not just for parties with vested interests, or organizations with the biggest wallets. The first people a politician should protect are those that cannot protect themselves: those weakest and most vulnerable among us. This is, to most of us, something that seems an obvious statement of fact, and that may be so, but it’s also a forgotten fact. Now today, the opposite is true. It should shame us all. It shames me. The very fact that the most poor and the most vulnerable in society are those that are victimized and stamped upon, whereas the most wealthy and the most influential are making more profits and acquiring more assets and wealth than ever before in history, is a damning indictment of what society has become.”

4) AWAY FROM YOUR WRITING, WHAT IS OF MAJOR CONCERN TO YOU RIGHT NOW?
I have a few; corporate greed, TTIP, environment, welfare, refugees, but one that is close to my heart and not as widely reported are the policies of the current government regarding the disabled and mentally ill. So many policies, done in the name of austerity have heavily affected those people. But who am I to say so, instead read about what the DWP and the government are doing. Find out for yourself, there are many people helping right now, DPAC and WOW are two that immediately spring to mind.

5) WHAT GOOD THINGS DO YOU SEE NOW?
You know, before writing The Year of the Badgers, I focused far too much on the bad in the world, I could list some but there are far too many and that’s exactly why it can be so easy to get lost in the fog and your own apparent insignificance. After, I began to learn about so many people doing incredible work, locally, nationally, and globally. I’m not talking about charities either, I’m talking about individuals, each making their voice heard or helping those that require it most. I’ve spoken to food bank owners, shop owners who help the homeless, writers speaking out for the first time, and professionals such as lawyers and business owners fighting their own particular battle. Each time, their individual strength is awe-inspiring. Never selfish, never preaching, simply doing their bit to help others. It might be small, it might be fractured but it is hopeful and infectious and until we have a leadership willing to look out for the most vulnerable, their difference to people’s lives is incalculable.

6) ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON ANYTHING ELSE?
I’m working on a new novel right now, I don’t want to give anything away yet as it’s in the relative early stages but it’s going well. I’m also working on my blog, which focuses on many of the topics discussed in this interview; some politics, mental health and the affects of austerity and those fighting back. I started the blog in an attempt for me to learn more about the positive things in society, always asking them what positive things they see in the world right now. It’s been really interesting so far, so I hope it continues to grow.

7) ARE THERE ANY OTHER INDIE BOOKS YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
I have read some excellent works by indie writers the latest , and possibly my favorite, is The Rebel’s Sketchbook by Rupert Dreyfus, which is a collection of short stories, all equally relevant, excellently written and utterly unforgettable, New Beat Newbie by Harry Whitewolf, is a poetry collection focused on an array of topical subjects, told expertly with wit, anger and humor, and then there was Bipolar: A breakdown by Max J. Freeman. This was a very short true account of a man’s stay in a mental institution. It was raw, frightening, and at times hilarious, which given the situation, took some skill.

8) ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Do not judge so harshly those that you do not know

Paul HowsleySignature2

THANKS SO MUCH PAUL AND GOOD LUCK WITH THIS BOOK AND BOOK TWO.
To find out more go to Paul’s blog at http://www.paulhowsley.worpress.com

To buy The Year of the Badgers:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Year=Badgers-Paul-Howsley-ebook/dp/B00XII7YFK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1443426886&sr=1-1