Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat

Allen Miles has a new collection of short stories out soon (available as a print edition or ebook), so instead of asking him about that I thought I’d quiz him on the title.  Somehow this led to discussion of Paul Daniels and the Cheshire Cat.  Do feel free to ask him your own questions in the comments.

Allen Miles, author

Allen Miles, authorly bloke

Q: The title “This is how you disappear” suggests you’ve either given some thought to disappearing yourself or to how you would advise someone else to disappear, so prepare to be grilled on that.  How and under what circumstances would you ever disappear, or wouldn’t that appeal as an option to you?

It is an option that appeals to me at roughly 6:58 each morning, which is the time I arrive at work. (Mr Miles’ colleagues wish to point out that the above is a blatant lie, as he is late pretty much every day.) The idea of disappearing is incredibly romantic to me, from Richey Edwards to Reggie Perrin, I’ve always admired the idea of simply vanishing off the face of the Earth. It started at the fag-end of my first co-habitation with a female in my nineteenth year; we were officially separate although still living together, a amazingly hostile atmosphere had been brewing and one tea-time we’d had a horrific falling out over whose turn it was to clean the hamster cage out. I took beverages with some friends that night in order to relieve the stress and ended up in a fleeting romantic tryst with a girl called Lauren who had a tattoo of a Ribena berry on her left shoulder. I stood admiring her collection of boxing videos in the small hours of the morning as she prepared us some Ovaltine and I realised that she was the only person in the world who knew where I was. Oh, how I enjoyed that feeling! I left as the sun rose feeling somewhat the worse for wear, hoping to see her again soon. Sadly, I’d taken her number down wrong and when I rang it I got through to the local branch of Heron Frozen Foods. I was made aware of a fabulous discount on Findus Crispy Pancakes though, so all was not lost.

Q: Who would you like to help disappear – can be a real person or a fictional character – either to protect them from the harsh and unpleasant realities of their world or to just get them to bugger off?

I would like Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell to disappear, both of whom are fictional characters, because my mate Dunham is determined to murder them both with his bare hands, and he’s a double-hard bastard. I don’t care if he kills them, they’re ghastly, I just don’t want him to go to jail because he lends me money from time to time.

Q: You work as a perioperative support worker when you aren’t writing or dadding or sleeping, but if you’d been a magician or conjurer, what kind would you have been and why?  Top hat, rabbit, fake flowers, doves or the street magic type or someone sitting in a Perspex cube looking mournful?

I wanted to be a magician when I was about eight. I had a Fisher Price magic box and a cape, but it never worked out for me because of Thatcher. I met Paul Daniels and the lovely Debbie McGee once in my former life as a barista. Daniels never spoke to me and seemed deeply unpleasant, but the lovely Debbie was extremely friendly and I was able to buy a slice of her face with which I was able to repair a hole in my favourite winklepicker.

The sleeping is something I haven’t really taken to as an adult, possibly as a result of the dadding. I find myself up at seven most mornings, the blood barely moving in my veins, hoping that my intravenous caffeine starter pack that I ordered from Betterware sometime ago will arrive. An interesting bi-product of this is that I have become fascinated by a pop act on Nick Jr called Go!Go!Go! My daughter loves them and despite the fact that the nineteen year-old-punk in me is howling in anguish, I have found myself becoming a fan. I know the words to all the songs and I know all their names. Ten years ago I would have probably hated them but these days I find myself imagining going for a pint with Steve, getting married and settling down with Holly, then ruining it all by having an affair with Jade. Don’t start watching them, I think they may be some sort of Orwellian mind-control experiment for knackered parents.

Q: If you were the Cheshire Cat would you be tempted to make only your tail appear, like a furry snake, and freak people out, and if so, who would be top of your shock list?  Or would you make another part of its anatomy the focus?

I don’t care. I loathe cats. I loathe both of my own cats. They are sinister calculating bastards who exist solely to make me unhappy. When the aliens land they’re gonna come into my house and see me on my hands and knees cleaning their litter tray out while they sit in my place on the settee, leaving hairs all over it and preening themselves. Who are these aliens going to think rule the world? The cats, obviously. They have to be stopped.

This Is How You Disappear

Oh, incidentally Hoffs, I have a book out soon. It is called This Is How You Disappear and it is a collection of short(ish) stories and prose. It is being published by Abrachadabra Books, who are the coolest imprint on the planet, the literary equivalent of Factory Records. It is hilarious in some places, upsetting in others. It contains loads of drinking and smoking, a jazz fan who watches Dangermouse, a pub chef who’s obsessed with Bruce Springsteen, a kindly middle-aged hippy nurse who ends up living with a helpless young pisshead, a computer geek who gets seduced by a stunning Scottish sales rep who’s not all that she seems, and a shambolic punk band who have a rather intense night in East London. There are lots of trenchcoats, lots of rain and lots of blood. It is neo-noir at its finest. It is available on both Kindle and paperback formats and the cover art is utterly superb, due to the almost supernatural talent of my good buddy Kenny Crow. Please buy it, my daughter is going through shoes like nobody’s business.

Allen Miles is a six-foot three anaemic stick insect with a bit of a cold. He lives in Hull with his wife and daughter and annual purchase rates. When he’s not writing he’s either watching old footage of Matthew Le Tissier on YouTube at one in the morning while drunk or moonlighting as an Ellen Degeneres look-a-like. His rants, along with those of Hoffs herself and other ludicrously talented writers such as Paul Featherstone, Andi Ware and Martyn Taylor, are to be found at http://www.sittingontheswings.com

You can buy This Is How You Disappear at http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Lovely Lambay

Last week I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream I’ve had since I started researching the RMS Tayleur a couple of years ago: I was able to visit Lambay.  This beautiful island lies off the coast of Howth, a little to the north of Dublin, and I was taken over on a speedy inflatable called a ‘rib’ (I’d like to make some kind of Adam/Eve joke but my brain is still too giddy, do leave one in the comments section if you’re up for it).  I saw a sleeping seal bobbing straight up and down like a cork in the water, all sorts of seabirds that I won’t even attempt to (mis)identify, jellyfish, and a minke whale.  It was BRILLIANT.  I absolutely recommend contacting Eoin Grimes of Skerries SeaTours on [Irish code] 0863043847 if you’re in the area.with Tayleur book on Lambay - harbour

Lambay isn’t just a stunning bird reserve full of deer and wallabies (yes, really), it’s also where the RMS Tayleur wrecked 48 hours into her maiden voyage for the White Star Line 160 years ago.  290 survivors climbed the treacherous cliffs to safety despite horrific injuries and shock, and stayed there for a couple of nights (most of them out in the open) until they could be transported to the mainland.  It was gloriously sunny when I was there, with barely a breeze, but I couldn’t help but look on those near-vertical cliffs in horror.  They’re menacing even on a late summer’s day, let alone in a winter storm.

Tayleur Bay on Lambay

I took my copy of “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic‘” (Pen & Sword, 2014) and read the names from the back of the book aloud, all 700+ of them.  It took ages and really drove home just how many people were directly involved with this horrific shipwreck.  I felt incredibly privileged to be there, and to be able to leave as I chose.  Many hundreds of those on board the RMS Tayleur that day did not.

Tayleur Bay

If you have any questions or information on the Tayleur do feel free to leave a comment or to email me at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk

 

Sickly Sea Travel

In the UK the summer holidays are now upon us (or at least upon lucky colleagues and school children), so if you’re in the Warrington/Cheshire area and fancy hearing about the plight of Victorians venturing overseas in a time before plentiful lifeboats, buoyancy aids, and loos, where even in a luxury cabin you could well be sharing your bed with a manky great rat, this talk might be for you.  http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/11413779.Tayleur_talk_at_Waterstones_in_Warrington/?ref=twtrec

Sickly Sea Travel

I’ll be appearing at Waterstones in Golden Square, Warrington, on Saturday 23rd August at 11am with a reproduction chamberpot, plastic rat, and genuine Victorian clothing including corset and bloomers – NB: I won’t be wearing them, they’d never fit – to talk about crinolines and crapping, being sick in a storm, and why you might be glad of rats on your vessel (they’re a more edible meal than putrefying pork).  Everyone’s welcome, it’s free, lasts about half-an-hour, and questions are encouraged – whether on Victorian sea travel in general, or Warrington’s own Titanic, the ill-fated RMS Tayleur.  If you can’t make it but want to know more, please feel free to contact me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or via gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk.

Waterstones has excellent wheelchair access (and parking above and below the mall).  If anyone with mobility or communication issues such as mutism/autistic spectrum disorder would rather ask about it in an online chat or as a one-to-one in person then do let me know.

If you want to read more, the new issue of Discover Your History includes my article “Travels and Tribulations” (downloadable here for £1 http://www.history-hub.com/dyh/article/307/Travels-and-Tribulations) – you can have a nosy at the first page by clicking on the link.

Yes, I'm using a cockroach to pimp my book.  His name's Colin and he's a cutie.

Yes, I’m using a cockroach to pimp my book. His name’s Colin and he’s a cutie.

In short, Ireland was brilliant! (More to come…)

Although I was only in Ireland for a few days, I managed to pack a lot in, thanks mainly to the incredibly generous people I met there.

windy on the ferry - not going for the Morrissey look, honest

windy on the ferry – not going for the Morrissey look, honest

Too much happened to cram it all into one big fat blogpost, so I’ll let it out over the next few weeks or so, bit by bit.  I’ll definitely be going back over for talks and visits (and signings) sometime this summer so do feel free to get in touch with me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk to let me know if there’s anywhere in particular I should get in touch with or if you’re a descendant of someone involved with the wreck and fancy meeting up for cake.

Hodges Figgis in Dublin, Manor Books in Malahide, and FeelGood Scuba in Howth all stock “The Sinking of RMS Tayleurso if you fancy a look, that’s where to go.  Alternatively, you can ask your local Eason’s or independent bookseller to get it in – some libraries have it too – or try here http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur/p/6053/

The best bit of the trip, the indisputable highlight amongst a ton of brilliant things, was sailing to the wrecksite itself on a gloriously sunny day.  Many thanks to Howth Sailing & Boating Club for making this happen, and to Harry Breslin for his tales of danger and discovery on the wreck itself, spanning over 50 years.

Sinking of RMS Tayleur - Gill Hoffs - hi res image

Thank you again to the people who made all this possible, including the O Duills for adopting me for the duration and feeding me pasta and icecream, Mike Medcalf for taking me out on Yacht Taurus and feeding me cheese and tomato sandwiches and soup, and John Craddock and his mum for escorting me round the anchor memorials and feeding me toast and fancy hot chocolate.  Can’t wait to go back!Malahide beach - book - Lambay

 

 

The sinking of RMS Tayleur

Gill Hoffs:

I’m really touched by this review of “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur”, and pleased that the people on board this doomed ship are being acknowledged once more after being forgotten for so many decades.

Originally posted on I run on caffeine...:

I’m a book lover, and a history lover, and fascinated by the story of the real people in historical events that we can distance ourselves from – and discovering the emotions and aftershock of those events.

Someone else who loves all those things – and who possesses the skills to actually write books about them – is Gill Hoffs, a wonderful writer who has a new book on the shelves.

“The sinking of RMS Tayleur” is the story behind a shipping tragedy as big, and as devastating, as the Titanic. Nearly sixty years earlier, and sailing for Australia, the Tayleur was the biggest, best ship, sailing her maiden journey, and wrecked within hours – shocking the world; but though the Titanic is still remembered, this Victorian tragedy faded into history.

Gill has brought the events that led up to the wreck, and the disaster itself, to life in her book…

View original 338 more words

Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur – as part of Warrington Literary Festival, 25/4, 7pm

[NB - I copied this from http://www.pyramidparrhall.com/whats-on/event/gill-hoffs-author-talk-the-sinking-of-rms-tayleur/.  Free grin to anyone who brings me caramel eggs or Nutella!]

Date(s)/Time: 25 Apr 2014, 7:00pm

Ticket Price: £3

Location: Pyramid

 

Gill Hoffs Author Talk: The Sinking of RMS Tayleur

 

Join Gill Hoffs for this evening’s talk on RMS Tayleur, how this book came about and how Gill, inspired by a visit to Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, researched this. Gill will also share insights on the practicalities of writing nonfiction including structuring the book, research, overcoming difficulties and deadends, approaching publishers and agents, editing, sourcing illustrations, and promoting the finished product and finish with a Q&A.

Bio: Gill Hoffs was raised on the Scottish coast but has considered Warrington home for the past ten years.  Her nonfiction book “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” (Pen & Sword, 2014) was written after a conversation with a curator about the Tayleur artefacts in Culture Warrington’s Museum & Art Gallery, and her short fiction and nonfiction pieces are widely available online and in print.  Please see http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com for further details, find her on twitter as @GillHoffs, or email gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk

 

Irish launch events – RMS Tayleur

Following on from the success of the Warrington and Glasgow launch events for “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur”, I’m delighted to announce that come May I’ll be in the Dublin area visiting key areas featured in the book, and paying my respects at the memorials in Rush and Portrane.

The schedule currently looks like this:

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

The Sinking Of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story Of The Victorian Titanic

EDIT: Tonight’s talk and signing event, planned for 6.30pm on Wednesday 14th May at Hodges Figgis, Dublin, has been CANCELLED due to circumstances beyond my control.

Weather permitting, on Thursday I’ll sail to Tayleur Bay to see the wreck site and view the cliffs survivors climbed while talking with people who’ve dived on the actual Tayleur wreck.  Many thanks to Howth Sailing and Boating Club for making this possible.  Once back on dry land I’ll pay my respects at the Tayleur‘s anchors, which serve as memorials at Rush and Portrane.

On Friday I’m visiting the (very) Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the first inquest took place amid much skulduggery (and being interviewed for RTE’s ‘The History Show’).  If I can master the DART and bus service, I’ll also visit the Maritime Museum where the artwork featured on the cover is located along with artefacts recovered from the wreck, and St Stephen’s Church and Herbert Place which also play a part in the book.  I’m REALLY excited about all this, especially since I’m meeting up with other people who share my passion for the Tayleur.

If you have any questions about the schedule, suggestions for the trip, or information about the Tayleur and the people involved with her tragic voyage, please contact me on twitter (@GillHoffs) or email me at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk