Dr Emma Briant has written here before about the different experiences she’s had as a writer of academic literature [for example, Bad News For Refugees with Gregg Philo, out now from Pluto Press - http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745334325&], a spoken word performer at Glasgow’s much-loved Little Bit of Theatre, and a creative writer. I’m curious to know how the different modes of writing affect her and whether working in these different ways energises or exhausts her. Since the internet hasn’t (yet) joined with its users minds in such a way as to let me google for the answer, I’m asking her instead.
God forbid it ever should!!! I’m not sure what scary things you’d uncover lost in the recesses. As for your question, about ‘different modes of writing’, I write social and political commentary, and media critique as well as creative writing, and I feel I need the two to feel whole. I also believe that communicating ideas in creative ways, beyond academic papers, can bring different ideas about society to life and sometimes show us the stories or perspectives that are lost from the media we consume. Creative writing and academic writing, for me, seem not worlds apart. I want my academic writing to be relevant to people and engaging, and I want my creative writing to respond to and comment on the world around me. So with some of my creative writing I hope to provoke the reader to think about a particular human experience differently and to challenge conventional understandings or expectations. My writing (and teaching) on communication and media does a similar thing, in trying to challenge assumptions, misrepresentations and ask us to think about other perspectives that may be forgotten from the mainstream media but of course is empirical analysis.
Do you find it difficult to change from creative writing to academic writing and vice versa, or are you used to switching tracks by now? Do you have any methods that make this easier for you?
I find it hard at first to switch between the two, to some degree this is just because I am using a different part of the brain! Freewrites, music, art, nature all help jolt me back to a creative mindset. But also, I used to find when I focussed on my academic work, and had a break in creative writing, I lost confidence in myself creatively. I would develop a fear of the ‘blank page’ and my work not being ‘good enough’. My very supportive personal networks and writers’ group (Glasgow Writers’ Group) where I met Gill and an online facebook group I use, were hugely important in my overcoming this and building my confidence in my work. I find it much easier now to put-down and pick-up, which is essential for me as sometimes I need to spend months absorbed in academic writing and can’t get the time to work creatively. So I need to BELIEVE I can pick it up again when I have time! If you believe you can do it, you can!
Do you think you would ever marry the two forms and write narrative nonfiction, like Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (but perhaps without the cannibalism and whale)? If so, do you think you would tackle social injustice, travel, cultural variations … what?
I would love to – But I don’t have a particular project in mind. A lot of my creative work actually draws on real-life already. Some of it autobiographical. I am particularly interested in doing more feminist writing.
What’s next for you? What are your aspirations for the year ahead?
Well my new book ‘Bad News for Refugees’ co-authored with Greg Philo and Pauline Donald is coming out this month, and we’re planning to write two articles to accompany publication of that. I’ll also be speaking at conferences and we’ll be having a launch in London. The book is a political, economic and environmental look at how migrants and, in particular, asylum seekers fleeing conflict, have been stigmatised in political rhetoric and media coverage. We have a number of events coming up in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, the first of which is on 3rd October at the Institute for Race Relations (http://www.irr.org.uk/events/bad-news-for-refugees/). All events will be tweeted far and wide from @emmalbriant so please follow and come along! It would be great to speak to anyone who’s interested in hearing more
I am just starting a new job at Sheffield University as a Lecturer in Journalism Studies, which I am very excited about and have a ton of publications planned! One will be an academic book chapter for January, looking at the work of the Behavioural Insights Team at the UK Cabinet Office so I’m doing a lot of research for that! I am also very busy working with my publisher on final edits for my book on Anglo-American Counter-Terrorism propaganda, which will be out next year. I’ll be doing more publications to accompany it.
I would really like to get some acknowledgement in the popular press so that’ll be one of my biggest challenges. All that’s likely to keep me very busy in the coming months, but I get more time in the summer to focus on creative work. I have several ideas for short stories and will find time somewhere! I also have a feminist novelette I am trying to find a home for!
I met Michael J Malone via the popular Glasgow-based writers’ networking event, Weegie Wednesday, last year. His first crime thriller BLOOD TEARS had just been published by Five Leaves Publications [http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/blood-tears/] and I was eager to read it. As soon as I did, I was hungry for a sequel – and lo and behold, he’s written one! Now, sometimes sequels can be a bit of a limp dick – potentially full of fun and promising a great night in, but not really up to much, memorable for all the wrong reasons, and a bit of a slog to finish off. Let me state for the record, guv, that this is NOT the case with A TASTE FOR MALICE. I’m not going to review it here other than to say that if you enjoy contemporary crime thrillers featuring smart arse Scottish polis and horrible suspense, you’ll really love this, but I am going to talk to Michael about it a bit.
DI Ray McBain is a smartarse with a soft side, and I don’t just mean he’s a bit of a sweetheart under the cursing and sarcasm. I found it really refreshing to read a book through the eyes (mouth and stomach) of a policeman who struggles with his weight instead of the bottle. Was this hard to write? Did you sit down and make a conscious decision to give McBain a weight/appetite/exercise problem instead of writing him as an alcoholic, and if so, why?
MJM: It was ridiculously easy to write, Gill. ‘Cos that was all me. I can take or leave the booze, but sit a bar of chocolate in front of me and I come over all hot and sweaty.
Why did I go there? Cops with a drink problem are pretty common place in crime fiction so I was keen to do something different. And I had a yo-yo weight problem just waiting to be exploited.
Do you have a dozen McBain books roughed out or do you use current news stories (or contemporary coverage of old crimes and events) for inspiration? Can we look forward to a regular schedule of cases is what I’m really asking here!
Gawd, I wish. Everything I write is by the seat of my (giant/skinny) pants. Each book begins with a glimmer of an idea, so the thought of having a whole series mapped out is simply a distant dream.
I have started on book 3 – I’m a quarter of the way in and it feels like I’m mentally wading through treacle. I take confidence from knowing I’ve been the distance before and if I keep writing, the boys in the boiler room (that’s how Stephen King refers to his sub-conscious) will produce something.
What do you do for research – do you read a lot of crime and true-crime? Watch horrible documentaries? Keep your ears open in dodgy pubs? Do you have the basic storyline first then explore it, or vice versa?
I do as little research as possible. You’ll find very little by way of forensics in my books, for example. I’m more interested in the characters and how they behave.
I remember watching a Colin Dexter (I think it was him) interview on telly a few years back and he said that he did very little research, but found that because he was reading books by authors who did, that he was picking up the research without realising it. That made me feel a whole lot better
I do read a lot of crime novels – I love the genre, always have.
I have a basic idea – for Malice it all came from the prologue. Which I wrote freestyle, basically. Just letting my imagination go – and that first draft didn’t change much from what ended up in the novel – apart from some typos. Then I had to let McBain loose on finding exactly who this strange woman was and how she impacted on the people in the book.
You tread a fine line with the dialogue and colloquialisms in the book, ensuring that the McBain books won’t need a glossary for non-Scots readers, don’t have haggis in for the hell of it, but still have a definite regional flavour of the Central Belt. Is this something you have to work at when editing, do you get non-Scots to proofread it, or do you find because of your own reading tastes and experiences this balance between authenticity and accessibility comes naturally?
Good question. I just write and worry about it later. My editor said that I was very Scottish in my syntax, but not to worry because it “translated” well. I think you have to be authentic to your characters without alienating your reader and thankfully I seem to have struck that balance without having to agonise over it.
I suspect that a different (larger) publisher might have a problem with my style – not all of them trust their readers – I have heard some horror stories from other Scottish writers – but, thankfully, Five Leaves “get” me.
Very glad to hear it! Looking forward to Book 3 in the McBain series sometime soon. And maybe a McBain/Malone menu to go with it too.
Michael J Malone is well known in Scotland for his poetry (once being a poet in residence in a sex shop). His first crime novel, Blood Tears, was reprinted within weeks of publication. His book of interviews with leading Scottish public figures, Carnegie’s Call, is available from Argyll Publishing. You can read more about him at http://mickmal1.blogspot.co.uk/ or follow him on twitter as @michaelJmalone1
A Taste For Malice is available as a print or e-book via http://www.inpressbooks.co.uk/a-taste-for-malice/
To celebrate the one year anniversary of the print publication of Wild: a collection, Pure Slush is holding a competition!
Enter this competition by sending us a short paragraph (100 words or less) on your wildest experience with a book.
It could be the wildest place you read a book, or the most involved or obsessed you became with a book, or the most intense emotions it raised.
Send your entry in the body of your email, to email@example.com and include Wild competition in the Subject.
Entries must be received by midnight Sunday 21 July 2013.
That’s midnight in Sydney, Australia!
The winner will receive an eBook copy of Wild: a collection.
And find out more about all Pure Slush publications currently available as eBooks by checking out http://pureslush.webs.com/wildanniversarycomp.htm
Hello, and welcome to the third stop on my Piece of Cake Blog Tour. I’d like to thank Gill for giving me this opportunity to chat about my writing career in the wake of my debut novella, Cake, which will be released this week.
I was always the boy who wrote. I grew up in Moreton on the Wirral, and attended Sacred Heart Primary School. I was the kid that would go up to the teacher’s desk, midway through a creative writing assignment, and ask for extra paper, because I’d already filled mine – front and back, baby! Sometimes we were told that we had to limit ourselves to a certain number of pages, which is why my handwriting, to this day, is a cramped, near-illegible scrawl; just one of my literary battle scars.
But this isn’t meant to be a retelling of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Here I am, at the ripe old age of thirty-four, and I have just released my first novella; so what happened? How come the boy who wrote, became the man who didn’t?
It boils down to a lack of discipline. I found it all too easy to put things off, in lieu of something else. Maybe it was a night on the tiles with my beautiful wife; perhaps it was putting together some flat-pack furniture – both very worthy reasons to put off the writing for a night. That was the crux of the problem, of course; once I’d opened the door to a good excuse, it paved the way for bad ones. I think things reached their lowest depths when I traded a night of writing for an all-day marathon of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Indeed, in the ten years since leaving university, I penned a total of six stories, none of which were suitable for publication, largely because I had spent so long writing them, I no longer loved them the way I should.
In January of 2009, I decided that enough was enough. I was thirty years old, I was married, and we had our wonderful son, Kieran; the time had come to buckle down, and make a go of this dream I had pursued so erratically since childhood. I penned a drabble (that’s a story consisting of exactly 100 words, fact fans) called ‘In the Darkness’, and submitted it the same day to the now-defunct Micro 100 e-zine, edited by Dustin LaValley, who is a phenomenal writer in his own right, and well worth your time reading. It was my first submission and, a few days later, became my first acceptance.
It is difficult to put into words how I felt when I opened Dustin’s e-mail. Objectively, I knew it was only 100 words, that it was only going to appear in an online magazine, and that I wasn’t even going to get paid for it, but none of that mattered. Aside from the birth of my children, and my wife agreeing to marry me, nothing even comes close to the elation I experienced upon receiving that first acceptance e-mail. Not getting a job, or a promotion; not buying my first house … nothing. The best thing about it is that the feeling never goes away. I don’t know how many readers of this blog are also writers, but every time I have one of my tales picked up by a publisher, I still get that same buzz. Here is something I have created from whole cloth, with nothing more than my imagination, and the words in my vocabulary, and now anyone in the world can read it, if they have the will to do so.
Since then, I have written about sixty stories, over half of which have seen the light of day in anthologies, magazines and websites across the globe. I have been the editor for a small publishing house, Cruentus Libri Press, which has brought me in contact with a huge number of talented authors, many of whom I am pleased to be able to call my friends, including the lovely Gill Hoffs herself. With regret, I have been forced to end my time as an editor. Just as it was in the past, I found that I was giving up my writing time to another pursuit and, whilst editing an anthology is probably more noble than sitting down in front of Melissa Joan Hart for six hours, it’s still not what I was put on this Earth to do.
Cake marks the pinnacle of my achievements as a writer, to date, but it is really only the beginning. An eighty page novella, clocking in at around 20,000 words, it is the longest single piece of fiction I have ever written, and I am immensely proud that I managed to get that far with it. However, even though it will only be released this week, I’m already looking ahead to my next project.
I’ve compiled a collection of my flash fiction, which will see its release before the end of the year. I’m also writing a collaborative novel with American horror author, Roger Perry, which is a uniquely satisfying experience. Those six stories I mentioned, that never got anywhere? I’m polishing them off, revising and, in essence, rewriting them, for a mini-collection. And then there is my next novella, Ancient Wings, which I hope will see the light of day around August this year.
So much writing to do, and so much time and energy to commit to it, but I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.
I guess, when all’s said and done, I’m still the boy who writes.
In May of 2053, forty years following the Separation of Wirral from the mainland, there is but a handful of people who remember what life was like before.
Geraldine Waters is one of the few.
In a land ruled by gang law, and horrors beyond mortal imagination, Geraldine lives in a perpetual nightmare, from which she knows she will never wake.
Her story is one of hatred and desperation, of living shadows and dying hopes.
It is a story about family…
It is a story about cake.
Check out Kevin‘s amazon author profile here - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kevin-G.-Bufton/e/B007SHCCI6/
Buy CAKE here -
Paperback (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1484887018
Paperback (US): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484887018
Kindle (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00DI72JBU
Kindle (US): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DI72JBU
After twelve loooong years, it looks like the tattoo ban has been lifted. My husband has suggested we get paired tattoos (wait – don’t stick your fingers down your throat just yet!) of a cat and a mouse with a brick, and I’ve yipped like a Yorkshire terrier in heat and accepted.
So the tattoo ban. Allow me to explain. I got my first tattoo in my mid-teens when I was still at a posh school ‘For Young Ladies’ (nb – I’m now neither), and my twelfth at 22.
I’ve asked Foster Trecost to write a guestblog for me while I work on my book (the deadline’s drawing so close I think I can hear every single ‘tick’ of my Bagpuss clock). We’re friends on facebook, so I knew he’d moved countries and wanted to know if this had affected his writing in any way that he’d noticed. I know when I relocated to Scotland from England then back it really gave me a mental jolt, and not in a good way. I wondered if moving to a completely different culture and then learning a new language had added an extra dimension to his work or if it had derailed it – and was surprised with what he said. If you have any suggestions for Foster, please feel free to leave them in the comments!
Here’s an obvious fact: I live in Germany, but don’t speak much German. Okay, I speak very little German. Truth be told, hardly any. Here’s another fact, less obvious: I’m a writer, but don’t write many stories. Believe it or not, these things, these seemingly unconnected things, are very related.
When I moved here, I thought everyone spoke English. This might be closer to the truth in bigger cities, in Berlin, where English is common, but where I live, it’s not true at all. I live in a village so small it doesn’t even have stores. No grocery, no café, not even a post office or bank. Just a bunch of houses. We’ve got a mayor, but I don’t think he gets paid. And he certainly doesn’t speak English. Nor does anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to learn the language. I’ve no desire to be that guy, that American who expects everyone in the world to speak English. Nope, I’ve no interest in being him. So what did I do? I enrolled in a language course, four hours a day, five days a week. Great, right? For learning German, yes. But entwine these studies with literary output and both come up short, especially the latter.
I’ve never been all that prolific, so I won’t spend too much time on what it means to be a writer. My simple definition: “A writer is someone who writes.” But lately even this standard doesn’t apply, at least not with any regularity. These days I feel more like a quilt maker. I jot down patterns and when I have enough, I sew them together, even if they don’t match. When I’m done, I’ve got a blanket, sure, but does it cover anything? Not really.
It wasn’t always like this and since I need to place blame on something, I’ll blame the local language and my failing attempts to learn it. Several years ago I lived in Italy and learned Italian while writing some decent stories. Or I wrote some decent stories while learning Italian. Either way, when I left Italy (of course I didn’t completely leave, no-one completely leaves Italy) I took with me a wonderful souvenir that I didn’t have to pack, and a stash of stories, most of which I’d go on to publish.
So why’s it different now? Well, I’m older and the older you get, the harder it becomes to learn a language, but can I really rely on that? Can I really dump my troubles on my age? Some troubles, yes, but not these. I learned Spanish in my 20’s, Italian in my 30’s and I’ll find a way to learn German in my 40’s. The language is difficult, yes, but the real challenge, it seems, is how to learn it without blocking myself in the process. The age-old adages, you know them: read, read, read or write through it, they don’t seem to help. As soon as I type a few words, my mind tries to translate them and for a second, I’m impressed if I know the German equivalent, but then I realize I’ve completely derailed my thought, giving myself little chance to finish the sentence, much less write the next one.
So for now, I’ll continue with my studies and continue with my quilts, and hope someone mistakes my incoherence for cutting edge literature. But I doubt it, editors are smarter than that…unfortunately.
Foster Trecost is from New Orleans, but he lives in Germany. He writes short fiction, sometimes very short. His work has appeared in Elimae, Dark Sky Magazine, and Metazen, among other places.