Tuesday, 22 May 2012

ABIDE WITH ME: Goodreads Live-chat Transcript (Part One)


Some of you may remember a couple of weeks ago I was invited to be the subject of a live webchat by the lovely members of the Goodreads Kindle Forum.  The format basically involved me sitting at the computer for two hours answering questions as they popped up on the forum.  Turned out to be forty-five questions in all, or there abouts.  A lot.  Too many to post on the blog all at one time, so I've divided the transcript into sections.  I've just received the transcript, put together by the super lovely Lorraine Arndell from the Goodreads Kindle Forum.

Here's Part One . . .

Hi all.

By way of introduction, a couple of words.
I first began writing seriously about four years ago. Since then, I have had thirty-seven short stories published both online and in print, and my debut novel - ABIDE WITH ME - was published almost two months ago.
Reading wise, I love Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Dickens, Raymond Chandler, Derek Raymond, and loads of others. Too many to mention, really.
I live in Romford, Essex, with my wife and three children, and support the mighty Dagenham and Redbridge.
My writing tends towards the darker side of life, usually manifesting in the crime/noir genre, although not really by design. Just happens to fall that way, I suppose. I almost always write in the first person vernacular of East London, again, not really by design, that's just how the voices tell it . . . more of that later, perhaps . . .
Thanks for turning up at this virtual gaff, and just to let you know I'm open to anything. So whatever you want to know, whether it be about the book, writing, real ale, proper football, or life, just fire away . . . :)

How's the sales numbers on AWM going?
I've not had anything definite yet. But the two free days precipitated eight thousand downloads, split pretty evenly between here and the States. Sales at the book signings have been really encouraging too. I suppose the whole thing is too soon to tell, but I've got me fingers crossed.

Those are really good numbers. In the book dire events and dark circumstance are mixed with a kind of poetic beauty that stun the reader. Is that just a natural process for you or do you have to carefully consider how to place the moments of beauty?
I write in a completely intuitive fashion. Nothing is planned. It's all a matter of tuning in. Rhythm is a big thing for me. The rhythm is the barometer to which I know whether I've tuned in accurately. The moments of beauty usually come fully formed, word for word. I don't mess with that stuff. I just write it down.

I wondered Ian, did the characters pop up "fully formed" into your head, or did they appear slowly, as they do to the reader thru the course of the book?
Great question. The way I write, the characters exist fully formed inside my head. They reveal more of themselves the more I tune into them, so I guess it's about me paying closer attention to them than them revealing more of themselves.
Hope that makes sense :)

Ian, can you give us an idea of what the past two months have been like, with the promo and book signing?
Unbelievably exhausting. As people who know will testify, I am probably the least organised person on the planet. And one of the most forgettable. The whole thing has been a challenge beyond words. But I've loved every second and would do it all again in a heartbeat :)

You've written loads of short stories that have been really well received. How difficult was it going from those to a novel length piece of work?
AWM was based on The Rise and Demise of Fat Kenny, published in Radgepacket Three. To extend those fifteen hundred words to sixty thousand, I just went back to the childhood of the characters and started from the beginning. Because I don't plan anything, it was just a case of opening up and listening and watching, then writing it all down.

Did you have a 'favourite character' or one you most identified with?
Good question. Being a father, a son, and a brother to a sister, I know there are big parts of me in Dad and John. John carries the closest parts of me with him, but Kenny, I wish I could be Kenny. He's in here somewhere, but so hard to find.
I like Dribbling Albert too, mind :)

I loved 'Uncle Mildred and other stories' too. Great characters!
From the darker parts of my psyche, those ones . . . :)

Speaking of those "darker parts of your psyche," why the addiction to the infamous Purple Yorkies? Is it a quest? An obsession? :)
Nothing like a purple Yorkie. Although I had a Double Decker for the first time in years last week at the Basildon book signing.
It's now a close run thing . . .

What did do you to recreate seventies Britain in your mind while writing?
Did you get out your old toys?
Paint your living room orange and brown?
Listen to Slade?
Another great question. Basically, I don't do anything to recreate anything. It was just a case of zoning in, opening up, re-experiencing what it was like for me during those times. Sounds mad, but there was nothing I did other than latch on to the characters, and let them pull me into their world.

The man writes the kind of fiction that needs to be read. & he seems such a gentle soul. Only seems, mind you ...
Thanks for the kind words, mate. Funny, them dark parts. I think the counselling training really has helped me walk into those places with my eyes more wide open than I would ever have been able to do without it.

Your description of the football matches in AWM are so vivid it makes the reader swear he's been to the match. Have you ever considered being a sports writer?
One of the agents I first sent the book to was one of the top London agents. She declined the book in the end, saying it didn't really fit her list, but described the football chapters as 'masterful'. Sort of made me think, you know, and it would really be a dream of a job.
[Precision from Stuart:] We very much a football family - even to the extent that our sister has named her four sons after Man United players. Sad but true! But then I did name our dog after Dagenham and Redbridge's leading goalscorer in the season that we bought him.

Do you have plans for another novel???And if so will it be in the same genre or would you try something different???
I've a novella coming out later in the year, commissioned by a different publisher. It's much more crime/noir than AWM - a day in the life of a hitman with a penchant for brilliant literature and classical music.

As for the next novel, I've finally decided to write a sequel to AWM. Lots of people have asked me to, but I promised myself I wouldn't do one just for the sake of it. But I was coming home from Tescos the other day, and John's voice came into my head, so I know there's more of the story left to tell. I've written the first few hundred words, and plan to kick it off in earnest in a couple of weeks.

Are you now moving onto novels or will you write shorts again in the future?
I think I'll still by writing short stories, just to keep my hand in. They're a great discipline and having a back catalogue of short stories to potentially turn into novels sort of seems the sensible thing to do as well.
But for the immediate future, the sequel to AWM is the only thing on the cards. And I enjoyed writing the novella so much, I think I might try my hand at another one of those after that.

Is it easy to turn a short into a novel, is it the same as writing a novel from an outline, or is it trickier due to the fact that there is already a story in the short story?
I think the short sort of acts as a catalyst more than anything. All that eventually survived from the short story that became AWM, are the names of the main characters, and the relationships between them. The rest, just sort of drifted away to be replaced by what unfolded when I shut my eyes, and let it all happen.

So can you eventually end up with a short AND a novel with the same characters in it, or does the novel kind of eclipse the short story?
I think, in the end, the novel eclipses the short story, purely because the endings are different. But I think also they can be read exclusively too. It's only words, after all :)

To be continued . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment