I’ve been tagged by the marvellous Carole Johnstone for this blog hop. Carole has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award for her fantastic short story, “Signs of the Times”. TTA have recently published her latest novella, “Cold Turkey”.
So, what don’t I write about?
I know I’m playing fast and loose with the question here but I don’t/can’t write humour (but I wish I did). I love a bit of gallows humour. “Shark! Shark!” by Ray Cluley made me laugh out loud, as did Carole Johstone’s “Cold Turkey”. It’s a skill to be able to grant the reader that relief from the darkness and it acts as a great counterpoint.
There are comic actors that are so good at their craft that they can elevate their part beyond caricature. They switch from comedy to pathos seamlessly. They’re the whole package and I feel that way about authors that can walk that line.
Again, this may seem like a fudge, but I can’t/don’t write poetry (but wish that I did). I don’t even understand most poetry but the bits that I do get blow my mind. I envy the ability to write succinctly and distill an image/emotion into a single line. I know authors do this to some extent but to have a real grasp of the rhythm of words and real economy would make me a better writer. In “Zen and the Art of Writing”, Ray Bradbury said that all poetry is compacted metaphor or simile and that every writer should read poetry. Even if they don’t get it, their synapses will. I like that.
Here’s the reason it may seem that I’ve been evasive in my answers. In a world of protocols, guidelines, directives and deadlines, writing is my freedom. I like the idea that eveything is on the table. I don’t have to censor myself. I’m happy to tackle tropes when they can help me express what I need to say- “Sweetpea” (a vampire story about child abuse), “Fishskins” (a mermaid story about marital love) and “The Fox Maiden” (a shape shifter story about the suppressed self). I haven’t got anything against zombies, but I’ve yet to think of an original take on or use for them.
And what do I write about?
This is going to sound banal, but I’ m a simple creature and want to keep this simple. If it doesn’t move me, then I can’t write about it. If it doesn’t press my buttons, if I’m not in love with it or disturbed by it, then it doesn’t work. Writing is free therapy. People who know me well know what bits of my work are real, albeit in a veiled form. I need a bit of my own truth on which to build my fiction. In short, I write about my inner freak. Or at least from my inner freak.
I got to the end of my latest story, “The Rising Tide”, and realised that I’d called my protagonist Cariad. It’s Welsh for darling. Priya is Hindi for darling. And Freud says there are no accidents.
Many of my stories are set firmly in the present, but I’m partial to a bit of historical fantasy/alternative history/mythology. I enjoy researching for a new story and then skewing what I’ve learnt for my own needs. It’s the escapist in me. I can play dress up in my head and go anywhere in my personal time machine.
I hope that relationships are at the heart of everything that I write. Bewildering, messy, difficult relationships. They’re the biggest puzzle of all. Ideas are exciting but without relationships my stories would fall apart. If I’ve failed to convince you of what my characters are feeling (and what I’m feeling) in my writing, then I’ve failed.
I’ve been greedy about handing on the baton.
Steven J Dines ‘s numerous stories have appeared in Black Static, Interzone and Crimewave (yes, he’s one of the TTA triathletes). He never fails to impress me, but my personal favourite is “The Sound of Constant Thunder” (Black Static issue 37). I hope to see more of his work all over the place this year.
Sean Demory The first piece of work that I ever read by Sean Demory was “The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore”. It got an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 5. I think he’s a superb stylist of the weird. He’s the sort of writer that makes me wonder what he’ll produce next.
Steve Toase is an archeologist and author. Steve’s story, “Call Out” is quite rightly getting rave reviews following its appearance in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume 6.
Neil Murton is truly economical- he produces little gems of flash fiction. I particularly like his reinvention of King Arthur as Arfa, a scrawny young girl. A collection of his work will soon be out in paperback, but you can suscribe to his site and get regular stories in your inbox.