Sunday, 10 May 2015

Meet Author Chantelle Atkins

I'm really pleased and excited to be hosting author Chantelle Atkins on my latest blog.   Chantelle is the author of several books and she has kindly answered some questions on her books and her writing. 






Tell us a bit about your journey so far as a writer.  Have you been writing stories since childhood?

Yes, I can remember writing little books when I was ten years old. Most were about animals. I used to write them in exercise books and illustrate them myself. I’ve still got one I wrote around this age. I’d typed it up on an old fashioned typewriter, and then glued in the illustrations. It was about a little dog that was bought as a Christmas present and then thrown out. The first full length book I wrote about people was actually The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, but it was not called that then. I was twelve, and re-wrote it many times over the years. I just could not get it out of my head; it was always there when I went to bed at the end of the day, and every now and again I would drag it out and re-write it. It was the first book I wrote (or re-wrote) when I started writing again four years ago. I’d had a long absence from writing due to work and children and not having much confidence in myself. When my then youngest child started school I suddenly had the strongest urge to finally get this story out of me! At the time I had no plans to publish it, but with the help of my blog and social media I did eventually get the courage to do so!

I’ve only read The Mess of Me, so far, but I understand it’s not your first novel.

No, actually The Mess Of Me was written after I had gone back and re-written The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Once the writing bug was back, it was back with a vengeance! Just like when I was a kid, the voices started invading my head night and day, and out of nowhere the voice of Lou appeared and wouldn’t go away. In a lot of ways she is very much like me; my thoughts, my feelings, only she is much more vocal and much feistier than I am! It seemed more ‘ready’ than The Boy… though, so I published it first.

The Mess Of Me is over 400 pages long in paperback. How long did it take you to write it?

Only about three months. I can’t remember how much I edited it or re-wrote it, but it never seemed to need much fiddling with once it was done, unlike The Boy…!

How many drafts did you write?

I would say about four, it’s hard to remember! I could probably still go over it now, and if I did I would probably try to make it shorter and with less swear words. They seem to be the two main things I alter when I re-write!

Your characters are very passionate and intense.  Are any/many of them based on people you have known?

Well, yes. Sort of. Quite a bit of me will be in all of them, I think. That is probably inevitable with any writer. Bits of you slip in whether you realise it or not. It might be the you people know and recognise, or it might be bits of you that are more disguised or buried. But as for the characters in this book…I have known similar ones, without giving too much away! When I was growing up, I was very quiet and self-contained, but I was always watching, (which gave me great material for writing!). There were always people in and out of my world who I felt I didn’t really know. Not strangers, but people who I never really understood. I never really got under their skin. I was just an observer, wondering who they were. Making it up for myself. For example, my mum had a close friend with five boys. The younger ones we played with, but the older ones we never really knew. I can remember wondering about them, who they were and what they did, what they thought or believed in. I can remember hearing that they had been in trouble, but never knowing why or what it was. Of course, I made my own stories up in my head. So I think Leon and Travis came from that. To Lou, they are very much a part of her world and her experience of growing up, but at the same time, she does not know them at all. They both scare, and intrigue her.

Your dialogue is very authentic.  Is this through observation? Or from having a highly developed imagination?

I think both possibly. By the time I start writing a book, and the dialogue, I already know the characters so well that I can see and hear them in my head. I know all their little quirks and mannerisms and sayings. I just let them talk in my head as I write the dialogue. Saying that, I suppose the dialogue I write is similar to the way language is spoken by people I know. For instance, I would have real trouble writing dialogue for very well-to-do middle or upper class characters. I don’t know anyone like that so I would really have to research how they speak!

The situations you described all seem very real. How much is based on direct or indirect experience and how much imagination?

Well, I think a lot come from situations I have either observed, heard about or known about. Some, such as Lou’s body image insecurities come from direct experience. I was a lot like her as a youngster. Self-harm unfortunately was fairly common when I went to school, and I know it still is now, especially with girls of a certain age. The troubles that can arise from broken families are something I do know a thing or two about, although the extremities of these situations are definitely the result of my imagination! It’s a mixture of experience, observation and total imagination, I would say.


The Mess Of Me seems expertly plotted.  Do you work out a detailed plot before starting or is it an organic thing that evolves as you write?

Funnily enough, this was my least plotted book! Lou came into my head and started chatting. I had the urge to let rip. I wanted to release my own demons. I wanted to speak up for once and say all the things I had thought when I was her age, but had never had the courage to say. So I let Lou say it for me. There was no plot, just her. Just her character and her thoughts and her feelings and her views. Joe came next. He is sort of based on someone I know. I am always drawn to characters like him in real life. Essentially, he is a nice person, who is put upon by others. His niceness is exploited and pushed, and at some point, it reaches its limits. I think all of my books have this in common. Their relationship evolved as the book went on. Every time I walked my dogs, the two of them would be in my head chatting, arguing and laughing about their dysfunctional families. I would then rush home and write the conversations down. I had to come up with a plot to fit them. I decided on the drug running plot, but it really could have been anything. They needed an outer dilemma, an outer problem to help push forward and investigate their inner problems. Travis and Leon and their shady ways were able to provide this nicely! But yes, with this book it very much evolved and happened as I wrote it.


Even though you don’t mention places much in the book, there is a strong sense of place. Is this based on where you live?

Yes The Mess Of Me is based in Christchurch, where I now live. The estate they live on is Burton, and then they cross the bridge to get to Somerford, and spend some time in Christchurch town centre. All of my books are based in Bournemouth or Christchurch. I usually change the names though.

Do you have a favourite of the books you’ve written so far? If so, which?

Yes, it would have to be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, for many, many reasons! It has been with me the longest, since I was twelve years old. It is the most epic, at over 800 pages, and with a sequel due out very soon. With my books, it is the character of Lou in The Mess Of Me that I identify with most in terms of her personality and world view, but it is Danny in The Boy, that I love the most. His journey through music is mine exactly. His story is a very dark one, bordering on the horror genre really, but the music and his passion for it provides the hope. Music is very important for that reason. It can give people a sense of belonging, a sense of unity and understanding. Lyrics can literally save lives! Have you ever heard a song and thought the lyrics could have been written explicitly for you? I’ve always liked the way Danny is a rebel as well as a victim. He tries really hard not to be either.

All your books are named after songs/tracks: is this something that you consciously decided from the outset?

No, it took me ages to come up with the title for The Boy… in the end the lyrics to the song by The Smiths, just seemed to work. The boy and his murderous desire… If you want to live where do you go? Who do you need to know? With This Is Nowhere, I was into Neil Young the whole time I was writing it. He is mentioned in the book as an artist Jake’s missing mother enjoyed. Then I came across the lyrics for Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which is about a young man going back to his home town, and they just seemed perfect. It’s not just about the home town being nowhere, but it’s about him and his state of mind, being no one, being nowhere, being nothing. This Is The Day is the sequel to The Boy, so it had to be another song title! But my next three books do not have song titles!

Who are your main influences? 

Ooh hard to say. When I was a kid it was definitely Stephen King. I was a huge fan. I definitely think he influenced The Boy, the horror and the real life monster for example. Other than that, I am not sure who has influenced me. One of my favourite books ever is The Catcher In The Rye. I just love that first person flawed teenage protagonist thing! I think I just change and evolve the more I write.

Who are your favourite authors?

I am a huge fan of Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. I have recently discovered Toni Morrison and Douglas Coupland, and definitely feel their writing has changed me.

Do you like to read outside your comfort zone?

Hmm, yes and no. Let’s put it this way, I am not a romance fan, but I do love a genuine love story. I am not a sci-fi fan, but I do love horror and dystopia! I will read anything if something about it grabs me. The title, the blurb, the cover, or just the first few lines. I actually find it hard to discover the books I really love; gritty, character driven stories with the kind of characters I can really believe in, really fall in love with. There are a lot of books out there which are essentially delivering the same thing, which is a shame.

You have written many blogs about your journey as an independent author.  What are the pros and cons of being an indie author, do you find?

The pro’s are the freedom. I still can’t really classify what genre I fit under. I’ve written Young Adult and Adult. I’ve got horror elements and romance. I’ve got thriller and mystery as well. I can do what I want, write how I want and not worry about how to sell it to an agent or a publisher. I can get stuff out as quickly or as slowly as I like. I have complete control over every aspect; covers, blurbs, price etc. I feel very excited at times, like I am on this epic journey! It really is a rollercoaster of surprises. It can be very up and very down. I usually find something good will happen right after I feel down. I will get a nice kick up the bum and feel better again. I love the community. It is there if you delve into it and try to support it. I love discovering other indies. I  have learnt so much from other authors. I still have so much to learn, and it really is a journey of self-discovery as well. My confidence is getting there slowly. I am having a lot of fun!
As for the cons. Well it can be hard work doing it all yourself. My main headaches come from formatting and tech related stuff. I am just not into it, and don’t think I will ever get it! I wish I could pay someone to do it all! The downside can be the lack of sales. That would be the main one. You feel like you are constantly missing a trick, wondering what you should or could be doing to reach more people. It can be very disappointing when you don’t feel supported by people close to you. It tends to be strangers that seem more keen to read your books, which was a surprise to me in the beginning. Then those strangers become friends, which is great. The financial side is a big worry too. I am forever thinking I should give it up and get a real job!

You read and support a lot of indie authors yourself, as well as bringing up several children and looking after rescue dogs! How do you balance your writing with the other areas of your life?

Well I read when I am feeding the baby. It is really important to me to read other indies, so I usually have my Kindle on hand and will download anything I have come across on line or through connections, that seems good. In the day I will take the kids to school, walk the dogs and then feed the baby. After that, depending on the day, I might grab a little time on the computer, but if I do it is only emails, maybe a bit of promo or social media, but not much. When the baby is in bed I get on the computer and try to do a certain amount of the most pressing thing. So if it is editing a book that is written, I will do at least two chapters before I look at emails etc. This way I guarantee a certain amount is done every day without fail. I need to spend more time on promo stuff and need to work on all my books being in print. I write a to-do list every Sunday night and try to tick it all off before the next Sunday comes around! I have loads I want and need to do, like writing short stories, entering competitions and writing articles, or blog posts. Sometimes I get really frazzled and have to just push some of it aside and concentrate on what is shouting the loudest.

Warm thanks to Chantelle for being my guest.  Her journey is intriguing and definitely resonates  with me. Below are links and cover pictures of her books: The Mess Of Me and This Is Nowhere.  I understand that she is working to combine Parts 1 and 2 of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side so that they are all in one volume.  For more information, you can visit Chantelle's Page at Amazon: Amazon Author Page


Chantelle Atkins' Books






Coming Soon - Books 1 & 2 together with the new cover as above!






Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Coming Soon...my latest book...

*A free copy of the e-book on its release will be sent to all who subscribe!*
 Just click where it says 'subscribe here' further down on the right hand side!







The Dead Club is an edgy, contemporary tale about death and suicide and its devastating effects on two families.  Death is a fact of life for the principle characters and especially for Marina who wishes to join her loved ones at ‘the dead club’, a place she and her sixth form friends obsessed about in their youth. Ultimately her mortido becomes more urgent until it pushes her to the edge, literally and metaphorically. The novel is in fact very much about edges: people who live on the edge, where the ultimate edge is between life and death...

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Little Guide To Unhip - the Christmas Entry!

I don't usually plug my own book(s) but as I've got an updated paperback version of Little Guide To Unhip out, I thought I'd give a little festive taster.


"Once you hit twelve, Christmas loses the magic and gloss it had when you were a nipper: the thrill of a lumpy stocking on the landing, the prodding and guessing of its contents in the dark, the presents under the tree you decorated on Christmas Eve while the carols were playing, the crackers and mirth over turkey and Christmas pudd, the party games in the afternoon with granny and grandpa, Auntie Nellie et al. 

You watch your cool school contemporaries who've grown out of it. Christmas is for kids, they sneer, and the message seeps through your semi-permeable membrane, which you've been hearing so much about in biology. Before long, you daren't own up to the soft spot you still harbour for all that festive glow unless it relates in some way to your romantic life. ‘He asked me out on Christmas Day,’ you swoon to your friends, immediately sensing a new use for Christmas.

But as a rule, the more hip you are, the less you're into Christmas. You detest all the commercialism, the spend-spend-spend, don't you?  All that, What-should-I-buy-for-Auntie-Marj-and-Uncle-Tom-Cobley nonsense? Who was the DJ who used to say boot Christmas back into December? That's you, isn't it? You'd like to boot it out of the year altogether, given half the chance. Failing that, you'd love to go on that holiday or retreat until it's all over. You admire the way your friends come right out and say they don't do Christmas cards or presents. You like the idea of opening cards from Oxfam where a goat has been bought in your name for a family in Africa, or a pile of books, or a hundred school dinners. 

Only the people with kids can get away with a second childhood where Crimbo is concerned. ‘I enjoy seeing little Johnny's face when he's opening his pressies,’ is their excuse. Yeah right, you say if you're inclined in the hip direction. ‘I believe you, thousands wouldn't,’ is what you say if you're in any way challenged in the hip department.

The silly season is just what is says on the sweet tin, isn't it? Silly, uncouth and uncool. All that blowing of feather-ticklers, all that snogging under the mistletoe. Not to mention those ridiculous jumpers with reindeers on them, hand-knitted by some well-meaning relative with too much time on her hands. 

No, the winter solstice is where it's at: the marking of the shortest day of the year with the odd candle or two before the Sun's rebirth (as distinct from the Son's birth); the exchange of home-made cards where the C word has been omitted and replaced with Solstice or Yule. ‘I don't celebrate Christmas,’ your Pagan friends say, and you agree with them in principle, envying the way they shrug it off so effortlessly. The midwinter festival is Pagan anyway, you know that, the Christians just gatecrashed it. What have Christmas trees got to do with the baby Jesus anyhow? 

Reconciled, you can at last enjoy Christmas with a semi-clear conscience. If this is you, you'll look forward to Christmas with a vengeance. Bring on the Christmas tree lights, the tinsel, the carols, the cribs, Slade, the giving and getting of presents, the mince pies, the old films, the silly party games, the whole caboodle. And you'll feel as saggy as the decorations and as deflated as the balloons by the twenty-seventh...."





Merry festivities everyone!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Kat Ward - A Courageous Woman, a True Survivor and a Very Talented Writer

I recently finished the first part of Kat Ward's harrowing autobiography: 'Keri - The Early Years'.

For those of you who aren't aware Kat Ward is the courageous woman who initiated the disclosure of the Jimmy Savile child sex abuse scandal after appearing on a TV documentary with others about the incidents.




Beginning with her earliest upsetting memories at the age of three, Keri is severely abused both physically and psychologically by a mother who never wanted her and who told her she was wicked. From the outset, we are there with the vulnerable little child as she is subjected to a catalogue of horrific abuse, simply for being sick, wetting herself or having a fear of water. Keri's situation worsens when her mother moves in with 'that man' Terry (later to become her stepfather) who is soon inflicting punishment on her and treating her in the same brutal and abusive way as her mother. Physical abuse soon turns to sexual abuse when Keri is not yet five years old.

However, there are positive people in Keri's life, especially her Nana, who teaches her to read and allows her free rein to be creative. Nana is kind and loving and Keri is heartbroken whenever she has to return home to her mother's and stepfather's. In a way, Keri would have had a very different childhood if she'd been allowed to live with her Nana and we can't help wishing that it had been so. We feel Keri's heartbreak every time she has to leave Nana to return to her family home where her only refuge is the company of the family pets: the dog, the cats - and Lambie - the lamb knitted for her by her Nana, always close at hand to give her comfort during the most gruesome of times.

Click here for link to paperback


At primary school things are not much better for Keri, where she is bullied for being different - she has bad eczema - and when she does make a friend her mother soon puts a stop to it. In fact, like all bullies and manipulators, her mother needs to keep Keri as unpopular and friendless as possible to maintain her power over her. Once again, when Keri has a new baby brother, the difference in the way he is treated, compared to the way she is treated, is stark. Not only this, but Keri is scapegoated by her mother and stepfather so that her brother grows up believing that Keri is treated differently and punished because she is 'bad' rather than because their parents are abusive. This is another way in which the appalling abuse is maintained because Keri is portrayed as 'the liar' and 'the aggressive baddie' rather than her mother. Time and again, it is her mother who is believed and not Keri. It is the same when Keri confides to a teacher and is referred to Child Guidance. By this time, Keri has already been branded 'a bad child' and 'a problem child' - her own wayward temperament seen as the cause of the problem and her 'poor parents' as the 'victims' rather than vice versa. Thus Keri is the one who's accused of attacking her younger brother, the one who 'screams insults' at her 'poor mother' and the one accused of making 'inappropriate sexual advances' to her stepfather when in reality she is being raped by him and subjected to all manner of abuse.

All Keri wanted was to be believed but she was badly let down by the system and the prevailing and appalling attitudes of the day, for example, by the terribly patronising Child Psychiatrist. It was easier for the professionals to believe that Keri must be lying and bad, rather than accept the reality of her situation. Of course, the manipulation of the authorities by her mother did nothing to help Keri.

For younger people who may be shocked and stunned by such attitudes, in the 1960s and 70s when Keri was growing up, children were routinely slapped, spanked, slippered at home and school, and boys were also caned in the classroom (maybe some girls too). But Keri was subjected to punishment far beyond even what was considered 'acceptable' or 'appropriate' at the time. Regarding the horrific sexual abuse Keri suffered, this was also a time when this just wasn't talked about: there was no ChildLine, and rape and child abuse hadn't been widely exposed for the atrocities they are.

However, although the appalling catalogue of violence and abuse can sometimes seem relentless, the book is powerfully written and acutely observed and the autobiography is interspersed with many more positive or hopeful interludes, for instance Keri's time at boarding school. We see a strong, resilient spirit that refuses to be broken, a feisty temperament that refuses to be cowed. Encouraged by her Nana and later some of the nuns, teachers and friends at the Catholic boarding school she attends when a little older, her love of learning and her questioning nature is fostered and she starts to blossom. At boarding school, away from her family, she gets a different perspective on the world and the family dynamics start to change when she returns home in the holidays, particularly her relationship with her brother, and without Keri to scapegoat, her mother and stepfather turn on each other until their relationship deteriorates. Observing their relationship through Keri's eyes we start to see her mother as a pathetic, weak figure, and very rarely we get glimpses of a woman who is almost human, for instance when she shows solidarity with Keri over her spider phobia.

As Keri reaches adolescence she reaches out and makes some trusted and supportive relationships in the new neighbourhood, and we start to feel the tide turning.

It is impossible not to root for Keri. On finishing this first part, I immediately wanted to read what happens next in Keri's extraordinary life, especially as part two is called: Keri: Fighting Back'. On my to-be-read list for sure.

                                       
                                  The next paperback in the series



                                   The next paperback in the series


Both volumes of Keri are sold together as one book on Kindle and called 'Keri'

Not only is Kat Ward a survivor if child sexual abuse, she's also a survivor of aggressive bowel cancer.

You can read about it in her book: 'A Life On The Toilet' in which she gives an insightful and good-
humoured account of her struggle with bowel cancer.
                                     
                                  Click on here for the Kindle version

                                


Kat is currently working on the next book in the Keri series.

Away from the laptop, she enjoys tending to her garden (health permitting) and showering 

affection on her 7 "adorable" cats. 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Best Served Frozen - the wonders of Gerald Hansen!


I met some very talented writers whilst on the writing site Authonomy and one of those it's been a privilege to get to know is Gerald Hansen. 




His latest offering is 'Best Served Frozen'  and I think it's his best yet! I mean, they're all all pretty sensational but this reached new heights (or lows!) depending on your perspective.


I've read all of Gerald Hansen's books and they just keep getting better and better! This one has to be the icing on the cake and you will see the significance of that remark when you read it! You better batten down the hatches because Fionnuala Flood is back in town. This time, Dymphna Flood is set to tie the knot with Proddy boyfriend, Rory, father to one of her children but not the second child or even the one on the way (possibly). Aunt Ursula, Fionnuala's exiled sister-in-law is on the guest list and we know this will spell trouble. 

Hansen's larger than life characters always have me in stitches with their fresh and gritty Derry wit. If they're not tripping down steps, they're standing on abandoned toilet seats or otherwise getting clonked at some inopportune moment. Hansen's timing for comedy is spot on and there's not many who get it down to such a fine art. His characters are often getting their wires crossed which adds to the tragi-comedy. I've said it before but it's always worth a another mention - Hansen is a master of plot and no scene goes to waste. As if all this wasn't enough, the author still manages to make every sentence fresh and full of literary gems. Here is one example: 'her body was like an ageing sofa you'd want to dump on a skip, shapeless and uncomfortable, with lumpy bits...' This isn't an isolated example either. The book is full of such startling treats. I learned about Irish Alzheimers' which is 'they forget everything but a grudge'! Then there are the usual wacky and wonderful names such as Top-Yer-Trolly (an old friend), Pence-A-Day and Eat-So-Yum. Hansen knows how to poke fun and revels in it. So sit back, enjoy the ride and hilarity and the nail-biting climax. You won't be disappointed.





Other books in the series:

An Embarrassment Of Riches
(Semi-Finalist in ABNA 2010)





Hand In The Till




Fleeing The Jurisdiction



You can find out more about Gerald's books and where to buy them from:



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Awesome Indies Quality Site



I decided to write this blog as part of a drive to raise awareness about the Awesome Indies website dedicated to quality in self-publishing. There are always discussions about the quality of indie books and without a gatekeeper it is inevitable that some substandard books will slip through thereby lowering the name of indie books in general. There is a big demand for sites such as Awesome Indies in the new publishing environment. 

The idea of the Awesome Indies site is to promote independently published books that meet the same standards as mainstream books and provide a place where readers can browse for books assured of their quality (as determined by editors and authors against a clear set of criteria). The Awesome Indies team hope to raise the opinion of such books in the general readers' perception and to encourage and support self-publishing authors striving for excellence. The site ethos is one that strives for comprehensive, objective, editorial reviews and abide by a strong set of ethics, such as complete honesty in their reviews and no favours for friends.

Below is an Awesome Indies Badge for approved authors to use on their websites:





They also have similar badges for your website and the much coveted 'Seal Of Excellence' Badges.

The idea for such a site was the brainchild of Tahlia Newland at the end of 2012. Says Tahlia, 'It started out as a WordPress blog. I was so sick of reading substandard books that I also wanted recommendations from people who knew the difference.'  This is when she came up with the idea of authors submitting 4 or 5 star reviews and approving such reviews by trusted reviewers in a similar way to industry professionals. Tahlia contacted approved reviewers and asked them to check submitted books against criteria before accepting the book.  However, after a while, Tahlia found that even this system wasn't rigorous enough so she decided to have a clean slate and only approve those books that she personally knew and trusted.  Authors were asked to resubmit their books with three approved reviews or to submit their book to the AI Team for review.  Another valuable team member joined - Brain Sfinas and the new look site was launched. The Awesome Indies initiative has raised issues particularly in those whose books that don't meet their criteria, but they have discovered that though some Self Published authors do not want genuine critical appraisal, there are many out there desperate for it, and the site seems to be getting a name for giving it because there's a big demand for such reviewing services.  They began to offer more to authors than  a simple review and as a result they have expanded their author services to meet authors' needs. 'Our reviews rapidly became the most comprehensive and editorial in nature of all the review sites and authors began to really value that level of feedback,' explains Tahlia. 'Brian pointed out that we were providing a valuable service and that some authors would be happy for us to pay to give their review some kind of priority. This came at a time for me when it was either this beast had to start paying me at least somthing for the huge amount of time I put into it, or i'd have to shut up shop and get a job, so I agreed to charge for priority reviews so long as there was always a free review option as well. The One Stop Submission is very popular. A lot of authors request this service as soon as they publish a new book and before they publicise it, knowing that after we have pointed out any issues and they have fixed them, their book will be top quality. The editorial services are just getting going with our first major edit and a couple of proofreads and mss appraisals.'

Awesome Indies is about to enter another phase, beginning with a revamp of the site including a simplified menu and a new design, and new ways to attract the discerning reader.


My other reason for writing this blog is that I also wanted to put something back. I have had two of my books (so far) awarded an Awesome Indies badge of approval at no cost to myself.  I agree that you should always have a free option alongside the paid priority options, even if you have to wait a bit longer. Having said that, I would gladly support the site with donations as I think what they're doing is unique and very worthwhile. 

One of my books 'Fall Of The Flamingo Circus' with Awesome Indies with approved badge to show this book has been placed on their list of independent quality fiction.




Thank you to Tahlia Newland for the background information to the site.

For more information about Tahlia Newland and her books please visit:

http://tahlianewland.com/

More information about Awesome Indies books and the site please visit:

http://awesomeindies.net/

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The L Word



Too many people seem to be daunted or scared off by the L Word.  That is, the Literary Word.

I’ve recently read Under Milk Wood and I’m sure many would recognize this as a great piece of fiction although it may not be recognised as literary fiction but to me it has all the imgredients. As I read it the qualities that made it so striking were firstly the language: At the sea-end of town, Mr and Mrs Floyd, the cocklers, are sleeping as quiet as death, side by wrinkled side, toothless, salt, and brown, like two old kippers in a box…and there’s plenty more of where that came from; secondly the characters with their colourful monikers such as Nogood Boyo, Butcher Benyon or Organ Morgan to name but a few,  and finally the voices. For instance: Me, Mrs Dai Bread Two, gypsied to kill in a silky scarlet petticoat brown as a berry, high heel shoes with one heel missing, tortoiseshell comb in my bright black slinky hair, nothing else at all on but a dab of scent, lolling gaudy at the doorway, tell your fortune in the tea-leaves, scowling at the sunshine, lighting up my pipe.

Apparently Thomas wasn’t a great one for plot.  In Walford Davies; introduction to Under Milk Wood he explains that Thomas ‘knew better than anyone that his strengths did not lie in extended ‘plots’ of any kind. The only firm frameworks that were ever congenial to him were the intricate verse-forms of his poetry. In all other respects his genius was essentially lyrical, capitalising on the vividness of parts within loose structures.’

Neither would Thomas’s work fit into the structure of a play.  When Thomas was offered the chance of having his works broadcast on the radio, the producers got round this by calling Thomas’s work ‘radio features’ rather than ‘radio plays’. Douglas Cleverdon states that  a radio feature ‘has no rules determining what can or cannot be done and though it may be in dramatic form, it has no need of a dramatic plot’.

Now all this fits in with the concept of literary fiction where plot is secondary to what may be character-driven or voice-driven or both.  There’s a lot of misconception around literary fiction: that it is lofty, flowery, wordy - maybe because of the word ‘literary’ –  it may  be, but more likely it won’t.  It is just as likely to be gritty, edgy or experimental.  Literay fiction is non-genre fiction so there is more freedom to bend the rules expected of a genre – for example experimenting with form, structure, characters, voice, language.  This is why it’s my favourite fiction and what I also like to write. Too often people review literary fiction and don’t understand the genre.  They may say ‘nothing happens’ and have missed out on acute observations of characters and situations.  They’ve missed out on fresh and poetic language.  Fine art gets the same flak.  Of course, you get Fine Art and Literary Fiction which doesn’t work or is just trying to be different for the sake of it but you also get poor genre fiction and poor commercial art too.   They say Fine Art is art’s for art’s sake, thus Literary Fiction is sometimes words for words’ sake.  Yes, it may annoy the hell out of some people but it is often – should be – at the cutting edge of fiction, rolling back the frontiers.

Some of my other favourite literary writers who also tell a great story include: Margaret Forster, Ali Smith, John McGahern, Jon McGregor, Alison Moore, Kate Atkinson, Jane Gardam, Penelope Lively, Helen Dunmore, Paul Magrs, Jeanette Winterson and many more.