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Smash Lits with Megan Rowe

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I recently published a wonderful flash by Megan Rowe at The Forge Literary Magazine; Communion. Do give it a read.

Megan kindly agreed to take part in one of my Smash Lits interviews.

1) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern? 

Definitely a Damask pattern. When my son was first born, I lived with my mother in a suburb of Chicago, but when I finally moved out and got an apartment, I painted the walls a dark turquoise and stenciled on a mustard-colored damask pattern. It took forever, and a quarter of the way through I really wanted to give up, but I was too stubborn. It was really ugly, but it was the living room of my son’s first real home.

2) What was the last text you sent?

“I mean, that’s weird.”

3) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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I really like tofu, but bacon wins here. It’s just delicious, that’s why. Plus, my dear friend Eddie would kill me if I chose tofu.

4) What colour is Tuesday?

Stoplight yellow. Not nearly through with the week, but it feels like it’s possible to run through it if I get enough energy.

5) What makes the wind blow?

Your skirt.

6) Do you have a favourite pen?

I do not, it’s just whatever pen I can find at the bottom of my backpack. Often, I can’t find a pen at the bottom and have to ask friends for one—I don’t know where all those pens go, probably where the sisters to all my socks live.

7) Do flowers scream when you pick them?

Does a cat lick its butt?

8) Have you ever written an angry letter/email to a magazine or newspaper?

No, however, a lifetime ago I was a journalist and an organization took out a full-page ad in the newspaper I worked for that was a rant against an article I wrote. I took it as a compliment: Someone read my article??

9) Have you ever woken up laughing?

Yes, frequently. Most recently I had a dream that I was betrothed to a poetry professor at my school (he’s very much married), but I wanted to get out of it, so I told him we probably shouldn’t get married. He cried because he’s an extremely sensitive man, but I could tell he was relieved.

10) Are Cheerios your favourite cereal? If not, what is?

My favorite and least favorite cereal is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s always in the house because it’s my oldest son’s favorite, and I’ve eaten it so much I’m really sick of it, but when I’m binge watching something late at night I almost always turn to it. Oh yes, I give my children bowls of sugar, crucify me.

11) What is your motto for life?

Goddamnit, just apologize.

12) If your life story was made into a book, what would be the title?

Well, that didn’t work.

13) Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger?

No, but I talked to myself a lot (read: I answered) while staring into mirrors.

14) Have you chosen your funeral song?

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison. When my father taught me to drive, all we ever played was Elton John and Van Morrison.

15) Who is your writer crush?

Dorothy Parker—she has so many good lines. A good one: someone asked her to use “horticulture” in a sentence and she said “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” Plus, she donated her entire estate to MLK Jr.

16) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Lorrie Moore?

We’d grill hotdogs together, does that count as a sandwich?

17) What’s your favourite swear?

Cunt. I like how it sounds on the tongue.

18) Can you knit?

I can, but I have absolutely zero follow through. I’ve only completed one scarf, but I’ve started a dozen at least.

19) What is the most beautiful word?

Naptime

20) What question should I have asked you?

Well, my fiction professor said that the best stories are based in shame, so I suppose you should have asked me what I’m most ashamed of. Good thing you didn’t.

Lane Ashfeldt, SaltWater, Smash Lits

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At the heart of a good story collection is damn fine story-telling, something that SaltWater is chock full of. Lane Ashfeldt writes with a keen sense of place, setting her prize winning tales in Dublin, West Cork, London, Greece, New Zealand and Haiti. She is launching her collection at Waterstones Brighton at 7:30pm on Monday 12th May and you are welcome to come along and hear her discussing short stories and competitions with Vanessa Gebbie and Bridget Whelan. If you’d like a FREE ticket please just call the store or tweet @BrightonWstones:

Lane

 

Lane agreed to take part in one of my Smash Lits interviews, so, without further ado

1) What colour is Tuesday? 

Green

2) Have you ever had a nickname?

Laney (primary school on). The Extra Terrestrial (university). The Mother-thing (more recently). Oh, and people I don’t know often call me Lana in emails, but I really don’t wear enough lipstick to ever be a Lana, I think.

3) Bacon V Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon, just because.

4) What’s the most twunty writer thing you’ve done?

I don’t know. I looked up twunty writer thing and somehow got this page so am leaving the link instead.

5) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

None, don’t watch.

(I don’t understand how people can NOT have a favourite Neighbours character. You should watch, Lane.)

6) Do you bite your nails? 

Nope. Except on holidays post 9/11, due to carry-on luggage restrictions.

7) What is your motto for life? 

Don’t have one – would never stick to it anyway.

8) You hold a dinner party and can only invite writers (living or dead). Who do you ask? 

The hardest question by far. I might ask a writer from a couple of centuries ago, at least, and make them microwaved M&S dinners. Maybe the Shelleys? Or if I could travel in time, I might go back a few centuries to a place in rural Ireland where my family were then living, and listen to the storytelling around the Bealtaine (May Day) bonfire — though a revision course in Irish might be needed.

9) Do you have any recurring dreams?

When I was living in a one bedroom flat shared with two people, I dreamt extra secret rooms, hidden under the flat. Around that time I also dreamt a secret beach in London. I was so upset when I woke up and realised it was just a dream.

10) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Rarely. My books spend more time in stacks and boxes than on shelves. I also lose books. Great when you find a good book again, but that doesn’t always happen. But I have a project on the go to fill an old wardrobe with books. Maybe two, if it works. I haven’t decided whether to leave the doors on, or not. What do you think?

Ah, that’s a pretty neat idea. You could get a lot of books in a wardrobe.

11) What school playground games do you remember playing?

A space travel game, in round see-through spaceships. We all thought inter galactic travel (probably time travel too) would be a thing by the time we grew up, and we haven’t even got mass-produced hoverboards yet…

12) Sparkling or still water?

Tap.

13) Do you have a picture on your wall? Describe it.

Oil painting of bedside clutter, including a book about Katherine Mansfield with a paua shell obscuring her face. “Coming home” by Sarah J Moon.

14) What would your superhero power be?

Touchtyping 1000 words a minute. (I wish!)

15) Hardbacks, paperbacks or ebooks?

All three.

16) Can you make up a poem about salt water? 

Only if serious money changes hands.

17) Have you ever had your fortune told? 

Once, but afterwards was told the fortune-teller, who worked out of a shop with a bead curtain doorway on Holloway Road, was really a prostitute. She was reluctant to tell my fortune and not very convincing, so this may well be true.

18) Do you talk to yourself?

Yes, rarely. Mostly to remind myself of essentials if packing in a rush. A poor substitute for the lists I should really write, often leading to the purchase of a new toothbrush or power lead.
19) Word association – I say Cloud, you say…? Water? Salt? Boat? Phone?

Skype.

20) What is your favourite sound?

The sound of deadlines whooshing by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMASH LITS WITH NIK PERRING

This is Nik Perring –

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and this is his new book –

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Published by Roastbooks it’s gorgeous and different. It looks like a children’s picture alphabet book, except A is not for Apple, it’s for Appalachian, and F is not for Frog, but Fuck. Each word has been collected by Nik because he finds it beautiful in some way. Through his descriptions of the words we glimpse a relationship between Alexander and Lucy. It’s really a lovely book to give someone (or to treat yourself to).

Rightio, it’s time for the questions:

1) Have you ever seen a ghost?

Actually, I think I have. He was in my bedroom one night, looking through my drawers. He was slim and middle-aged – greying hair and in a baggy red sweater. I looked at him, he looked at me, and then he stood, walked through the bottom of my bed and out through the wall. He ignored me when I said, ‘Hello,’ and that’s just rude.

2) Do you know anyone named Tarquin?

Sadly not. It is a fine name.

3) Do you believe in life after love? 

I think I have to.

4) What are the 3 ugliest words?

Prejudice, because of what it means. Religion, because of what it does. And ugly, because of how it makes people feel.

5) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I don’t think I’ve seen an episode since I was in my early teens. I always liked Beth though.

6) Where do you go in your dreams?

Everywhere. Nowhere’s off limits.

7)  What is your favourite word?

Normally I’d have said something like ‘love’ or ‘trust’ but I’m going to go with one that’s in the book, and that is ‘ineludible’. Lovely, isn’t it?

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8) How much money did you spend yesterday?

Yesterday, I bought:

Ginger root – £1.

1 x packet of blue Pall Mall – £6.25.

1 x bottle of Lucozade (for my mum, she wasn’t feeling well) £1.99

And about £15’s worth of beer in the pub. (It was Beautiful Words’ publication day so I celebrated a little.)

TOTAL £24.24

9) Do flowers scream when you pick them?

Of course they do. Roald Dahl says so.

10) Can you make up a poem about tonic?

She was drinking gin and tonic

while reading a rather long comic

when the comic was done

she fell on her bum

and now her problem is chronic

(That’s brilliant!)

11) Do you have a favourite pen?

I have two Pelikan M200s which I’ve used for years. All my first drafts are written longhand so a good pen, so my wrist doesn’t get knackered, is important. It also, particularly pretentiously, makes me feel like I’m getting that little bit closer to the words. Practically, it’s good because whatever I’ve written gets a half-edit while I’m typing it up.

12) Are you more likely to make a souffle, do the ironing, or clean the toilet?

I do like to cook, but I’ve never done a souffle. Cleaning the bathroom is a necessary evil. So, ironing it is then.

13) Who is your writer crush?

Anne Sexton. Though there are a few whose stories still make me swoon: Aimee Bender, Michael Kimball, Etkar Keret, Marie-Helene Bertino, Lorrie Moore, Angela Readman. And Sara Crowley, of course.

(Smooth!)

14) Have you ever had a nickname? (Nik name haha) What?

Ha! Not really. I was Pez for a little while in school. And Cola-Bottle (as in the sweets) because I was thin and dark. Nik works much, much better, don’t you think?

15) Bacon VS Tofu. Who wins?

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I’m a reluctant non-veggie (is that a bit like conscious uncoupling??) so tofu.

16) Would you rather be a bee or a wasp?

A bee, without question. Wasps are evil.

17) You are wallpaper, what is your pattern?

Whatever The Yellow Wallpaper was. (If you’ve not read it, you should. It’s wonderful.)

(I have read it. That’s a really interesting answer.)

18) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Ha ha ha ha ha!

19) Up or down?

Down, looking up.

20) What is your favourite cheese?

Actually, I can’t eat cheese because it gives me migraines (actually one of the reasons I’m not a fully committed veggie). Alexander likes cheese in Beautiful Words and, because it’s a pretty word, his favourite is Roulade. (That is a cheese, isn’t it?)

 

Thanks, Nik. I wish you lots of success with Beautiful Words. If anyone wants to know more about Nik here is his blurby stuff:

Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring

 

 

 

Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin is published on the 27th of this month (by Headline) and it’s a stonkingly good read. I don’t usually read crime fiction, but I do enjoy watching TV detective shows, as does Sarah. (I know this because we have tweeted each other about our love of “Cho time” in The Mentalist, and our admiration for Luther.) Reading S.E.S I was immediately struck by how much like a television drama the novel seemed. I could “see” the story unfold. It has to be made into a TV show, surely?

Marnie Rome and her partner, DS Noah Jake, visit a women’s refuge in the hope of getting one of the women to testify against her brothers. Whilst there, a man is stabbed by his wife in front of several of the residents. As the officers investigate the stabbing, three of the women go missing.

At the same time, Marnie Rome’s backstory is woven in – her parent’s were murdered five years ago, and Rome regularly visits their murderer.

What follows is an intriguing tale where Hilary continually confounds expectations. Rome is allowed weakness, she makes mistakes, gets angry, and has complex emotions. Her relationships with Noah, and victim support worker, Ed Belloc, are well drawn. It’s a novel where nothing is quite as it seems. Hilary is unafraid of exploring darkness and some big issues, but never at the expense of story. It’s all very page-turny, even if I did find some of the violence unpalatable. It’s a well written, pacey, engaging novel, and I really want to know more about Marnie et al and am looking forward to book two. In the meantime, I had a few questions for Sarah which she agreed to answer for me:

Q. You’re an excellent short story writer, how difficult was it to expand into writing novels? Any words of advice for writers hoping to transition from short story writing to novel writing?

A. Thank you, that’s very kind. I enjoy writing short stories but boy, do I find them hard to get right. I think I’m better suited to writing novels; my stories seem to bend towards the shape of a novel more easily. So, in terms of advice, I’d say go with the shape of the story and see where it takes you.

Q. Where did you write? Any routine/ritual etc?

A. I’m very guilty about the fact that I bought a lovely writing desk when I moved house, and haven’t sat there once. I write in cafes. I like the white noise, and the coffee. I make sure I write for at least two hours before I allow myself a break. It’s the only way I can be sure to get it done.

Q. When you started writing did you know you were creating a series?

A. Always. It’s such a gift to be able to spend time with the same characters.

Q. How far ahead have you plotted in terms of story arc?

A. I try to have ideas for the next book along, whenever I’m writing something new. Not plotting, as such, but nuggets.

Q. Have you written book 2 yet?

A. First draft, yes. I’m about to embark on the second draft so wish me luck.

Q. Would you like to see it made into a TV series? And if so, any idea on who would make a good Marnie Rome?

A. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? A friend suggested Karen Gillan for Marnie, but I’m not sure. I do know that I’d love Ashley Walters to play Noah Jake.

Q. What is your fave tv detective series?

A. Currently? The Bridge. I love Saga and Martin so much it hurts.

Q. Who is your fave tv detective?

A. Saga Norén.

Q. What about crime novels – any favourites?

A. Everything ever written by Fred Vargas. Also, The Collector by John Fowles, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

Q. You write about domestic violence & female genital mutilation – was it always your intention to try to highlight these issues?

A. No. I started out to write a book about secrets, and deceit. The characters I created each had different secrets, and some of those secrets were very dark. But I do want to talk about issues which have been side-lined by society, especially the ones that make us uncomfortable. There’s too much silence born of discomfort, I think. I’d like to make a bit of noise around those issues, because they matter so much.

Q. Did you do much research?

A. Enough to be sure of my facts, but not so much that it strays into non-fiction or gets in the way of the storytelling.

Q. The book is pretty harrowing with some deeply unpleasant violence. How easy was it to switch off and go and cook tea etc?

A. I don’t cook, which helps..! Writing Someone Else’s Skin did stir up a lot of unsettling emotions in me, but I think that’s part of being a writer, isn’t it? Keeping faith with the dark and the light… The chip of ice in our souls, as Graham Greene called it. I’m not very good at switching off; the next story is always percolating in my head. Probably very unhealthy although my editor would approve.

Thank you Sarah. I wish you and Marnie much success.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on Someone Else’s Skin you can preorder here. I’m sure all fans of crime fiction will be delighted to discover such an intriguing new detective.