Smash Lits with Joy Lanzendorfer

I selected Joy Lanzendorfer’s excellent Flash piece “Sleep Disturbance” for publication at FLM & Joy was good enough to take part in this interview. 

1) What is your default pub/bar drink?

A dry gin martini with a twist.

2) Do you have a poster/picture on your wall? Describe it.

Yes, I have this Onward poster by the fabulous illustrator Carson Ellis. I also have this ad for Valentine typewriters.

2) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

Bacon.
Why? Have you tasted bacon?

3) What colour is Tuesday?

Canary yellow.

5) How do you stop procrastinating and get on with writing?

Turn off the Internet. It’s the only way.

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

Yes, I had many invisible friends. I still do.

7) Who is your writer crush?

Currently it’s Anita Loos, who’s unfortunately dead, but still awesome.

8) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Curtis Sittenfeld?

Caprese with garden-grown tomatoes, thick slices of fresh mozzarella, pesto made with good olive oil, and crusty French bread.

9) What’s your favourite swear?

I like a good Fuck.

10) What was the last gift you gave to someone?

I gave my mom a Greek cookbook and a pair of moose earrings I bought in the Rocky Mountains.

11) Do you have a favourite pen?

Sort of. I like writing with black felt tip pens because they make bold marks but don’t bleed through the page. TheSchool Smart brand is great, and the pens are cheap, but I have to order them online because it’s surprisingly hard to find felt tip pens in the stores.

12) What word or words make you cringe?

Preggers. Delish. Vacay. The technological destruction of words like twitter, tweet, swipe, and googol. I’m also sick of words like privilege and triggering, which are good concepts but overused.

13) What was the last text you sent?

To my best friend: “Oregonians hike like they drive: lots of tailgating and reluctance to pass.”
I’m sorry, Oregon.

14) Crows. Discuss.

As you may be able to tell by Sleep Disturbance, I’m obsessed with crows. We have hundreds of them in our neighborhood, and all winter long, they mob in the sky and land in my neighbor’s tree. I like to sit on the porch swing and watch them.

15) What is your favourite smell?

Maybe jasmine.

16) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

I don’t think I can quantify them that way.

17) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?

I guess find a scientist so they can research what the hell is going on with me.

18) Do you have any top tips for dealing with writing rejections?

Submit lots of work. Try not to get overly attached to any one project. The more spread out your work is, the easier it is to take rejection because you haven’t put all your hopes on one thing.

19) Who would play your character/s in the film of your story?

That would be a very strange film. I’m going to say Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep so it wins an Oscar.

That would be such a cool, arty short film. 

20) Write a question for the next Smash List interview I do.

When did you last sing to yourself? What were you singing?

Smash Lits with Kelly Griffiths

We published a powerful piece of creative non-fiction at the Forge last week – The Boots by Kelly Griffiths – which I urge you all to read. Kelly kindly agreed to take part in one of my daft interviews.

1. What was the last text you sent?

“Thank you, Gabe. You saved the day.” (My 13-year-old turned off the water to our leaking refrigerator while we were on a weekend away.)

2. You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

If Jackson Pollock made wallpaper…

3. Who would play you in the film of your piece?

That’s easy. My piece is cnf. I’m the angry one.

4. Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon, even though I’m not generally a fan of pig. Come up with a salty, crunchy, grease saturated tofu, and I’ll change my answer.

5. Have you ever been attacked by an animal?

A poodle. I still have the scar. But in fairness, I provoked it.

6. What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?

Everything. I’m a thrift store hunter, so it’s impossible to tell.

7. Have you ever seen a ghost?

No, but I think one steals our socks.

8. If you could make people read one book what would it be?

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

9. What is your favourite thing to write with?

My laptop.

10. Do you have a recurring dream?

Only the one in which I am on the New York Times Best Seller list.

11. What did you do last Saturday night?

My husband and I walked our dog, then watched a movie with our day-saving son (see #1).

12. What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Zadie Smith?

Garlic-goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and balsamic dressing on Italian bread.

13. What word makes you cringe?

The f-word.

14. What’s your favourite swear?

The f-word.

15. What is your favourite biscuit?

Do you mean cookie? Because my favorite cookie is chocolate.

16. What is your favourite TV programme?

I don’t watch TV, but I love movies. The Impossible (2012)

17. Your writing is music, what style is it?

On my best day: symphonic metal.

18. What colour is loneliness?

White.

19. Who is your writer crush?

Stephen King.

20. What question should I have asked you?

You should have asked what I’m doing this Friday. It’s far more interesting. And macabre. Between my acceptance at The Forge and my receipt of this fabulous and quirky list of questions (which I loved!), I received word I have a growing brain tumor. By the time this is published I will have had my skull cut open. I pray for a good outcome and look forward to reading this on the other side.

I am so glad to be able to write here that Kelly is recovering well.

Smash Lits with Jane Flett

I published a superb short story – Shadow Puppetry over at The Forge Literary Magazine.  Please do read it; it’s one of our nominations for the Pushcart Prize and is something special. Thank you Jane Flett for taking part in one of my Smash Lits interviews.

 

 

1) How do you organise your bookshelves?

Alphabetically and also divided into novels/short stories/poetry. Also I have a special section for books of witchcraft and cults, and one for Stephen King and other books to read in the bath.

2) What is your favourite cheese?

A really sharp cheddar.

3) Bacon VS Tofu—who wins? Why?  

Tofu—specifically Mapo Tofu with a holy fuck-ton of Sichuan chilli bean paste. Bacon is pretty tasty but tofu is a sponge you can turn into whatever you like, and that is a quality I find appealing in food. Possibly also in humans.

4) What colour is Wednesday?

Black and white like piano keys.

5) You have to swap places with one other writer for a week. Who and why?

Alissa Nutting, to see how it feels in the glorious and filthy innards of her brain.

6) Have you ever had your fortune told?

Of course! I’m a witch, I do tarot all the time. Also I have a soft spot for those old arcade machines you place your palm on and they give you a printed out page of your destiny.

7) What lighting do you have in your living room?

Lamps and candles, and sometimes a red rope light.

8) What’s your most vivid childhood memory?     

Splitting my chin open at playschool because I dared a boy he couldn’t stand on a wobbly block for 5 seconds. He couldn’t. Me, I could do it for 4 seconds and a half…

9) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I don’t know anything about Neighbours, except that when I was younger I had a cassette tape of Kylie & Jason and now I have Especially for You stuck in my head. So them.

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

No. I did have a hand puppet of a hedgehog called Hedgey though, and also my brother and I made friends with a napkin ring that had an alter-ego of a fat lady opera singer called AwMiLaw. She would fly around the kitchen and sing opera songs in a beautiful and not-at-all annoying voice.

11) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Zadie Smith?

I like the number of food-related questions in this interview. I would take a fondue kit in my wicker basket and she would find that charming.

12) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

The wallpaper that’s in my kitchen and author photograph: big 70s red and orange poppies on a white background.

13) What was the last text you sent?

“Ahh we are so hungry!”

14) Do you think Antiques Roadshow is boring?

I don’t know it, can we talk about Gladiators instead? I have a lot more feelings about Gladiators. We had gerbils called Jet and Lightning as kids and I spent a lot of time pretending to do the Eliminator in the school playground.

15) How much money did you spend yesterday?

I am in Madrid, so a lot more than usual! About €50 on Colombian baked goods, calamari sandwiches, and many many beers in the gay bar.

16) What is your most played song at the moment?

9–5 by Dolly Parton (this is almost always true).

17) What question should I have asked you?`

“Can I get you a drink while you answer these questions?”

18) What’s your favourite swear?

Cunt. I like that it upsets people who think vaginas are horrifying.

(I agree wholeheartedly. What’s up with that? Cunts.)

19) Do you like spiders?

Sure. I haven’t met all of them though.

20) Mermaids, dinosaurs or unicorns?
One glorious hybrid to rule them all.

(A merocorn?)

Smash Lits with Tigele Nlebesi

We published a really good piece of non-fiction at The Forge Literary Magazine this week: Black Girls in Upscale Boutiques by Tigele Nlebesi. I think you’ll agree that last line is a killer.

Thanks Tigele for agreeing to do a Smash Lits interview with me.

1)  You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

A friend of mine got Somali henna done all over her torso, and the first thing I thought when I saw it was “I’d love to have that all over my walls.”

2) What was your favourite book as a child?

Unfair! There are too many to list. Roald Dahl’s The BFG is the first book that made me want to keep reading. Jacqueline Wilson was my favourite author as a child so everything she wrote was an instant hit, but Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is the first book that made me imagine myself as a writer one day. It was harrowing and enchanting.

3) What was the last text you sent?

Sent my boyfriend a link to a hilarious webcomic called “The Worst Best Firefighter” on www.buttersafe.com

4) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon. It tastes better, and I can’t wrap my jalapeno poppers in tofu, duh.

5) Have you ever had a nickname?

I’ve probably racked up more nicknames than I have years on this planet. People have a hard time pronouncing my name so they give me new ones all the time.

6) What do you write with?

My right hand and an unhealthy amount of trepidation; unless you mean what I actually write with, in which case it’s a pentel energel pen (in purple or green) and a notebook. I’ve recently discovered writing is easier for me when I do it by hand.

7) What is your motto for life?

“You are more than what you’ve done.”

8) Who is your favourite superhero?

Garnet from Steven Universe. What a babe.

9) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

I watched a show on a European Channel called Zone Reality years ago that said they could and since then I’ve believed they can. I don’t care to check whether it’s true or not.

10) What’s your favourite thing from childhood that you’ve still got?

A Lion King book my aunt got for me from Disneyland in which a character was created in my name. It’s pretty neat.

11) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

The Australian soap opera or the American film? I don’t watch the former, but if you’re referring to the latter I can finally tell the world that I have a huge crush on Seth Rogen. So Seth Rogen’s character is my favourite.

12) Your piece is nonfiction—will Alexa read it do you think? Are you still in touch?

A year after I moved, I went back to Cape Town (and the boutique). She still worked there, and we exchanged emails, but she hasn’t responded to any I’ve sent, so that’s a no and another no.

13) What’s your favourite swear?

I’m obsessed with common British swear words. Right now it’s bellend.

14) What colour is contentment?

Rose gold, like the saucepans and cutlery set I really want but cannot afford.

15) Have you ever seen a ghost?

After he died I saw my grandfather’s head surrounded by a funeral wreath hovering above the curtains in my room. I may have just been jarred from seeing his body at the funeral.

16) What did you do last Saturday night?

Went out for a couple of drinks with my friends.

17) You hold a dinner party and can only invite writers. Who do you invite?

Leslie Jamison, Zadie Smith, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah and Toni Morrison. Girls Only, but I’d make an exception for David Foster Wallace were he still alive.

18) Do you have any recurring dreams?

I’m always falling off a cliff or getting bitten by one or multiple snakes.

19) What question should I have asked you?

Whether I find Ryan Gosling irresistible because I don’t, and I feel like I deserve special recognition for it.

20) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?

That isn’t enough time to make my way to wherever Seth Rogen is, so I’d probably waste it spooking the hell out of people.

Smash Lits with Megan Rowe

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

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 –

NikPerringWORDS2

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.

Kerry Hudson – woot woot! Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma – Blog Tour

I am so chuffed to be part of Kerry Hudson’s blog tour. Her debut novel “Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma” was published this week and it’s an absolute cracker. Her characters fizz off the page and sear themselves in your mind. Her use of language is a real pleasure as she describes people, places, feelings and situations in vivid, fresh ways.

So, this is Kerry:

Bio
Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Growing up in a succession of council estates, B&Bs and caravan parks provided her with a keen eye for idiosyncratic behaviour, material for life, and a love of travel. Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma is her first novel. Kerry now lives, writes and works in London. 
Blurb
When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family approached her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.
Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of filthy council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can’t help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original — and cry-out-loud funny — voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life’s great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.

Just from the arresting cover image and the title this feels like a book you want to read.


I read an article about with Kerry at The Herald in which the interviewer reflects “What strikes one immediately is how unusual it is to find such characters in fiction – in the driving seat, that is, and written by someone who has lived that life, rather than parodying or mocking a class they don’t understand.” And I nodded whole-heatedly. The lit world does seem chock full of writers who are mainly white, middle class, and well educated. Kerry’s response was “I suspect the reason there aren’t any books (that reflect where she comes from) is that not enough people escape sufficiently with enough intact to then be able to write a book about it and get it published . Obviously I work for a children’s charity and I see it all the time: young people will just be crushed and futures absolutely destroyed by a bad upbringing or a neglected upbringing.” 
I have known Kerry in the internet writing world for several years now. We are twitter, blogger and Facebook pals. One of the things that has impressed me the most about her (apart from her ace writing skills, obviously) is how she just got on and did it. I asked her to tell me how! What worked for her in terms of motivation and discipline. And I asked how she manages to use social media without being sucked into its time wasting grasp. This is what she said:
Like most authors I work full-time as well as writing novels. I often liken the situation to bigamy, trying to split your affections painfully in half while reassuring both parties you’re not short-changing either of them, that it’s The Real Thing, just twice. 
It took me seven months to write Tony Hogan… from writing the first line on a sweaty Vietnamese train to sending it off to my now agent while living on a boat on the Thames. That’s obviously considered fairly quick but I had the absolute luxury of having each and every day to do nothing but recreate those swear words, council estates and egg, chips and beans dinners of my childhood. 
My second novel, Thirst, was written while holding down a full-time events job. I was back in London with all the friend and family commitments that go with that and also dealing with rounds of edits and pre-publication work for Tony Hogan… I did however get two months of full-time writing in thanks to a grant the Arts Council England through the National Lottery Fund. I finished Thirst in a year and half. 
Big difference eh? 
So, I’ve worked it both ways. I’ve squeezed writing sessions into ten minute slivers where before I’ve even written a word I’m mourning the writing time being over, and I’ve also had whole wonderful days stretching ahead to get down a measly 1000 words. Here’s what I’ve learned: 
If I want to write I can’t mythologise my writing: As soon as I start thinking about it as something as ‘proper’ as a novel  I freeze up. Instead tell myself it’s just a story. I tell them all the time in other circumstances; over a pint, when I’m late for work, talking about a really amazing gelato place I’ve found (it’s Gulupo in Soho, you should all go). They are just words, strung together to make descriptions, to explain something the way I intended to. Respect your writing but remember, at core, it is just a story same as any other. So especially for that first draft, just sit down and write it.
Which brings me to number two. When I’m writing my first draft I let my strange, often incomprehensible, mind do what it wants with no pressure to Fix Things. It goes without saying it’s impossible to make a table without wood or a sculpture without clay. That first draft for me is all about creating that ugly, shitty, unruly lump of raw material to make something with.
Set a target: The most productive writers I know set a daily target and stick to it. Make it 200, 500 or (my preferred figure) 1000 words but make it realistic and DO IT. Of course, some days you’d submit yourself to a Vajazzle than sit down and write that story. For me that applies to all but the rarest days, but once you get the first few sentences out you’ll be grand and when you’re finished you can look the world in the eye and say, ‘yes, I’m a writer.’ 
Social-media mumblings: I love me some Twitter but I know it could be easy to while away hours finding out what people ate on their toast that morning. Instead, I use the #amwriting hashtag and tell everyone what I’m planning to do that day and then report back on how much I actually did. I blogged my wordcount everyday when writing Tony Hogan… using that potential public shaming as a motivator works for me. I really don’t want to go back on Twitter two hours later and say I’ve watched two epic episodes of crime-writer-turned-crime-buster series Castle and written only three words.
Brace yourself…I don’t have a TV: I had one for years and years, growing up in our house it was on pretty much 24 hours, I love TV. And that is why I can’t have one. I watch box-sets or catch-up TV but no more than a few hours a week. I know, I know, it seems like eating a cornflake as your weekly calorie intake but honestly, I don’t miss it that much and I write a lot more.
Laugh: That is all. Just laugh. Writing is hard sometimes, there will be moments of disappointment, days when the words won’t come, when you want ceremonially burn your latest manuscript. So remember to laugh and, as much as possible, keep it in perspective. They’re just stories after all…

What a fab response. Thank you. I also had a few Smash Hits style daft questions to finish up with:

Janie relishes her food so here is a wee food based bit:

What are your favourite crisps? 

Salt and Vinegar or Pickled Onion Space Raiders  

Favourite soft drink? 

…Coke-float!

Favourite cheese?

 Is it greedy to say all of them?

You write so convincingly of being a teenage girl My favourite line in the whole book is “Even though I was free dinners and didn’t have the right coloured uniform I still got to be boss because I didn’t have glasses or a plaster over one eye…” It sums up so accurately the hierarchy of school cool. Where did you fit in?

It depended on the school. Sometimes bearably in the middle so you flew under the radar if you stayed in shady corners, but mostly right at the bottom with the geeks and freaks. Funnily enough though it’s the ‘bottom of the pack’ kids who mostly went on to do cool stuff – revenge of the geeks indeed!

Who was the poster on your bedroom wall?

 Keanu Reeves

Who is the most famous person you’ve met? 

I once used the toilet after Angelina Jolie at a theatre in London. She queued like everyone else, was tiny and perfect and I swear to God the cubicle smelled of roses afterwards…I’m aware this is making me sound like a scary stalker. 

What’s your favourite colour? 

Red

What’s your favourite smell? 

The smell of toast

Favourite Cuss?

LOVE this question! I’m quite fond of Motherfucker at the the moment delivered with the emphasis on the Mo-. 
Thank you. I wish you MUCH success with your book. 

P.s Will there ever be a follow up?

I’d love to write a follow up and see what Janie gets up to next. I definitely wouldn’t be ruling it out! 

Hurrah! I want to know what happens next, definitely.

Kerry’s blog tour continues tomorrow at The Little Reader Library Blog 

Oh, and she is running an AMAZING competition that I totally want to win. (PICK ME PICK ME!)

The prize draw is open to anyone who hosts or comments on a Tony Hogan post. There is no purchase necessary. There is no limit to how many times a name can be entered i.e. if you comment on three blogs you have three entries but it’s only possible to win one prize per person. The winning names will be drawn at random on Wednesday 1st August and announced on my Tumblr blog and on Twitter.
1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes consist of: 
1st prize – A three chapter or synopsis critique plus afternoon tea at Beas of Bloomsbury, London (at a mutually beneficial date and time) with Juliet Pickering from the AP Watt Literary Agency to discuss your critique. Plus a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before he Stole My Ma.
2nd prize – A  literary hamper containing a personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma as well as three of my most recommended writing theory books and Hotel d Chocolate chocolates to enjoy while reading them.
3rd prize – A personalised copy of Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma.

You can keep up with all things Kerry at 

   
  


www.kerryhudson.co.uk

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