Smash Lits with Tom Vowler

1 How do you organise your book shelves?

Utterly chaotically, anything anywhere, though I have one of those memories that means I know where each one is.

2 What is your favourite cheese?

Peels of parmesan, preferably with a glass of red.

3 You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

Something dour, peeling a little.

4 What was your favourite book as a child?

James and the Giant Peach, though curiously I hated fruit.

5 What is your default pub drink?

Pint of real ale, hoppy and golden.

6 What was the last text you sent?

‘About half eight?’

7 Who would play Stephen Briggs in the film of your book?

Shaun Evans – he of the young Morse.

(Ooh, he’d be perfect for the role. Good pick!)

8 Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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Bacon. You can’t trust words that end in ‘u’.

9 Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

No, but I wish some would.

10 Have you ever written an angry letter to a magazine or “news” paper?

If only there was time.

11 Have you ever woken up laughing?

Only when I sleep naked.

12 Have you ever had your fortune told?

A man in a pub did once say, ‘You’re heading for a beating’.

13 How much money did you spend yesterday?

About £9.

14 Where do you go in your dreams?

The Cornish coast if I’m lucky.

15 What’s your most vivid childhood memory?

The family cat escaping from the car in a strange town.

16 Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Is Charlene still in it?

17 What’s your favourite bird?

Are you referring to my peregrine obsession here?

Originally I was going to ask if you could draw a peregrine…

18 Have you ever seen a ghost?

As an ardent sceptic, I hope not.

19 Who is your writer crush?

Sarah Hall. Her words do something wonderful to me.

20 What question should I have asked you?

That one.

 

Tom Vowler is a novelist and short story writer living in south west England. His debut collection, The Method, won the Scott Prize in 2010, and his novel What Lies Within received critical acclaim. He is co-editor of the literary journal Short Fiction and an associate lecturer in creative writing at Plymouth University, where he’s completing a PhD looking at the role of the editor in fiction. That Dark Remembered Day is his second novel. More at www.tomvowler.co.uk

Smash Lits with Kerry Hudson

1) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic with Will Self?
Soft white loaf, soaked with tequila, sprinkled with sugar, garnished with a slice of lemon…this sounds pretty good actually.
2) Do you have any writing rituals?
I use ‘Freedom’ the app to turn off the internet. Otherwise, because I travel so much, I’ve trained myself to write literally anywhere. Still, when times are tough you can’t beat a long walk with some good music to unstick whatever’s stuck.
3) Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger?
No but I had a tiny plastic Gonzo that I took everywhere with me and chattered to incessantly until it got taken away. I fucking loved that little toy.
4) What is your motto for life?
 Work hard and be kind. I try to remember it when I feel a bit at sea and not sure what do about things.
5) What’s your favourite sweet?
Fizzy cola bottle hands down. 
6) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?
I met Karl Kennedy at Neighbours night in Melbourne when I was twenty-one. He was right bloody charming.
7) What’s your favourite swear?
Cunt, cunting, cunty. 
8) Have you ever had your fortune told?
Not yet but I am a fan of a good old coin toss
9) What is the oldest piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
It was *sob* my thirteen year old denim jacket (originally my wee sister’s from Tammy Girl) but it went ‘missing’ at this year’s London Book Fair (thieving scallies).
Kerry Hudson - woot woot! Tony Hogan Bought me an Ice Cream Float before he Stole my Ma - Blog Tour
(Oh no,was it this one? If anyone knows what happened to Kerry’s jacket please leave a comment!)
10) Who is the silliest writer you know?
Will Self after a tequila sandwich or two (not really (but I bet it’s true)).
11) Can you make up a poem about being thirsty?
I wanted a drink
I had a wee think
The answer was clear and I headed for the sink
(there’s a reason I write novels…)
12) Your writing is music, what style is it?
Alt-folk with an occasional electronic remix. 
13) Who would play Dave and Alena in the film of your book?
Love this question! Dave would be Tom Hardy and Alena…an unknown from Siberia discovered at the local shopping centre. 
14) What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Oh there are so many, my mind is literally flooded. Almost walking out on stage in front of two-hundred South Koreans with my skirt tucked into my knickers at a British Council event is probably quite high…saved only by a  very sweet lady who ran after me and saved my dignity. Honestly though, such a frequent occurrence my threshold is *high*.
15) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?
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Bacon. There’s a reason why it’s the only thing veggies say they miss.
16) Have you ever had a nickname?
People often call me KHud these days. I quite like it. Makes me feel vaguely street.
17) Do you talk to yourself?
All the fucking time. The other day while waiting in line to see a film. Not anything important either, just casual observations…I’m keeping my eye on the crazy Richter scale. 
(Ha! Me too. The other day I was in an office on my own just blethering in and on to myself, then I saw the security camera in the corner…)
18) Do you have a favourite pen?
I never did but I love those thin-line red pans usually used for illustration for writing longhand.
19) What would you do if you were invisible for the day?
Go and see lots of free films, help myself to the Ben and Jerry’s and pic’n’mix, sneak into the Zoo, stay the night in a library. Basically what a bookish seven year old would also do.
20) What question should I have asked you?
You asked my favourite swear word – I’m a happy woman.
Huge thanks to Kerry for answering the questions. And please read the previous post where I tell you all how ace her latest novel “Thirst” is, then do yourself a favour and buy it. 

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 Robert Williams

1)What is your favourite tree?

The one on Corkland Road in Chorlton, outside our old flat. I have no idea what type it was but it was very big.

2) Do you know anyone called Tarquin?

I’ve met one Tarquin. Years ago my band came down to London to do a showcase for record companies. Hardly anyone showed up but a man called Tarquin from Universal, or somewhere like that, came in the room and sat down. We played three songs and then he left. He never said a word. He was wearing pink socks. I still find myself wondering what Tarquin might be up to these days.

3) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

Horizontal stripes. Red, yellow and blue. Classy.

4) What is your default pub drink?

Beer

5) What was the last text you sent?

‘Just seen that Mark bloke from the Essex programme at the station.’

6) What colour is Wednesday?

Purple.

7) What is your favourite swear word?

Fuck.

8) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Absolutely they can.

9) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins? Why?

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I’m very disappointed with myself that I’m not vegetarian. Bacon wins but morally tofu wins.

10) What is your funeral song?

I don’t want any songs, I don’t want anything to drown out the hysterical mourning. But if forced, to really bring people to their knees, I want three – Atmosphere, Joy Division into Bridge over Trouble Water, Simon and Garfunkel, into Do You Realize?? The Flaming Lips. That should do it.

11) Did you have an invisible friend?

I think I tried but then Phil would knock at the door and we’d go and play football instead.

12) What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Lord of the Dance by Michael Flatley. Look at the cover!  On slow afternoons we used to read passages to each other in the bookshop.

 I’m unfamiliar with that, but it looks like maybe there’s an updated version due

13) What’s your favourite sweet?

I don’t like sweets. I don’t understand why anyone with taste buds would. Have they not heard of curry?

14) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

I’ve given this question a lot of thought. Old Neighbours – Daphne. Current Neighbours – I don’t know her name in Neighbours but she used to be Sophie in Home and Away. My girlfriend is obsessed with Australian soaps – I only ever glance you understand, too busy writing.

Ah, you mean the lovely Rebekah Elmaloglou. And Daphne? Daphne?

15) How do you organise your bookshelves?

We’ve only just got shelves fitted after years of books in boxes. I just fling them on there. I used to work in a bookshop, so it feels good to break the rules. Also, you don’t want people thinking you’re fussy.

16) Can you make up a poem about trees

Yes – Look at that tree standing there. What a big, tall bastard.

Marvelous. 

17) What sandwiches would you make for a picnic in the forest with Margaret Atwood?

This feels like a trick question. I wouldn’t make any sandwiches. I feel like whatever I did I would disappoint Margaret Atwood.

18) Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t.

19) Who is your writer crush?

Wells Tower, Kent Haruf, Claire Keegan, Ali Smith, David Almond, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marilynne Robinson, Anne Tyler, Roddy Doyle.

20) What question should I have asked you?

This one. (sorry)

 

You can read my review of Robert’s terrific new novel here and were you to need any further persuasion may I draw your attention to:

‘Now and then I encounter a novel that carries me so completely inside its own world that I wake the next day expecting to find myself there. INTO THE TREES, by Robert Williams, is exactly that sort of novel—lyrical, sharply observed, with the punch of myth and plenty of drive.’
Daniel Woodrell

SMASH LITS WITH NIK PERRING

This is Nik Perring –

NikPerringWORDS2

and this is his new book –

Cover 180x180-2

 

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?

IMG_3360

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

 

 

 

Smash Lits with Dan Powell

So, the first person to face my Smash Lits questions is Dan Powell.

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His debut collection of short fiction – “Looking Out Of Broken Windows” – has just been published by Salt. I got to read it before it was published. (Yeah, I’m showing off.) Dan was entering it into the Scott Prize and I told him “It’s a winner for sure” and “I fully expect you to win this competition”. I have NEVER said that to anyone else. I mean, what a thing to say! But, that’s how certain I was. That’s how good his stories are. All of them! He’s consistently excellent. Fanfare please, Salt loved it so much they published it and I think you should probably buy it. Or you can enter a competition to win a copy by commenting here or on any of the other LOoBW blog tour posts appearing across the internet this March, or you can “like” the Looking Out of Broken Windows Facebook page. All the names will be put in a hat for the draw which takes place on April 6th. Anyway, enough blurby stuff, on with the questions.

1) How do you organise your bookshelves?

I keep all my short fiction collections together on a series of shelves, but beyond that it is all chaos. I buy too many books (just ask my wife) and now there are stacks on top of stacks. I may have to start double layering each shelf but I am currently resisting that. It feels wrong.

2) What is your favourite biscuit?

Custard Cream. A design classic. The Helvetica of biscuits. They’re everywhere.

3) You are wallpaper. What is your pattern?

All of my electronic devices have the same digital wallpaper. Clouds against a blue sky. Very calming. So that. Walls and ceiling, please.

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4) What was your favourite book as a child?

Treasure Island. It’s still in my top ten. Perfect boys’ own adventure. Funny and thrilling and at times very, very dark.

5) Your writing is music, what style is it?

Instrumental mood music. Somewhere between Lowercase Noises and Explosions in the Sky.

6) Are you in it for the money, fame and glory? Or?

I’m in it for the words. Just the words.

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

I’d swap places with Jonathan Franzen and use his computer to set him up an official verified Twitter account. I’d tweet a few for him, then sit back to watch the literary back room of the internet explode.

8) What makes the wind blow?

Those little sighs that toddler’s give when they are sleeping. That’s the starting point. It’s a butterfly flapping its wings thing.

9) Do you have a favourite pen?

Yes. My fancy-dan Fisher Space Explorer Pen. It writes upside down and in space. Just in case I’m ever upside down or in space or upside down in space. Can you be upside down in space?
(I am so jealous. I really want one of those. I asked for one for Christmas but nobody knew what I meant apparently.)

10) Do you believe human beings can spontaneously combust?

Probably not. But some probably should.

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

No, but my first ever published writing was a letter in the UK Transformers comic. I seem to remember winning twenty pounds as the writer of that week’s star letter. That’s better than you get for most short stories these days.

12) Who is your favourite Neighbours character?

Not seen this since the early nineties. My sister watched this and Home and Away avidly. I caught glimpses up until I left for Uni. I’ll say Mike as he grew up to be Guy Pearce which was kind of unexpected.

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

Bee. No one likes a wasp.

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

Looking Out of Broken Glasses or No More Books.

15) What did you do last Saturday night?

Read some Karl Ove Knausgaard and watched Wes Anderson’s first movie, Bottle Rocket, with my wife. Not at the same time.

16) Do you have a writer crush?

I have a bit of a thing for Amy Hempel. She’s broken my heart many times and keeps doing so. I keep coming back for more.

17) Bacon VS Tofu – who wins and why?

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Bacon. Streaks ahead of Tofu.
(Streaks. Haha.)

18) Have you ever seen a ghost?

No. I am planning on being one though.

19) Are you Looking Out of Broken Windows? What can you see from your window?

I’m on a train as write this so I’m looking out of a wide, dirty window. I can see the suburbs of Nottingham. Uniform houses all in rows. Boxes with triangles on top. Punctuated every now and again by an industrial estate.

20) Can you make up a poem about broken windows?

The window broke
All by itself
It popped and snapped
It had no help
I tried to put it back in place
Tried but could only fail.

Is that a poem?

Oh yes, I think so. Very profound.

Thanks for answering my questions, and I wish you many sales and much success. I’d also like to say thank you for all the work you put into supporting other writers.

 

 

 

Smash Lits

I enjoy reading writer blogs and interviews, and I like to review and interview other writers here. There are, however, a LOT of blog tours and review sites. The challenge is to keep things fresh. I was wondering how I could mix things up a bit and remembered that my very favourite interviews were always the Smash Hits biscuit tin ones. It was fun, it told the reader something daft and unexpected, it didn’t take itself seriously. So, I am introducing Smash Lits – my own version with an occasional literary twist.

I have a batch of questions good to go, and a line up of cool writers who have agreed to take part.

If you can think of any questions you might like to see added to the mix please do comment. If you are a writer who fancies giving it a whirl let me know.

My first interview is with Dan Powell and will be up here next Thursday 27th.

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