Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and seventy-fifth, is of novelist, Morris dancer and singer Colin M Andrews.
Colin Andrews was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1944 but moved to Sussex in early childhood. . He was educated at Worthing High School and Cardiff University. Once qualified, he taught Chemistry for twenty-eight years until taking early retirement in 1995. He has lived near Crediton, Devon, since 1973 and is married with one son. Colin has been a folk singer, folk dance caller, Morris dancer and musician for over forty years. He is the current editor of the national Morris Federation Newsletter.
During his career, Colin has been actively involved in researching and publishing books on folk dance and song, as well as an Environmental Studies pack for teachers, for which he was granted a year’s secondment to the University of York. Colin has also recorded several albums of music and song.
In his debut novel, A Matter of Degree, Colin has drawn on his long experience in teaching and folk music to create an engaging, amusing, and nostalgic story of student life in the early seventies, before the introduction of mobile phones and the internet. He insists, however, that the novel is no more than five per cent autobiographical.
And now from the author himself:
Though trained as a scientist I’ve always had an artistic side. I can’t draw – if I could, it would be cartoons – but I have a fascination with words and music, and I enjoy combining traditional material with new ideas. Since I began calling for folk dancing, I’ve spent hours making up dances with some unique feature or unconventional formation. I’ve now published three volumes of my own dances. In a similar way, on becoming involved in starting and teaching a new Morris dancing group some twenty years ago, I’ve written and introduced many original dances into the group’s repertoire.
Before I moved to Devon I’d been a member of a singing group and I had come across a handwritten songbook compiled by a Sussex shepherd named Michael Blann. With the support of Worthing Museum, where the notebook was kept, I spent two or three years researching this shepherd’s life and his songs, for none of which had tunes been noted. The first edition of Shepherd of the Downs was published by Worthing Museum in 1979, with a second edition a few years later, and a third edition (self published, with accompanying CD) in 2006.
I’d first toyed with the idea of writing fiction back in the 1980s and even sketched out several skeleton plots, nearly all with an element of comedy. I subscribed to a David & Charles correspondence course in writing, but with pressure of work and other interests I barely got beyond completing a few short coursework stories. However, an amusing real-life incident around this time got me thinking about a few other bizarre incidents I’d witnessed and I felt there was a basis for a novel. I wrote several draft chapters and notes for others. Though I dusted them off from time to time it was only when I was approaching pensionable age that I realised I needed to spend some serious time in writing if the novel were ever to get completed or forget the idea altogether. Some of my original scribblings were usable but disjointed, with large gaps in the narrative. It took two years of further work to complete the story and check out any real locations mentioned, then a further eighteen months for editing by professionals, rewriting and having the revised manuscript accepted for publication.
A Matter of Degree was published by Troubador in 2011. It is set in a teaching training college in mid Wales in the early 1970s. It has received 4 and 5 star reviews in the UK and as far afield as California.
I’m currently working on a sequel as well as another novel based on a role-play exercise that goes seriously wrong. I’m not very disciplined when it comes to sitting down and writing but I hope to have at least one of these ready for publication by the end of 2013.
I’ve recently taken to writing poetry and revived my interest in short stories.
You can find more about Colin and his writing via…
- Personal website: www.bonnygreen.co.uk
- A Matter of Degree: www.bonnygreen.co.uk/matterdegree.htm, www.troubador.co.uk. The book is also available through bookshops, on-line retailers and as an eBook. ISBN 978-1848766-952
- Shepherd of the Downs: www.bonnygreen.co.uk/shepdown.htm
- Other books & CDs: www.bonnygreen.co.uk/cabooks.htm
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