Author Spotlight no.122 – Sue Burke

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and twenty-second, is of journalist, editor, and fiction author Sue Burke.

Sue Burke was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and began studying Spanish when she was 12. She also began writing, and has worked as a journalist, editor, and fiction author. She and her husband lived briefly in Austin, Texas, before moving to Madrid, Spain, in December 1999.

They hoped to learn the language and explore the culture. Spain offered many inspirations, and one was its history. Sue says that if you look carefully, you can still see the Roman Empire in the landscape, the customs, and even the food — to say nothing of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and more recent centuries. Spain treasures history the way Americans treasure the Great Outdoors.

As a writer, Sue was attracted to Spain’s rich literary legacy, and she discovered a book that had served as a pillar to European fiction but then fell into oblivion. In fact, there wasn’t even a good English translation available. So she decided to fix that.

And now from the author herself:

You may have never heard of Amadis of Gaul, but the story inhabits our collective consciousness: a knight in shining armor, unbeatable in battle, rescues damsels in distress and serves an unobtainable princess with total devotion. You may even know that Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote de La Mancha to ridicule this book.

But there’s far more to it than that.

In the Middle Ages, troubadours circulated stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table throughout Europe. In Spain, these stories coalesced around one knight, Amadis of Gaul. The stories were expanded in a novel by Garcí Rodríguez de Montalvo right when the printing press became big business.

The novel became Renaissance Europe’s first best-seller. It spawned dozens of sequels and a hundred spin-offs. Nobles dressed up and re-enacted the stories. A century later it had gotten so silly that Cervantes cashed in with a satire.

Yet, even he insisted that Amadis of Gaul was so good that it deserved to be read.

You can do that. I’ve been translating Amadis of Gaul from medieval Spanish to modern English a chapter at a time at http://amadisofgaul.blogspot.com, and now Book I of the four-book novel is available.

It’s the Middle Ages in its own words, and you might be in for a surprise.

First of all, there’s sex. All that repression and chastity belt nonsense was invented in the Renaissance. In fact, Amadis is born out of wedlock. And although he is too pure to accept carnal thanks from the damsels he rescues, other knights do.

Then, there’s violence. Knights hack each other to death bit by bit with swords as body parts fall to the ground. Or they smite their opponents in one gruesome blow with a lance. Amadis always wins, but sometimes just barely. At one point, he’s trying to hide his identity and is recognized by the scars on his face. This book drips with blood.

Be prepared for a typical medieval story, too: interweaving plots. This isn’t just about Amadis. This book tells the story of his family, his friends, his king, and their families and friends. Everyone has adventures.

Finally, you can discover why women treasured this novel to the point that religious authorities became alarmed. It wasn’t just over the sex, although the love story between Amadis and Princess Oriana does get scandalous. In the Middle Ages, women filled important roles, and as their lives became more and more restricted in the Renaissance, they could escape to the past with this exciting book, where women were as important as men.

And if you’re a writer, remember what Antoní Gaudí said: “Originality consists in returning to the origin.” Here’s where it all started, the story that was eventually turned into the watered-down trope that fills so many bookstore shelves today. Here’s the real medieval fantasy.

This book drove Don Quixote mad. What will it do to you?

You can find more about Sue and her writing via Her personal websites are http://www.sue.burke.name and http://mount-oregano.livejournal.com, and Amadis of Gaul Book I is available at Amazon.com.

***

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with multi-genre author Karen Coombs – the five hundred and third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Point of view by Rosemary McCracken

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of point of view is brought to you by journalist, short story author and mystery novelist Rosemary McCracken.

Before you keyboard your opening sentence, you will need to decide on what point of view your novel will take. I didn’t do this when I began Safe Harbor. I plunged into the story, writing it down from the POV of a third-person narrator. For some vague reason, I felt that the use of a first person narrator was way too prevalent in mystery novels, especially those by North American writers. The late Robert B. Parker used it in his Spenser series. Janet Evanovich, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky use it. I must say that I like the works of Parker, Evanovich, Grafton and Paretsky, but I was determined to be different.

I completed the first drafts of Safe Harbor in third person, and early in 2009 I entered the manuscript in Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger competition, a contest open to English-language writers around the world who haven’t had a novel published. The CWA never got back to me, which meant, in a competition that attracts hundreds of entries, that I hadn’t made its shortlist.

I went back to Safe Harbor and applied more polish. Later that year, veteran Canadian crime writer Gail Bowen was writer-in-residence at the Toronto Reference Library and she read the first part of the manuscript. “This book needs to be written in the first person,” she said when we met for our discussion. “We need to know what Pat Tierney is thinking and feeling every step along the way.”

I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under my feet. Safe Harbor is a murder mystery, but it’s also the story of Pat’s personal journey of coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity and getting on with her life. The story’s major events – Jude’s murder and the danger Tommy is in – affect Pat deeply because of her personal involvement in them. Jude was Michael’s mistress. Tommy is Michael’s son and a living reminder of his affair. I needed to get deeper into Pat’s head. And the best way to do that was to let her tell the story.

I rewrote the book in the first person. I knew Pat intimately, so I felt completely comfortable jumping into her shoes. And right from the start, I knew I’d made right choice. I felt an energy emanating from the story that hadn’t been there before. I showed several chapters to members of my writers’ group, and they agreed.

Safe Harbor had been written in the limited third person, a form of narration that lets the reader see events from the POV of a single character or of a few characters at the most. The focal characters in the original drafts were Pat and, to a lesser extent, Farah Alwan, her young housekeeper. Now with Pat as the book’s narrator, Farah’s role is much diminished. It’s limited to what Pat can tell us about her.

Early the next year, I entered the rewrite in the 2010 Debut Dagger competition. Same title (at that time it was Safe Harbour, with the Canadian and British spelling of Harbour; it was changed to the American spelling when the novel was released by Imajin Books), same story line as my previous submission, but this time told in the first person. That year Safe Harbor emerged as one of 11 novels – out of about 1,100 submissions from around the world – that were shortlisted for the award. I was astonished…and overjoyed. Being on that shortlist has been one of the highlights of my life.

I believe the intimacy created by the first-person narrator made all the difference in attracting the judges’ attention. I’ve learned that every standalone novel and every series demands a certain point of view, depending how far the writer needs to get inside certain characters’ heads. If you’re uncertain which to use at the outset, I suggest you write versions of your opening chapters from different points of view and settle on the one that is most comfortable for you as a writer and the most effective for your story.

Thank you, Rosemary, and congratulations!

Born and raised in Montreal, Rosemary McCracken has worked on newspapers across Canada as a reporter, arts writer and reviewer, and editor. She is now a Toronto-based freelance journalist, specializing in personal finance and the financial services industry.

Rosemary’s short fiction has been published by Room of One’s Own Press and Kaleidoscope Books. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger Award in 2010. It was released by Imajin Books this spring, and is available as an ebook and a paperback on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Visit Rosemary on her website and her blog.

Synopsis, Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor opens when a frightened woman barges into financial planner Pat Tierney’s office with a shocking request: “Look after my boy; he’s your late husband’s son.” The next day the woman is murdered and police say the seven-year-old may be the killer’s next target. In a desperate race to protect Tommy, Pat’s searches for the truth and uncovers a deadly scheme involving illegal immigrants, trafficking in human body parts and money laundering.

***

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with non-fiction author Marlene Caroselli – the four hundred and seventy-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.100 – Jane Wenham-Jones

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the hundredth, is of novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones.

Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books.

As a freelance journalist, Jane has written for The Guardian, The Daily Express, The Sunday Express, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and numerous women’s magazines. Regular spots include columns for her local paper – The Isle of Thanet Gazette, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.

A member of Equity, Jane has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has hosted the award ceremony for the RoNas (Romantic Novel of the Year Awards) for the last two years. She is not the sort of writer to remain in her garret, shunning publicity, and has also done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’). It was those – sometimes hair-raising – on screen experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel.

Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops, give talks and chair panels. In recent years she has interviewed dozens of best-selling authors and celebrities including Julian Clary, Richard Madeley, Victoria Hislop, Bel Mooney, Helen Lederer, Amanda Ross, Kate Mosse, Kay Burley, Jenny Éclair, Katie Fforde, Veronica Henry, Fiona Walker, Jill Mansell and Tim Bentinck.

Her two non-fiction books are: Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – featuring contributions from a wide array of big name authors and journalists including Jilly Cooper, Frederick Forsyth and Michael Buerk with a foreword by Katie Fforde;

and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – a guide to the art of book and self-promotion which includes tips from a variety of celebrities.

And now from the author herself with more about the inspiration behind her latest book:

My new novel, Prime Time, is the story of Laura, who is persuaded onto a TV discussion programme which has life-changing consequences.

I’ve done a few TV shows now – often on little-watched channels with three viewers – and one of the things I’ve learned is that you need to be ready for anything…

On Loose Lips on Living TV, I was called upon to give off-the-cuff relationship advice as part of a live phone-in.

I’m not sure what sort of counsel I cobbled together – the woman in question was having an affair I seem to remember, so I probably said: For God’s sake don’t get caught – but it was the first in long line of situations where I’ve had to think on my feet.

I once nearly spluttered on air having just heard myself introduced by one regional radio station (clearly desperate to fill five minutes before the travel news) as a “relationships expert” and finding I was being called upon to offer guidance to Helen who felt Kevin no longer loved her, when I’d thought I was just there to plug a novel.

I rose to the challenge though, trawling my memory for every cliché from every agony aunt page I’d ever read, suggesting quiet nights in and heart-to-heart chats over candlelit dinners, even though I knew that Kevin, if he was like most blokes, would probably much rather watch the football than have any sort of discussion about his feelings, and would be totally aghast when Helen switched off the TV and served up chicken a la mode in the dark instead.

In fact, I obviously showed a bit too much enthusiasm for her plight because they then rather misguidedly kept me on the line and offered me Veronica and her problems with her mother over which I was utterly lost – “put the old dragon in a home” evidently being not quite what they were looking for.

On another occasion I got involved in a “documentary”. Again, I was supposed to be talking about affairs, but this time, how to get away with them (it was when my second novel, Perfect Alibis, which deals with that exact knotty issue, had just been published).

When I got there –”on location” to a frighteningly expensive house in North London – they wanted me to shave my legs on camera. The director – who looked about twelve – was the creative type.

They were also filming a Betrayed Wife, the suitably scary Lady Sarah Moon – she who cut her husband’s bespoke Savile Row suits to ribbons and distributed his vintage claret collection around the village.

We met in the hall.

“What are you angry about?” she asked me. I opened my mouth to explain only to find it covered by one of the crew’s hands.

“For God’s sake don’t tell her you’re promoting affairs,” he said, as she was taken down to the kitchen to hack off chickens’ legs with alarming savagery, and I went upstairs where it was considered jolly arty to have me sitting in the bathroom half-dressed (the cameraman squashed uncomfortably in the bath with the lighting man on top of him) pretending to get ready for a night out.

I haven’t shaved my legs for years (this is not an admission of German ancestry – I have them waxed) and was apparently not much cop at pretending.

As I sat there under a weight of shaving foam doing Take Fifty-three, repeating the same sentences over and over again, I not only drank all the rest of the Lady Chicken-chopper’s cooking wine to get me through the ordeal but persuaded the runner to go out and get me another bottle.

This was, on balance, a mistake. I will spare you the rest of the story but it involved slurring, agreeing to greater states of undress and nobody telling me my make-up had run.

Most of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor – thank the Lord – but in the bit I saw, I looked utterly deranged and in need of a good social worker.

Nothing is lost however. I drew on that very experience to inform Laura, my heroine in Prime Time, who, one way and another, ends up feeling pretty bonkers too….

For more information see www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com (the latter built by yours truly, and lovingly crafted by us both. :)). Jane travels extensively and she may be appearing at a venue near you (she’ll be visiting us in Northampton in September for our first ever gay literature festival – the gay festival for everyone :)) – see all her dates on her blog’s events page. You can also see Jane in action on youtube. I challenge you not to laugh. 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with novelist and scriptwriter Veronica Henry (whom Jane panelled with at the recent Chipping Norton Literature Festival) – the four hundred and twenty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.98 – Carrie King

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-eighth, is of children’s author and illustrator Carrie King.

Carrie King was born in the tiny Hamlet of Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire, England, which sits beneath a small hill, smothered in trees, known as The Clappers, nestled on the edge of the Chilterns. To any Reader of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, that might sound a tad familiar!

She was the seventh of eight children, placed between her youngest brother, David and her youngest but older sister, Sylvia. When she was eight, her family moved to another tiny Hamlet in Bedfordshire called Bidwell. She so missed the woods and the hills.

Carrie was educated in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and loved school. English, Art and French were her favourite subjects but she decided to become a doctor! However, this didn’t happen, as she fell in love and was married at nineteen. Being a wife and the mother of three daughters, became her full-time career.

She began to write for television, encouraged by Christopher Walker, Head of Drama for Central Television and Pam Francis, Journalist for the Independent.

The Writing of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip for her Great Niece, Joni Philipa, began in November 1997 while staying in a villa at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Joni Philipa was three years old at the time and she was called Joni-Pip, by her parents Philip and Sarah.

Carrie started to draw her illustrations for The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, whilst staying at Center Parcs. She stayed there many times with her family, and each villa she stayed in provided her with yet another picturesque woodland scene.

Sadly in April 2000, writing was interrupted for a few years by the tragic death of Carrie’s husband in an accident.

The novel began as a story for little children but books take a long time to be written, printed and bound and Joni-Pip grew much quicker than the story. What began as a simple Child’s Tale evolved into an adventure for much older children, which adults have enjoyed too.

The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip was finally finished in December 2007, over ten years after it was started!

And now from the author herself:

“Miss Carrie, that imagination of yours will surely get you into serious trouble one day!”

Thus came the damning declaration from my Nanny, or was it a foresighted prophecy? I was eight-years-old. What prompted such a censure from my parents’ hired Governess?

T’was most perplexing: every time I was caught red-handed (literally), in certain compromising situations: writing in big red letters on The Nursery wall or dressing up, plastering my apple shaped face in Mother’s lipstick, bedecked in her expensive ‘forbidden’ jewellery, I would instantly come up with the most fantastic and very logical reasons why I simply had to be doing such things.

“Nanny Pam,” I would earnestly remonstrate, “I must use the wall, otherwise we’ll have to cut down trees in the garden to make paper!”

Or….

“Nanny Pam, I’m off to The Ball! I can hardly wear plastic popper beads, what shame that would bring on the Family name.”

The problem was, Morgen, I truly believed these yarns I spun (brilliant pun, I congratulate the creator), when in truth, they were nothing short of lies.

Therein lies (my pun this time), the secret of the fantasy writer: we are all compulsive liars, shrouded in the delightful term, ‘imaginative’: even the word conjures up magic!

Take Joni-Pip for example: as in my favourite book, The Wind in the Willows, animals and also, as in my case, toys, talk. We all know that they don’t really converse, so that is a complete falsehood. My parents often found me embroiled in deep discussion and debate with my teds and dolls and to this day, I still do it in writing.  So real to me are the characters I create in words that I truly believe them to exist. Take Ethelred-Ted for example; he is Joni-Pip’s much beloved favourite toy, always a listener, always understanding of her point of view….until he comes alive. How shocked she is when he proves to be this talkative, very pompous and yet totally loyal, know-it-all. So authentic is he that once, in my Editor-in-chief’s office, I erupted into unbridled laughter on reading a couple of Ethelred-Ted’s lines (see, real characters). My Editor was puzzled.

“Listen to Eth,” I enthused, “he’s such a hoot. When Jack reminds him we are all only made of dust, Eth replies, ‘That blows me away!’ ”

I then continued, crimped in giggles.

Morgen, it didn’t occur to me that I was the maker of the mirth that had so enraptured me. So good are we fantasy writers at lying that we even fool ourselves!

Recently an African asked me if I was a ‘Liar’. I laughed and said I thought that was rather a personal question. He asked again,

“Are you a Liar?”

Uncomfortably, I laughed again.

“You look like a Liar,” he said seriously, “will you represent me in Court?”

African accents!

What it did make me think though, is that Lawyers might make brilliant fantasy writers or perhaps, I should say, fantasy writers might make brilliant Lawyers.

And read your own contracts. 🙂 Thank you, Carrie.

You can find more about Carrie and her writing via… www.joni-pip.com.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with children’s author, poet, article writer and blogger Helen Ross – the four hundred and seventeenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author interview no.17 with journalist and novelist Malcolm Brenner

Welcome to the seventeenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with journalist novelist Malcolm Brenner. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at here.

PLEASE NOTE: Although I endeavour to keep this blog light and cheerful, it would only be realistic to include authors who express strong opinions and / or who have had particularly bad experiences within the industry. This has been the case with Mr Brenner and I hope you will find this interview interesting.

Morgen: Hello Malcolm. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

Malcolm: I am a child of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. My early life was an uneasy mixture of normal 1950’s American culture, with its conservative materialistic values, and pseudo-scientific weirdness, because my parents were deeply involved in Wilhelm Reich’s “orgone energy” theories. I remember wanting to be a writer as early as second grade, but I don’t remember why; it may have been the short stories excerpted in “My Weekly Reader.” I was never popular in school and had to fight constantly. This left me with PTSD and a virulent hatred of bullies. English was one of the only subjects in which I did well. In college I wanted to be a film director or cinematographer, but my films never got finished. I finally and reluctantly concluded that I lack the social and financial skills for that occupation. After moving to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico in 1992, I found work as a reporter for bordertown newspapers and wrote for a living. I still do.

Morgen: English was my best subject but I was luckier than you – I was ignored rather than bullied. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?

Malcolm: My life having been marked by extremely strange occurrences, I find I cannot come up with fictional plots that are any more unlikely or entertaining than the things that have actually happened to me. Therefore I tend to stick with journalism. But perhaps that’s just because I’m lazy.

Morgen: Or what you know best? What have you had published to-date?

Malcolm: Last year I self-published my first novel, “Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover” (www.wetgoddess.net), based on my experiences as a student at New College of Florida in the 1970’s. I had to self-publish due to the novel’s controversial theme, a human-dolphin love affair. It’s available on Amazon.com, and through the above web site. I am a regular contributor to Harbor Style magazine, www.harborstyle.com. Aside from that, just 20 years of daily print reporting for the Farmington Daily Times, the Gallup Independent, the Charlotte Sun and the Boca Beacon. Hundreds of thousands of words, if not millions. Gave up counting long ago.

Morgen: I haven’t started counting but I would guess at around a million. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?

Malcolm: Yes, “Wet Goddess” is also available as an eBook from Smashwords, the only eBook publisher I could find that would readily accept the sexual content (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/63173). The process of creating an eBook is purely rote, mechanical and boring. So far I haven’t sold any, but it’s only been available for a little over a week.

Morgen: These things take time; people have to know that you exist. Let’s hope this helps a little. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?

Malcolm: My first magazine piece was published in the now-defunct Future Life in 1978, but I was so depressed at the time I had to kick myself to realize I’d finally been published. The thrill of being accepted is nothing compared to the thrill of cashing a paycheck and being able to eat and pay bills.

Morgen: That certainly does help. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?

Malcolm: I gave up counting long ago. “Wet Goddess” was rejected by every publisher I sent it to, that is, more than 20. Two agents proved utterly useless, worse in fact since they raised false hopes. I responded to rejection by publishing the book myself, thanks to modern technology.

Morgen: Many people are doing the same. What are you working on at the moment / next?

Malcolm: In addition to my contributions to Harbor Style, I am writing “Growing Up In The Orgone Box: Memories of a Reichian Childhood,” about my family’s weirdness and the pseudoscientific quasi-cult that inspired it.

Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?

Malcolm: I write mostly weekdays and take weekends off, unless I’m on a short deadline. I write something every day, even if it’s just an entry on a friend’s Facebook page. I do not write on my memoir every day; I seem to go through more and less productive periods, and I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome.

Morgen: What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?

Malcolm: Sometimes I feel more motivated to write than others. That is normal. Writer’s block is a fabrication of our culture. The only way to cure writer’s block is to write something, anything. I become less concerned with the form and content of what I’m writing and feel more liberated to write what I feel, rather than what I “ought” to write.

Morgen: Absolutely, and do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?

Malcolm: I wish I could plot my stories. Plot escapes me.

Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?

Malcolm: An enormous number of them, stuck in my head. Some are just too imposing.

Morgen: They often make the best stories. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?

Malcolm: Most favorite: not having to work for the jerks that have been my bosses in the past. Least favorite: the fact that I’m broke almost all the time.

Morgen: Hopefully the good outweighs the bad. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Malcolm: Don’t quit your day job. Set deadlines and stick to them. And don’t write what everybody else is writing. (If I see another vampire fantasy, I think I’ll barf.)

Morgen: A very recent question re. agent hunting on one of the LinkedIn forum’s was from a chap writing a vampire novel and I suggested that he might want to think again as it’s becoming seen as a done-to-death (pardon the pun) topic. I’ve heard that angels are going to be the next big thing (books about them are certainly popular in the Red Cross shop I volunteer in) and that as he’s only just now looking for an agent it’ll likely be a couple of years at least before his book is out, by which time it’ll probably have passed. It is important for an author to think about trends especially if he/she wants to be mainstream. What do you like to read Malcolm?

Malcolm: Mostly contemporary history, which is often stranger than fiction. I find I start a lot of books and don’t finish them because they don’t hold my interest. Some science-fiction, provided it’s not too gross, revolting, depressing and dystopian. Ian Watson practically killed the genre for me.

Morgen: Oh dear. I don’t read sci-fi but I’ll know now not to veer towards him if I change my mind. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?

Malcolm: Not yet, aside from the LinkedIn Self-Published Author’s site (part of http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Published-Authors-Network-84480?mostPopular=&gid=84480) which generated this interview. Of course, we’ll have to see how this works out.

Morgen: We will. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?

Malcolm: I am based in the USA, where everything and anything becomes a commodity. When I self-published “Wet Goddess” last year I got a lot of radio interviews for my book’s controversial topic, but everybody wanted to talk about my lifestyle and character, or lack of it, not the book. I think my 15 minutes of fame are just about up, as sales have slowed to a crawl. If I had tried to self-publish in Britain, I’d probably be in jail now (that’s gaol to you) due to your country’s harsh anti-bestiality laws.

Morgen: We call it ‘jail’ these days too. 🙂 Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?

Malcolm: I am on Facebook. So far, of no value whatsoever. I have been thrown out of a couple of chat rooms for expressing unpopular opinions.

Morgen: Oh dear. Where can we find out about you and your work?

Malcolm: Aside from the websites mentioned above you can Google “Malcolm J. Brenner” or my book’s title. You’ll get an earful.

Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Malcolm: I am extremely disillusioned by the commercialism of the publishing industry, but then, I was a member of the hippie counter-culture back in the day, so it’s not unexpected, I guess.

Morgen: Thanks Malcolm. I wish you well for the future.

***

If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.

If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.

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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).

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