Sunday, 30 December 2012

Organized Murder by Lynda Wilcox

Organized Murder carries on where Strictly Murder left off.  Verity finds herself in the middle of a  murder investigation in a small village.  Except she shouldn't as she is told by her some-time beau, Inspector Jerry, to keep her nose out.  Of course she doesn't pay attention.  If she did, there'd be no book.  Since Verity is a researcher for a novelist, she likes to stick her nose in everywhere.

I thoroughly enjoyed Verity's first outing and this was up there with that one.  A very enjoyable read and a great murder mystery whodunnit.  It is nice and cozy.  No violence, nor blood.  All the way through I was "it is him", "no it was her", "ah but it must have been him"  The various plot strands all pulled together in a satisfactorily way.  I can't wait for the next one.

www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AVG9QT4/?tag=jookuf-21



Saturday, 29 December 2012

Interrogating Will Hadcroft


Interrogating children's author Will Hadcroft


How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

It can be hard keeping the balance. At the time I was sketching out the general ethos for my Anne Droyd series for children, I was obsessing about a remark that I heard playwrite Dennis Potter make. He said he if were writing the type of dramas he was famous for, that push the envelope and make the audience ask awkward questions, now, producers and editors would be showing him the door. They want “safe” material that pushes the buttons of predictability. Interestingly, one literary agent rejected Anne because they felt the presence of real life issues (bullying, children experimenting with smoking, the religious worldview versus the secular worldview) got in the way of the story. My business mind says get rid of the issues that might make the reader feel uncomfortable, but my heart agrees with Dennis Potter – sometimes people need to think about things they don’t want to think about. Of course, no child has ever objected to the presence of real life issues. They are brighter than some people think.


What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in?

I love taking something extraordinary and unbelievable and dropping it into the real and otherwise mundane. The BBC TV series Doctor Who is very good at juxtaposing the fantastical with the everyday, and I was inspired by the writing of American writer/producer Kenneth Johnson who gave us the television series of The Incredible Hulk (the Banner/Hulk character dealt with realistic people in normal circumstances, as opposed to the mutations, monsters and military of the comic book). A lot of this sort of thing informs they style of my Anne Droyd series. I’m also keen on symbolic works and allegories. The surreal TV programme The Prisoner was the starting point for my teen novel The Blueprint.


Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I have a shoebox! I’m always on the lookout for names. Television credits are a good source for surnames. Sometimes I name check family and friends and name characters after them. I’ve also named characters after fans that have been especially loyal. For years I had this idea of someone, perhaps a court prosecutor or judge, saying, “This society holds you in contempt,” and the main character replying, “That’s all right. I hold this society in contempt.” I suppose I imagined myself saying it to some authority figure. That exchange finally found its way into The Blueprint. So, while I always have a plot or a character in mind when I start a new book, those other incidental bits may have been floating around the back of my mind for years.


How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?

In the case of Anne Droyd, I’d say that she represents the autistic, analytical side of my nature (I have Asperger’s syndrome). Gezz is the sensible, moral side of me, and Malcolm is the philosopher in me. Luke represents everything I wasn’t when I was a boy – cool, trendy, confident, and materialistic. As for Liam in The Blueprint, I would say he is quite close to me as a personality.


Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

It’s more a case of wondering if I’m listening. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands that I will be “absent” a lot of the time while I’m working on a book. To produce a piece of meaningful writing, there’s quite a bit of daydreaming and solitude involved. Thankfully, she appreciates that fact.


What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I like imaginative stories with an emotional heart. I have to care what happens to the characters. So, I try to imbue my own works with the same appeal.


To what lengths do you go to convince readers that your book has the X factor?

Well, the “x” in the x factor is that indefinable something that you can’t put your finger on that separates the work from its rivals, so it’s hard to identify it. But I would say I endeavour to make it feel real, no matter how farfetched the premise. I like to give my characters vocal mannerisms that real people have. Sometimes I take them from people I know or have met. For example, Mabel in Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows says “my pet” at the end of every sentence. I got that from a young saleswoman who sold me a car!


How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I get irritated. Not because they pointed it out, but because it’s there to be found. It means I as the author missed it, my test readers missed it, my editor missed it, and my proofreader missed it. That’s a lot of people! But it’s inevitable, and you have the chance to correct the errors if the publisher puts out a new edition at a later date.


What do you like most about visiting KUF?

The enthusiasm for books, and the site’s moderators who are friendly toward writers like me who have a small but loyal following.


What is on your near horizon?

Anne Droyd III, Anne Droyd and the Ghosts of Winter Hill. It’s written and edited, the artwork is terrific. We’re just waiting for it to come back from the typesetter, then we’re away!


Where can we find you for more information?

My blog web site www.willhadcroft.com, Amazon UK and USA, Goodreads, and I have some video presentations on YouTube as well.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Disease by George Hamilton

This is a story of  plague hitting the world.  Ludmilla is a local GP in an Eastern European country who finds out that the government is against the cure.

Most biological thrillers tend to be full of exciting chases, where the lead character is hunky, fit and gets the girl as well as finds a cure for mankind.  This is the opposite.  Ludmilla's a dumpy middle-aged woman (or at least she's dumpy in my imagination) who just cares about her patients and her wayward daughter.  This doesn't make it a lesser book, it makes it a welcome change.

George Hamilton writes a very good story.  He makes the characters believable even though they are a long way from what you know.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00ASCJGHS/?tag=jookuf-21




Thursday, 20 December 2012

Chatting with Susanne


 My second chat is with Susanne, a moderator on the kuforum and avid reader.


Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt?

Yes, I do find it quite irritating, especially if it is a long excerpt.  It’s too much like a hard sell because you are almost a captive audience.  I don’t mind a short reference to the author’s other work though.


Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy?

Generally, I prefer to read stand-alone books, although I have really enjoyed several series, such as the Stieg Larsson books and I also got totally caught up in KUF author, Shayne Parkinson’s series, Promises to Keep.


Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?

I quite often use the Look Inside feature, especially if it is an author I haven’t read before. It is a great feature.


Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?

I love to be able to settle down at the weekend and spend several hours reading, but it seems to happen less and less these days – too many other things get in the way.  I do read every day though, if only for half an hour before going to sleep. I always have my Kindle with me when I’m out, so usually grab some reading time if I’m waiting or travelling.


How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?

I do look at the reviews, but as reading is such a personal experience, I often find that what someone else may rave about is not necessarily my type of book and vice versa, I have loved books that have left others cold.  There are however several KUF members whose choice of books are similar to my own and I always take notice of their recommendations/reviews.


Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet?

I try to be. I would certainly never give a high rating to a book just because I know the author.


How do you feel about leaving negative reviews?

I very rarely do reviews for books I haven’t enjoyed.  I tend to do a review if I have enjoyed the book and want to share that with others.


Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?

Definitely not.  There is no reason why an indie book should be poorly proofed or formatted.  There are some very badly written and formatted indie books out there and I think they give indie books a bad name generally, which is a shame.


If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?

Well, it hasn’t happened so far, but, yes, I think I probably wouldn’t read any more of an author’s work if he or she did or said something I found upsetting.


Do you always buy books in the same genre? Would you experiment with a different type of book if it seemed worth a try?

Getting my Kindle and discovering the world of indie published books has allowed me to read such a wide range of genres – it really has broadened my reading experience and I no longer play safe with the type of books I buy.


Do you prefer long novels or shorter ones?

I love getting stuck into a long book – seeing that a book has 500 pages is a treat for me.  I tend not to read shorts, as I find the reading pleasure too abrupt.

Cliffhanger by Amy Saunders

Cliffhanger introduces us to Belinda a young woman who returns to her home town where her family are well-to-do and well known.  She meets Bennett and, as there seems to be a series starting, they get together and solve a mystery that has been haunting her for many years.

As an American chick-lit book, this is an enjoyable read.  It is also a bit of a whodunnit.  I did find it an easy read.  I liked the main characters and I adore the cover and the rest of Amy Saunders' book covers.  They really express the mood and tone of the books (in so far as I have only read this one).

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AB3F2RM/?tag=jookuf-21



Friday, 14 December 2012

Interrogating Alex Hunter


And now to interview another author who know that to make a good book, you need to have a seagull in it.


How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I have always written about things that interest or inspire me, rather than with someone else in mind. Although I don't think I've ever set out to write for an audience, I suppose there have been times when I've resisted the urge to write something, and perhaps that was because I might have been the only person who'd have read it. The Testing of Archie Rathbone was the first book I've ever set out to publish, and having achieved that I can see that my writing might change as a result - I'd never intended to write a sequel, but I've had quite a few comments from people asking about possible sequels. In the end though, I can't help thinking that if I weren't writing something that excited me then readers would be able to tell.


What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

Oh no! The 'G' word! I've had a lot of trouble with attributing genres to what I write. I still don't know how to categorise The Testing of Archie Rathbone, and I'm afraid what I'm writing at the moment will go the same way! Although I love to read books that educate as well as entertain, there also needs to be a strong element of escapism, and I think those are qualities I strive for when writing too. I sometimes think that crafting a plot has a great deal in common with garden design - although I may be able to appreciate grand vistas and architectural planting, I feel much more at home in ancient gardens with labyrinthine hedges, where you can only ever see a 'room' at a time, and never know what surprises are waiting for you just out of sight.


Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I have a notebook (well, more than one actually) in which I jot down ideas. Sometimes they are just potential book titles (how some of my stories start out). Having said that, I don't think I've ever gone back to them when writing a story!


How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?

I've had problems with a minor invasion of those recently - the only way I can manage them is to write them down in my 'little black book', and hope that that keeps them out of harm's way until I'm ready to deal with them properly.


How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

I don't think I've got much in common with any of the characters in The Testing of Archie Rathbone. The main character in the book I'm working on at the moment (The Watchmaker's Chain) is definitely not me, but I have indulged myself in that he shares some of my interests. Interestingly (for me at least - and I hadn't thought about this before) there is an elderly gentleman in the book, and I think I may unwittingly have based him on what I imagine I may become in thirty or forty years' time! Who would I most like to be with? Assuming he'd had a shower first, I think Gabriel (the tramp-like character from The Testing of Archie Rathbone) would be interesting company at the pub.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?


I like reading historical fiction, some science fiction, some fantasy, espionage, thrillers, crime, humour...
I have enjoyed writing, or would like to write in any or all of these genres. I also like writing children's stories, but suspect that my children's writing is hopelessly out of date for a modern children's audience - I wrote a children's novel a few years ago but decided not to try to get it published for just that reason.

As a child and adolescent I used to like 'undiluted' SciFi and Fantasy, but now there has to be something else (an intriguing plot, philosophy, strong characterisation, etc) to engage my imagination, and I have to be able to suspend my disbelief. In The Testing of Archie Rathbone, although I couldn't have told the story without the fantasy elements, those elements were never intended to dominate the book. The Watchmaker's Chain has an underlying layer of SciFi, but I almost don't want the reader to be aware of it most of the time. I have huge respect for writers of historical fiction and have read a great deal of it. The first novel I ever wrote was an historical novel based, in part, in ancient Egypt, but having read the books of Christian Jacqu, I'm not sure I'll ever be good enough to do the genre justice.


What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

To me, marketing is a dark and hidden art. I imagine that most indie writers find this side of self-publishing challenging, and I more than most! I read once that indomitable and unquestioning self-belief is an indispensible weapon in the self-publisher's armoury - unfortunately it's one I don't posess, so convincing readers of the merits of my writing doesn't come easily. Thankfully, the reviews my book has received have been quite positive, and some have been positively glowing, so I suppose I tend to rely on potential readers getting at least a little persuasion from those.


How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Embarrassed, and grateful! It's really important to me that what I write is well written and that there's as little as possible that might distract the reader from the story - spelling mistakes can do that, and for some readers they can completely spoil the experience. I suppose that some will inevitably make it past the editor's scrutiny, but really, even one is too many.


What do you like most about visiting KUF/forums?

I joined Goodreads at the beginning of the summer, and KUF a few months later. It never ceases to surprise me how friendly and supportive people are towards each other, and there's a real sense of community.


What is on your near horizon?

I started writing The Watchmaker's Chain last year, and am something like a third of the way through my first draft. Unfortunately I was made redundant in March, so most of my time is now spent trying to find a job (that pays). Even when occasionally I do have time to write, I've found it difficult to concentrate with the need to pay the bills hanging over me. I'd love to think that I'll find a job before long and that I'll be writing again soon - The Watchmaker's Chain is a story that really wants to be told.


Where can we find you for more information?

I have a couple of blogs (ravensgoldbooks.blogspot.com, and my author blog on Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6439509.Alex_Hunter/blog), and a third (with a link from the Blogger one) dedicated to Trenchfoote (a character from The Testing of Archie Rathbone). I have to confess that I've struggled to keep the updates going on these, not because of any lack of motivation on my part, but because there's been very little interest shown in them. That's probably down to my inexperience in choosing what to post, as well as not knowing how to make them sufficiently visible, but I'm hoping that when I get back into my writing again, I'll be inspired to start posting to my blogs too.

I also have a facebook author page which is probably the best place to get information, or to contact me.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

One Strange Christmas by Nicola Palmer

This is a delightful children's Christmas story.  Jake looks out to see blue snow outside and things get weirder after that.

This story is aimed at the 7+ market, but that's never stopped me from reading a children's book.  I've read a few similarish books recently and they've all delighted me.  Yes, you know that Father Christmas does exist and he needs help.  Jake is obviously the boy for it.  I found the writing to be excellent, Nicola Palmer knows how to tell an interesting story.

Now why isn't it snowing here?  Perhaps I need to believe a bit more.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00A4EWS4S/?tag=jookuf-21



Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chatting with Ignite

In the first of a new series, I have turned the tables on readers.  I asked a handful of authors what they'd like to ask readers and chosen some.  My first volunteer is Ignite, a top 500 reviewer on Amazon and a voracious reader and lover of indie authors.





If you could live in the age and setting of a book, which book, and why?

I always loved the Arthurian Legends and fancied myself in Dark Age Britain.  I know it would be a brutal life and, compared to today, nasty and short too and I’d undoubtedly be a grubby serf not a noble lady!  My favourite books of this genre are T H White’s The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, which begins with The Crystal Cave.


Does it annoy you the book finishes well before 100% because the author mentions their other works at the back of the novel. Do you mind if the author includes a synopsis or even an excerpt?

It does, on the whole.  I never mind a synopsis, or the blurb, but on the occasions when I’ve thought I had 12% still to go (there’s a kindle reader’s statement!) and the plot should still be thickening, it’s suddenly the end and I’ve got a chapter I don’t want to read.  Even if I want the author’s next book, I really don’t want it now.


Are you put off if you see a book is part of a series? Or does that entice you, knowing that if you like it there are more books to enjoy?

Not at all.  As a keen reader of fantasy, I love a series.  I have also recently read some modern crime trilogies and far from putting me off, I appreciate the chance to get deeper into the story and to get to know the characters better.  I sometimes think it must be harder to sell a series because you need the reader on board for the long haul.  The author is asking for commitment on the reader’s part but the reader also looks to the author for a good outcome.  I’ve never got over the total disappointment, after slogging my way through 6 thick books of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, to get to the end which I will not divulge (spoiler!).  I felt totally let down.  I have gradually learnt to trust authors again though!


Do you read the Look Inside before purchasing? Always? Sometimes, depending on the reviews? Never?

Only occasionally and generally if the author is completely new to me.  If I have a recommendation from another reader who I know shares my taste, I will read the blurb and then generally go for it.  If I’m not sure, or the reviews seem to be contradictory (why not?  No two people are the same) then I might Look Inside.  I can tell from an excerpt that long if I’m really not going to get on with the book.


Do you read for hours at a time, or in short bursts, or a mixture of the two?

In the day it tends to be short bursts but I read most evenings from tea-time to bed-time and then again in bed!  I discovered recently that I don’t know how to work my own television!  I never put it on but occasionally stop reading to watch something special.  If it depended on me though, it would rust away in the corner!  I love and relish the opportunity to have a really good soak in a book.


How important are reviews of a book to you? Would they influence your choice to buy it?

I do look at reviews but I look cannily, I think.  If a book has lots of good reviews, I check to see if the reviewer has reviewed anything else.  If it comes from a regular reviewer then I’ll take it at face value.  If there’s a string of five star reviews from people who only have a single review to their name, then I take them to be his mates, his mam and his gran!  Reviewers with a bit of experience behind them – not necessarily top reviewers but with more than a dozen, say, are more likely to make me want to read the book.  I like it when they use the work ‘enjoyed’ !


Do you think you remain unbiased when reviewing books by people you know or interact with on the internet?

I hope I do.  I try to.  You have to ask yourself why you are reviewing a book.  I’m doing it primarily to let other readers know what I think of the work.  A review is only one person’s opinion and we all look for different things in our books.  If I tell people that I thought a book was amazing because I like the author, then I’m doing the readers no favours and ultimately I’m doing the author none either.  Readers will find it’s not as good as I made it out to be and won’t take my other reviews seriously; authors will think they are writing books I like when they aren’t.  Eventually no-one will believe me!  I have to say that usually I find a book I love and then get to know the author afterwards.  It’s usually that way round.


How do you feel about leaving negative reviews?

It’s a hard thing to do.  When I’ve loved a book I want to shout about it and I can write a review quickly and enthusiastically.  I love reviewing good stuff.  Because I choose books I expect to like then I often do enthuse about them.  Why would I choose to read something I don’t think I’ll like?  Sometimes though, something about the blurb or someone’s recommendation will entice me in and I find to my dismay that I really don’t get on with it.  It’s maybe poorly written or the plot’s thin and predictable.  Maybe the characters are wooden and unconvincing.  I read a book recently where the man and wife talk to each other as if they’re addressing a committee meeting.  I will finish it, and give it a chance but if I really feel it’s poor then I have to say so.  Sometimes I’ve been awake for hours at night trying to think of ways to say it.  It’s not fair to fellow readers to suggest a book is good if I don’t think it is.  I would always say why I didn’t get on with it though.  I think those reviewers that say ‘This book is a load of rubbish’ help no-one.  You don’t help an author to let him/her think the book is good when it isn’t.  You also don’t help the good authors if you try and class them all the same so as not to cause offence.  I would always hope to be helpful. 


Are you more lenient with regards mistakes if you know a book is self published, or do you believe the authors should have hired an editor to make sure it's the best it can be?

I notice mistakes.  It’s just the way I am.  However, I prefer to point them out to the author privately unless there are lots, or it’s a matter of poor style, in which case I might suggest the book needs an editor.  I am aware that when I pay £2 or less for a book, the author isn’t being paid enough to afford an editor.  Traditionally published books have the resources of a publishing house to ensure they don’t come out with errors (doesn’t always happen though!).  Indies aren’t on a level playing field and I’m always pleased when fellow readers are prepared to help them out too.  Even really good authors can’t proof read their own work.  You read what you meant to write, not what you actually wrote. 
So, to answer the question (!) I don’t expect perfection but I’m happy to help.


If something an author did upset or bothered you, would it stop you reading more of their work, even if you've read their stuff before and enjoyed it?

I’m not sure how this would apply.  I would judge the book by the standard of the writing and the imagination of the author rather than any perceived view of his or her morality.  I don’t need to like an author as a person to enjoy reading his/her work.  Generally though, you get a feel for the person behind the book and I might be a bit shocked if I found they were up to no good!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Five Short Stories by Cecilia Peartree

As it says on the tin, this is a book of five short stories.  Three of them are based in Pitkirtly, two of the stories I'd read before.  I love the inhabitants of Pitkirtly and am always eager to read more about them.

Apocalypse Ready:  This is the perfect story of how ready some of the inhabitants of Pitkirtly are for The End Of The World.  As I finished it, I felt I knew that was how it would be as the story suits the characters.

Recycled:  Amarylis (from Pitkirtly) shows just how mean she can be with her darker side.

A Romantic Quest:  I enjoyed this when I read it in a kuforum anthology and am pleased to find out the characters will get their own novel.  As I read it again, I knew I wanted to find out more about them.

Special:  Some of the Pitkirtly gang go on a Mystery Tour.  Of course things don't go to plan.  I wouldn't want them to.

Apocalypse Decoded:  Where Him upstairs tells him downstairs he has 4 days to plan the Apocalypse.  I really enjoyed this one.  Middle management will never seem the same.

In summary, this is quite a short book, but I liked every single story.  I don't often like all the stories in an anthology.  If you've read any Pitkirtly books, these are great extras.  If you haven't, then these are great tasters.  It's also proof that Cecilia Peartree is not a one story author.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00AKYD35U/?tag=jookuf-21


The Ice Diaries by Lexi Revellian

The Ice Diaries is set in London in the near future, but after a pandemic has hit Britain hard and snow has hit even harder.  The snow is 20m high and only the tops of tall buildings poke out.  

The story is told by Tori, who lives alone in a luxury apartment.  She has lost her fianc√© and doesn't know if he's dead or alive, but she has gained friends who have set up home nearby and they form an insular community, doing foraging raids on the nearby Argos and other shops.  They can only access the shops by breaking in above snow level and lugging all the stuff up the flights of stairs.

As I was reading the story, I was trying to imagine myself and what I would do.  Would I try to make it to a warmer climate, even though they didn't know if there was anywhere to go to?  Would I risk moving from a safe (for the moment) home?  At some point, things would run out, but would that be before the snow melted?

As with other Lexi Revellian books, this was an easy read.  I enjoyed the characters and could easily put faces to them.  Perhaps the baddies were a bit cartoonish, but I did like the two-facedness of the main baddie.

So yet another good read to go with Lexi's other four books.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00A4ZRIRO/?tag=jookuf-21






Interrogating Andrew Lawston

Here's an interrogation with Andrew Lawston, Oh no it isn't, Oh yes it is


How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

Eek, a tricky one to start with! I strike the balance by writing everything and then deciding whether other people might want to read it. For every short story in Something Nice, there are at least two others which I wrote and then filed away for being too silly or too extreme. I don't make many compromises, because I try not to second guess what people will want to read - my most successful story opens with the muffled noises of people being violently sick. I'd never have believed anyone would want to read that, but it was snapped up by the first magazine I pitched! The exception is when I've tried to write for younger audiences - I have a YA project where a kid dies in agony on the second page. It's been pointed out to me that that's not really the done thing, and I totally see their point, but still can't work out how to remove the death without diminishing that scene's impact and suspense in later scenes. I know it's going to require a major compromise at some point, but still thinking it through!


What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

When I'm writing short fiction, or attempts at novels, everything is dictated by the idea I've had for a story, at least in the first draft, and that includes genre. The kind of stories I like to write lend themselves to magical realism, science-fiction and urban fantasy, rather than me being particularly driven to those genres. I do like the creative freedom that comes with fantasy, speculative and paranormal fiction, though. Short stories appeal to me because they're an efficient way of telling a great story, with no background noise.


Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I use notebooks, lots of notebooks - I have a serious problem! It's got to the point where my friends and family are trying to enforce a rule that I can't buy any more notebooks until I fill up at least one of the existing ones on my shelf. I use notebooks to write all my first drafts in longhand, and to jot down bits and pieces as they occur to me. It's more ideas and dialogue than names and characters, though, I get my character names by mixing and matching friends' friends at random on Facebook. I have notebooks dating back to at least 2004, and I raid them when I'm between projects and looking for inspiration.


How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?

I write down plot bunnies - I think you have to. Sometimes I get an idea that's so persistent that I can't concentrate at all on the task in hand. So I write it down in a different notebook, and that usually gets it out of my system so I can get back to whatever I was doing before. The most recent and most unhelpful example was when I was writing a kind-of science-fiction short story over the summer, but got distracted by a vivid idea for a single page of a graphic novel 'sequel' to Tale of Two Cities. I couldn't think about anything else until I'd written it out, even though I've never scripted a graphic novel in my life and it took me several days to get the format right. And then I forgot about it.


How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

There's not that much of me in my characters, usually. Maybe some trait that they might share with me, which I've decided I want to explore. He doesn't get mentioned much in reviews of Something Nice, but I think I'd most like to be Evian from The Longest Walk. He walks across a post-apocalyptic landscape, reinventing himself constantly according to his whims. I love the way he shrugs off his past from moment to moment, and I think we've all wished at some point we could do the same.


Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

I write all my first drafts alone in pubs, so I think my girlfriend usually just thinks I've become an alcoholic! I become intensely involved with my writing while I'm in the pub, but when I'm typing it up and editing at home later, it's all a lot more relaxed. I can't bear 'creative' people who behave like idiots to their friends and family. Having an interesting hobby is no excuse for being a pillock.


What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I read very widely, and I'd like to write very widely too. My favourite genre is probably science-fiction, and I'd love to write it too, but frankly my science isn't up to it due to me being hopeless at maths. I've had ideas for all sorts of space opera antics but I know just enough to know I'd seriously embarrass myself unless I had so many proofreaders that the book ended up being written by committee. I read a lot of French literature, and obviously I'm not about to start writing that, although I have translated a few bits and pieces.


What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I don't work too hard on the promotion thing, because I know how much pushy authors annoy me as a reader. In terms of my book's X factor, I point modestly to the very kind reviews I've received, and I do like to make the point that the short stories in Something Nice have been published professionally in other forms, as I don't feel part of the self-publishing 'revolution'. I tend to hang around forums and make silly posts, and if people like my silly posts, then they'll probably like my silly stories. It's not a genius marketing plan, and I can't pretend it's been particularly successful, but hopefully people don't roll their eyes when they see my name...


How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Grateful, but mostly gutted. I pride myself on technical accuracy, so it's always galling when I hear about a typo. There are a couple in Something Nice, in spite of my best efforts, and even though we're talking about just two spelling mistakes and a misplaced apostrophe, I've still considered putting out a revised edition to fix them.


What do you like most about visiting GR/forums?

I love Goodreads - it's a social networking site devoted to books, how cool is that? I love that everyone on the site is just so into reading. The enthusiasm and energy is brilliant, I love the interaction and the variety of things to do - there are features that I've still not bothered to even look at! The best thing is definitely the other readers that I've met through the site. If my book was wiped from Amazon and I never wrote another word, I'd still be on Goodreads every day chatting nonsense about books.


What is on your near horizon?

Many, many things. I've got a second short story collection that's approaching a publishable length, as well as my MPhil thesis (on an obscure slice of French cinema, very selective appeal, but still) and a 60,000 word Casanova translation. I'm also continuing to submit short stories and novel proposals to various markets. I've just finished performing in a panto, and am preparing an intensive month of writing before I start rehearsing the next show I'm going to be acting in.


Where can we find you for more information?

I'm all over the place! My blog is at http://drunkwriter.blogspot.com and I'm also @alawston on Twitter, and have a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/andrewklawston. And the book itself, Something Nice, is available at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Something-Nice-10-Stories-ebook/dp/B007R62AXU/