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William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer – Talk

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Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs is one of The Scribbler’s staple authors. To read his work is to understand our mission. Which is why we were so excited to hear about a discussion forum taking place this weekend on the famed beat author.

The Last Tuesday Society, of 11 Mare Street London, hosts Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature at Keele University for a night entitled: William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer.

Burroughs once wrote: “…in this life we have to take things as we find them as the torso murderer said when he discovered his victim was a quadruple amputee.”

To coincide with the publication of a new, 25th-anniversary edition of Burroughs’ second novel Queer, Harris has finished reediting the early trilogy of novels preceding the notorious Naked Lunch.

The story behind Queer starts in the early 50s in Mexico City when the fledgling author and heroin addict, accidentally shot and killed his wife, Joan, in a drunken re-enactment of William Tell.  The experience served as a catalyst awakening a creativity which produced the masterpieces The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.

This week’s talk follows a trail of evidence from letters, manuscripts, photographs, Shakespearean references, Plato, pulp publishers, vaudeville acts, and a torso murderer (a reference to the infamous Cleveland Torso Murders of the 30s which were investigated by the same police officer who successfully convicted Al Capone).

Burroughs was hailed by Norman Mailer, novelist, journalist and innovator of the non-fiction narrative, as  “The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.”

Over the years Burroughs’ work has been a major influence by musicians and artists like Lou Reed, Joy Division, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Kurt Cobain. Oliver Harris is the author of seven books and several articles on the Beatnik writer. He has also edited Burroughs’ early trilogy of novels for Penguin Books including Junkie and Queer.

Buy tickets for the William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer talk on November 19 at The Last Tuesday Society here >>

Watch a trailer for the new film William S. Burroughs: A Man Within below:

Discussion:
Will you be attending the Torso Murderer talk? Do you feel Burroughs is rightly labelled as one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century? Favourite book? Go on…tell us.

Words: Dean Samways

Tom McCarthy favourite to win Booker Prize

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Tom McCarthy, the writer of this year's Booker favourite, C.

Tom McCarthy, the writer of this year's Booker favourite, C.

It has transpired that C, by Tom McCarthy, is the forerunner to win the Man Booker Prize when the accolade is awarded on Tuesday 12 October.

Bookies have reported heavy betting on the British writer’s novel in final hours before the ceremony.

C, one of six books nominated for the annual prize, which comes with a cheque for £50 000, follows the life of Serge Carrefax through the upheavals of early 20th century Europe.

Also shortlisted are Parrot and Olivier in America by Australia’s Peter Carey (bidding to become the first author to win the prize three times) and Room by Irish-born Emma Donoghue.

Carey is one of just two authors who have won the Booker twice. His last was in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang and prior to that in 1988 with Oscar and Lucinda. South African J.M. Coetzee has also claimed the prize twice.

Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room), Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) and Andrea Levy (The Long Song) complete nominees for 2010’s Booker.

In 1981, Salman Rushdie‘s Midnight’s Children earned him the title of Booker winner. In a recent interview Rushdie underlined the significance of being associated with literature’s biggest prize.

Talking to Reuters last week, Rushdie said: “It made a big difference, no question. In England the paperback of Midnight’s Children has sold well over a million copies, and it wouldn’t have done that (without the Booker). It’s very beneficial.”

Midnight’s Children also won the Best of the Booker title in 2008 which was chosen by a popular vote.

Hilary Mantel won the prize in 2009 for her historical novel Wolf Hall, which portrayed Henry VIII’s reign through Thomas Cromwell’s eyes.

The competition aims to reward the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or Ireland. Past winners include V.S. Naipaul and William Golding.

Like music’s Mercury Prize, the Booker can launch the winning author to literary fame and bolster books sales by hundreds of thousands of copies internationally.

Watch Tom McCarthy discuss C below:

Discussion:
Have you read any of the Man Booker shortlisted offerings? Which is your favourite? Do you think Tom McCarthy would be a worthy winner of 2010’s prize?

Words: Dean Samways

Website says money difficulties behind quick sale of Bret Easton Ellis movie rights

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Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Entertainment press website Purple Revolver this week claimed that American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis is ‘cash-strapped’.

Reporting on the sale of the movie rights to his new novel Imperial Bedrooms, the website alleges that the reason behind the quick sale is because Ellis has found himself in financial difficulty.

We at The Scribbler were especially surprised by the news of the sale when Ellis himself expressed such disappointed at the last film adaptation of one of his novel, The Informers.

However, if you believe Purple Revolver, Ellis has hinted that the quick sale of the rights was money motivated and is not a challenge he is setting himself to transfer the text to film, as The Informers was (for which he wrote the screenplay and co-produced).

Imperial Bedrooms is considered a sequel to his first novel and film Less Than Zero which starred Robert Downey Jr.

According to Purple Revolver Ellis was speaking at a GQ party when he said: “In an ideal world, I would love to have the same cast as before as it is the same characters.

“But I don’t think Robert will do this one – he is in a different place now.

“Actually scratch that, in an ideal world the film would not get made, but I would still get the money.”

We are waiting for comment from Ellis and his publishers to reassure us that he cares about how his works are translated into celluloid.

Watch the trailer for Less Than Zero below:

Discussion:
What’s the best and worst Bret Easton Ellis film? Why do you think his novels are so resistant to the successful treatment?

Words: Dean Samways

Bret Easton Ellis talks American Psycho

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Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis

We at The Scribbler are very excited to learn that one of inspirations behind this project is going to be making an appearance in London this summer.

Celebrated contemporary writer Bret Easton Ellis is going to be talking about his acclaimed 1991 novel American Psycho as part of the Guardian Review book club.

The discussion with John Mullan is taking place on 14 July at King’s Place, London.

American Psycho is one of the best-loved modern classics of recent times. In 2000 it was made into a major motion picture starring Batman actor Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman.

A 27 year-old Wall Street employee, Bateman is the epitome of 90s decadence. Living in an upscale, chic Manhattan apartment, dining at the most exclusive restaurants and an expert in fashion and expensive consumer products. He is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath.

American Psycho is a brilliant, jet-black comedy wherein Bret Easton Ellis satirises the excesses of yuppy materialism and examines the dark side of the American Dream.

Tickets are £9.50 online and £11.50 from the box office. The event starts at 7.00pm. For more information visit the King’s Place website or call 020 7520 1490 to reserve your seat.

Watch the intro to American Psycho, the motion picture:

Discussion:
Who’s going to be going to the talk? Do you even rate Bret Easton Ellis? If so, why? If not, why not?

Words: Dean Samways

Welsh’s Porno banned in Malta

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Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting and Porno author Irvine Welsh

Scribbler favourite Irvine Welsh has fallen foul of overbearing censorship regulations in Malta, it’s been revealed.

The Scottish author’s second book and sequel to his groundbreaking debut, Trainspotting, Porno, has been banned in Malta.

The University of Malta has taken the decision to remove the novel from its library shelves as the Mediterranean island’s censorship laws state that “obscene or pornographic” should not be available to the public. These statutes also declare that the country’s classification board must give their approval to any and all literature before it is made available to the citizens.

Porno follows the antics of Trainspotting characters Renton, Spud, Sickboy and Begbie ten years after their first drug-fuelled outing only this time the backdrop has shifted from heroin use to the sleaze of the pornography industry. However, this has proved far too racy for the Maltese authorities.

Ingram Bondin of the island’s Front Against Censorship defended the novel last week during a debate in which she branded the situation “a classic case of censorship”.

On the back of this discussion the Front has put forward several proposals to update the country’s censorship laws. For example, they would like to abolish the prison sentence that faces an individual who vilifies the Roman Catholic Church. They would also like the practice of checking material for obscene and pornographic contents by a centrally appointed Classification Board to be stopped.

The 21-year-old editor of the student newspaper Realtà was recently threatened with jail time for publishing a short story deemed inappropriate by the authorities. Mark Camilleri, leader of the Front Against Censorship, said: “Censorship has increased and is being used to suppress arts. But the government is not budging.”

No stranger to controversy Welsh’s themes and scenes of rape, dog killing and drug use have attracted criticism and bans in the past. His play, You’ll Have Had Your Hole, allegedly faced a Belgian ban and the great censors, the Chinese, have refused to allow several of his titles to be sold in the country.

Watch an interview with Irvine Welsh post-Trainspotting:

Discussion:
Is Malta right to censor Irvine Welsh’s work? Is there any place for censorship in this modern age? What are your feelings on the subject

Words: Dean Samways

13th Annual Graham Greene Festival line-up announced

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Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene: author, playwright and literary critic (1904-1991)

Details of this year’s International Graham Greene Festival have been released.

Held in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, the 13th annual celebration of the English author’s life will welcome writers of all disciplines to discuss the local literary luminary’s work.

Brick Lane author Monica Ali, journalist and psychoanalyst Michael Brearley OBE, Blood River author Tim Butcher, foreign correspondent Humphrey Hawksley, publisher and editor Jeremy Lewis and historian Dr. Joe Spence are among the many intellectuals billed to speak at the event.

Taking place between 30 September and 3 October the festival will hold a screening of The Ministry of Fear (based on the 1943 novel) at The Rex Cinema, a seminar on Greene’s unpublished material lead by Prof. Francois Gallix as well as Ali talking about Greene’s influence on her work. Good news for aspiring writers: there will also be a one day creative writing workshop.

Tickets for all the events are available now with under-21s able to attend the festival free of charge. For more information visit The 13th International Graham Greene Festival website.

Listen to a reading from Greene’s book Our Man in Havana below:

Words: Dean Samways

Discussion:
Graham Greene is one the UK’s best loved novelists but what is your favourite Greene book and why? Will you be going to the 13th International Graham Greene Festival? Have you been? Tell us your past experiences.

The Booker Prize remembers the 70s

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The Booker Prize remembers some great novels 40 years on

The world famous Man Booker Prize is delving back 30 years to create the long list for what has been dubbed as The Lost Man Booker Prize. The reason for a wealth of literary gems missing out the chance to win one of the literary world’s most respected prizes has been put down to the fact that in 1971 just two years after it began The Booker stopped being awarded retrospectively and became as it is now the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time the date of the award being given was moved from April to November, this now means that one year’s worth of publications published in 1970 missed out on the chance to be nominated for the Booker prize.

Now forty years on a panel of judges whom all of them where born in or around 1970 has been selected to judge to create the shortlist of six novels that the Booker prize nearly forgot. The long list was made up of books that would have been available for selection in 1970 as well as still being in print and easily available. The panel of judges is made up of journalist and critic, Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader, Katie Derham and poet and novelist, Tobias Hill.

The long list which was announced on the 1 February is

Brian Aldiss, ‘The Hand Reared Boy’
H.E.Bates, ‘A Little Of What You Fancy?’
Nina Bawden, ‘The Birds On The Trees’
Melvyn Bragg, ‘A Place In England’
Christy Brown, ‘Down All The Days’
Len Deighton, ‘Bomber’
J.G.Farrell, ‘Troubles’
Elaine Feinstein, ‘The Circle’
Shirley Hazzard, ‘The Bay Of Noon’
Reginald Hill, ‘A Clubbable Woman’
Susan Hill, ‘I’m The King Of The Castle’
Francis King, ‘A Domestic Animal’
Margaret Laurence, ‘The Fire Dwellers’
David Lodge, ‘Out Of The Shelter’
Iris Murdoch, ‘A Fairly Honourable Defeat’
Shiva Naipaul, ‘Fireflies’
Patrick O’Brian, ‘Master and Commander’
Joe Orton, ‘Head To Toe’
Mary Renault, ‘Fire From Heaven’
Ruth Rendell, ‘A Guilty Thing Surprised’
Muriel Spark, ‘The Driver’s Seat’
Patrick White, ‘The Vivisector’

Some of the names featured in the long list have featured in later Booker prize nominations David Lodge, Muriel Spark, Nina Bawden and Susan Hill where all featured in later lists. Going one step further J.G. Farrell, novel The Siege of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973 whilst Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea won in 1978. Proving that the long list is not just made up of one hit wonders that should remain in the 70s, Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker Prizes commented on the list saying “Our long list demonstrates that 1970 was a remarkable year for fiction written in English. Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue”.

The shortlist will be announced in March but like previous Booker prizes the final six will be thrown to the reading public for voting, with the overall winner being announced in May.

Watch Hilary Mantel chat about winning The Man Booker Prize 2009 with her novel Wolf Hall belo:

Discussion:
So, do you think The Booker Prize guys have missed off any titles? What is your favourite book of the 70s and why? Maybe there’s another novel based in the 70s that deserves some credit too?

Words: Seamus Swords

Final Fantasy II

Pullman rewrites the story of Christ

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Philip Pullman

The greatest story ever told (as debated here) has been given a new leash of life by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman.

In a new project, Pullman has written an alternative Bible passage re-imagining the fate of Jesus Christ, who, it is written, was killed by the Romans (or not).

Talking to The Daily Telegraph, a friend of the author said: “He has written what would have happened if Jesus had had a fair trial. He knows it will be controversial, but he has some serious points to make.”

Pullman will read his reworking or Christ’s fate at the Globe Theatre on Thursday 19 November as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of Reprieve, an organisation which campaigns for prisoner rights.

The author is not new to controversy with the church. An honorary associate of the National Secular Society, several of Pullman’s books have been criticised by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His Dark Materials, Pullman’s collection of fantasy novels which contain much discussed religious allegories, have been seen as a direct negation of Christian author, C S Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia, which have been criticised by Pullman.

He is also often lambasted for an interview in which he reportedly said: “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

Despite all this confrontation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has suggested His Dark Materials be taught as part of the religious education curriculum in schools.

The Reprieve event will be hosted by Jon Snow and will also feature John le Carré and Martha Lane Fox.

Watch a documentary on Philip Pullman below:

Discussion:
Do you think Pullman has gone too far in his atheist quest with this latest project? Do you feel we should question religion more in literature? What was the last faith themed piece of writing you read?

Words: Dean Samways

Waterstones’ New Voices 2009 – Interview Six – Matthew Plampin

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Matthew Plampins novel The Street Philosopher

The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin

Debut novelist Matthew Plampin brings us to number six in our series of interviews with the Waterstones’ ones to watch 2009. Matthew grew up in Essex and went to university in Birmingham, studying English and History of Art. He then went to complete his PHD at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Now lecturing in Nineteenth century art and architecture he also found time to complete his first novel The Street Philosopher.

Set in the violent back drop of the Crimean War The Street Philosopher tells the story Thomas Kitson a promising art critic who gives it all up to become a war reporter. Following in Kitson’s footsteps are his boss, a drink obsessed Irish reporter, and a sensitive young illustrator who was commissioned to follow the British Army into war. Jumping between scenes during the war and Manchester a year after the war which sees Thomas Kitson becomes the street philosopher reporting on the daily gossip. Struggling to come to terms with his war time past may scupper a budding relationship with the widowed daughter of a corrupt factory owner.

Critics celebrated Plampin’s excellent research skills brining the horrors of the Crimean war to life, drawing on his own experiences dealing with raw historical text has allowed Matthew Plampin to give the reader a realistic insight into the Crimean war whilst dealing with the ever-present issue of returning back to normality.

Matthew speaks to The Scribbler about his own influences, what inspires him and what it means to be included on the Waterstones ones to watch list 2009.

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The Scribbler: What is different about your writing that helps it stand out from other new writers at the moment?

Matthew Plampin: I don’t know if that’s really for me to say. I hope that it takes a vivid and cinematic approach to historical fiction.

TS: As a ‘New Voice of 2009’ you must be inspired by some very contemporary authors. Which writers do you enjoy reading and draw inspiration from?

MP: I’m a big fan of Peter Carey, particularly ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’, and will also read anything by Kate Grenville, Sarah Waters or Beryl Bainbridge. I really like modern graphic novels as well, especially those by Chris Ware or Daniel Clowes.

TS: Our readers will be very interested in how you approach a writing project. Where do you lift your ideas from?

MP: All sorts of places. I read a lot of history, but also take care to utilise primary sources – Victorian newspapers, diaries, guidebooks and so on – in an effort to create an authentic feel and get the details right. Visual imagery is also very important to me. One of the first things I do is get a good map of the places I’m writing about, as well as any paintings, engravings or photographs that I come to hand. I find Victorian photography completely engrossing. The Crimean War was one of the very first to photographed, and I regularly consulted the many ghostly images taken by Roger Fenton whilst writing ‘The Street Philosopher’. This has led me to a broader interest – I’m particularly fascinated right now by the photographs taken by Lady Clementina Hawarden in the late 1850s, some of which have an eerily contemporary feel to them. I’m also frequently inspired by TV and film. Recent favourites have included ‘Deadwood’, ‘The Wire’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’.

TS:  When you first began writing how easy was it to find and sign to publisher? Can you talk us through that

MP: Not very! I actually wrote an entire novel before ‘The Street Philosopher’ that sunk without trace, which was disheartening to say the least, but it meant that I was a little more thick-skinned later on. Basically, I circulated passages of the first proper draft as widely as I could and eventually, through a friend in publishing, it found its way to my agent – who happened to be looking for new authors at the time. We then worked on a new draft of the novel together and he managed to get me a deal with HarperCollins. It took a lot of perseverance and a fair bit of serendipity.

TS: What obstacles have you come across in your writing and how did you overcome them?

MP: The main challenges of ‘The Street Philosopher’ were making the novel’s two chronological strands equally engaging; balancing grand-scale historical events such as royal ceremonies and major battles with the characters’ personal trials, triumphs and tragedies; and explaining often quite complicated history in a way that was interesting and didn’t slow down the narrative. The only way to overcome them was through hard work and extensive redrafts.

TS: We often hear that artists have trouble dealing with their own pieces (i.e. musicians not able to listen to their albums etc.) How do you feel about your own work? Are you comfortable with it?

MP: Mostly. There is a slight nervousness there – bits that gave me trouble that still sometimes flag up in my mind even though the issues are long since resolved. But for every wince I can usually find a few passages that I’m pretty pleased with.

TS: Have you already started work on your next book? Is it difficult to leave one piece behind and start new one?

MP: I’m actually within a couple of months of finishing the first draft of my second novel – it should be out in early 2010. Leaving ‘The Street Philosopher’ behind was hard as I’d worked on it for over four years, but starting something completely new has been exhilarating. It’s a story of intricate conspiracies and bloody betrayal set around a gun factory in 1850s Pimlico, owned and overseen by the legendary American revolver-maker Colonel Samuel Colt, and I’m enjoying writing it a lot.

TS:  What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and advice would you give to our budding readers today?

MP: Redraft repeatedly; everything can be improved. Consider advice carefully, but don’t allow it to overwhelm or redirect what you set out to do. And get something down – a very basic point but a vital one. I’ve learned that a flawed draft you can go back to is a lot better than nothing.

TS: In your opinion what is The Street Philosopher about?

MP: In my opinion (broadly speaking and in no particular order): trauma and injustice, then redemption and revenge; different, even conflicting conceptions of duty and friendship; the complex role of the war correspondent; the corruption wrought by power – in all its forms.

TS: What books inspired you to pick up the pen and start writing?

MP: ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ by Peter Carey; ‘The Stones of Venice’ by John Ruskin; ‘Moby-Dick’ by Herman Melville; ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens; ‘Romola’ by George Eliot; ‘The Golden Legend’ by Jacobus de Voraigne; ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’ by Iain Pears; ‘Mason and Dixon’ by Thomas Pynchon. And too many others to list here.

TS: What is your learning background?, and do you feel it helped you in writing your novel?

MP: I did a PhD in Victorian cultural history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, which not only exposed me to a lot of the raw historical material that inspired the novel, but also accustomed me to solitude, the planning and researching of large writing projects, and long, long hours – all of which has proved essential.

TS: What does it mean to you to be named as one of the New Voices of 2009 by Waterstones?

MP: A great deal – it’s massively encouraging to be selected as one of twelve from such an enormous pool of entrants, and seeing the book on display in the window of the Piccadilly branch has definitely been one of the high points of the whole experience so far.

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Bellow is a video of the man himself talking to Waterstones about his book The Street Philosopher

Discussion:
So has anyone been reading The Street Philosopher? What’s your verdict? Leave your comments below

Waterstones’ New Voices 2009 – Interview Five – Mari Strachan

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Mari Strachans debut novel The Earth Hums In B Flat

Mari Strachans debut novel The Earth Hums In B Flat

Mari Strachan brings us half way in our series of interviews with the authors included on the Waterstone’s ones to watch list 2009. The ex librarian whose mother tongue is in fact welsh has surprised many with her debut novel The Earth Hums In B Flat. The Independent newspaper has described her as an unlikely literary star proving that words do matter, when considered that many publishing houses want there debut novelists to resemble junior celebrities, this welsh librarian has somewhat broken the mould.

Her debut novel The Earth Hums In B Flat tells the tale of a young 11 year old girl investigating a disappearance in a small welsh town during the 1950s Managing to capture the bold yet naive voice of adolescence her young protagonist Gwenni Morgan has a keen eye for detective stories and is determined to get to the bottom of a villagers mysterious disappearance.

Mari has taken time out to talk to The Scribbler about her own influences, where she gets her ideas from and what it means to be included on the Waterstones ones to watch list.

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The Scribbler: What is different about your writing that helps it stand out from other new writers at the moment?

Mari Strachan: I guess it’s the voice that singles out one author from among others, whatever kind of book that author is writing. It’s difficult for me to judge whether that’s true for me, but I hope that it is.

TS: As a ‘New Voice of 2009’ you must be inspired by some very contemporary authors. Which writers do you enjoy reading and draw inspiration from?

MS: I enjoy reading poetry – Carol Ann Duffy (and hurray that she is the new Poet Laureate) and Gillian Clarke in English, Gwyneth Lewis in English and Welsh, and Menna Elfyn in Welsh. I love the way they use language.
I tend to draw inspiration from single novels from a variety of authors – novels like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, Barry Unsworth’s Morality Play, Andrea Levy’s Small Island – all novels with strong main character voices, and a vivid sense of time and/or place, as well as a good story to tell.

TS: Our readers will be very interested in how you approach a writing project. Where do you lift your ideas from?

MS: Ideas sneak in from all over the place in a very haphazard way – some of them are a real surprise at the moment of writing and some have been with me for a long while and re-surface when the time is right for them. My approach to a writing project is to read, think, make notes, think some more, read some more, in fact I could make that stage last forever, but at some point I actually have to start doing some proper writing, which is the point at which it becomes very hard. I’ve found that the best way for me to advance then is to write my (usually dreadful) first draft right through to the end so I have something to shape into a novel.

TS: When you first began writing how easy was it to find and sign to a publisher? Can you talk us through that process?

MS: Very few publishers seem to accept manuscripts directly from an author, and the first step was to find an agent to act as my go-between. I did this the way most people do – trawling the internet and trawling through the authors’ handbooks that I usually managed to get as Christmas presents. I did a lot of homework in that way to see who might like and take on my novel and I was lucky to find an agent quite soon. It was then up to the agent to send the ms out to the publishers she thought might want the novel. Two publishers were interested and I chose Canongate because I liked what Jamie Byng and Anya Serota had to say about my book.

TS: What obstacles have you come across in your writing and how did you overcome them?

MS: Getting started at all is hard – I think what stops me must be the idea of committing my words and ideas to paper where they suddenly change from these wonderful imaginings to trite words and phrases that don’t do what I want them to. The only thing to do is persevere, get through that first draft, and then begin the real work of making it into a living, breathing piece of fiction. The other obstacle I’ve always had is a lack of confidence in my writing and taking a Masters degree course in Creative Writing helped me to overcome that sufficiently to carry on writing to the point of publication.

TS: We often hear that artists have trouble dealing with their own pieces (i.e. musicians not able to listen to their albums etc.). How do you feel about your own work? Are you comfortable with it?

Mari Strachan

Mari Strachan

MS: I still feel ambivalent about my own work – sometimes I think it works really well and at other times I feel I’ve failed miserably to achieve what I wanted with it.

TS: Have you already started work on your next book? Is it difficult to leave one piece behind and start a new one?

MS: I have started work on my second novel. I have no difficulty with leaving the finished work behind. And the difficulty with starting new work is the same as I always experience of committing words to paper.

TS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and what advice would you give to our budding readers today?

MS: I don’t think I’ve ever been given advice about writing. But I would say that the best advice is to just do it – I ought to take that advice myself!

TS: In your opinion what is The Earth Hums about?

MS: The Earth Hums is about Gwenni’s journey from childhood into dreaded adulthood.

TS: What books inspired you to pick up the pen and start writing?

MS: I’ve read and written since I can remember, and I think all the books I’ve ever read have influenced me in one way or another.

TS: What is your learning background and do you feel it helped you in writing your novel?

MS: My first degree was in English and History, and I’ve always retained that fascination with the past, and the lessons it can teach us today if we’re willing to learn from them. I took a post graduate qualification in librarianship which kept me in the world of books most of my working life. And I recently gained a Masters degree in Creative Writing which was instrumental in giving me enough confidence in my work to seek publication, as well as giving me a good grounding in the techniques of writing fiction.

TS: What does it mean to you to be named as one of the New Voices of 2009 by Waterstone’s?

MS: Of all the accolades a writer can have, this is one of the best – prizes are nice to have, of course, but most are judged by a handful of people, whereas the New Voices are chosen by lots of Waterstone’s booksellers, people who know about books and who know what their customers like to read.

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Promote or rant about Mari Strachan or any of your favourite new writers for 2009 in the comment box below. Expect more Q&As with the novelists on the Waterstones ones to watch list 2009 in the near future.

Words: Seamus Swords