A cuppa with cartoonist Rolli

RolliRolli is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist from Canada. He’s the author of two short story collections (I Am Currently Working on a Novel and God’s Autobio), two books of poems (Mavor’s Bones and Plum Stuff), the middle grade story collection Dr. Franklin’s Staticy Cat and two forthcoming novels – Kabungo (Anansi/ Groundwood, 2016) and The Sea-Wave (Guernica Editions, 2016). His cartoons appear regularly in Reader’s Digest and Harvard Business Review, among others. Find him at rollistuff.com and follow him on Twitter @rolliwrites.

Kettle’s on. What can I get you?

Coffee.  Or failing that, very strong tea.

What made you want to become a cartoonist?

I never wanted to be a cartoonist, funnily enough. I did early on want to be an artist—maybe like Van Gogh only with both ears—and a bit later a writer, but cartooning was never a desire of mine, burning or otherwise. I could draw, though, and believed I was clever, and on a whim doodled a few things and sent them off and had success straightaway.

Bankrupt cr Rolli

Bankrupt © Rolli

Continue reading

A cuppa with writer David H Worsdale

David H Worsdale photo by Michael SlaterDavid H Worsdale has published many children’s poems, and recently brought out his first full-length novel for children, titled Pedro and the Magic Marbles. Today we settle down over a cosy cuppa for a chat about how David maintained his motivations (and retained his marbles) over the novel’s 40-year writing period.

Kettle’s on. What do you fancy?

Strong tea with milk and one sugar, please!

What prompted you to write Pedro and the Magic Marbles?

It was a major idea that came into my head back in 1973. The book’s aimed at children aged eight years and older.

Who were you initially writing it for?

It started life as a short story on three sides of A4 paper when I used to write the Children’s pages for the company weekly magazine while I was working in Saudi Arabia. It was then call The Magic Marbles and was serialised over a period of about six weeks.

Marble cr David H WorsdaleHow did you maintain your energy and interest in the tale over that 40-year period?

Over the years I just added to it now and then. That was before computers and so it was typed using a portable typewriter. When I learned to use a computer then I re-wrote it and was able to save it in the computer’s memory. Sometimes a gap of a couple of years would go by before I looked at it again. During the past ten years or so I joined a couple of websites where likeminded people had the same interests as myself and so that encouraged me to stick at it. We would review one another’s work and comments would be passed about what we had read. Lots of these comments were really helpful.

How much time did you spend re-writing and editing the story?

Whenever I started to write again I always had to read through what I had previously written to keep me up to speed with the story and plot. as well as the characters’ names and how they fitted into the story. (As I get older the ‘personal memory bank’ is not as good as it once was!).

Pedro and the Magic Marbles cover

Once complete, how did you go about seeking a publisher?

I’ve sent emails and letters to various publishers whose addresses I obtained from Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook & received a call from Xlibris Publishing and Print on demand company, offering to publish the book for me. They said they could publish it for me and the cost of editing would be included in the price. I decided to give them a chance and sent them a copy of the book. In due course they sent me a copy of the front of the book and asked for my approval. I was very pleased with it and gave them permission to go ahead and publish. It was made available on Amazon from day one, either in book form or for Kindle.

How did it feel to finally see the novel published?

It felt really great. All my family and friends were delighted with the completed version.

David H Worsdale at The House of Marbles Museum, photo by Michael Slater

David H Worsdale at The House of Marbles Museum, photo by Michael Slater

Have you had a book launch?

I have not had a book launch. I suppose really because I could not afford to buy enough books to have one. I did go in to see W.H.Smith and Morrison’s but they were not interested. I had the same response from The Works. I did get it accepted by the Dorset Library and there is a copy in the Weymouth Public Library and the Wyke Regis Library. Equally we did have a low-key launch session at the House of Marbles Museum in Bovey Tracey.

How important to you feel a book launch is for an author, and for a book?

It is probably very important but for me I could not afford a  major one on my own.

What advice would you offer someone embarking on their first novel?

If you have belief in your novel, stick at it. Don’t be afraid of criticism some of it can be very helpful. Beware of people who say they can help you but at a cost, which may be un-affordable for you.

Now that the novel is published and out in the world, what comes next for you?

It would be very nice to have it recognised nationally and for myself to be seen as a credited author. I do have a collection of children’s poems, which I hope one day to have published in the form of picture books.

I look forward to seeing those! Thanks for dropping by, David. Hope you have a very Happy Boxing Day!

Photos of David used in this post were taken by Michael Slater. Thanks Michael!

A cuppa with writer Rebecca Lloyd

Rebecca Lloyd cr Rosie Tomlinson

Rebecca Lloyd cr Rosie Tomlinson

This week I have the pleasure of catching up with award-winning short writer Rebecca Lloyd, who has recently had two  collections – The View From Endless Street and Mercy and Other Stories – published in quick succession.

Kettle’s on. What do you fancy?

Coffee, please, black and powerful!

When writers are interviewed they often say they’ve always wanted to write from when they were young children. Is that the same for you?

No, not at all. I didn’t consider the idea until I was 49… and since then, I’ve never stopped considering it, or doing it. I’m sure that as a child I just hung about listening to people and keeping out of the way and indulging in my real passion which was insects and other creatures. I was bought up in a suburb of Sydney in Australia, so there was a lot of really interesting wild life to get involved with.

Do you have a muse?

I think the idea of a writer having a muse is really a male writer having a wife to make his lunch while he works at his writing, isn’t it? But if a muse really means something that inspires a writer, then my muse would be all I see and am curious about around me.

There are a lot of rogue publishers about, aren’t there? How would you recognise and avoid them?

Actually that is getting harder and harder. Since the onslaught of self-publishing some of the old vanity publishers have remodelled themselves into businesses that still lie in wait to get a writer’s money, but they’re much more subtle these days. And then there are new hybrid publishers who also try to make writers pay for what they should not pay for, but they can make it seem almost reasonable, for example by making them first pay to have their manuscript edited by their own editing team.

A writer should not have to pay for this, but I can see how tempting it might be. The most notorious of the rogue publishers are often talked about and if a writer researches properly and knows what to look out for, they shouldn’t find themselves in conversation with rogue publishers. The only good thing I can see about self-publishing is that it has lessened the impact of the vanity publishing industry.

Have you ever had writer’s block or do you really believe that’s just another one of the myths about writing?

At some level, I do still consider it to be mythical, but I have also experienced something of the sort. I think it was probably just depression and mental exhaustion but it was the strangest sensation of having ‘nothing going on’ in my thinking. It was frightening because it seemed to wipe away my identity as a writer. I couldn’t write a thing for ages. I did get better, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

You sometimes hear writers say that writing is agony for them. Is that the same for you?

Writing is beautiful for me, it’s nearly always hard work, but utterly lovely. I wouldn’t do it otherwise, and I’m tempted to say ‘Man up!’ to writers who talk about the agony.

Mercy by Rebecca LloydWhat genre would you say you write in?

I have had to accept that I write in the ‘New Black’ or the Weird Fiction or the Literary Horror genre, those are just different terms for a particular type of writing and an interest in particular subject matter. But for a long time, I resisted affiliating myself with a genre. However, since Tartarus Press published my dark short story collection Mercy this year, I’ve joined the clan of weird writers so to speak.

Apparently WiDo Publishing who published my other collection The View From Endless Street at the same time, are reminded of Roald Dahl when they read my work. They certainly think it strange, so I should just accept the fact, eh?

What kind of things help to fire up your imagination?

I was inspired to start writing during my short time working in Africa, I was inspired by the people I met and my relationships with them.

I guess it would just be various interesting aspects of the human condition that cause me to write, only after all this time I think the inspiration, is almost unconscious. My writing world is in my head, my other worlds are tangible and real, but they are separate and apart from writing.

The Nature of My Soul by Katie Timoshenko

The Nature of My Soul by Katie Timoshenko

I do have some artwork I like and relate to strongly. This is The Nature of My Soul by Katie Timoshenko who I met at the Peterborough Festival last summer.

Katie’s paintings are like my own thoughts on writing. Her paintings are done on glass from behind, just fabulous.

What’s your opinion about writing classes? 

Writing classes are fine except for people go persistently to them and can’t seem to move on. No writing tutor, whether they are famous or unknown, can teach a novice writer how to find the self-belief, self-discipline and resilience needed to be a writer – nor can imagination be taught. But what can be taught are the tricks of the writerly trade, and the sooner a new writer knows those, the sooner he or she will become good writers with a chance of publication.

Find out more about Rebecca Lloyd.

A cuppa with novelist Ali Bacon

NovelistAliBaconBristol has a brilliant network of writers, and last autumn I had the pleasure of meeting novelist Ali Bacon at an event for the city’s lit fest. We’ve stayed in touch and this week I took the opportunity to ask her those thorny writing questions that have been making the rounds.

Kettle’s on. What do you fancy, Ali?

I’ve never been a tea-drinker, so mine’s a good strong coffee, Cafe Direct Machu Picchu blend please. Throw in a chunk of cake or shortbread biccie and I’m yours forever!

Coffee cr Ali BaconWhat are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a novel set in Victorian Edinburgh, a milieu that probably conjures up murder and mystery but the theme I’ve chosen is the development of photography and the partnership of Robert Adamson, a talented scientist and David Octavius Hill, a landscape artist.

The focus of the novel is D. O. Hill and the women who surrounded him as well as the part that photography played in his life.

For anyone who is interested, many of the 3000 ‘calotype’ photographs Hill and Adamson took between 1843 and 1847 can now be viewed on the Scottish National Galleries Flickr stream.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Well this is my first stab at a historical novel and I’m only on the first draft, so I’d like to nail the genre before I start subverting it!

My own taste in historical novels is towards Tracey Chevalier (I love how she captures a time and place without resorting to masses of period detail) and Rose Tremain (Robert Merivel has the most distinctive and captivating voice) rather than historical romance.

I’ve also looked at lots of novels about real historical characters  to try and work out what works and what doesn’t. I have to say that for me quite a lot of them don’t work particularly well, so I think I have quite a challenge on my hands.

Why do you write what you do?

Well, so far I have written three novels – one literary romance (described as ‘classy hen-lit’) one coming of age novel, and now I have gone ‘all historical’, so right now I am a branding nightmare! But for me relationships are always key, and sex usually plays a part (although that’s not proving to be the case in my current WIP – a bit of a worry!)

Basically I think something in the character’s predicament has to appeal to me, encapsulating something in my own life or experience, although the connection isn’t always obvious. When I begin a book I usually know how the story will end, but I never know how it is going to get there – that’s the writing adventure, so something has to call me in and invite me to commit my time and energy to teasing out the truths that are in there somewhere.

How does your writing process work?

It’s messy! I think you can see from the last answer that I am most definitely a ‘pantser’. I usually have the crux of the story in my head at the start, but I know I will need to add more characters and subplots as I go along. Of course these can then affect the original concept so that I tend to write and rewrite several times until I can see the real shape of the story. Messy and sometimes painful, but as I said, always an adventure. If I plan too much I lose interest.

With a short story I might start with only a prompt, a single incident or just a title but the process is surprisingly similar (see above – writing and rewriting!). I’ve also come to realise that I write incrementally (if that’s the word.) I think I know the scene I’m about to write but when I set it down I realise it’s probably going to take two or three scenes to show rather than tell what’s happening. Eventually I’ll take out the cutting knife, but to begin with I have to build up rather than chop down.

I also usually write the book in sequence (that includes my first unpublished novel which had two timelines going on) but right now I’m thinking of abandoning that, jumping ahead and working the structure out afterwards. For me, that’s quite scary!

About my interviewee

A Kettle of Fish coverAli Bacon has been writing seriously for around ten years. She has won a number of writing prizes and her first novel A Kettle of Fish was published in 2012. She’s also a member of Bristol Women Writers whose Unchained anthology was published last year to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Bristol public libraries. BWW will be performing in Word of Mouth at the Thunderbolt on May 7th – do come along!

You can find out more about Ali at www.alibacon.com and follow her at @AliBacon.