A. H. RICHARDS
- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview conducted with an interesting author - A. H. RICHARDS.
Welcome, A H ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I don’t know how interesting it is to tell anyone that I was born in Wales, was three months premature and weighed 3 pounds eight ounces. But I suppose that was my first accomplishment, although my mother did most of the work. After that, I grew, by inches and days, in Wales, England, Canada, Europe, the U.S., Japan, until I turned into the quivering wreck I now proudly present to the world, having no other option.
Onto the writing stuff. Well, once I got to the age of ten or so, I got the writing bug. Simultaneously, I got the acting bug and the classical guitar bug. I was an abysmal actor, and knew it, even then. I got one line in a school play. I said “Now look what you’ve done!” after someone smashed a window. (They didn’t hit the window in the scenery, but smashing glass sound-effects and my line came on cue. The audience had a chuckle, and my acting career ended.) I started writing by trying to complete a spy novel in composition class. Never finished it, but did a blog post on it a while ago, so I won’t go into detail.
My first ever successful writing was a free-form poem at age 15, in memory of my grandma soon after she died. My sister read it and cried, so I must have done something right. After that came years of bad poetry, until, at nineteen, I realized that I needed more room, and so turned to prose. It has all been downhill from there. Although, I did win a generous writing grant for my first ‘novel in progress,’ Kronos Duet, so, again, must have done more than something right.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I think it was more the other way around – writing became me, in both senses of the word. It’s like the most wonderful, cursed, infection you can ever catch, and it really took over my entire self when I turned 20. I formally quit studying classical guitar in order to write books and songs. I lived alone, in an industrial city in Ontario, Canada. I had no friends but my guitar teacher, and then I found Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, in a broken down excuse for a bookstore that I swear was run by a madman. He kept two pinball machines in a back room, which young boys in the neighbourhood played all day long (creepy); and he had two shelves of books out front. The one copy of Tropic of Cancer had no front cover and the first few sheets missing, so when I picked it up, I immediately read the first lines of the novel... “I am living at the Villa Borghese. There is not a crumb of dirt anywhere, nor a chair misplaced. We are all alone here and we are dead.”
Those words were incandescent to me, like burning magnesium in my psyche. I never looked back, although I took many a detour into music and romance and plain idiocy along the way. D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot had been my heroes, along with John Donne, the Elizabethan poet, and Ian Fleming, of all people. But it was Henry Miller who tore down the facade of complacency and illusion in my life, and infected me with something that I cannot really name or describe to this day. Incandescence is the closest I can come to it – my genesis as a prose writer.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I’ve tried to lay this out before, in different discussions, and always come back to the same things. I think differently, and work differently, depending on whether I am writing a short story or a novel. With both, initial words come to me, or an image of a character, or sometimes the ‘presence’ of a character or situation. From there, I have to let things simply pour out, to some extent, because to start defining and plotting and styling too early is the surest way to murder a story, for me. However, after that first outpouring, if it’s a short story, I begin to plan, then write and plan almost simultaneously, until I get to a point where I understand what I’m writing about and for. Once that point is reached, I ‘draw up’ a skeleton of the entire story, sometimes with even provisional last words to work towards. By the time I’m a few pages into a short story, I know how it will end, and pretty much how it will move, who is involved, and so on.
Novels are a much different beast, after that initial process of just letting words come. I write, and write, and write, most often in a linear fashion, but sometimes, to paraphrase Dylan Thomas, with a blunderbuss, firing buckshot all over and seeing what targets it hits. Beyond having a central character or two in mind, and maybe a sense of place and time, I don’t get strict about things for a while. It’s important to me that things are very fertile, and to that end, I take all sorts of routes, go out on a limb here and there, gallop along with some character or other just because they induce me to, and so on.
It’s the writerly equivalent to method-acting, really. I dive into the characters and live them. I download photographs of environments from the Internet and stick them up all around my desk. For instance, I have been writing a post-apocalyptic novel, and have sheaves of black and white pictures, 8x10, of wreckage, floods, ruined houses and high-rises, deserts and such. I kept them all black and white to subliminally make things as bleak as possible.
My writing comes out of that environment, and builds itself, piece by piece – sometimes with chapters a few removes from each other coming to life at much the same time. Then, as the mood, the environment, the tone and, above all, the characters, gain dimension, I find myself planning out the larger scale of the novel.
Having said all that, I must add the one, central, germinal core of my writing; that is, my subconscious. As the subliminal, and ‘method-writing’ play their part, so too does my subconscious. And if it’s not fully engaged, the writing putters out and I stop work on a piece. That’s the greater part of the fertility of which I spoke. It’s the whale in Moby Dick, the theme of fluidity, like the Seine, that runs through Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. Without some subconscious fertility, some unknown pushing me, then the book runs high and dry and I abandon it. If it comes back, I pick up where I left off. Kronos Duet has a few interesting themes, or motifs running through it that I wasn’t completely aware of until I had finished it, after eight months of writing and two years of editing. Reviewers and readers still notice things in it that surprise me, but at the same time become “Aha!” moments. I like to be surprised by my own writing.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Disappearing into the story and into the characters has to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing. It’s not escapism, because it’s such hard work, saying things right, doing justice to the nuances of a character. But it is a different dimension of relationship, with myself, I suppose. I am thrilled when the right words come and the character becomes more and more dimensional, credible, lovable or hateable, or whatever he, she or it is bound to be. It’s a nice feeling of accomplishment, and even love. I do love some of my characters, even the horrible ones. I love Adrianna, in Kronos Duet, and I love this horrible failure of a man called Alex Thurging in one of my short stories.
The other beautiful, absolutely beautiful thing about writing, is the moment of writing superbly. It may not happen often, and sometimes what I think is superb is passed over by readers. But that doesn’t matter. It’s like mastering an instrument. You practise and practise, scales and arpeggios and studies and tremendously difficult passages, and then, once in a while, you play that piece that you struggled with for so long, with consummate mastery. It is a heady feeling. I get that, sometimes, with words. Not that I am a master, don’t get me wrong. I am always an apprentice. But there are moments of mastery, of glory. And there are the responses of those readers who love my stories, who want more, who thank me for having written something. That is glory enough.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Solitude, solitude, solitude. You disconnect from the rest of life and you disappear. Margaret Atwood refers to it as going into her burrow. I’d like a burrow. I’d enjoy being a rabbit, especially a literate one. But mine isn’t a burrow. I think, for me, it’s an alternate-dimension cave, with an antique desk and electricity, of course.
I’m making it sound almost pleasant. But the solitude can make you a little crazy after a while.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
A psychic once told me, from sporadic visions I had been seeing, that I was once a musician in Spain, in the 19th century. Apparently, my fiancée drowned in a river days before we were due to be married. My vision was of myself sitting under a tree, watching her through foliage running beside a river. It was a beautiful summer’s day, and she had jet black hair, and I wore a flat, black hat with a wide brim, and a waistcoat. Everything was glittering with sun.
I actually believe that I was a village idiot, and at one time a monk or ascetic hermit. I may also have been a dandelion and a brick.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Writing letters to relatives. Talk about discipline. “Dear so and so, it has been raining for two days and I have been to the doctor to see about the pinched nerve in my neck. The cat is fat and happy...” Now what? Christ! “It was so good to hear from you. I’m sorry it took from 1994 to now to write this letter. It’s not that I have been busy, even though I have, very busy. Very very busy, in fact. Ummm, hang on, the phone’s ringing...”
I am immensely proud of every letter I finish and mail. Almost every word of every letter is fit to bore the fur off my cat, but letters are, nonetheless, essential. They keep some old-world quaintness and caring in the world.
Next to that, I would say, any finished proposal or submission letter to a publisher or agent. I would rather sandpaper my eyes than write them, so to finish one is a miracle of doggedness. I’m lucky to still be considered sane after all the years of writing them - if that still holds true. I’m seeing my shrink in a week, so we will see.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
As Ray Bradbury said to his wife when first going upstairs to start the script for the movie Moby Dick, “Pray for me.” I ask the same of anyone who reads this, because I am simultaneously working on a post-apocalyptic novel written by a half mad urchin, a dystopian novel about people looking for a home who end up at Armageddon, a terribly tragic true story about a friend of mine who disappeared with an abusive boyfriend, plus a study of Dylan Thomas’ poetry. I’m not galloping off in all directions at once – I have enough self control that I focus on one at a time. But it’s a pretty hefty few years of work.
I’m most focused on the dystopian novel, but am most in love with the urchin, who was born in a barn and licked by a cow who just licked a salt block, so has the name Salt Lick. I love him through and through. Come to think of it, perhaps I was him in another time, another place; or he was my brother. There are so many universes and dimensions... perhaps he is real. He certainly burst into my consciousness fully formed, and has not stopped talking since.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Kindness, to all living things. (I would say ‘love’ but I am not Christ, so am not very good at it yet. I prefer kindness, as an attainable and beautiful, essential thing.)
Justice, and injustice (which inspires my anger, but also a strong urge to combat it). Friendship, silence. And perhaps most of all, nature, and everything she means. I love the natural world and almost all life forms. (I say almost all, because deep-sea fish scare the hell out of me, with their bulbous eyes and huge nasty mouths and pallid flesh and all that is disgusting somehow hanging off them, for some deadly use or other.) I used the word love there, so there you go. Love is important to me. But romantic love is a dilemma. I’ve known so much of it, so deeply... and it is a beautiful insanity. Maybe one day it will inspire me to write a book about it. If I can trust it enough to try to write it down.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I seem to be spending more and more writing time in the speculative fiction field. There are cows there, but they are carnivorous and genetically modified. There are no planes or cars, because there is no more oil, but there are Zeppelins and nature spirits and psychically precocious misfits. All sorts of lovely, and monstrous stuff.
I tend to write evil and monstrous very well. Without shame or prejudice, I believe I have written one of the most evil characters in all literature in Cabot Greenaway, from Kronos Duet. He is a mix of Dickens’ Uriah Heep, Steerpike (from the Gormenghast Trilogy) and _____ (write serial killer here.) Then again, he is not them at all, and is his own particular brand of heinous perversity, all acted out in a speculative future of psychics and time travel and fascist government agents.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Don’t do it. Take to drink.
If you must write, you will know it. Once that has been decided for you, above all, trust yourself, listen hard and work hard. There’s no easy path, to my knowledge. And don’t forget to read, read, read. That’s the best way to learn, from the best in your field.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Not to my knowledge. I suffer from fatigue often enough, and realize that my mind has stretched enough for a while, so needs a rest. But I no longer give writer’s block any credence, or any room. Because, once you believe in writer’s block, you tear your hair out every time you stop writing for a day; you beat yourself up, tell yourself you’re failing, that you have no drive, that you are not really a writer, and all sorts of nasty, detrimental things. I wrote a longish blog post on this subject, so I will give you a link to the blog... but I will say this. Is there such a thing as painter’s block, or guitarist’s block, or sportsman’s block? No. There are simply times when you reach a plateau and don’t seem to be progressing, times when you, like any sane person who does work, need to take a rest. Writer’s block is a myth, but there is the metaphysical or mental equivalent of a pulled muscle, or fatigue. Go with it. Relax. The air is full of vocabulary and ideas, always.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I can’t force things. I’m not built that way, psychically. I write something, every day, but I have never paid much attention to when I do it, or if there is an optimum time for writing. I just keep on going. Sometimes I’m writing pages of a novel at three in the morning, sometimes an essay at noon, or a character note at ten a.m. Sometimes I will write for six hours without stopping, drinking cold tea and forgetting to eat. Then, there comes a day when I write nothing, clean house and cook things, and take a good walk, then sit out in the evening and drink a glass of wine.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I write at my desk at home, where I can pin up my photographs and plans and throw sheets of paper everywhere. I also love to write at my local coffee shop, the Black Walnut. I live in a village, tacked on to the city of London, Ontario. Summers with a laptop, outside with iced tea and people dog-walking, young lovers going by... can’t beat it. Except maybe in Paris...
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
The visceral caress of words. And the eternities of meaning in what is not said, what is purposefully left out.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Oh Gawd! I will go mad trying to answer this one. The only way to avoid that is to pretend I don’t love a whole bunch of them, which is painful for me, I respect them so much.
At one time, D.H. Lawrence was my favourite; then Henry Miller, for over a decade. Then I wrote a thesis and a book about Miller, so rarely read him now, although Tropic of Cancer and Black Spring can still wake me up anew. I love almost every novel Thomas Hardy has ever written. All three are geniuses. I don’t love them because they are geniuses, but because of the spirit of genius in their absolutely unique expression of the world and humans. I find Hardy so tender and tragic, and yet so beautifully controlled in his expression of those two intensely ‘deep’ facets of living.
I would say though, that I have favourite books, rather than favourite authors. Nabokov’s Lolita, I consider a masterpiece; so too with Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin, Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow, and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. I think Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks is wonderfully written, and John Fowles’ The Magus and The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
And yet, I write speculative fiction. Go figure. Editors have said that I write literary science fiction, and certainly I am not afraid of literary writers. I love Samuel Beckett, and think Joyce’s Ulysses is wonderful. I love Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. And, in the realm of the kind of fiction I write, I love Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, and Grendel, by John Gardner. I also think Raymond Bradbury and Philip K. Dick were brilliant.
I told you I could go mad. I just skirted it that time.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
“You look thinner in real life.” No, just kidding. I don’t. The greatest compliment? One reviewer, on Goodreads, picked out a paragraph from Kronos and cited it in full. She wrote a super-insightful review of the novel, and got to the centre of why I love writing – as I said, for the visceral caress of words, and the eternities of meaning in what is not said. She understood something very intimate about my writing, and I found that deeply touching, and invigorating. The citation was something that came from the subconscious voice, my centre.
One reviewer also wrote: “I rarely read any novel a second time, however, Kronos Duet is a novel that deserves a second or even a third reading just to revisit and absorb the beautiful use of language and the ideas about life and what a person can accomplish if they just put their "mind" to it.” You couldn’t pay for a more complimentary comment. Those comments cheer me when I’m feeling low. They keep me writing.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I think I remember this quote properly... “some of the pages were odious to read.” That was in reference to Kronos Duet, and I think she was referring to the above-mentioned Cabot Greenaway, pervert and antagonist. I like to think so, anyway.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
All the time. My short stories are full of people and memories from my life, and often echo my obsessions, or maybe pre-occupations is a better word. My novels, most definitely, are built upon my life experience, such as my love of nature, the love I have for strong (young and older) women, female characters who are unique and determined. And my world-view finds a voice in the political and social environments I create, which is fuelled by my activism. Ultimately, too, now that I think on it, my childhood, the dark, Welsh Celtic history I have known, breathed and lived, is always going to be a major part of what I write and how I think and use language. Celtic culture shows a core reverence for mystery, for sacredness in nature, in gesture, in song and music. I love all of that, and make it part of my work. And, on a deeper, psychic level, I love unravelling mystery in my stories, or creating secrets and ambiguities and leaving them as such. Life and nature are made of this.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Playing music (guitar), animals of all sorts (I once worked in a zoo for a year and loved every physical, horse-poop, seal fish-guts, goat-birthing, hay-baling minute of it.) I love sushi, and pizza with anchovies and olives. I love water, in the rain, thunderstorms, in rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, in the way it runs in the gutters in spring, and comes down in torrents in the rainy season in Japan and China. I have had the honour of loving three exceptional cats, one of whom is still with me. I love Japanese baths, sitting in the hot water right up to your chin, clean as a baby, because you have already showered before the bath. I love my friends, and the kindness we share. I love being passionate, and finding other passionate people in the world.
I’m beginning to feel like Julie Andrews now. So I will stop this heavenly rant.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes, for the novel, and the study of Miller. Some of the short stories were professionally edited. A few of them are old, and I am an editor myself, so trusted my own judgment on them. I usually edit my own work half a dozen times or more, although a couple of pieces have been written in a flash, with, somehow, no need for an edit.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Wake up in a cottage by a lake, to the gentle sound of rain. Breakfast with my love, with animals round and about. The sun comes out, my love and I vanish and reappear in Paris for an afternoon lunch, escargot, baguettes, fresh butter, asparagus, red wine (I’m beginning to sound like Hannibal Lecter), then a café au lait. Take hours over that. Poof, again! Back by the lake, feed the goats and chickens and ducks, with my Welsh Border Collie by my side. Take the horses out for a ride, stay out until the sun goes down, return to the cottage, stable the horses, eat delicious leftovers and fresh-baked bread, sit on the balcony together watching the seals in the lake and the eagles crossing the evening sky.
Failing that, living in Wortley Village, where I live now, writing a few pages of the latest novel, then passing a couple of hours on the café patio, people-watching, laughing a lot with a friend or two. Off to the archery range for a few hours. Then horse-riding in the country, with company. Back home, cat bonding, long bath, sushi and Japanese beer. Discover I have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for literature, couldn’t care less if I win. Watch a movie. Sleep like a baby.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
Either Liv Tyler or Jennifer Lawrence, or St. Francis of Assisi. The first two women because they are authentic, modest, intelligent and beautiful, and apparently know how to laugh, a lot. Yes, very selfish and male of me, but there you are. St. Francis, because I think we could cohabit very gently and powerfully together, and build a small world where respect for nature and dignity are the very core of things.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Ohhhh boy! Don’t get me started. Do you know the monologue/rant that Jeff Daniels gives at the beginning of The Newsroom, about why the U.S. is NOT the best country in the world? That would be something like how I could begin my speech. And it would be a speech, not some decorous bit of genuflecting. I could lambaste them all for the horrors they complacently or purposefully visit upon this world, for their machinations with the world’s worst corporations and psychopaths, for their corrupt elitism and utter short-sighted stupidity and ambition. That done, I could tell them the story of a better world, of a world that will not come without toil and sacrifice, but which can be achieved, with kindness and deep integrity, and through a staunch resistance to perversity, mediocrity, cruelty and indifference. I could tell them what it means to be small, and utterly human, and plainly honest. I could quote from the best of us, including Martin Luther King Jr., Josephine Baker, Pierre Trudeau, Maude Barlow, Henry Miller, Edith Piaf, Einstein and more.
However, I believe that 99% of them would simply listen, politely or through wooden boredom, and return to their vomit, as the biblical proverb goes. I’m beginning to believe that the time for words is coming to a close, and that this is a watershed period in human history – our very existence. Most of human history has been the failing struggle of truth against abused power. That will change, dramatically, before I am dead and gone. People are waking up, there is a paradigm-shift happening, and the old ways are changing, to paraphrase Bob Dylan. I think that both the general population and the so-called leaders are realizing that we don’t need them anymore; that they are, in fact, detrimental to human civilization.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
The future is always coming at you from around the corner, so I allow for that by not planning overmuch. I planned, decades ago, to be a writer, and I have achieved that. It is an ongoing life, not a finite accomplishment, so it colours much of what I imagine for my future. I imagine writing many more books, and better books each time. I have plans, as I said, short-term, for the creation of at least three books after the one I am in the midst of. Long-term, I know I have at least a dozen books in me after those are done, on all manner of topics, in a number of genres. Some book ideas have been with me for decades. As I check off each one completed, I seem to draw strength for the even bigger challenges I have in mind.
Outside of writing, I plan to get to Greece for a sojourn, not for tourism but for simply living as close to the people and the daily culture as I can. I don’t know why that particular country is important to me, but it has beckoned me for decades. Some day, I will stop being busy and will take the time just for Greece.
Other plans: some time on the African continent, not sure where yet. I would also like to return to Germany and France, two countries I love. And more than one return to the U.K., Scotland, Ireland, Wales.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
Well, a big diary, for starters. I’d want to describe everything, and keep tabs on things and people – if there are what you could call people. And I’d want to have a look at their Constitution, then follow up with a lot of thinking and note-taking, to keep them honest.
I’d take Justin Bieber’s two – count them, two – biographies. Nah, kidding. Bieber won’t be there, so I couldn’t get an autograph.
Four more books... hmmm. No Bible. They’d have those. Or, even better, they would have evolved far beyond the Bible. Well, they’d have to, in my mind – otherwise it would be a pretty measly heaven. I don’t know if I would bring any books other than my infinite diary. I have a feeling we’d all be too busy evolving, rapidly, to have any time to read books. I’d likely drop my diary habit after the first week or so and evolve into some weird amorphous being with the soul of a yet unwritten, unwritable symphony.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
I see myself in both Gareth Pugh and Adrianna, in Kronos Duet. They are aspects of my anima and animus, or yin and yang. I am also very much an old man named Ed, in my short story Average Monsters. All my love affairs are there, and my continuing remembrance of their beauty, of the women who set my life alight, made my heart leap in my throat.
I also see my nightmares in many of my antagonists. They are not just mean characters, though; they are existential horrors, forced into ‘flesh,’ so to speak, and allowed life for a while. They are my golems, (not to be mistaken for Gollum), my Frankenstein’s monsters. They insist on being born, so they come from somewhere within, some strange psychic dynamic that demands voice.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes, to no end. Publishers act like elitists, and yet often show no sense of judgment or aesthetics, or even ethics, to earn themselves an elite position. That a publisher can demand that you beg them, sometimes for years, for a smidgen of their attention, then demand that you submit your manuscript only to them, and you wait, for a year or more for them to shift their royal arse and maybe get around to commenting on it – well, that’s simply abominable. It’s no surprise that so many writers are choosing to self-publish, rather than spend decades, cap-in-hand, toiling away at query letters and synopses and sending off manuscripts that cost an arm to mail. The big publishers are after money, first and foremost, and that is unavoidable. They maintain a huge matrix of ‘machinery’ and real estate and employees, and must look at the bottom line always, in order to survive and keep the machinery running. So, we get inspired by work like Harry Potter and Wool, and all of my favourite books (see above) and we also get 50 Shades of Pornographic Drivel, and their ilk.
Meanwhile, smaller publishers struggle along, sometimes bringing out a gem or two, and doing a great service to writing that doesn’t have dollar signs gleaming all over it. I like small publishers. I’m talking informally with one now about publishing a novel, so that obviously affects my view of them. But they do fill an essential role, to bring to life the ‘alternative’ writing, the ‘maybe not a bestseller’ which nevertheless is a good or great piece of work. They are really struggling, and mostly supported by governments, who like to cut funding regularly, so I admire the people who run them, and persevere.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Yes, two days ago. I was tired and needed food. I’m alright now.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
My favourite is one I am working on, the post-apocalyptic Salt Lick. I love the character, who is little more than a child, and yet, living in a kind of hard medieval world, has had to grow up tough and no-nonsense. Thankfully, he hasn’t taken the last part too much to heart, and is full of all sorts of nonsense and whimsy. He is a lustful, naive, warrior-dreamer, who doesn’t know about human culture, doesn’t know how to be polite or diplomatic, who can’t spell and has no clue about grammar. Yet he tells a magnificent tale, and survives like a dystopian Oliver Twist through everything. I’m not even a quarter through the manuscript yet, but I know everything about him. He is not a character I invent, he is a spirit possession I translate, and, as with Adrianna in Kronos, I love him dearly.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Writing your heart and soul, your spirit and sex and passions; and having that published, and loved by an ever-growing readership. Some money from it would be nice, so as to fuel more writing, and more living. It’s a damn hard slog, but it’s also a privileged life, as is the life of any artist, or dedicated athlete. It’s a life in the ‘upper reaches,’ where the air alters your being; and that, in itself, is a kind of success, just breaking that fence, slipping that lock and getting into that landscape.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
First, I would want them to say “That was a damn good read!” That’s a good thing to know.
I would hope that they feel that an authentic voice has spoken to them, about authenticity itself; that they have taken part in an enticing drama that was worth the time, and that even changed their view of life a little. I would hope that they know that there is always a core of beautiful strength in being human, oh-so-human, and that no matter what the odds, life is both a gift, and something for you to partake of as co-creator. That’s the big message in what I write: you can choose to be creative, or destructive, so choose wisely and with a good heart, if I can put it in such simple terms. The creative will always triumph, though it has to do so in the face of the destructive.
That’s all quite metaphysical, and I suppose my message is metaphysics, wrapped up in human bodies and human drama. I would like my readers to feel hope, after they have read one of my novels, but also to know reality, in all its grittiness, a little better too.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
My book covers, as far as I am concerned, are works of art. One, for my short stories, is actually a painting by a very talented artist named Luke Turvey. The cover of Kronos Duet was done by an exceptional artist I know named Axl Ernst. She casually does sidewalk chalk replicas of Michelangelo’s work, and is very modest about her gift. I was privileged to have her do the cover for me.
I know you can make half-decent book covers online, and even Amazon gives you some pretty good stuff, for self-publishers. But there’s a lot of cookie-cutter stuff out there, and a lot of genre-specific art, such as the pastels and cartoonish covers for humorous ‘chick-lit” and the garish art work on many a fantasy or science-fiction novel. To each their own. I buy a book for its contents; and only after I have read it do I decide whether I want to keep a certain copy, with a particular cover. Some covers impress me, or haunt me, or give me great joy to look at, so to that extent, the thought that went into them matters.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’m no expert, and don’t particularly like this side of the writer’s life, but it must be done. I have taken the advice of other writers and finally joined Twitter @aldoushuw. It has surprised me in its efficiency, in that I now have a number of followers after merely a month on Twitter, and have had made some friends, and found a lot of online avenues to further promote my work, from people and organizations who want to do that kind of thing for writers, bless them. I write two blogs, not so much to market myself – although they serve that purpose – but to reach people with all sorts of ideas. I use LinkedIn, About Me and Facebook, although I don’t much like FB. I’m on Goodreads and Shelfari, and a LinkedIn site for writers called Writers Hangout.
Even better, I will be doing some readings from my novel and short stories in London, and hopefully other places, in the near future. London is holding an Indie Writers Festival, in which I’m happily taking part. It’s a good thing to get out there and meet people, readers and other writers, and give them a face to go with the name, and a persona that they can relate to.
Finally, I must say, in all sincerity, that I owe a debt of gratitude to you, Clancy, and other people online who have great spirit and open hearts and who help promote writers and artists. Your sites are marvelous, and of the highest quality, so they are a valuable part of my day. The fact that you interview people like me, and review books, makes a big difference. Writers can feel like voices in the wilderness all too often. That you walk into that wilderness with a smile and some nourishment means a great deal, and I thank you for that.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes. I’ve had a few short stories published by others, but no novel yet. I don’t mind. All that matters is getting my work to people; I don’t care if that’s through self-publishing or through traditional publishing. There are positives and negatives to both.
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Honest, passionate, authentic, sentimental, dreamer.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
The aggressive celebration of ignorance; and vanity.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
I just re-read Patricia Cornwell’s Body of Evidence. I love her forensic murder-mysteries for their sheer escapism, and for the bits you learn about forensics. She writes pretty much to formula, and isn’t known for her fine aesthetic sense, or ability to blow you away with prose; but many is the day that I have curled up with one of her goodies and just loved every second of it. I haven’t read much of her newer stuff. She went through a phase of writing everything in present tense, which I find irksome to read, and unconvincing if it is not done really well. So I tend to go back to her earlier stuff.
When I’m writing, I can only read simplistic, escapist books. It’s safer that way: I’m not influenced, then, by a powerful writing style or silenced by someone’s brilliance.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
I told you I was ill.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I live with what medical science calls Major Depressive Disorder, so happy is a kind of conundrum for me. I also see happiness, or joy, as something fleeting. That might sound like sheer semantics, but to me it isn’t. I have known times of incredible joy – when in love, with animals, with nature, and in brief moments where my writings have garnered real, authentic response from readers, and, of course, positive feedback. But I feel it is much more realistic, and sane, to aim for contentment, rather than this chimera called happiness. The U.S.A. has as one of its foundations the “pursuit of happiness.” I think that’s a recipe for madness, and I think America is living proof of that, for all its marvelous culture and accomplishments.
Having said that, I sometimes daydream – and night dream – of having the perfect partner. In the actual night dreams, the soul-feeling that’s expressed in that person is life-fulfilling. I think that this is well-nigh impossible in mundane life, but it sure would be wonderful. But, I tend to dream the impossible, and always have. That’s the soul, the psyche I was born to live with, and to live out.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
A kiss. An Anthony Hopkins kiss of sheer kindness.
oAuthor Link: nab.ie/b0bme
Clancy's comment: Thank you, Mr Richards. I enjoyed your honest comments about the frustrations of the publishing industry. Keep writing ...
Think about this!