Inky Interview Exclusive: Poet Andrew McMillan: with Claire Faulkner

Where did it all start for you? What made you want to be a poet?

I always wrote as a child, as I think a lot of people do, and then when I was about sixteen I started reading poetry again, after moving away from it a lot during my younger teenage years; so I started to emulate what I was reading (we’re all readers before we’re writers) and it seemed to me a great way of distilling the madness and confusion of the world.

How do you balance your writing alongside your job as a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University? Do you have a writing routine?

I don’t really have a routine; on days when I’m not in my university office I still like to wake early, perhaps writing for an hour, before getting on with the rest of the day; if I have a commission or a specific piece I’m meant to be working towards, then that will often force me to sit down at my desk like a proper writer and try to conjure something up – but usually poetry comes to me very slowly and very unexpectedly – a line coming from wherever that place is that poetry comes from, and I’ll write that down and then just try to let it lead me wherever it wants to go.

Your poems are often personal and intimate. Human nature, desire and relationships are reoccurring themes. How difficult is it to put that part of you and that level of emotion down on paper?

I’m quite a shy, reserved person in many ways and so that level of intimacy is difficult; it just seemed to me that I was interested in relationships, in desire, in the body, and if I was going to write about those things then I had to fully commit and write about them entirely, there was no point doing it half-heartedly, or being embarrassed by it, the poems would only work (I told myself) if I went completely into them, if I told the whole truth (poetic truth rather than what-actually-happened truth sometimes); it can be difficult to visit parts of your life that weren’t particularly enjoyable, or which there is a certain degree of shame about, but that fear and embarrassment and emotion is important to feel – if you’re writing a poem cold then the reader will feel cold as well, there needs to be something transmitted to the reader, almost by osmosis.

Writing is never the hardest part in terms of revealing oneself; for the longest time the poems are just mine, in my notebook, and then the scary part comes afterwards.

Your poems are often lower case, with little punctuation and have fragmented stanzas. Why do you think this style and form works so well? ( I’m thinking in particular of Finally and David after Goliath. Both of which I think are beautiful. Every time I read David after Goliath I get something different from it, and I think that’s partly due to the form.)

It’s a style that developed over time, first lower case (which I began experimenting with after reading Children of Albion, a weird wonderful anthology of underground British poetry from the 1960’s) the fragments, or exploded lyric line with the breath spaces always just felt to me more natural, it seemed to me that people never spoke in correct punctuation, pausing where a comma might be etc., it’s something more led by the breath than that, something more gentle than that.

What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?

To read, to read and to keep reading, and never lose that joy of reading; even read things you don’t enjoy, just to see why it is you don’t like it, to begin to form some kind of response to it. Remember that joy of reading, never lose that.

Do you think poetry is becoming more accessible?

I think it’s having a moment where it seems to be more popular, and I think forms are perhaps becoming more hybridised; I don’t think its necessarily a question of it becoming more accessible but rather that more people are coming to it – in troubling serious times, people always go to poetry – just as they might for a funeral.

Do you have a favourite poem or a writer whose work you keep returning to?

Always Thom Gunn, my first and always poetic love.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just come out of the other side of all my marking, so slowly getting back into the swing of reading things – I’m looking forward to starting Michael Symmons Roberts’ new collection, Mancunia that Cape are publishing this year, and the great Randall Mann, a wonderful American poet, just sent me his new collection, so I’ve been reading that as well.

Do you have a poem or any recommendations you would like to share with us?

I would recommend that everyone takes out a subscription to a poetry magazine; Poetry(Chicago) The Poetry Review, Poetry London; magazines are a great way of seeing the coal face of poetry, where the really new and fresh poetry is coming out.

http://andrewmcmillanpoet.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Urszula Soltys.

Inky Interview Special: Poet and Visual Artist Ted Eames

What is it you love about poetry?

I love the way that poetry can multi-task. A poem can mean different things to different readers and listeners, and it can simultaneously make you say: “Wow! I see things that way” and also “Hey! I’ve never quite seen things that way before.”

I also love the concise, pared down nature of poetry. A poem gives you something in concentrated form, and I like that you then have to do a little bit of work to flesh it out from your own heart and head.

Can you share with us a couple of your poems and the inspiration behind them?

The first one is a recent poem, inspired by nights out alone on mountain tops in remote parts of the Yukon. From time to time I love ‘overnighting’ on hills and on islands, travelling light and staying awake. You can learn a lot about both place and self:

The Mountain Top: Evening and Morning

Dry-grain rock springs the feet like cropped grass

until, with long final strides across bare boiler-plate slabs,

I am dipping my head

                                      in the high mountain sky,

                                      with fifty miles of elbow room

                                      on either side to spare.

Darkness sumps horizon’s light

and invites me

to stay the night,

to drench my scalp

in small hours indigo,

cryptic counter-code

for day’s blazing blue.

 

Only silver meteor slashes remind me that things move:

constellations, galaxies and lone stars lure my sanity

                                                                                            to ecstatic edge.

                                                                                            Delirium?

                                                                                            Hold on, for morning.

                                                                                             

Yet something was there,

heard in slithering scree,

seen in dark shadow-bulks,

scent of pine revealing

a scent not-of-pine,

animal fear on my tongue,

a sense of tense, stealthy touch

deep within, a pulse to each nerve-end

until silent atoms of light cluster,

then thicken into myriad layers,

reclaiming distance and detail.

 

Azure day’s dip

was potent, heady.

Violet night’s

was one rational gulp

from drowning.

 

The second poem relates to a more earthy and human experience in the same part of the world. It is written in the imagined voice of a woman I saw playing piano in a rough old bar in Dawson City, where a Gold Rush population of fifty thousand has shrunk to somewhere around one thousand souls:

 

The Westminster Bar, Dawson City: Old Joanna Hits Her Stride

I must be losing my grip,

all fingers and thumbs

from the nights of white rum.

But the ivory keys draw me in,

rounded at the edges, smoothed,

rancid butter coloured enamel

like the horse-toothed

bar-buttresses I serenade tonight.

I yellow in sallow rhythm-light

to accompany the décor.

Smoking Compulsory Here.

Thank heaven for the black notes,

I cannot tell my chromatic,

rheumatic, tallowed

fingers from the off-whites.

Still, there is a cooling warmth

to the beached bones

of this smoothened keyboard,

salt-scoured by my earthy tunes.

Only my breasts resist

this gorse-hued coarsening,

this mellow tan leathering.

I flaunt a paleness of them tonight

and taunt the limp, curdling drinkers

with my double-barrelhoused,

clotted cream Milk Cow Blues.

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?

My poetry has several, often overlapping, themes: the natural world (especially the ‘wild’); love and sex; a humanist, anti-religious vein; satirical humour; music and art; story-telling.

Those are the things that matter to me.

Politics also matters to me (I am a socialist) and I love the idea of politically relevant poetry, but I feel frustrated about my inability (thus far) to write good political verse!

Can you tell us about your first novel Pick Up The Pieces?

Pick Up the Pieces is based on a seven month solo journey I made not long ago, an eventful trip around British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. I decided to turn my experiences into a novel rather than a travelogue.

I created a fictional narrator who was able to describe my journey via her own observations, via access to my journal, and via interviews with people I met. This device allowed me to develop a plot and to have a commentator who is able to describe a bigger picture, whilst also poking fun at me and revealing her own character.

All the events are true, except for the small matter of my own death. It is a mystery story with rebirth as a theme.

The narrator is based on a character in some paintings by the artist Paula Rego. I am very excited at the moment because, following a recent BBC film about her, I managed to make contact with her and she is reading the manuscript.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

One thing I’d change about the world?

Handling POWER is not something that we humans are good at. That applies to individual relationships within families and right through to global politics. Power abuse is the root of sexism, racism and all the other forms of oppression and division.

So I would opt for a sea-change in human awareness of how to relate to others without power abuse.

Who inspires you and why?

My son inspires me.

I was a single parent from when he was 11 months old and we are very close.

His presence in my life has changed me for the better, has taught me loads, and has given me a spinal column to my world that will always be there.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

So many “best days” (and nights) to choose from!

I could get lost in making this decision, so I will go with the day when my younger sister and I spent a day walking and reflecting on the death of our mum and dad (they died within a year of each other after quite troubled years). We didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, but we were able to make sense of it all in retrospect, and grow from our talking.

As children we had created a fantasy world of stories and music, mainly led by me as the older child.

On our walk she said to me: “Thank you for my childhood”. I can’t think of anything much better than that!

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I am reading guide books to the Hebridean Islands. I have visited a few but a recent trip to Berneray, Harris and the Uists has ignited a desire to spend more time there.

I am also re-reading my library of Alice Munro short stories.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

Over the last year or so I have been getting into collage making. It’s something I have had on a backburner for a long time, so I have built up a good collection of images and texts and I am really enjoying a different creative enterprise.

I had an exhibition last summer and am part of a large one in Shrewsbury this month.

Details are on my blog at  www.maintenantman.wordpress.com  

Other than that I am fantasising wildly about what might happen if Paula Rego (and her film director son) like Pick Up the Pieces. Dream on, Ted!

Inky Interview: Horror Writer and English Professor Mike Arnzen: with Claire Faulkner

Can you tell us about your journey as a writer? Where did it all start for you?

I’ve always loved stories, but I think I first started taking myself seriously as a >writer< when I set down a book I was reading – Stephen King’s Firestarter – and thought, well, gosh, I can do better than that! I tried, and failed miserably.  

King is a master. Who was I fooling? But I think we all get started in this business when we get to a point where we start to see the patterns of storytelling, and feel compelled to ‘talk back’ to the world of books through our own writing. That is simply stage one to a long-earned career as an author.

In the Goreletter and on your website you provide writing prompts to help inspire others. What inspires you to write?

What a kind question! I think part of it is obviously seeing the effect it has on other people. Maybe this is why I teach and try to help other writers. It has the benefit of the instant reaction. Writing is a kind of prompt toward an emotional response, isn’t it?

I actually started sharing creative writing prompts with writers in a horror newsletter called ‘Hellnotes’ about a decade ago. It was fun series of things like ‘Describe brain surgery from an awakening patient on the operating table’ and things of that ilk. Now there’s a huge collection of them that people can look into, called INSTIGATION: CREATIVE PROMPTS ON THE DARK SIDE. It’s an e-book only title, but available everywhere those are sold.

And now that I think of it, it seems so obvious: horror, too, is a kind of prompt. I like getting a reaction. Whether a scream or an intellectual response, I’m happy.


Do you have a set writing routine?

I >TRY< to. Habits are double-edged swords. They can make you productive… but they can become uncreative rituals. The whole notion of a ritual is that it is a kind of ‘story we tell ourselves’ by practicing something over and over again, the same way. And that can backfire with writing. But my primary routine is to write in the mornings, when the coffee hits my dream-addled brain and ignites weirdness with hi-octane energy. However, sometimes, deadlines press in, and I find myself binge-writing all night until I drop. Sometimes those caffeine-fuelled, fever dream, writing marathons produce the weirdest ideas, so I’m a bad judge of what works best for my own process, actually. But so long as I’m producing something, or planning the next project, I’m happy. I try to keep different things juggling all at once – a novel, a poem, an essay; that keeps me going if any one thing stalls or gets dry.

I originally found your work through your project gorelets, where readers received weekly poems from you. I’ve been hooked on creative horror ever since. (I have FOTD magnets too.) Why do you think horror works so well in this format?

Less is more! I’ve long felt that horror works best in short forms. This is why Poe works so well, I think… can you imagine a NOVEL from Poe, akin to the whoppers we find on the bestseller shelves today? I can’t. Short forms have the promise of a surprise ending, and the finality is often felt like a bullet to the head. 

You teach writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University; how do you balance this with your own writing?

On the one hand, teaching keeps me primed. I’m always reading, always reflecting on this crazy practice called writing, always talking shop. And I’m doubly lucky that I get to do it with horror writing – my job is unique! But balance? That’s kind of a myth. Work comes and goes – sometimes books take the spotlight; sometimes teaching gets on center stage; sometimes it’s something else altogether. But teaching can murder the creative mind: finding time to write while juggling class preps, sundry meetings, and the massive amounts of grading can seem impossible some weeks. There’s only so many times you can dip into the word well, and sadly, teaching sometimes has wrung all the words out of me by the end of the day. This is why – when all my pistons are popping – I swear by my morning writing routine. And when I’m under deadline, I set my alarm ahead an hour early, just so I can get more done. 

Can you share any details of projects you’re involved with at the moment?

I’m contributing to an academic title for Dark Moon books that studies the short fiction of Steve Rasnic Tem! First in the series of author-studies is ‘Exploring Dark Short Fiction’, run by Eric Guignard, who is an awesome editor to work with. He really wants to put the spotlight on short story writers and help new genre fans and authors understand why people like Tem keep winning awards or why people should keep reading them. I’m on as academic consultant, which means I write commentaries on all the stories in these books, and a longer academic essay. It’s fun to let my academic side out of the box like this every once in awhile. Reading, thinking and teaching are all parts of what make my weird engine run at full speed.

But like I said, I’m always juggling. I’ve got a poetry collection I want to finish gathering together next. Then a short-story collection. There’s a stalled novel I might restart. THINGS A PLENTY! If your readers subscribe to the Goreletter, they’ll know about them as soon as they’re available! Visit gorelets.com

What are you reading at the moment? Who would you recommend to us?

A really cool ‘lost version of Dracula’ called Powers of Darkness by Valdimar Asmundsson, who translated Stoker’s classic into Icelandic but changed the story in a bunch of interesting ways (all of which are annotated in the book!). It’s groovy. I’m heading to Transylvania next week, actually, to attend the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, so the book is getting me in the mood for the Carpathians! 🙂 I’ll be doing a fiction reading there, as well as curating an academic symposium on behalf of Seton Hill University. Folks interested in doing this next year should visit http://ivfaf.com

Would you like to share one of your poems with us?

This is an example of a ‘gorelet’ from years ago, that everyone seems to remember after they read it:

Fuzzy Bunnies

the eyes roll back
and accusingly glare
when my feet slide forward
and hot rabbit innards
squirt between my toes
only then do I see
why these furry white skins
are called slippers

Have you got anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for the interview! If anyone reading this is looking over my stuff, and wondering, ‘Where do I start? What book is the best?’ then I would recommend looking into Proverbs for Monsters (for a sampler of longer fiction and poetry) or 100 Jolts (for 100 short-short horror stories). Both are in print, and I continue to get great responses from readers. Enjoy!

Inky Interview: Author Jason Whittle by Inez De Miranda

I know that you studied the level 2 and level 3 writing modules at the Open University. What other modules did you study? When did you graduate?

I worked my way through the levels very gently at first. It began with Start Writing Fiction, which seemed the ideal way in. Brilliant little course that, available for free through Futurelearn now, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

At that stage I wasn’t sure I’d take it any further, but I did alright, so tackled another two 10 point short courses, Making Sense of the Arts and Introduction to Shakespeare, and by then I did have the confidence to go for actual qualifications. The Arts Past and Present and the ‘wild card’ Croeso: Beginners’ Welsh brought me my Certificate of Higher Education, Creative Writing and being part of the very first Reading and Studying Literature intake got me my Diploma (and some very valued friendships), and Advanced Creative Writing and 20th Century Literature completed the English Lit BA in summer 2014.

Why did you choose to study at the OU and why did you choose the modules you actually studied?

Not to put too fine a point on it, it was the only educational avenue available to me. Having been something of a child prodigy, tipped for Oxford or Cambridge from a young age, I succumbed to a teenage depression and dropped out of college without getting anywhere near sitting my A-Levels. For seventeen years I thought that was it for me and education, until it occurred to me that the OU could be a route back in. That’s what I love most about it; it’s a second chance for those whose potential would go unrealised otherwise.

As for the modules, it had to be based around literature and creative writing; that was all I wanted to do. Apart from taking Welsh for my free choice, because a small but significant part of my family history comes from there – my great grandfather survived the 1913 Senghenydd coalmine disaster.

Which aspects of the Open University Modules were useful for the development of your writing, and why/how were they useful? Has your writing changed after doing the OU modules?

Everything was useful in its way, and I do feel that English Lit study can only be beneficial for writers. Ironically, I scored really low on the Creative Writing modules, by the far the lowest of any of my modules (but not bitter, honest!), but that doesn’t mean I didn’t take anything from it. Sorry for the plug, but I think my short e-book Aberfan and Senghenydd, based on the two Welsh coalmining disasters, demonstrates my evolution perfectly. ‘Senghenydd’ was written in early 2010, just before I started at the OU. I’m proud of the story, it’s full of pace and derring-do, with a lot of heart and passion, but it’s also written without any guile or real understanding of the craft. ‘Aberfan’ was written last year and is a much more nuanced affair, poignant and cerebral, with a greater reliance on the subtext.

 Tell us something about your further plans of writing-related studies.

I’m currently battling through the final stages of a Creative and Critical Writing MA from the University of Winchester, and am already pitching a PhD project. No solid news on that yet, but I hope to get started in 2017. Project title is “Exploring the Relationship between Dystopia and Reality in Fiction and Reportage” and it will consist of research into dystopian fiction past and present, how it reflects on the time it was written, and which dystopian visions are already coming true, alongside writing my own novel Overcrowding in which austerity has taken such a firm hold that human life is secondary to penny-pinching.

About your writing: Do you write in a specific genre or do you have a specific focus in your writing? If so, why? Do you write short stories, novels, poetry, something else or all of the above?

I am a real genre-hopper, and vary my project lengths, but have a preference for the novella. Debut novel and some of my published short stories are in horror, and I write a lot in the inter-related sci-fi and fantasy genres (but usually with a real word basis). I have two crime series that I’m working on, one which I’m trying to work out whether it’s suitable for children, and the adult-oriented one which swings back and forth between cosy and hard-boiled. I write poetry, script, and non-fiction, and also dabble in the two very different disciplines of sports reporting (with a recurring page in the Chester FC match programme) and erotic fiction (under a pseudonym, needless to say).

If there are any recurring themes in my fiction, they would be dark humour, and the Everyman who makes regrettable life decisions.

You have recently been contracted by Kristell Ink – Can you tell us a little about the work you’ve been contracted for? What genre is it? Is it a standalone novel, or part of a series? Anything else you can tell without offering spoilers: perhaps the blurb, and/or some info on the setting, characters, story. And when can we buy it?

It’s a standalone novella called Escaping Firgo, due for release next year. I called myself a genre-hopper, but I’m more of a genre ignoramus, because I struggle to put a tag on this. It must be sci-fi or fantasy, I suppose, maybe a bit of both. I prefer to say speculative fiction. The publishers have teasered it as ‘Hot Fuzz meets messed-up Trumpton’, while I would admit to there being a Patrick McGoohan Prisoner influence, in that the main character is trapped in a weird village and trying to find a way out.

But it’s also based on a real incident: there’s an actual place called Firgo, a small hamlet in north Hampshire comprising a single house and some farm buildings. My friends and I had the misfortune to have the car break down there – twice! – and we ended up wandering around the local village on a frosty Sunday morning asking an increasingly eccentric set of locals for help in getting home. I went back there earlier this year, as described on my blog.

Is you novel Midlife Crisis based on personal experiences? If so, how far? Is Clayton, the main character, a lot like you?  If so, in what ways? And in what ways is he not like you?

Like Clayton, I am a jogger, and like Clayton, and many others I’m sure, I sometimes wonder where my youth went. I started writing this at the age of 37 – it was my Level 2 Creative Writing EMA. I was partly inspired by one of the module’s quoted texts, What I Know by Andrew Cowan, which also begins with the main character’s 40th birthday, and the novels of James Hawes, which often feature an Everyman whose life unravels. Clayton is an Everyman with a twist: does his experience really transform him? Or merely unlock who he was inside all along?

The atmosphere of the novella changes very drastically throughout the story. Was that planned? When you started writing it, did you already know roughly how it was going to end, or did the story develop while you were writing?

Yeah, I often have the entire story, at least the main narrative arc, in my head before I even start typing, and that was the case here. The assignment instruction was to write a 100 word summary of the rest of the plot, and I stuck to that completely. This is me at my most Hitchcockian: Psycho starts off as a heist crime adventure before changing tack, and The Birds is ticking away nicely as a fluffy rom-com (with just a hint of foreboding), before the pecking begins, and I’ve always wanted to write something that goes one way at first before shocking everyone with a sudden turning point.

The novella contains grisly and visceral scenes – can you explain how you developed these scenes? Now that the book is published, what are your thoughts and feelings about those scenes, and about the fact that people read them?

I come from a horror background, so edgy content is the norm for me (Escaping Firgo is the exception, with no swearing and minimal violence). So the dark interior of my mind has already been exposed – difference there being that shocking scenes are expected in horror, whereas after being lulled by the opening, this will have maximum impact.

I thought about issuing a trigger warning, but didn’t want to put a spoiler on what I hope is a memorable experience for the reader. Biggest worry is for the daughter of the man who created the house on the cover. As per this blog post, the cover, therefore the book, goes out in his memory, but if his friends or family buy it as a tribute, they might expect something less, well, grisly and visceral.   

Finally, do you have any tips for wannabe published writers? (Yes, you are now at the level of wise and knowledgeable adviser! 😉 )

Just write, as much as you can. Don’t worry about how good it is – the worst thing you’ve written is still better than the best thing you haven’t, and you can make it better later. Also read as much as you can, a variety of authors, a variety of genres, even a variety of quality, and ask yourself, what’s good, what’s bad, and how can I make this better? You can learn as much from a self-published potboiler as a literary classic, and assimilate everything, and make it part of your own writing style. And then you’ve got a chance, at least, of reaching your audience.

Get your copy of Jason’s novel here 🙂

Inky Interview: Author Deborah M. Hodgetts: with Kev Milsom

Hello Deborah. Thank you for agreeing to this Ink Pantry interview. I’m sure that our readers will benefit from your input and viewpoints. Can I please start off by asking you about your earliest creative inspirations? What influenced your childhood mind towards creative expression, in writing, music or the arts? Additionally, could you share some thoughts on the authors who have had a massive impact on your love for writing and helped it to blossom?

My earliest creative inspirations were my mum and Grandmother; both talented poets in the own right. At the age of seven my creative bubble grew; I started writing creative stories and poetry. I was also awarded an Art Scholarship for outstanding abstract art, and so every weekend from the ages of 7-13 I attended Art School in Staffordshire. In school holidays, I would accompany my mum at her poetry readings, performances and events, and I would also spend time with my grandmother visiting the local library, happily getting lost in books. It was in these early years that the seed of my love of writing was planted, and it was from here that it started to blossom.

After a lull in my creativity my passion was reawakened once more in 2012, after being involved in a major car accident. My road to recovery was my writing and I was encouraged by a friend, also a writer to start a blog to help me get back to my passion.

In 2012, on the road to recovery The Beautiful Music of Words was born and I have been averaging between 2,000 page views a month every month, along with a global audience ever since.

In my early years I was inspired by Shakespeare, James Herbert, Emily Bronte and many of the classics. I loved to read and if I was not writing or drawing as a child, you’d find me devouring a book – although not quiet literally.

In recent years I have been fortunate and privileged to learn from fellow writers and creative friends. It has been here and with these creatives, that I have also found a great source of inspiration and this has also been a discovery and journey for me on a personal level. I am so grateful to all who have helped my love of writing to blossom and grow.

In February 2017, you released a book of poetry called A Universe of Love. What inspired you to put this collection together and how long had the ideas been sitting in your head before you started putting them together into a serious collection of work.

A Universe of Love is my debut poetry collection. The 80 poems have been carefully selected from the 350 poems, that I have written over the last 13 years. The poems in A Universe of Love are gathered from my observations of life and all the shades and hues of love. The collection is the culmination of six years work, and creative collaboration with the illustrator and book cover designer Stewart Clough.

Wow, I’m imagining the selective process that you went through in choosing from such a large total of creative work! In terms of poetry, what poets have inspired you in the past, Deborah? Is there a favourite form, or style, of poetry that you enjoy the most?

In the past I have been inspired by the greats such as : Byron, Shelley, Keats and Shakespeare.

I have also found inspiration with Michael Symons Roberts, Wendy Cope and many more. Some of these well loved poets, are now friends and companions on my journey. I love all forms of poetry, but I love to dabble in free verse the most.

I’d like to ask you about your own, unique writing preparation. Is there a specific location that you choose to write in? How do you physically prepare for a writing session?

I love to observe and watch the world around me. This is where my poems are formed and meet with my heart. I like to let idea’s settle within my soul, and percolate for a little time and then I’m guided by my intuition to write and create beauty with words. I prepare my writing journey by meditating, music and singing and by immersing myself in the beauty of nature. It is often in the wee small hours that my soul meets my muse, and the journey is renewed and the words start to flow.

Following on from this, could you share some information on your writing preferences? Are you someone who walks around with notebooks and pens (with possible doodles), or is your structure based more towards planning and writing ideas on a computer?

I can usually be found with my notebook and pen, doodling and watching life.

I love to flow freely with my poetry, but with other genres, i.e, writing biographies or Young Adult novels this requires me to adopt a planned approach, and as a consequence I write most of my ideas straight to the computer.

Poetry is a different process altogether, and I enjoy creating each poem by hand and then edit once I input into my computer.

Your young adult novel The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place is being released soon. How did the inspirational process for this begin and how long did it take to go from initial thoughts to putting words onto paper/computer monitor?

The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place is due to be released in April 2017. The inspiration for this Young Adult novel, bubbled for a few years. I also got to know a homeless artist in London. To experience this journey, I took my self into the streets of London, to enable me to make my main character Barney Lumsden as realistic as possible. I started to write this title three years ago, and last year after getting extremely close with a few major agents, I made the decision to bring this idea to life. The Curtain Twitchers of Oakley Place was completed last year and sent out to a few interested agents – but alas was not picked up. So, once again after some soul searching and revision, I commenced shaping it into this soul changing journey with a supportive editor. I just know that for whatever reason, this book needs to be out in the world now – to make a big difference.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Deborah! To conclude, could you enlighten our readers by sharing some plans for 2017 and 2018? What’s on the drawing board, creatively?

Well, I am currently busy finishing writing a biography about Ex-BBC Cameraman a Tony Jacobs – who was the first at the scene of the Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster; he also filmed the funeral of the spy Kim Philby and captured many major events, which have changed the world. Other works in progress are a children’s TV drama script, that I am co-writing with another talented writer. Between us we are polishing the script and finalising some changes, before re-submitting to BAFTA.

I am also writing new poetry and a second poetry collection is due to be released in October 2017, this title is Remember Me with Love -Poetry in Conflict. This is a collection of poetry I have written on the conflicts of war from both sides of the fence. I will be donating 50% of the royalties to the following charities: Help the Heroes, The Royal British Legion, and a refugee charity.

In addition to this I am also working on a unique book on homelessness, with proceeds being donated to a number of homeless charities. This book is due to be published later this year by an indie publisher.

Finally I will be holding a writing workshop in July 2017, with another fellow talented writer Sue Nicholls. We also plan to start teaching our 10 week writing course in September. Moving forward to 2018: I am planning and working on a few new book ideas, I will be creating some animations and producing some poetry films with my husband who is an award winning cameraman.

So watch this space, I’m only just starting – watch out world … I’m coming!

Get your copy of A Universe of Love

Deborah’s Blog

Inky Interview: Theoretical Physicist Dr Nicholas Mee: by Kev Milsom

Hello Dr Nicholas and many thanks for agreeing to share some thoughts in an interview with Ink Pantry Publishing. Can I start by taking you back to your school days? The company which you founded – ‘Virtual Image’ – is responsible for some fascinating software, to teach children (and adults) the joys of mathematics and science. When you were at school, were these your two passionate subjects – the ones that drew you in from a young age? If so, what was it about maths and science that held your fascination. Also, what other subjects did you enjoy during your academic journey?

I have always had a wide range of interests. I grew up during the era of the Apollo missions, which may partly explain why as a young child I was fascinated by astronomy. I have also had mathematical interests since I was very young. I used to play mathematical games with my granddad before I was old enough to go to primary school – these include the dominoes game ‘fives and threes’ and the card game cribbage.

In my teens I developed a deep interest in fundamental physics and the key philosophical questions of existence and this remains with me. However, this did not really derive from school, but developed alongside my conventional educational. From my mid-teens I knew that I had to study theoretical physics.

At the same time I have always maintained an interest in the arts and I have been involved in a number of art and science projects over the years.

As someone who home-educated our two daughters for 12 years, I was very interested in the range of software available in this current era. How personally important to you is the element of capturing children’s imagination and inspiration from a very early age and how do think this can be improved over the next generation of parents?

It is very important to inspire children. It is important that they should be highly motivated and also that they have high expectations of themselves and that they should want to seek knowledge for its own sake. Information is more readily available now than ever before. However, there is a danger than the acquisition of knowledge becomes fragmentary with snippets of information taken from here and there rather than learning in a structured, coherent, disciplined and methodical manner. It is the nurturing of skills that are developed and build up over long periods of time that are really important. Skills such as mathematics and critical thinking, musical skills and language skills are essential for a rounded education.

You’ve just finished a new book, co-writing alongside Professor Nick Manton, entitled The Physical World – An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics. Firstly, how different was the process of creative collaboration with Professor Manton and what were the initial goals for you both behind the planning of this book?

Although this is my first co-authored book, I have collaborated with numerous people in the past on various software projects, so working with Nick Manton wasn’t a completely new experience. Writing a book can be a very solitary task. Having a co-author makes the writing process much more enjoyable. Our aim was to produce the modern equivalent of the classic Feynman Lectures written by Richard Feynman and published just over fifty years ago, a book that will inspire a new generation of physicists now setting out to study the subject. We have covered the whole of fundamental physics at a level that is between school and university. As such it was pretty clear to us from the start what topics we should include. There were just two chapters that we added to our initial plan during the course of writing, one about ‘Stars’ and the final chapter ‘Frontiers of Physics’ which explores some of the unanswered questions, such as the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

I’d like to ask about your processes of inspiration. When planning a new book is it usually a thought that has been in your head for some time and put through rational mindsets, or does your motivation tend to rely on more random avenues, whereby seeds can be planted quickly and unexpectedly?

Some of the articles that I have written on my blog have arisen quickly from a recent discovery or a chance observation. It is often very useful when explaining an unfamiliar scientific topic to approach the subject from an oblique angle. I think this helps the reader to feel at ease and to see the world from a slightly different perspective. For instance, the discussion of symmetry in Higgs Force begins with the story of a toy – the kaleidoscope – and the explanation of the strong nuclear force starts with the Japanese board game Go. Similarly, in my second book Gravity the chapter about unifying gravity with the other forces begins with campanology, the English art of ringing church bells.

In 2012, you were asked to build three animations for an exhibition at the Royal Society in London, concerning the mathematician Théodore Olivier and the sculptor, Sir Henry Moore, producing an elaborate and fascinating connection between mathematics and physical art. I’m intrigued to know what elements of artistic creativity inspire you – or have inspired/relaxed you – within your life. Do you find a fascination with the worlds of music, writing & the arts that matches your passion for the scientific world, or are these elements which hold little interest? If the former, who/what has inspired you creatively, especially in terms of literature, art and music?

I listen to music all the time, mainly classical and rock music. I am listening to Hawkwind at the moment, which is perhaps a guilty pleasure – the rock equivalent to listening to Wagner, which I also do quite regularly. I listen to a wide range of classical and rock music, but if I had to choose one classical composer and one rock band that I have found inspirational I would probably choose Beethoven and the Beatles. In the case of the Beatles this is not only because of the quality and variety of their music, but also because of the revolution in popular music that they ignited. To go from ‘Love Me Do’ to ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ in five years is almost miraculous, especially when you take the whole world with you.

I visit the theatre quite often, tomorrow I am going to see Daniel Radcliffe in Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard.

Thank you for a fascinating answer, Nick. As someone who is extremely passionate about music I can totally relate to everything that you say.

When I was a child (aged roughly 7) my mind was completely blown open by a small book on Astronomy and the Solar System. That passion has remained with me ever since and continues to expand my mind and philosophical thinking. If you could live in any historical period relating to scientific discoveries, which one would you choose? Perhaps to be around the time of Newton and the Age of Enlightenment, or would you choose to remain in this fast-paced, contemporary time? Is there a set scientifically-historical period where you have thought, ‘Wow, I wish I had been around back then?’

I have a burning desire to know what it is all about, so I would definitely choose to live now. It is incredible that we now know so much about the scientific world. We only have to go back to the time before Kepler and Galileo just over 400 years ago and essentially nothing was known about anything. The current rate of progress in our understanding of the world is also mind-boggling, especially in the biological sciences. We are also in the middle of a golden age of astronomy and astrophysics, which is largely due to the development of the current generation of observatories both Earth-based and space-based. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time last year, and it is only five years since the discovery of the Higgs boson. The Event Horizon Telescope has just gone into operation to study the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy, so this year we could see the first ever image of a black hole.

Going back to education, within the educational school curriculum, where would you make major/minor changes, in terms of creating a sense of inspirational wonder within children? Or do you believe that the system is about right as it is?

This is a difficult question for me as I don’t have first hand experience of the classroom. There are a lot of improvements that could be made. In my view state schools in the UK should be brought up to the standard of the top private schools. This is essential if the UK is to compete with other countries around the world. In order to achieve this, a lot more money needs to be spent on education.

It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nick and many thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. In conclusion, I’d like to ask what 2017 & 2018 hold in store for you, in terms of new plans and publications?

I am currently writing a book with David Benjamin with the provisional title How Mathematics Conquered the World. It is about the development of computing from Pythagoras to logarithms to Babbage, Turing and Google. David Benjamin is a maths teacher who I have worked with on many software projects over the years, such as the Maths Lesson Starters series of CD-ROMs. There are also various other book projects that have been suggested that may or may not come to fruition.

Website

Dr Nick’s blog

Inky Interview Special: Author and Poet Michael Murray

You have written a fascinating book called Gifts of Rings and Gold. Can you please tell us about it?

Gifts of Rings and Gold – the title is to do with the position of the letter G. It also refers to the great blossoming of literature with the late middle ages, the end of the age of legends and heroes.

The idea started with Harry Potter. There is a huge industry around the books now; part of that is John Granger, Hogwarts Professor. He produced an ebook examining the Potter books as Rings. He based the concept on Thinking In Circles by social anthropologist Mary Douglas.


The Potter books are written as Rings: the stories end where they begin, at Privet Drive, and in the centre of the book a big event happens which influences beginning and end. The series as a whole is a ring, and each book separately.


But there is also a more elaborate structure, the chiasmus: think of an archway. Its capstone, in the centre, holds it all in place, and each side mirrors the other in the build up to that centre. Some stories are like that, they build up to the big event, and then retreat from it with the same steps, but changed.


The chiasmus can occur simply as a line, a paragraph, but it has not been recognised, it can determine the structure of the whole.


A chiasmic story, by implication, deals as much with the consequences, as with the build-up to the main event; in our books, the main event is the end event.

So I looked at the oldest texts (I’ve always collected books) from Ancient Egypt: The Tale of Sinuhe, and it works. It works too, in Gilgamesh. I am no classical or biblical scholar, so I left that next time-segment to Mary Douglas.


So, where did J K Rowling learn the structure? She was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings. They are full of these structures. Where did Tolkien learn it? He was a big authority on Beowulf, which is also full of rings.


The Bible spread it around the world. Some Islamic texts have very elaborate forms.
You find it as a general structure in Milton, Tennyson’s In Memorium, even The Great Gatsby.

Next I tried to find out how it was passed on. And why was it used? It’s suggested it was a mnemonic: you know the opening, so you know the end, and something of the middle. So, was it a part of the Art of Memory?

I have left suggestions, hints, so readers could explore for themselves.

 

You are also a poet. What is it about poetry that you love?
Love it? Sometimes I hate it. People try to railroad it into easy systems; it saves having to go through the doldrums when you can’t write. But that’s a cop-out: the doldrums give the eventual poem its impetus or change of direction. What is it about poetry? I have wracked my brains over the years, and I’m no nearer. All I can say is: it’s what some people do.

Could you share with us a couple of your poems?

APPS

Do you have an app for melancholy?
I asked the store guy,
or a rap? the DJ  

– I want to regain what I have lost
being contemporary.

Do you know the next  turning on the right,
I asked the bus driver,
or on the left, the taxi driver,         
that looks the most familiar
in the evening light?

You don’t need apps for that,
they said.

                You’re a natch.

 

RETURN TO THE ISLANDS

It was the fourth day out, the tide had been slow,

the wind down; to make up time they rowed

 

and that night rested. The air was changing;

I smelt flowers. The sky to the West deepening.

 

The watch slept, only the tarpaulin awake;

sleepy at first, ‘till the big drops broke.

 

Then all was uproar: scrambling, shouting;

I was, ah, back in the woodland, distinguishing

 

scents of violet, marsh marigold,  hemlock;

and the catch-at-the-heart of wild garlick.

 

Wild garlick. And for that moment off guard

the sea sneaked long feelers in, then hurrahed

 

meeting sweet rain; and the nails jumped their post,

the caulking crumbled; wind took what was lost.

 

If any of me should return, let it be where

wild garlick grows down to the shore.

                                                             Just there.

 

What themes keep cropping up in your writing? What do you care about?
Um. I’ve been told I range too wide; a book must have set parameters. I can see that, but I’m a contrarian. Different aspects of how poems have been written throughout time become dominant as we go on. I always try to read back, and widely in translation. We’re stuck with being people, so we have to write people-things. Sometimes the best writing happens when you put your certainties aside, including current ideas and dominant thinking. Also, see next question.

Who inspires you as a poet?
Trying not to be personal but universal, only to surprise the personal in the universal. Sometimes a response to a current little idiocy can become something huge and revealing. My education was as a mature student; I found I had a knack for history. I don’t mean dates, kings and queens, battles – for me history has always been people in their time. Now we have off-shoots like the History of Mentalities, which is truly fascinating.

You are part of a very talented, creative family, as your wife Lavinia and your son Alex are also writers. Do you inspire each other? What has writing taught you as a family, do you think?
I suppose it is a unique and very creative atmosphere. The challenge to appreciate and understand the dynamics of very different writing styles can be wonderful and make you a flexible reader, and hopefully as a person.

Have you any books or collections of poetry that you can recommend to any budding poets or writers?
No, probably not. But whatever writers do, do not stick to here and now.
Read deep, read wide, read and think, read and wonder, read outside your known fields.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
On a personal level I’d want to be well again: I have ME/Chronic Fatigue whatsit.
On the universal level to hurry up the next wave of compassion and human-ness.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve had a break (see below), and so rush to catch up. I particularly like Canadian writer Karen Solie. She takes risks, has intelligence, cares about animals, the world, and is caustic on occasion. I like writers who reach out to greater things.

Mark Waldron has a great use of language – but… well, he’s a copywriter. John Stammers’ early work has a lyric quality of intelligence, light and colour I admire.
Dutch poet Rutger Kopland intrigues me, as does Danish poet Inger Christensen.

What is your creative space like?
I suppose it’s solely in my head, and undecipherable notebooks. I rarely work straight onto the screen. I’ve been to groups, on courses, did a Writing MA, and learned never to let anything ‘out of the house’ without being properly dressed. No matter if the courses demand a piece written for next week, the chances of anything you’d put your name to by then are slim: it’s your own work, make them wait.

What is next for you? What plans have you got?
I was doing an online course to help me get work, and was loathing the whole subject. My response was to write a prose skit on it. The story took over. This gave me an appetite.
I’m just putting the finishing touches to a huge modern story based on the Gilgamesh tale. I’d like to have it published, if it’s good enough. This is a new venture for me. I’ll see where it goes. Still no work, though.

Get your copy of Gifts of Rings and Gold

Inky Interview: Performance Poet Dave Pitt

Can you please tell Ink Pantry about your journey as a performance poet? What lead you to write poetry?

I ended up on this path because it’s the only thing satisfying the mix of emotions I have whirling around. I’ve always written prose, and it’s always been an outlet for whatever is going on in my head. My dream was to do stand-up comedy, but I didn’t know how to get gigs or if I’d have the nerve to do it. When I heard of some spoken word gigs in my area I started doing short stories there. Thinking it would help me build up the nerves I’d need to do stand-up. Eventually I heard about a stand-up comedy gig and got involved in that scene. I spent a few years doing stand-up before it was obvious I wasn’t getting anything out of it anymore. Even when I had a great gig I didn’t feel fulfilled. As a result, I slipped back into spoken word. Then, in a fit of anger, I wrote a poem just before going on stage and performed it there and then. Within six months, I was only doing performance poetry. It scratched all the itches I had. It gave me the freedom to do what I wanted without having to pander to any preconceived ideas.

Do you write prose? Have you thought about screenwriting? Radio?

I do indeed. I’m working on a compilation of short stories at the moment. I’ve written a memoir regarding my time as a stand-up on the open 10 circuit. It dealt with those first 100 gigs and how stand-up helped me battle some mental health demons. However, my biggest writing success has been with stage plays. I love the theatre. It’s great to hand over my writings to others and be constantly surprised at what they produce. And few people critique work like actors saying your lines. They will ask and expect you to justify every letter. Sometimes in performance we can hide behind a joke or some showmanship. There is nowhere to hide when an actor asks you to explain a line. A terrifying but rewarding experience.

What is the poetry scene like where you live?

I’m always surprised at the talent in the local area. I recently co-hosted a poetry slam and sat through most of it open mouthed in wonder. And every time I pop along to a gig, I see someone else I’m unaware of who blows my mind.

Who inspires you? Have you a favourite poet?

I love Poe. ‘The Raven’ was the first poem which grabbed me and refused to let go. It led to a life-long love of his work.

I watched Mike Garry a couple of years ago. I think I wrote about five pages that night just on what he said and how his words made me feel. He inspired me to be more me and embrace my life and upbringing.

And I’ll say this knowing it could be unpopular. You can’t do performance poetry without having respect for hip hop. Some of the flows, rhyme schemes and storytelling by the likes of Akala, Eminem or Biggy Smalls leave my jaw hanging.

What do you care about? What themes keep cropping up in your writing?

Politics, injustice and mental health keep cropping up. This is despite my ever-growing desire to move elsewhere.

Have you any advice for budding performance poets?

It is about being you and cradling all your inspirations. Find out why you love things, throw them all in a melting pot and see what comes out. The recipe of your inspiration is unique to you. Embrace it.

Also, learn the flow and rhythms of your own voice. Again, it’s unique to you and helps you put a stamp on your work.

What are you reading at the moment?

I always try to have at least one fiction and one non-fiction book at a time on the go. At the moment I’m a little stir-crazy as I’m halfway through The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea. A 650+ page tome of sheer madness, but I’m loving it. Then, for some reason, I purchased a 650+ page non-fiction book on the Manson murders.

As neither of these is light reading, I’m also dipping into Alexi Sayle’s autobiography. Satisfying my poetry hunger is ‘Mother, Brother, Lover’ by Jarvis Cocker.

What is your creative space like?

Surprisingly tidy. If I go to my space and it’s messy I have to have a tidy up. I think my mind is so messy and easily distracted I need somewhere sterile and clean to keep it on track.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I wish everyone was comfortable with being wrong. We make mistakes, we find new evidence which contradicts what we first thought, and we are sometimes too pig-headed to see the wood for the trees. But making mistakes and admitting mistakes shouldn’t be seen as a negative. U-Turns should be a good thing.

Can you share with us a couple of your poems?

Of course, but as it’s performance poetry, let’s use modern technology……

 

 

 

 

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’m working on a theatre show with Emma Purshouse and Steve Pottinger. It’s poetry and theatre combined. That is on at the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton on the 21st of April. My first collection of poems entitled ‘Poetry is Jazz. Welcome to Punk Rock’ will be out in the next few weeks. And my new play, ‘There is None Who Does Good’, will get its premier in the autumn.

Twitter

Dave’s poetry to purchase

Inky Interview Exclusive: Door-To-Door Poet Rowan McCabe

 

You are the world’s first Door-To-Door Poet! Can you tell Ink Pantry about your journey towards this great title? 🙂

I’d always had the feeling poetry could be enjoyed by more people. Often the impression given in school is that it has to be written in a confusing language about things that happened hundreds of years ago. And this turns a lot of people off it forever. But I thought if I could get five or ten minutes with someone like that, show them what I do and then write them a poem about anything they like, they’d enjoy it. I just had to think of a way to find them. Knocking on doors seemed like a really immediate way of doing it.

What was it like performing at the Glastonbury festival?

Loads of fun. I became a Tent-to-Tent Poet which, to tell the truth, I wasn’t really supposed to be doing because of health and safety. But, in an act of professional suicide, I did it anyway. On the last day, I bumped into Michael Eavis’ granddaughter by complete accident and wrote her a poem. When I told her what I was doing was a health and safety hazard she said: ‘No it’s not! Someone did a poo in my shoe last night, that’s a health and safety hazard.’

You’ve also performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Amazing! Tell us more…

That was a Hammer and Tongue poetry slam. I’d won the semi-finals at the Edinburgh Fringe, so I got invited to the final at the Albert Hall. It sounds a lot more impressive than it was really; I was on stage for all of six minutes. But it was a nice day out. My parents were very proud.

What is the poetry scene like in Newcastle Upon Tyne?

It’s crazy, and I love it. I’ve heard people complain that it doesn’t really have an identifiable ‘voice’ in the way that, say, London has its Kate Tempest ‘voice’; and this is used as an example of why we don’t really know what we’re doing up here. But, to me, that’s our great strength. We’ve got people working with lots of different tones and styles so, if you get all of them in a room, it’s a real melting pot of ideas. From the spellbinding, ethereal Kirsten Luckins, to the stand-up ramblings of Scott Tyrell, to the rhyming insanity of JaZZ RiOt. Newcastle’s where it’s at, man.

Tell us about ‘Red is the New Blue’.

Ha ha. So Graeme Thompson from Live Theatre called me, Matt Miller and Matilda Niell into a room a few years back and said he wanted us to co-write and perform in a play that had some poems in it. I told him I didn’t know the first thing about writing a play, but he said he could sort that out. He put us on a course with the lovely Gez Casey, and, every week, I’d go along and learn a bit more about how to write a play, all the while trying to write my own. I felt a bit like a monkey at a typewriter.

I mentioned the Mars One project out of passing – the plan to send ordinary people to live on the red planet by 2025 and to televise the entire event. Matt said: ‘That’s what it should be about!’ So that was ‘Red is the New Blue’. It followed three hopelessly flawed people on their way to Mars, and you gradually find out what all of them are running from. It was also kind of about what happens when you put profit-making companies in charge of scientific discovery.

Who inspires you? Have you a favourite poet?

Loads and loads. One of them is Ross Sutherland. I saw Stand by for Tape Back-up at ARC Stockton a few years ago, and it just totally blew my mind. Lots of the Aisle 16 collective really, Luke Wright, Tim Clare – the way they blend everyday culture with big issues, but in a way that’s completely unpretentious. I think that’s the space poetry should occupy. It can be about things that are incredibly important, but it can be entertaining and accessible as well.

What things do you care about?

Wow. Erm… OK. Here is a list of things I care about, in no particular order:

Writing poetry. Skinny jeans. Hunter S. Thompson. My family. Composting. Affordable housing. The ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Biscuits. My girlfriend, Rose. Immersive fringe theatre. Those hybrid sponges that work as a scouring pad. Making cities more bike-friendly. Crufts. Playing guitar. Lazy summer days in Heaton Park. A real living wage. Getting off a metro and then catching the next metro so you don’t have to wait on the platform. Ale. Friends. Destroying fascism. Eccentric hats. Watching bats fly above you in the soothing Italian dusk. Yo-yos.  

You’ve collaborated on a film for Channel 4’s Random Acts. What was it about?

It was about Door-to-Door Poetry. Matt, who I’d worked with on ‘Red is the New Blue’, had said he wanted to do some directing. I noticed Random Acts were open for submissions and they help people direct their own short films. So, I told Matt he should make a film about me knocking on some doors… which sounds incredibly arrogant now that I write it. But he likes Door-to-Door Poetry; he’s gave me lots of advice about it from the start.

Have you any advice for budding performance poets?

Never stop doing it.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I would make people less afraid of strangers. It’s hard, I know; strangers have done some pretty shitty things to me in the past. But, I think, generally, people are a lot more kind and caring than we’re led to believe. And they often do bad for a reason. If the news spent an equal amount of time telling us about caring stuff people had done, as well as all the horror, we’d feel a lot less frightened and a lot more inspired about life. But I don’t think they want us to feel like that – we might start changing everything.

Can you share with us a couple of your poems?
Yeah, I’d love to.

‘Doctor Dave’

There’s a doctor in North Shields

who treats his patients like his equals

and preaches power to the people,

his name is Doctor Dave.

 

He’s the anti-establishment GP,

the healthcare revolutionary,

like Che Guevara, but less hairy;

he wears the same beret.

 

If you want kebab and chips

and you don’t want to hear the risks

of it daily slipping round your lips

he’ll say no more about it.

 

He’s not going to lecture you

until his wised cheeks turn blue,

there’s loads of options there for you

but he’s not going to shout it.

 

Doctor Dave, Doctor Dave,

he won’t say you need to behave

or stop you going to a rave

in a snake infested bog.

 

You could smoke 50 a day

and give up walking for Segway

while sniffing lines of pure cocaine,

guilt tripping’s not his job.

 

I know there’ll be some people who’ll

think that it’s despicable

that Doctor Dave’s so liberal

when it comes to giving lessons.

 

Their heads will shake till they spin off

and just before it they will scoff:

“Those scumbags need a telling off!

Where’s Doctor Christian Jessen?”

 

But from each shivering student drinker

out without a coat in winter,

to lard ingesting pensioners

who didn’t want so long,

 

we spend the most time in the grave

and no one ever changed their ways

because they heard a doctor say:

“I’m right and you are wrong.”

 

‘At 16’

I want to help raise a cool girl

A girl who’s allowed to be seen and heard

A girl who knows no colour or job is ‘not for her’

I want to help raise a cool girl

 

A girl who knows she could play football

Against the hardest boy in the class

And tackle him before he has the chance to pass

Sprinting the length of the field to score a hat-trick

Knows she could be a mechanic

Or the world’s best Formula 1 driver

And even if that’s not what she wants

Knows she could easily parallel park

 

I want to help raise a girl who says what she thinks

Who at 16 wins arguments with socialist politics

Who understands lads who interrupt her

Aren’t more clever

They’re just pricks

I want to help raise a cool girl

 

A girl who knows cooking and cleaning

Aren’t jobs reserved just for her

A girl who feels sorry for those that say

They only dream of their wedding day

Who keeps a space saved for an act so great

It helps to make the world a better place

I want to help raise a cool girl

 

With the strength to filter out the pressure

From every advert and newspaper

Telling her she’s ugly and the wrong shape

A girl who’s not afraid

Of her gender or her sexuality

Knows either of these could change their name

And she’d still be loved by her family

I want to help raise a cool girl

 

And I know she won’t find it easy

She’ll have to make choices

In a world that’s geared to make her fail

A world that grabs and intimidates

In a way I’ll probably never really appreciate

 

But I want to help raise a girl

Who knows the difference

Between doing what’s expected

And doing what’s best for you

Between making a choice

And doing what you’ve been told to

Between freedom

And the same

Old shackles

With different chains

 

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I’m really hoping to take Door-to-Door Poetry all around the country by autumn of this year, to prove anyone can enjoy poems and that strangers really aren’t as scary as they seem.

I’m also going to do a show about what’s happened to me so far at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer. I’ve got loads of stories I want to tell, from my trip down to the Byker Wall – an area synonymous with crime and violence – to visiting a mosque for the very first time. It’ll be running from the 5th to the 27th of August at the Banshee Labyrinth at 4pm every day (apart from Thursdays). If you’re around, get yourself down. It’s on the PBH which means it’s free entry too!

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Pictures courtesy of Adam Opie: Website

Inky Interview: Ian Cooper

You have written several great works that analyse cult films such as Witchfinder GeneralBring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Frightmares (a history of British horror cinema), as part of the Cultographies series by Wallflower Press. Can you walk us through your love of film and how you came to write for Wallflower Press?

Thanks for addding the word great in there! Only Alfredo Garcia was written for the Cultographies imprint, Witchfinder was one of Auteur´s Devil´s Advocates series (as is the upcoming Frenzy) and Frightmares was part of their Studying British Cinema series.

I´ve always been crazy about film, I got a couple of degrees in the subject, taught it at a series of colleges in and around London and then got the chance to contribute some entries to a Wallflower guide to contemporary directors. That led to me pitching them a Cultographies and that really got me going.

You are a scriptwriter, too. Are you working on anything at the moment? What other scripts have you worked on?

I´ve written a lot of scripts, mostly features, a few shorts. I´ve had some optioned, nothing made yet. It´s a very frustrating business tbh – the first feature script I had optioned, I thought this is it now, I´m a screenwriter. Then years went by, the film was cast, posters and storyboards were created, the option was renewed a couple of times – and after 8 years the project fell apart for good and I ended up with my script back.  Another project I had with a company, we met often and they always paid for long lunches in Soho, they gave me lots of notes, I dutifully rewrote and then again it ended up going nowhere. It´s the nature of the beast. I´m currently writing a script about serial killing and Satanism – I don´t really do light.

You are also writing a book on Charles Manson. How do you approach dark, fascinating subjects like this, in your writing? 

I like dark stuff, horror films, true crime, I don´t think too much about why, I´ve just always enjoyed things a lot of people find off-putting or distasteful. I´ve been interested in the Manson murders for a long time and writing a book about the influence they had on films and TV shows is a way to combine my interests in film and true crime.

Your study of Hitchcock’s Frenzy…tell us more.

It´s a making of/critical analysis. I didn´t pitch this one, I mentioned on Facebook that it´s the Hitchcock film I´d seen the most and John Atkinson, the owner of Auteur who´s become a friend asked me if I´d like to write a book on it. It´s got a lot of things I´m interested in – it´s a horror film, it references some real murders, it´s shot in London and it´s a black comedy.

What is your particular way of researching? Does it take up a lot of time and do you enjoy it?

A lot of it is watching or reading about films and I never get tired of that. The thing is, I´m not at all versatile so everything feeds into everything else – every book I´ve written is about one or more violent films so the same debates crop up again and again, often the same social issues too, censorship, moral panics and so on.

The internet has made researching much easier – I used to have to fly to London to look up reviews and articles in a library (very 20th century!)

For scripts, I don´t do any direct research at all, just let it all spill out and then rewrite it later so it makes a bit more sense. But the stuff I read does find its way in there. For example, I recently read a lot about Israel Keyes, a serial killer who buried ´kill kits` across the US and I´ve used this detail in my most recent script.

Tell us about a typical day in your world.

I get up soon after 6am, take my son to school and write until 1:00 then make dinner for the family. Then I do my best to squeeze in a bit more writing between taking my son to football or acting classes or what have you. In the evening, I watch a lot of films and TV box-sets.

One of the reasons I moved to Germany from London was so I could write full-time – my wife has a good job and I was going to be in a village with few distractions. But after my youngest son was born 8 years ago, I found I had a lot less time (for obvious reasons). Now I essentially work for half a day.

There are too many distractions for a writer these days. One click away from social media etc….how do you motivate yourself to write, or does it come naturally?

It was easier when I moved here – I didn´t have a radio or the internet, I didn´t know anybody and my German was terrible. Now I have to motivate myself a bit more – I´m online, I know people, I speak a mangled version of the language – but discipline is something you just have to learn if you want to write.

I like social media, it offers me a way to share my weird obsessions with like-minded people. I´ve also met producers through Facebook and that´s been useful.

The thing is, there´s a thin line between research and slacking off. I´ll go on to a website which lists missing people in the US, for example, telling myself it´s research and sometimes it is, I´ll read maybe 60 entries and one of those will inspire a strange story or something else I can use. But in all honesty, I´m mainly on that site for morbid curiosity.

What are you reading at the moment? Are you the type of person that has several books on the go at once?

I don´t have to time to read a lot of fiction, although I´m half-way through Just After Sunset, a collection of Stephen King short stories. I read mostly true crime, partly because I enjoy it but also because I can stea…I mean recycle details. I never have more than one book on the go at a time.

Tell us about one of the best days of your life.

Whenever we travel or go on long walks, my son likes me to tell him tales, Twilight Zone episodes, short stories or real-life mysteries. He calls me his ´Telling Machine`. I´ve spend days wandering around the backroads of Italy and Spain telling him about Lizzie Borden or the Marie Celeste and they´ve been some of my happiest days. It´s especially important to me because he´s 8 now and I know it´s only a matter of time before he looks up from his phone, rolls his eyes and says, “Not the Zodiac Killer again!”

What is your creative space like?

I did have an office but that got turned into a child´s room, so now I share a desk with my wife, who´s a teacher. It´s not ideal, especially as I like a lot of stuff around me while I work – books, pages of notes, coffee cups, wine glasses – and she really doesn´t.

Have you any advice for budding writers interested in film? Have you any books or films to recommend?

Watch films, as many as you can. If you want to write about film or write screenplays, you have to watch a lot of films. The stuff that´s on YouTube alone is incredible to someone like me who grew up pre-VHS. I don´t read screenwriting books, I think they´ve been a malign influence on writers and producers. But when you´ve seen a lot, it gives you confidence. When I started to meet producers and directors who had a lot of impressive credits while I´d done very little, it really helped that I knew what I was talking about. So seriously, watch more films!

What is next for you? What plans have you got?

I´m going to just keep at it. I´ve had a fair amount of critical acclaim – my books have all been well received – but earning some real money would be nice. Books are there, you can hold them in your hand but screenplays are a bit ephemeral, like blueprints for a building not built yet or a recipe for an unmade cake. So getting something filmed is maybe the most important thing to me.

Cultographies

Devil’s Advocates

Studying British Cinema