Interview – Bristol Literature Festival

Here’s my recent interview with Sophie Davies of the Bristol Festival of Literature. I’m on of the authors involved in the Kraken Rises open story-writing event, which should be a lot of fun.

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1. First of all, we’re massively looking forward to having you at the Bristol Festival of Literature… Tell us about what you’re going to bring to the Kraken event? 

Thank you. I’m really quite excited about being at the Festival. Kraken Rises is a great idea, it’s been fun so far and the day itself will be filled energy and fun. It’s flash-mob fiction, collaboration and invention combined, deliberately bringing together the sources of inspiration that usually are spread across time and space to hot-house an anthology. I’m looking forwards to meeting everyone who will be exploring the strange alternative Bristol we’ve invented, or simply discovered seeping from our dreams and find in the shadowed angles and corners of the streets and buildings as the city itself remembers and is changed by things the inhabitants have long forgotten.

2. Is there anybody else that you’re looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Yes, absolutely. It’s always great to meet new people, and of course there will be a few friends I haven’t seen for a while. As for events, I’m really hoping I can make Nick Rawlinson’s audio master class.

3. What do you get up to when you’re not at the Bristol Festival of Literature

I work 3 days a week in IT Technical Support, and write for much of the rest of the time. My SF novel, ‘Shopocalypse’ has just been released, I’ve an anthology due out in November, and I’m coming to the end of the first draft of a sweeping modern fantasy adventure – so I’m keeping pretty busy. Recently I’ve also been learning and experimenting with spoken word on Youtube. I’m also just restarting my leatherwork – I used to make costume, armour, and accessories for live-action gamers. I had to stop when my father became ill.  I’ve realised I really miss working with my hands. I also garden a lot, grow tree ferns (they make excellent pets) and at the moment watch an awful lot of Farscape.

4. Who’s your favourite writer and why?

Writers whose work I really enjoy at the moment are Chris Beckett (Dark Eden, Holy Machine), and Mike, Lin & Louise Carey for their City of Silk and Steel. These are all extraordinary books, filled with imagination and humanity, and hugely enjoyable.  I grew up reading a vast amount, mainly SG and Fantasy. These days I also read a lot of non-fiction – history and autobiography of less well-known people and their lives. Two of the later are Beryl Markham’s ‘West with the Night’ is an amazing story of childhood in Africa and the pioneering adventures of an early aviatrix. Greg French’s ‘Frog Call’ is nominally about fishing in Tasmania and is anything but – mythic, spooky and uplifting.

Jack Vance and JG Ballard are probably the writers who have had the most enduring influence with their body of work. I wouldn’t say I try to emulate them, but I love to read their books. Vance’s style and imagination are unique – and so is Ballard’s voice, his darkly suspicious view of human nature, as if he stood in a different place and saw things askew.

5. Any advice for aspiring writers?

There’s endless amounts of advice available from many places. You need to find your own methods and techniques. I can recommend Dwight V Swain’s ‘Techniques for the Selling Writer‘ as a practical pragmatic book on nuts and bolts writing.  Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey makes a good contrast with its emphasis on mythic structures. My own advice?

  1. Writers write
  2. Finish what you start
  3. Write for yourself
  4. Focus on process not production

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I’ll also be back in Bristol the weekend after, taking part in BristolCon. Maybe I’ll see you there?

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