Paul Marriner: Guest post on Why He Writes

Today I’m welcoming Paul Marriner to my website, talking about WHY he writes (as opposed to how, where or what genre he writes in… Thanks for joining us, Paul.

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When I tell people I write the most common question is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ not, ‘Why?’ Perhaps they assume it’s for the glory and the money – ha ha. So when I asked myself the question I went back to the beginning.

From an early age I read avidly. Our local library was stuffed with books where I found adventure, excitement, characters I could relate to and wanted to meet, trivia and facts (perhaps a boy thing?) and a place where my imagination could be in jeopardy while I was still in my bedroom. In short, entertainment and education – though many might say much of what I learned has been most useful in pub quizzes and crosswords. And the great news was that as I grew, I found books for each age, including, let’s be honest, a few ‘unsavoury’ tales that were best hidden from my parents (The Mack Bolan Mafia revenge series? Yes, really). Interestingly, I never thought of reading as a form of escapism. I had a busy, active childhood and teenage years and books were not a refuge in any sense, but great entertainment in a world with few tv channels and no internet.

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By the middle of my teenage years I had perfected the art of immersing myself in books like ‘The Godfather’, ‘Catch22’, anything by Alastair Maclean or Arthur Hailey, and, dare I say it, ‘Chopper’ and ‘The Run’ (you may need to look up those last two). And I couldn’t understand how not everyone found it so easy to ‘jump’ into a book. I should say that at this stage, though I enjoyed writing stories for my English classes, I had little interest in the academic side of learning why the traditional greats of fiction (eg. Dickens, Austen, Hardy) were so lauded. In my later teenage years I began to think about how wonderful it must be to be able to write stories that pulled the reader in, engaged them and, in some way, educated – even if still in terms of ‘boyish’ facts, like where to get a sniper’s rifle made (‘Day Of The Jackal’). Then my grandmother gave me a copy of ‘Boys And Girls Together’ by William Goldman (I remember to this day her telling me it was a little ‘racy’ for her) and I began to think a little about how stories are structured and characters developed.

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I read more of Joseph Heller and William Goldman’s work and started on John Irving. And not only was I being entertained and reading ingenious ways of using the English (American?) language, I was introduced to different-thinking characters that I’d never meet in real life. I was also being subtly asked to think about new ideas (at least, new to me) regarding politics, gender, race, love, hate, life and death. And more and more I was asking myself, ‘What would I have done?’ in response to the conflicts (be they moral or physical) being fought by my favourite protagonists – not all of which were heroes. It was probably about this time I read ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ for the first, but not the last, time. I also read some Sci-fi (‘Dune’ etc.), fantasy (‘Lord Of The Rings’, the Thomas Covenant series), thrillers and crime novels and enjoyed them immensely for the interesting ideas and imagination they brought. They, too, raised important questions but I often struggled to place myself into the story. In case it’s of interest, I also read books by the likes of Tom Sharpe and George MacDonald Fraser both of whom were hugely talented story tellers with a skill for pacey narratives and humour.

I had become a big fan of William Goldman and his ability to write great stories in any genre, not to mention screen plays, and I started to wonder about what it took to be not just a story teller but a writer. In particular a quote from Goldman struck a chord with me (though I don’t think his was the original quote). It went something like, ‘Believe you have secrets to tell.’ From this I inferred that it was ok to have some confidence that you ‘knew’ or ‘saw’ something many others didn’t and finding a way to tell them, in a story, was a worthwhile pursuit.

So I tried to write some stories and it was very, very difficult. By now life, family, work, sport and music was keeping me busy, though I kept reading. All the time I harboured an aspiration to write something that would entertain (that word yet again), might hold up a mirror to the reader, reveal (perceived) secrets and nudge them to ask questions of themselves and others. That was what I’d found in my favourite books and to do all that within a story of my own creation would be an achievement.

Whether I failed or succeeded it would have to be writing the stories I wanted to, in my own style, whatever that might turn out to be… Which is what I’m doing, though it’s not always easy to type with fingers crossed that there’s an audience out there somewhere that will enjoy the engagement, look into the mirror I’m trying to hold up and think about some questions perhaps they hadn’t considered before. Sometimes I write a piece which edges close to achieving those aims (in my view) and occasionally the prose is interesting, perhaps even ‘alive’, in some sense. And on those rare occasions the satisfaction makes the hard work, knock-backs and self-doubt worthwhile – and, boiling it right down, that’s really why I write, for those rare moments.

I should add I also had some small hope that I could write stories which encouraged me to explore and understand some of my own history, background and motivations. To an extent this has been the case but I feel I’m still not clear in my own mind about the success, or otherwise, of that, so perhaps it’s a topic for another time. It may turn out this is the best reason of all for me to write, but it’s early days yet…

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to Tracey for giving me a reason to take a step back and think through some stuff I hadn’t properly considered before.

Paul

Paul on drums

Check out Paul’s novel The Blue Bench here

My Dogs in my Books

Our beautiful, black Labrador, Riley, travelled all over the UK with Phil and I in our former van, the bus-with-a-woodstove. Similarly to ‘Jack’ in my novel The Eliza Doll. Jack lives in a van with his companion, Ellie, who travels the country selling her handmade dolls at craft fairs. Jack is modelled entirely on Riley.

blue streaked sky at Arran

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It nearly broke our hearts when Riley had to be put down in 2016. He had poisoned himself by eating what we think may have been a death cap mushroom.

Beloved boy

We now have two rescued dogs who were both found on the streets of Romania. Luna, my birthday present two years ago, came to live with us when Riley was still alive. They were a perfect visual contrast and shared a brief love. Luna had been found in a cardboard box…

dogs in box

…on the street in Budapest with her two sisters at the age of about five months. Riley helped her acclimatise to family

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(and beach) life.

Luna Riley beach

In my sixth novel, Luna ‘plays’ Alicia, a white stray dog that adopts my character Maya, while she’s living in a Catalonian mountain community. The Vagabond Mother, as yet unpublished, is the story of a middle-aged woman who takes off with a backpack, in search of her missing son. In the book, Alicia follows Maya as she leaves the community she’s been staying at to hitch hike to Barcelona, and Maya ends up taking her back to the UK with her. Alicia is as loyal, nervous and loving as my own lovely Luna.

Luna

Pixie is the second dog we adopted from Seven Strays Dog Rescue. It was too sad that Riley had to be put down and that Luna was left alone, so we chose a smaller dog to keep her company. Allow me to present introduce Miss Pixie:

Pixie

Pixie was also abandoned in Romania. She had a puppy, who has now also been rehomed in the UK.

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Pixie ‘stars’ in my fifth novel (currently out on submission) Sea Babies. Pixie plays a similarly-small, brown dog call Titania (Tatty) who’s dumped on my main character, Lauren. Lauren quickly grows to love Tatty and they explore the wild countryside of Uig on the Isle of Lewis together (see second-to-top picture in this post) and Tatty comforts Lauren while she comes to terms with a recent, drastic change in circumstances

Luna and Pixie love each other, and they love me and Phil and our cat, Pheoby. The Girls (including the cat) are happy whether we’re off on one adventure or another in our van, but also when we cuddle up on the sofa at home.

P and LL and P

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Oh, and here’s a picture of Pheoby, the camping cat. I really must add a strong, female cat character in my next book…

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Another Rebecca News!

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I’m excited to announce that Another Rebecca (originally published by @InspiredQuill in 2015, will be re-released with a brand-new cover by @wildpressed in September this year.

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Here’s the blurb:

Rebecca Grey can’t shake off the hallucination she had while in hospital, but her alcoholic mother Bex is too wrapped up in the ‘Great Grief’ of her youth to notice her daughter’s struggle to define dream from reality.
The two of them lurch from one poverty-stricken situation to another. But why does an old woman she has never met believe she is Rebecca’s grandmother, and why did Bex swear to stop living when she was only nineteen?
Another Rebecca is a family story of secrets, interdependency and obsessive love.
Another Rebecca was inspired by the painting ‘There is no Night’ by Jack B. Yeats.

INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
Tracey Scott-Townsend on ANOTHER REBECCA

 

1) Comparing the writing of my second novel, Another Rebecca with my first, The Last Time We Saw Marion?

The seeds of both novels were sewn in 1989 when I lived alone in a flat in Hull. I was between two long-term relationships and in the third year of my art degree. I did a lot of writing as well as painting. The Last Time We Saw Marion was a novel from its inception, but Another Rebecca began as a short story, inspired by the painting There is No Night by Jack B. Yeats.
I began my full-time writing career in 2010 when my job as a teacher ended. By this time I had married for a second time, after being a single parent to my four children for ten years. I resurrected the 1989 draft of The Last Time We Saw Marion and completely re-wrote it. While the completed book was doing the rounds of agents and small presses, I started to develop my short story There is No Night into a second novel which became Another Rebecca.
Writing, rewriting and several rounds of edits of my first book had taught me that for me the production of a novel to the standard that I want it to be is a long process

I learned along the way by experimentation and whatever feedback I could glean from multiple rejections of The Last Time We Saw Marion. In writing Another Rebecca I had more experience and also some highly professional input, such as a workshop with one of my most-admired writers, Audrey Niffenegger.

2) Family is an important theme in my writing.

I am a product of the things that have happened to me, the decisions I’ve made and the actions I’ve taken. Childhood is a deeply buried influence in anyone.
I believe I’m susceptible to some degree of synaesthesia: a name would always conjure a colour in my mind’s eye and a picture, a snippet of music, a smell or a touch evokes memories in the same way that a film is brought on screen at the touch of a button.
I resurrect memories from my childhood onwards and dissipate them into plot lines. New characters are born from the cells of the disappeared versions of me and my past.
I am a daughter, a sister and a mother. I’ve experienced losses and gains in all of these roles. Because my novels are essentially about the human condition; family, in whatever form it occurs, cannot help but be an important theme to me.

3) Narrative voices.

I tend to use more than one narrative voice in my novels. Initially Another Rebecca was told exclusively from the close first-person perspectives of Rebecca and Bex. But the reader could only see and know what these two claustrophobically intertwined characters were telling us and there was too much story to be told effectively in this way. So I brought in Jack, Rebecca’s father, as the third first-person narrator. He also steps back and gives us a wider view of the character of Bex in the past which helps to give us the full story.

4) The settings in Another Rebecca.

The book is set in England and Ireland. Skegness, where Rebecca lives at the beginning of the story, was my local seaside town when I lived in Lincoln. Rebecca then moves to a caravan in a Lincolnshire village which is based on the real village of North Scarle where I lived in a caravan when I was Rebecca’s age. My father built a house on the site.
Rebecca visits her aunt in County Leitrim, Ireland, where my sister lived for a long time. Then Rebecca goes to live in a fictional house in the village of Newtown Linford in Leicestershire. I have been camping with my children in this district for more than 20 years, so I know the area well. It’s on the edge of Bradgate Park. This is the home of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen of England, who appears to Rebecca in the park and gives her some salient advice. I’m familiar with the location because I go to a camp in some adjacent woodland every year, and we always take a walk through the village to the park.

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Guest post from Lana Christon: My week as a PA

F13F53BE-41EE-466C-8264-DB9108D6DF75My Week as Author PA
Throughout my first year at Sixth Form, teachers have drilled into us that as Year 12 students, we should know what we want to do in the future; and most of my peers know somewhat exactly what they want to do. I, however, was not so fortunate. Only in January did I decide what I wanted to do at university (American Studies if you were curious) I began to research any work experience I could within my local area. I had always enjoyed reading, however my interest was pushed aside when school got in the way, and it was actually when talking to my English teacher that she asked ‘Have you considered publishing?’ – The thought had never before crossed my mind.

Following this I simply googled ‘Publishers in Lincoln’ and Wild Pressed Books was the first option that appeared. Their books were interesting, it wasn’t too far from home, and the mention of their two lovely dogs instantly appealed to me. Several emails back and forth between Tracey and I explained what I would be doing, and there wasn’t an option that I didn’t want to explore further.image2

As I finished school I was quickly back to waking up at 7am to catch the train, and I was beyond nervous. I had been somewhat scarred by work placements in the past, and I had no idea what – or who – to expect. However as I knocked on the door, greeted by Pixie and Luna’s barks, and Tracey herself, my worries were soon diminished.
I was quick to begin researching various publishers, literary agents, and how other authors promote and market their books, the last task that I found the most motivating. The rest of my week in fact, revolved around this. I discovered that my interests lay around marketing and publicity. image1

On my third day I even wrote a blog post about ways authors can market their books, both existing and upcoming. Being an English Language and Literature student, writing non-fiction came as second nature to me, and the fact that I wrote a blog post that has been published on a website will definitely prove beneficial. In addition to this, I wrote a post about Holly Bidgood, one of Tracey’s published authors. By the end of the week I will have written three blog posts (something that will hopefully appeal to any future employer).

The week also consisted of social media upkeep, tweeting and retweeting after I’d introduced myself as PA, as well as reading original and edited manuscripts Tracey had worked on. I didn’t realise how much a book can change from its first draft, to the final product, yet still have so much of the original voice and content from the author.

publishing perks

My week as PA has been thoroughly informative. I surprised myself when I enjoyed the logistical side of the publishing business far more interesting than the reading and editing side, but I am relieved that I now have a clue on what I want to do in the future. Whether it be within the publishing business, or elsewhere, my interests definitely lie within marketing and research (and maybe even a bit more blog writing too!).

I can only say thank you to Tracey for allowing me to work with her for the week, giving me the opportunity to experience every aspect of a publishing company, and giving me some assurance about a world of work I would be more than happy to work in.IMG_2993