10 questions: Oli Jacobs, author of Deep Down There

Another in my occasional series of short interviews with other writers. Today, it’s the turn of Oli Jacobs, author of the forthcoming Deep Down There. Here we go…

 

    1.        Who are you and what’s your book about?

It’s a question I often ask myself... as far as I’m aware, I’m Oli Jacobs and my book – Deep Down There – is about a strange hole that suddenly appears in a small cul-de-sac.

Oli Jacobs

Oli Jacobs

  2.        Why should folk read your book?

Because it’s the best gosh-darn horror book you’ll ever read. Plus, it combines elements of surburban tension, and creeping dread. And, of course, a massive hole.

 

    3.        What’s the appeal of your book?  

Finding out what’s down the hole. There’s a lot of build up with how the residents react to it, and efforts to “solve” the problem of it, but when things get weird that’s when the true horror kicks in. Not to mention when one eager resident wants to abseil 0down...

    4.        Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Deep Down There is currently available for pre-orders at https://unbound.com/books/deep-down-there/ Not only will you get the book, but you’ll get your name inside too!

Deep Down There provisional cover

Deep Down There provisional cover

    5.        Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

A fair few hours of procrastination, before a flurry of words in an hour or two period. It’s all in my head, it’s just getting to the fingers to tap out...

          

    6.        Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I don’t actually like reading books about writing, but I’ve heard Stephen King’s On Writing is quite the tome.

 

    7.        Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

The Stand – Stephen King, At The Mountains of Madness – HP Lovecraft, House of Leaves – Mark Z Danielewski

           

    8.        Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

 Apart from the aforementioned three above... probably Leviathan – Ian Edginton, Songs of a Dead Dreamer – Thomas Ligotti, The Last Days of Jack Sparks – Jason Arnopp.

 

    9.        Any words of writing wisdom?

Always have a plan, and a good soundtrack to write to.

  

  10.        Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

A hole suddenly appears in a small community, unleashing not just their own inner demons, but something lurking in the very core of the Earth. Shady agencies, maddened neighbours, and whatever it is lurking... Deep Down There.

 

Social media contacts: Facebook - @OJBooks, Twitter - @Olijacobsauthor, Instagram - @olijba

 

Book URL: https://unbound.com/books/deep-down-there/


Previous publications: Kirk Sandblaster, Filmic Cuts, Bad Sandwich, The Children of Little Thwopping, Wrapped Up In Nothing, Strange Days in High Wycombe, Station 17... all can be found here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B0086XR1JG


Huge thanks to Oli for playing along. Deep Down There is a project that I’ve supported on Unbound, so here’s hoping that you’ll do precisely the same and that the book’ll get into print soon!

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My book in three books ... I'm interviewed by Mark Bowsher

I’ve been interviewed by the excellent Mark Bowsher of Rabbit Island Productions about East of England. Specifically, about three books which have been - in some way - an influence on the novel.

Here’s the interview.

Mark’s own recently-published novel The Boy Who Stole Time is out now from all good, reasonable, and slightly shabby retailers. You can find out more about his book here.

There’s still time to find more out more about (and to pre-order) East of England here.

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10 questions: Virginia Moffatt, author of Echo Hall

Hi all!

Time for another questionnaire-style interview with an author with a book from Unbound Publishing (my own East of England is in edits with them as we speak, and will be out in due course). Today, it's the turn of Virginia Moffatt, who's here to tell us all about her new novel Echo Hall

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Virginia Moffatt. I am a writer from Oxford. After decades of working in social care, I’ve had a few different jobs. I currently work as a Procurement and Contracts Manager in a multi-academy. I’m married with three teenagers who are all in full-time education.

Echo Hall is my first novel. It is about the echoes of history and asks the question, is conflict inevitable or can we find another way?

Virginia Moffatt.jpg

2. Why should folk read your book?

Firstly, I have tried to write a rattling good story and create characters you will care about, and want to follow through to the end. Second, because I think it has something interesting and useful to say both about the nature of war and peace, and the role of women in society. I would hope that it is the kind of book that will linger long after the final page has been read.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?  

It’s got a lot of different elements – gothic, family saga, politics, history – so I think that is appealing to a wide range of readers.  It is also fiercely feminist, with three strong heroines: Ruth in the 1990’s, Elsie in the 1940’s and Rachel whose story runs between 1911 and 1924.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?  

Please, please, please buy it from your local bookshop, or if you can’t do that order it via Hive, as they will give a donation to your favourite High Street shop. It is also available via the usual online platforms if you prefer them.

Echo Hall.jpg

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

I don’t really have one, because writing is crammed in the spaces I have between work and family life. I tend to do it in fits and starts, so when I’m in a writing phase, I’ll be up at 6 and write till 7 before getting ready for work, making sandwiches and chivvying teenagers out of the house. When approaching a deadline, I’ll probably be continuing in the evening after tea, between 7 and 9, and for as much of the weekend as I can get away with. From time to time, I go away on writing retreats which are very productive as I can please myself and will write from the moment I wake till the moment I go to bed. 

I tend to finish a draft and leave it to cook for a bit. So if I’m not working on a nonfiction project or blogging, or posting guest articles, I use that time to market my work (currently Echo Hall and an essay collection I’ve edited; Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians Can Help Rebuild This Broken World.  I am looking forward to a day when I can work part-time and have at least one day a week devoted to writing, but that’ll have to wait till the day I get a major book deal!

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.  I had to read a lot of books about writing when I studied for a Diploma in Creative Writing and I found most of them dull and prescriptive. A friend sent me Bird by Bird. I immediately loved the accessible style and the fact that Lamott recognises there are many ways to write - you have to work out what methodology suits you.  I also love the encouragement in the title, drawn from real life experience when the author’s brother was overwhelmed with the enormity of a school project on birds. Their Dad fixed it by telling him to approach it Bird by Bird which is great advice for any project but particularly helpful for procrastinating writers.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Only three? Gosh.

I love Gothic novels, but I think it is Wuthering Heights, that’s had the most impact on Echo Hall. When I was writing, I went back and had a look at how Nelly Dean tells Lockwood the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, to help me write Rachel’s story. For a while, I had Rachel’s son telling this to Elsie when they were trapped in a cottage overnight, but in the end, I changed it to a letter format. However, I hope something of the spookiness of Wuthering Heights remains and there are one or two nods to it in the book.

The structure of the novel is also inspired a bit by David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, which is a series of interlocking parts. Each story is told till the halfway point, and then another story begins which has a connection to the previous. The sixth story is told in the centre of the book, and then we get the second half of the fifth, fourth etc till we are back at the beginning. I actually can’t remember if I’d worked my structure out before reading Mitchell’s book, but I certainly recognised the connection by the time I’d finished my first draft. I kept checking Cloud Atlas after that to see how the author constructed it and found that very helpful.

Finally, I reread George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying to get a sense of 1930’s life. Elsie, the second of my three heroines is living in the 1940’s but there are some flashbacks to her life before the war, and Orwell was a definite influence on those segments. He gets name-checked too.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without

The Lord of the Rings. First read it aged 13 and roughly every 18 months/2 years ever since. I love it for its heroism both big and small, huge scope and sense of landscape, journey and adventure.

Cloud Atlas, because it is an astonishing journey through time and space, full of intriguing characters, interesting ideas, heartbreaking situations. Mitchell also uses language and imagery to great effect. It is stunning and I find something new every time I pick it up.

A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. It’s a brilliant novel about life, death, fate and God with the most heartbreaking last line ever.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Write the story only you can write. Develop a thick skin to deal with the critics. Work hard, experiment, learn from critique. Keep going, and believe in yourself, your time will come.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

Three generations of women experience love, loss and conflict during times of war. Is such conflict inevitable or can we find another way?

Social media contacts:

@aroomofmyown1 (twitter) Virginia Moffatt  & Echo Hall (Facebook)

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/echo-hall/

Previous publications:

Rapture and what comes after:  Flash Fiction Collection. Gumbo Press (2014).

Non fiction.

Life without Jargon: How to help people with learning disabilities understand what you are saying (1996).

Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians can help rebuild this broken world Darton, Longman and Todd.(2017).

‘Nothing More and Nothing Less.’ A Lent course inspired by the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’. Darton, Longman and Todd. (2017).

Huge thanks to Victoria for her time and thought. Can't beat an Owen Meany fan! Echo Hall is out now, so please rush out and grab an armful of copies!

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10 questions: Toby Howden, author of Paper Tigers: Martial Arts & Misadventure in Japan

Today's interviewee in the ongoing series of questionnaire-style friendly interrogations of fellow Unbound Publishing authors (my noir thriller East of England is on its way from Unbound - details, including how to pre-order special advance copies are here) is Toby Howden. Here's Toby to tell us all a bit more about his book:

TH pic.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Toby Howden and my book is Paper Tigers: Martial Arts & Misadventure in Japan, a memoir about an ill-judged attempt to become the real Karate Kid whilst working in a traditional Japanese paper factory during the nineties.

2. Why should folk read your book?

Because it’s a hilarious and heart-warming tale of friendship, following your dreams and how, when things don’t go quite as planned, there’s a better story to be told. It highlights many of the funny and painful faux pas you can end up committing in foreign cultures, plus, it’s all embarrassingly true.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

I think travelling to the “mystical Orient” to train with martial arts masters is something many people have dreamed of doing, but few have ever considered the reality of such an endeavour. There’s an enduring curiosity about traditional Japanese culture, but most Westerners experience it through the polite camera lens of a tourist, or as a well-paid, segregated English teacher. I’ve yet to come across anyone else who has worked there doing manual labour whilst attempting to become a ninja - with good reason.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?

It’s out now in paperback and digital in the usual places – Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones etc.   

TH book.jpg

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

My beautiful girlfriend usually wakes me with a martini as the sun rises over our private island hideaway. The sounds of the warm sea lapping on the sandy white beach drifts in through the billowing linen curtains. I fight off Ursula’s advances donning a tight black polo-neck over my muscular, tanned body and begin the first task of the day, pondering the tricky second novel.

Sorry, you mean my day…

I wake when it’s still dark, then commute far enough to ensure the complete destruction of the environment. Boring meetings, teaching and admin whilst daydreaming about writing. Home, family, kids, bedtime, wine. Not always in that order. Around ten o'clock I turn the computer on, stare at it wistfully and hit the PlayStation for an hour. At eleven o'clock I’m almost ready to begin. I open my current ‘work in progress’, check Facebook, Twitter, put some tunes on, mess about with Instagram, the news, then back to Facebook again. I‘ll then re-read my latest sonnet, ponder different fonts and maybe open more wine.

Around midnight I ignore the angry texts from my partner telling me to turn it down and come to bed, and suddenly, as if by magic, I’m in the zone and begin to write…

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m guessing everyone’s already read On Writing by Stephen King. Brilliant for so many reasons and reassuring proof that truly great writers are not simply born overnight. Slightly more obscure but well worth checking out is Joel Stickley’s blog ‘How to Write Badly Well’, very funny and informative. 

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Lost in Place by Mark Saltzman, a truly hilarious and superbly written coming of age memoir about trying to get high and master Kung Fu in Connecticut USA during the 1970s.

Fantastic Mr Fox. Having three kids I get the joy and privilege of re-reading stories from my childhood. Re-visiting the Roald Dahl classics is pure inspiration. They’re a masterclass in creativity and the art of making supremely clever writing appear effortless.  

Angry White Pyjamas by Robert Twigger. A year in Japan completing the infamous Tokyo Riot Police Aikido course; made me reflect about my own martial arts experiences and persuaded me that it was something worth writing about.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

I guess something by Ray Mears or Bear Grylls might be sensible on a desert island.

Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe-Hill is pretty epic and definitely worth a re-read. The story of the Native American Sioux tribe. A heart-breaking book that forces you to reconsider modern definitions of ‘civilisation.’

The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, a truly masterful writer, she created worlds and characters with such depth, I feel as though her books are old friends.

Can I take some pencils and a pad of paper and write one?

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Writing a book is like reaching the summit of a mountain only to be confronted by the far more challenging mountain range of publishing; think Mordor rather than The Sound of Music.

Most people don’t care that you’ve written a book, many publishers are actually quite annoyed by the fact. Deal with it. Conversely, some people will immediately assume that you’re going to be the next famous millionaire celebrity JK, and a precious few will believe in your writing to the extent that you will be utterly humbled.

Also, ignore twats who tell you it can’t be done.  

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

‘Wax on, wax off, wacked out!’ (Courtesy of Unbound). Or, ‘Man goes to Japan to master martial arts. Will he do it? No.’

Social media contacts:

Website: LLToby@twitter

Tobyhowden@Instagram.com

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/paper-tigers

   

Huge thanks to Toby for answering my questions! As he says, Paper Tigers is available now from all good retailers, so you really don't have a reason to not pick yourself up a copy ...

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10 questions: Tim Atkinson, author of The Glorious Dead

As a means of supporting others who are going through - or have gone through - the process of crowdfunding their book projects via Unbound Publishing (my own humble effort East of England is here), I'm interviewing fellow Unbound authors. Today it's the turn of Tim Atkinson, whose post-WWI novel The Glorious Dead is being published later in 2018. Here's Tim:

TApic.jpg

    1.        Who are you and what’s your book about?

Tim Atkinson – The Glorious Dead tells the story of what happened AFTER the guns fell silent at 11am on 11th November, 1918. Who cleared the battlefields and buried the dead? And why did so many men who fought – and survived – stay on?

    2.        Why should folk read your book?

It’s the untold story of the First World War. Thousands of troops volunteered to stay in France and Flanders for meagre pay, doing the Empire’s dirty work. Once the British Army finally withdrew (in 1921) many stayed on in a civilian capacity. Some never came home. People need to know why.

    3.        What’s the appeal of your book?

 War is universal and the fascination of the Great War shows no sign of diminishing. But there are still so many stories that need to be told. Perhaps the biggest of all, though, is the story of our own mortality and what facing it – as these men did, first in battle, then combing the battlefields for fallen comrades – does.

    4.        Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Before midnight on Sunday (July 1st) you can still pledge on Unbound. After that, it should be the shops (and be available online) in November.

TA cover.jpg

    5.        Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

My job is to get up, get the kids to school and then get in front of the computer. The walk back (from the children’s school) is great thinking time, and I’m usually ready to start writing as soon as I get through the front door.

    6.        Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

Modesty prevents me choosing my own, of course! And I have to admit although I’ve taught creative writing classes, mentored authors (and written my own ‘how to’ book about it) I don’t actually read many books about writing. But one I unfailing recommend to students is the very funny How NOT to write a novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.

    7.        Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Three? Impossible! Ok, then... but I’m going to have to make rules (for myself) like ‘no classics’. Otherwise, I’d seriously be here all day trying to whittle it down. So... I really really admire Sebastian Barry – not only as a prose stylist but as an insightful and intriguing writer. And The Secret Scripture was a masterpiece. I’ve only recently discovered Helen Dunmore and especially liked ‘Counting the Stars’ (although I could so easily have picked ‘The Lie’). Finally, I’m going to choose ‘The Emperor Waltz’ by Philip Hensher – Dickensian in scope but with the inevitability and tragedy of Dostoyevsky.

    8.        Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Some might well come from the list above, but... the Authorised (King James) Bible would have to be there, as would Homer’s Iliad (in the translation by Robert Fagles). Finally... impossible to choose! More Homer? The Odyssey, maybe? Or something from Russia? Perhaps, The Idiot would be appropriate!

    9.        Any words of writing wisdom?

Keep it simple: one, write. You can’t be a writer without writing. (Sounds obvious, but it’s the most common error!) Two, write what needs to be written. Tell your story your way, or tell a story no-one else has told. Three, edit like mad. But only once you’ve finished. And preferably a long time afterwards.

  10.        Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

It's 1918 and at last the guns of the Great War fall silent. But for Jack Patterson the war still goes on. The enemy now is mud and unexploded shells as well as memories – both of the horrors of war and the dark secret back home that first led him to enlist... a secret Jack hopes isn’t about to be dug up on the Flanders battlefields!

Social media contacts:

Website: https://www.timatkinson.info

Facebook: https://www.Facebook.com/AuthorTimAtkinson

Twitter: @dotterel

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/the-glorious-dead/

Previous publications:

Writing Therapy (2008)

Discover Countries: India (2010)

Discover Countries: The United Kingdom (2010)

Tiny Acorns (ed.) (2010)

Fatherhood: The Essential Guide (2011)

Creative Writing: The Essential Guide (2011)

Homer’s Iliad: A Study Guide (2017)

 

Huge thanks to Tim for his time. Hopefully, The Glorious Dead shrikes a chord and it'll be of interest to you! The novel's available via Amazon here - other physical and virtual book retailers are also available! 

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A video update for Benches of Louth

I was recently interviewed  by community television station Estuary TV about the Benches of Louth blogging project. The video's now up on YouTube in all its local TV glory. The piece kicks in at about the 3 mins 30 mark. 

I've attached the video to the Benches of Louth homepage, which you can find here

The Prospect of This City is out now in paperback and ebook