10 questions: Erica Buist, author of This Party's Dead

Hi all, today in the ongoing series of questionnaire-style interviews (I must have snatched the idea from distant memories of Shoot! and Look-In! magazines from my childhood, when football players and TV personalities/pop stars respectively would get quizzed in a similar manner about their likes and interests) is Erica Buist, whose book This Party's Dead is currently being crowdfunded via Unbound Publishing. 

Here's Erica to explain more:

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

I’m Erica Buist and I’m a freelance journalist, mostly for the Guardian. My book, This Party’s Dead, is about the world’s death festivals. It starts with the sudden and unexpected death of my father-in-law (which I wrote about in the Guardian), after which I decided to travel to seven countries to see how various cultures deal more joyfully with death.

2. Why should folk read your book?

It tackles something we will all go through (though I hope your experience with a losing a loved one is less graphic than mine). It’s full of fascinating people, rituals and facts – and editors who have read extracts have informed me they literally both laughed and cried.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?  

It should appeal to those fascinated by how death affects us in our day-to-day lives, and also travel buffs. I’m visiting death festivals in Mexico, Nepal, Sicily, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and Madagascar. There’s also a quick stop off in San Francisco and New Orleans. Come with me!

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

The book is available on Unbound (as I’m writing it, because that’s how fast the modern world moves). It’ll be a little while yet as my final death festival is next September, but subscribers get updates as I go. You can grab a hardback or digital version, and there are even a few cooler options – would you like a bag of traditional Sicilian ‘bones of the dead’ biscotti with your book? Personalised video updates from the death festivals? A Spanish lesson from the author? A couple of people have even pledged for the option to have me call them at a random moment in the next year and rap Alphabet Aerobics.

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

I would LOVE to be the sort of writer with a typical writing day. It’s tricky because I juggle book-writing with pay-the-bills writing, and you never know which will demand more of your time week to week. I write in my basement office (cosy in winter but pains me when it’s sunny outside), where I have two armchairs, a bunch of floating bookshelves with blankets, a desk and a £40 Nespresso machine. My dog sits on the armchair, sleeping or watching me work, until it’s time to go for a walk. If inspiration strikes when I’m away from my desk, I type it all into my phone. I have nearly had several treadmill accidents this way.

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

It’s not strictly about writing, but I like Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey because it dispels those myths that “good writers always write in the morning” or “successful writers write every day” and what have you. Artists over the centuries have had vastly different routines and it’s really fine to pick one that works for you instead of trying to emulate what worked for Sartre (I could never handle that much amphetamine anyway).

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

The first book that made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and it was then that I started understanding the world pretty much entirely through comedy. I also loved the way Jonathan Tropper explored bereavement in How to Be a Widower, moving and heartbreaking and frequently hilarious. And I only got round to reading The Glass Castle this year; it’s a memoir I love for the incredible level of detail she recalls, and the essential ones that made us feel like we know her infuriating parents.

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

Three is SO STINGY. Surely there’s space on this damn island for more than three?! Ugh, fine; I’ll go with The Secret Garden for nostalgia, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin because it’s great and really long (I assume I’ll have a lot of time to kill on this island?) and a book of short stories, so I can feel like I have more books. Maybe One More Thing by BJ Novak.

9.    Any words of writing wisdom?

Writing nonfiction takes a lot of research, so write the parts you know first, the story on which to paint the rest. Then as you research, start to expand and colour it all in.

Don’t forget character, even though it’s nonfiction. The reader needs to know the characters just as much as they do in fiction. I would go so far as to say write nonfiction as if it’s fiction, with all the colour that entails – just make sure it’s true. The book Nine Lives: Life and Death in New Orleans by Dan Baum does this wonderfully.

Interview as many people as you can, and always ask, “Who else should I speak to?”

As I write, I snack on 100% cacao chocolate. Don’t do that. It’s disgusting.

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

Woman is surprisingly devastated at the death of her father-in-law, goes on a quest to see death in a more positive, joyful light. Look, it pains me to say it, but I know the snappy, time-is-money film pitch would be, “Eat, Pray, Love, but funny, atheist, and with dead people”.

Social media contacts:

@ericabuist (Twitter and Instagram)

@thedeathtivals (Twitter specifically about my book)

Website: http://www.thisisnotajourney.com/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/deathtivals/  

 

Huge thanks to Erica for answering my questions. I've supported This Party's Dead and hopefully you will too, so that the book becomes a reality sooner rather than later! 

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East of England: now funded, thanks to you!

A catch-up post from the other day, as I've only now come to realise that I've not actually mentioned on here that East of England has reached its funding total, and is beginning its journey from manuscript to printed/digital book! Huge thanks to those who've supported its crowdfunding journey thus far. The actual crowdfunding page remains open for people to pre-order their preferred version of the book. You can find that link, inevitably, here. Pre-orders in this way will ensure that those who've supported the novel will have their names listed as patrons of the project in the book. So, if you wish to be immortalised in print in this way, get on board sooner rather than later. 

I'll keep folk updated through this blog and via emails both from Unbound's website and via my own mailing list (you can sign up to that here). In the meantime, I've got a quick redraft to do. This'll include adding in the names of those who very kindly selected higher-level pledges that bought their (or a loved one's) name to be added into the book, plus a general tidy-up and a clarification of a few plot points. Then, as they say, the hard work begins. Structural and line editing, typesetting and proofing, working towards agreeing on cover art and so on. The slow churn towards publication day. 

In the meantime, writing continues apace. There's every chance that East of England will be beaten into print by another book of mine, but I'll give details on that closer to the time, For now, though, thanks again! 

10 questions: Sue Clark, author of Note To Boy

Part of the pleasure of having had crowdfunded a book via Unbound Publishing (my noir novel East of England has just - at the time of writing - been funded, and will be in print and digital form all too soon) is the sense of community with other writers who are going through  - or have gone through - a crowdfunding journey themselves. So, it's interesting to explore others' approaches to their writing and their work. Hence this series of short interviews!

Today's Unbound author is Sue Clark, whose comic novel Note To Boy demands your attention. Here's Sue to explain more: 

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

I’m Sue Clark and I’m a recent escapee from the world of PR and journalism. I’ve also done a bit a TV and radio scriptwriting in my time. My comic fiction Note to Boy tells what happens when the worlds of an elderly former fashion diva and a teenager from a sink estate collide.

2. Why should folk read your book?

It’s funny and, without being heavy-handed about it, reminds us that people who are often written off – the crabby old and the surly young – may have hidden depths, with tales to tell and adventures to be had. And did I mention it’s funny?

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

It touches on real issues like loneliness and bullying but in an entertaining way, and features the crazy 1960s – and who doesn’t love a bit of Swinging London nostalgia?

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

Note to Boy is with the crowdfunding publisher Unbound now and will be available just as soon as the funding target is reached. We just have to encourage a few more lovely people to support it and pledge for a personalised and reasonably priced first edition copy. Hint hint!

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

Having given up the nine-to-five a few years ago to concentrate on novel writing, I fight against having a typical day, although I do try to write something every day, no matter how short. And when the mood is on me, or a deadline looms, I’m up at sparrow’s fart to tap away and may still be there at midnight, a glass of something chilled at my elbow. I’ll even pull an all-nighter if needed, although don’t talk to me the following day. I’d like to be a writer of regular habits but it doesn’t seem to happen.

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

Easy. On Writing by Stephen King. Why? Because (unlike some authors of ‘how to’ books) he is a prolific and highly successful writer himself and his advice is wise and down-to-earth. What it boils down to (if I may be so bold as to summarise) is: stop with the excuses, park your bum on the seat and just bloody write.

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

Now this, and the next question, is unfair! But I’ll close my eyes and stick a pin in a few. Kate Atkinson, Life After Life: a virtuoso performance that, in a parallel universe, I would have written. PG Wodehouse, Right Ho, Jeeves (or any of his Jeeves books): anyone who can make you laugh out loud through wordplay alone gets my vote. Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: hilarious from the first deadpan lines onwards.

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

Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna: a perfect novel in my view. Philip Roth, The Plot Against America: the book we could be living in at the moment. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: the book I read as a child that first made me want to write.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Firstly, be prepared to work really hard, especially on the re-writing, and re-re-writing, and the re-re-re-writing. You get the picture. And second, what Stephen King (almost) said: stop with the excuses, apply bum to seat and just bloody write.

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

Eloise wants her celebrity life back. Bradley, for now, will settle for a safe place to sleep and a warm coat. Thrown together, the incompatible pair join forces to try to avenge a wrong, but will the plan succeed before Eloise’s growing confusion ruins everything, and can Bradley really be trusted?

Social media contacts:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sue.clark.18400

Twitter – @sueclarkauthor

Unbound URL – where first edition copies of Note to Boy can be pre-ordered – https://unbound.com/books/note-to-boy 

Previous publications:

Bits of nonsense for various BBC radio and TV sketch shows including Three of a Kind, Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, and The News Huddlines. Bits of more serious stuff for newspapers and magazines.

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10 questions: Ivy Ngeow, author of Heart of Glass

As you are hopefully aware, I'm currently crowdfunding my new Lincolnshire-set thriller East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

Today's guest is Ivy Ngeow, the author of Heart of Glass:

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

I am award-winning author Ivy Ngeow and my book Heart of Glass is a dark pacy tale about obsession, greed and music in 1980s Chicago and Macau.

2.      Why should folk read your book?

My book addresses the themes of the Reagan era which are greed and success. The protagonist is an American girl of Chinese origin. She is a young, uneducated, pretty, and naive musical genius who happens to be an immigrant to the USA. She is blinded by her desire for fame, success, love, everything. She is an antihero and this is a story of an underdog and underachiever with hopes, dreams and fantasies usually squashed by mainstream society and realities of life as an immigrant.

3.      What’s the appeal of your book?

Firstly, my book’s settings in the thrilling cities of Chicago and Macau in the 1980s, glittery towers of success held together by the economics at the time. Secondly, the hedonistic aspect of a lifestyle only driven by and for music and disco and thirdly, the characters who are all emigres eking out their living and their versions of success.

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

You can get pre-order a copy on Amazon for a discounted price now and it will be launched on 30 June 2018. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Glass-Ivy-Ngeow/dp/1911586645/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529315722&sr=1-1&keywords=HEart+of+Glass+Ivy+Ngeow

5.      A typical writing day

I write in the morning for 40 minutes until no more words drip out. If more come, I do another 40 minutes. I am a slow writer. I cannot bang out 20,000 words in 20 hours.

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

I pick Creative Writing – A Practical Guide by Julia Casterton. (MacMillan, 1986). This is quite an old book but still very relevant. From time to time I have to refer to it. This book is written like a manual and for those who already suspect they cannot live without writing. It is so slim and yet it goes through all the tenets of writing – why we need to do it, what is a short story, what is an adjective or abstract noun. Everything is covered in its 96 pages. It has no beating about the bush fantasy or quotes to inspire you. There is nothing inspiring. You’re supposed to be inspired already because you fancy yourself as a writer. This is just about writing. The reason why it is so thin is because you should not really be reading it, you should be writing.

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

I pick Lolita by Nabokov, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

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

I have to pick things I love rather than need or want, because on a desert island you could die any minute anyway.

All that Man is by David Szalay

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

Yes, they are all European. I do prefer misery lit, where everybody’s mad, bad, sad or all three).

9.      Any words of writing wisdom?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Do all six. No shortcuts.

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

Watch the book trailer here: https://youtu.be/nRDowKLhuW0

Everything is in the 58 seconds. It is the thrilling evil four Ds: dark, disturbing, drugs, dance music. It’s a heist gone wrong, it’s Chinatown, it’s immigrants, greed and guilt. It’s the 1980s.

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Social media links:

Website/blog: writengeow.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heart-Glass-Ivy-Ngeow/dp/1911586645/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1529315722&sr=1-1&keywords=HEart+of+Glass+Ivy+Ngeow

YouTube: https://youtu.be/nRDowKLhuW0

Twitter: @ivyngeow

Instagram: @ivyngeow

Tags and keywords: #HeartofGlass #1980s #Chicago #Macau #Chinatown #heist #thriller #disco #music #culture #diversity

Email: ivy_ngeow at yahoo dot com

Thanks very much to Ivy for joining in. Hopefully you're intrigued by Heart of Glass and you'll pick up a copy soon!

In the meantime, check out my own East of England, which shares some similarities with Heart of Glass.  

10 questions: Ewan Lawrie, author of Gibbous House and No Good Deed

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

Today, here's Ewan Lawrie, who's published Gibbous House through Unbound, and who is currently crowdfunding its sequel, No Good Deed

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

My name is Ewan Lawrie and I am the author of Gibbous House a smash-hit sensation of a gothic romp and its sequel, currently funding at Unbound, No Good Deed. (Some of that is true).

2. Why should folk read your book?

Why shouldn’t they? Oh, very well. Gibbous House is funny, (so I’m told) thrilling and full of historical detail, so is No Good Deed … I hope. 

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

The central character, Moffat, is unlike any protagonist you have met before: Murderous, magniloquent and morally ambivalent, Moffat finds himself at the centre of complex plots without ever quite understanding how or why.

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

All good bookshops and Amazon. Some copies are still available direct from the publisher. No Good Deed is still funding.

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

Up at seven, check Unbound campaign page, sigh.
Check Amazon ranking and sales, sigh again.
Write e-mails to do with crowd-funding, submissions to various magazines and fiddle with GIMP graphics programme to make Social Media posts at least interesting enough to read. Make coffee. Write something in a notebook. Write it into an open office document. Delete it. Read something I wrote years ago. Ask myself why I don’t write as much/well/often now. (Delete as applicable).
Check Unbound campaign page, sigh.

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

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker. It was recommended by my tutor on my creative writing course with the Open University over 10 years ago. I read it cover to cover then and I dip into it now, when I need to. I am a “pants-ster” rather than a plotter and it does me good to go back to TSBP from time to time.

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

Great Expectations, The Master and Margarita, The Quincunx.

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

I nearly picked The Coral Island, Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies. To be honest, I’d take a King James Bible, a notebook and Bulgakov.

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Read, read some more, read anything, read everything. Write a bit, then read some more

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

“This book’s not for you, Mr Winestone,  aren’t you in enough trouble?”

Social media contacts: EwanL@Twitter.com, https://www.facebook.com/ewan.lawrie.9 https://www.facebook.com/PleaseAllowMe13/

Website: http://ewanlawrie.blogspot.com/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/no-good-deed/

Previous publications: Gibbous House https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gibbous-House-Ewan-Lawrie/dp/1783520892

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Check out Ewan's writing, and consider both buying Gibbous House and supporting its sequel into life! 

10 questions: Amy Lord, author of The Disappeared

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

First up is Amy Lord:  

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

I’m Amy Lord, a debut novelist from the North East of England. My novel, The Disappeared, is speculative fiction, inspired by the likes of Margaret Atwood and George Orwell.

The story is about obsession. Set in a dystopian version of the UK run by a military dictatorship, it tells the story of a young woman determined to fight back against the regime. Clara’s father was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau when she was 11 for the crime of teaching banned books to his students and she never saw him again.

She grows up to become a teacher and wants to rebel, but the only thing she can do is take the books her father left behind and teach them to her students. When one of them disappears, she is plunged into a nightmare, uncertain of who to trust.

2. Why should folk read your book?      

The book has had some awards success before finding its way to Unbound, winning a Northern Writers’ Award and being longlisted for the Bath Novel Award. It’s also a thought-provoking read, full of action, which explores how people can break themselves against each other.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

I wanted to write a story that explored how easily we could find ourselves in a repressive society, where so many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a lot of years, but it feels timely at the moment.

The story is also told from two different perspectives: that of Clara and her stepfather, who is a Major in the Authorisation Bureau and the man who arrested her father. His chapters are some of my favourites, as they allowed me to really explore his obsession with Clara’s mother and the lengths he will go to possess her.

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

The Disappeared is currently crowdfunding with Unbound and is about three-quarters of the way to the final target. If you’d like to buy a copy, you can pledge to the campaign.

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

There isn’t really a typical writing day for me. I have a full-time job, so I usually write quite late in the evening, after work. I like to listen to music while I work and I have an ever-increasing playlist of melancholy songs that helps me find the right emotions and focus. I love writing when everyone else has gone to bed: there’s something quite powerful about immersing myself in the story when the house is still and I’m the only person awake.

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

I’m yet to find a book about writing that has really grabbed me, but I recently came to the end of a year’s mentoring programme where Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder was endlessly recommended. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but supposedly fantastic for helping with story structure. I’ve also had Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert on my list for ages. It’s not a writing manual as such, but the focus is more on finding inspiration and creative practice, which is something I enjoy reading about.

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

Since the television adaptation became popular, it feels like a cliché to list The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s been one of my favourite books since I studied it for my English Literature A-Level. It’s the one book I wish I could have written, I get lost in the intricacy and intelligence of the language every time.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is beautifully written, full of observations about life and the modern world that just take my breath away. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt is the perfect example of a book aimed at younger readers that deals with some incredibly dark storylines using simple, understated language, which makes it all the more powerful and heart-breaking.

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

Sorry, got to be The Handmaid’s Tale again. The Crow Road by Iain Banks is another of my favourites, for his storytelling, the uniquely drawn characters and the relationships between them. I read it when I was very young and have returned to the book again and again over the last 20 years, taking something new from it each time. I’d also take Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, which is one of the few classics that I return to, along with Dracula, by Bram Stoker.      

9. Any words of writing wisdom?           

Believe in yourself. The more you write and the more you read, the better your work will become. But it will take years of practice to get really good, so don’t be disheartened when it doesn’t happen straight away. And when you’re ready to query your work, the main thing is to keep going. Rejections are your badge of honour, the more you get the more likely it becomes that someone will eventually say, Yes.

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

In a crumbling and desperate city, a young woman must risk everything to fight back against a violent regime, led by her obsessive stepfather, the man who destroyed her father and claimed her mother for himself.

Social media contacts: @tenpennydreams (Twitter and Instagram)

Website: http://www.tenpennydreams.com/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/the-disappeared/

Hopefully, some of you fine folk out there will be intrigued by Amy's book and will consider supporting it!