Pages

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

September offer on short crime fiction collection

In a literally unrepeatable, never to be seen again, one time only offer[1], you can get the same eleven acclaimed crime stories in my collection Nowhere To Go for only one third of the usual price. Throughout September, Nowhere To Go is down from the usual price of $2.99 to just 99c/86p at Amazon.

Eleven stories originally published in magazines like Hitchcocks and Ellery Queen's. A collection that includes a story that won the Derringer Award for Best Short Story, and a story that ended up as the start of a novel shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger award.

Look out for posts here throughout September on each of the stories in the collection: what the inspiration was behind each story, what I learned from writing them, what's happened to the stories since original publication, violence in the bucolic Kent countryside, why not to get stuck beside me during a bank robbery, and how to avoid some of the all-time classic con tricks.

Nowhere To Go, just 99c/86p throughout September. Get it while it's hot.

Here's what some kind people have said:
"During the five years that I published Hardluck Stories, One Step Closer and Moth were two of my favorite stories. I loved the nuances and true heartfelt emotion that Iain filled his stories with, and Iain quickly became a must read author for me--everything I read of Iain's had this tragic, and sometimes, horrific beauty filling it, and was guaranteed to be something special."
(Dave Zeltserman, author of Outsourced, and Washington Post best books of year Small Crimes and Pariah)
"A short story writer of the highest calibre."
(Allan Guthrie, author of Top Ten Kindle Bestseller Bye Bye Baby, winner of Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year)
"Iain Rowan is both a meticulous and a passionate writer, and these stories showcase his ample talent wonderfully well. You owe it to yourself to discover Rowan's fiction if you haven't already had the pleasure."
(Jeff Vandermeer, author of Finch, Shriek:An Afterword, City of Saints and Madmen; two-time winner of the World Fantasy Award)
"Iain Rowan's stories never fail to surprise and delight, and just when you think you know what will happen next, you realize how much you've been caught unaware."
(Sarah Weinman, writer, critic, reviewer, columnist for the Los Angeles Times and News Editor for Publishers Marketplace)

[1] literally not meant literally

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cover to cover

James Everington has picked out five of his favourite cover versions over at his blog (some excellent choices there too), which has prompted me to shamelessly plagiarise. So, without further ado:

Johnny Cash - Hurt

Obvious choice is obvious. All about the performance, the resignation, the truth.



Patti Smith - Gloria

Just the way she snarls and sneers her way through the opening lines of Van Morrison's song would do me, but then Patti and the band spin off into a clattering racket of goodness.



Dinosaur Jr - Just Like Heaven

I love the original, which is a song that immediately reminds of a couple of particular months in my life, but I also like this cover version, which slacks and meanders its way through the song in typical Dinosaur Jr fashion, but then decides for no reason at all to drop into a mad shouty bit, and then shortly after decides for no good reason at all to simply stop.



Talking Heads - Take Me To The River

Can't embed this one, but well worth including. A great song, covered by a fantastic band, filmed for one of the best films of a band in concert ever, and featuring That Suit.

The Wedding Present - Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile)

Start. Play it as fast as you fucking can. Stop. Excellent.



Writers Talk About Writing - Nick Quantrill

(next up in the series of interviews, Nick Quantrill. Once you've finished reading what Nick's got to say, why not read the whole series?)

Nick Quantrill is a crime writer from Hull, a largely ignored city on the north east of England. Some would say its reputation is well deserved, but he chooses to ignore this. He lives, works and will probably die there. It’s home...

We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.


Seeing as we’re the only two people in here...”The Late Greats” is my second Joe Geraghty novel. Joe is employed by a reforming 1990s band to act as sort of minder/general dogsbody.

It goes wrong pretty quickly when the front-man of the band, Greg Tasker, disappears. As Geraghty races against time to find him and digs deeper into Tasker’s life, the more he questions the nature of success and what really constitutes happiness. As Geraghty’s own situation starts to change, these are questions that he could equally apply to himself.




Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

The first Geraghty novel, “Broken Dreams”, is available now (Amazon UK | US for Kindle, UK | US in paperback). Although the novels stand alone, I hope readers can see some growth and change in Geraghty. “Broken Dreams” is more specifically about Hull, as the story links to the decline of the city’s fishing industry and looks at its current regeneration. I keep my hand in with short stories which can be found in all the usual online and print places.
 


Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Sorry about that...I’m only slightly scared now. If we ever get out of here, it’ll be back to work on the third Geraghty novel. I don’t want to reveal too much, but Geraghty’s brother finds himself in the middle of an operation to smuggle cigarettes into the country through Hull Docks. With nowhere else to turn, the problem soon becomes Geraghy’s problem. I’m starting to think about what comes after that. It may be more Geraghty, it may be something different. I’m always working on short stories and there are one or two interesting things bubbling away in the background. Ask me again in a few months...

Your website is called Hull Crime Fiction, Broken Dreams is set in Hull, and you've been made Writer-In-Residence at Hull Kingston Rovers. By any chance, is sense of place important to you in your writing? If so, why?

Very much so. To me, crime fiction is about the real world. It’s a fantastic way to look at contemporary society and issues. That’s something which fascinates me, so it seemed the most obvious thing in the world to me to write about my city. The great advantage of this is that I know the place intimately. I’ve lived here all my life. I can make sense of what I see and feel, but it does of course bring challenges. I try not to be complacent or judgmental about the city, but sometimes it’s necessary to take a hard look at it, and that’s not always well received.



Joe Geraghty, your lead character in Broken Dreams, is a PI. Do you find it a challenge to break fresh ground with a PI protag, and how do you think you've done so?

I think the key to this was that I didn’t think too deeply about it. Prior to “Broken Dreams” I wrote a police procedural novel which didn’t really work. The lesson from it was that I needed to be able to side step the realities of the job and have a character that could move about with freedom. A PI seemed perfect. I’ve read Chandler and Hamett, but truth be told, I’ve never been a big reader of American noir, past or present. It felt like I was coming to the idea with little more than the standard preconceptions of the genre. I researched a little about the realities of being a British PI and took it from there. I knew I wanted Geraghty to be a normal guy who’s trying to make a living and isn’t a superman. If he gets hit, he goes down. If Geraghty is seen as being a bit different to the usual PI, it’s probably more through my ignorance than judgment.




What pushes your buttons in crime fiction? Conversely, what bugs you?

I’m a fan of location. I love Graham Hurley’s DI Faraday series which is set in Portsmouth (me too, Ed.) and I think Lee Child is very underrated in respect of bringing the different terrains of America to life. I suppose I always want the complete package to run alongside that – character, plot dialogue and pace. The vast majority of what I read is crime fiction, but I read widely in the genre. What bugs me is overly descriptive writing. I want to feel places and characters through their actions. I don’t care what colour their toothbrush is. There’s more than a little truth in Elmore Leonard’s “Ten Rules of Writing.”




Tell me, as a writer in residence at Hull Kingston Rovers, do you have to live in a little cupboard under the stands? I will be very disappointed if the answer's no. Tell us a bit more about what this all involves, how you got into it, and how it's been received.

Sadly, Health and Safety expressly stopped me from living under the stands at Craven Park...it’s a shame. I wanted to give Geraghty a sporting background, and although football has always been my game, I realised I could say more about Hull by drawing on the rugby league rivalry which divides the city in two. My publisher, Caffeine Nights, are very proactive and approached the club to see if they’d stock “Broken Dreams” in the club shop. Somehow, that conversation ended up with me being appointed the club’s first ever ‘Writer in Residence’. I’ve been given me a regular slot in the programme, and as I’m predominantly a fiction writer, I’ve created a set of short stories which revolve around notable games and players. I think of it as being a warmer version of “The Damned United”. Alongside that, I’ve gone into local schools with the club to help kids with creative writing lessons. It’s been brilliant so far. The supporters seem to enjoy the stories and the response from the children and the schools has been heartening.


Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

There’s a hot potato...I think the happy medium is found with independent publishers like Caffeine Nights. Paperbacks aren’t ever going to go away, even if our choice is being restricted by a handful of major retailers. Switched on publishers know there’s still a market if you promote efficiently, but only a fool turns away from the possibilities ebooks offer. I’m pleased my publisher embraces both formats and retains an open mind. I’ve always had friends in bands who’ve self-released records, so I’ve got a fondness for the DIY ethic. The obvious proviso attached to self-publishing, be it ebook or paperback, is that the product needs to be as good as it can be. I don’t know what you do about poorly written and presented ebooks, though. There are plenty out there and it’s a shame if they put people off searching for the good stuff that is most definitely available. I don’t foresee a massive change to things over the next few years. I think the committed reader will still buy in bookshops and the casual reader will pick up their holiday reads in the supermarket. I don’t think we’ll see a major shift until the price of an ebook is much more reasonable. Why should the ebook version retail at the same price as the hardback or paperback? It’s nonsense.


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I think it’s difficult to balance it against the time you need to write, but it’s a reality, so I do as much as I can. The obvious thing is to try to use the time wisely. I do as much as I possibly can in the real world and am lucky to have the support of my publisher. I’ve done book signings, library talks, literature festivals, spoken word nights in pubs, community fairs, radio, television, newspapers – you name it, I try avoid saying no to any offer. Online, I try to take advantage of interview and blog opportunities, but more importantly just network and feel part of a community. I think the key to online promotion is to set the boundaries you are comfortable with. I try to promote things I’ve genuinely enjoyed and not bombard people with repeated adverts for my own books. In terms of effectiveness, it’s been the lucky breaks which have paid off the most. The Hull KR position and being included in the “Mammoth Book of Best British Crime” alongside the top names in crime writing have really helped raised my profile. It’s all interlinked and it all comes together to create an overall picture.


Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?


I’m most definitely out and proud these days, but it wasn’t always so. Before I was published I told very few people that I was writing. I suppose it was part shyness (something you need to get over pretty quickly...) and part I felt I hadn’t earned the right to call myself a ‘writer’ until I had something to show for it. It only really became common knowledge when I signed the publishing deal with Caffeine Nights. The reaction has been very positive. At first, everyone wanted to know all about it. After a while, people forget or just don’t care too much, and that’s fair enough. Writing is a major thing to me, but to other people I’m a father, husband, son, brother, friend, workmate etc.



Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Easy – tigers. I was born in the Chinese year of the tiger and I’m a massive Hull City fan. No jokes about pussycats, please...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Writers talk about writing - Nigel Bird

(Once you've finished reading what Nigel's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

Nigel Bird is a teacher in Scotland. That’s how he makes enough money to support his family, including his three lovely little darlings. He is also the author of two collections ‘Beat On The Brat’ (Amazon UK | US) and ‘Dirty Old Town’ (Amazon UK | US) and is the co-editor of the recently released PULP INK (Amazon UK |US). He was fortunate to be the winner of the WGI competition in 2010 and was a nominee for Spinetingler’s Best Story Online award category.


We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

You claustrophobic? Good. So, I’ve just put out this collection. It’s dark. It deals with some of the taboo subjects of the writing world and that means it’s a challenge. Not that it’s bad. The work is written to tell tales that will get you thinking. Whatever happens, you’ll be moved in some way or another and they’ll stay with you for days. There’s a huge variation of subject material- the ripple-effect of a film crew making a movie in a mountain community; an imaginary scenario set in Queens about the inspiration behind the Ramones song Beat On The Brat (with a clown and a baseball bat); a long poem and a haiku triptych about serial killing; a modern take on the Robert The Bruce legend; Milgram’s most famous experiment; a paedophile returning home for his mother’s funeral and a comedy piece about a bounty hunter and his bounty. The title story was the winner of the Watery Grave Invitational in 2010 and was also nominated for the Spinetingler Award category ‘Best Story Online’. The remainder have mostly been published in other respected places, though the 5th place story from this year’s WGI is making its debut. It’s good. And remember the catch line for the previous collection, ‘Dirty Old Town, that ‘even the white bits are black’? This is like that, but charred.


Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

I’ve just released an amazing collection of shorts along with Chris Rhatigan (co-editor and the man behind Death By Killing) in collaboration with Needle Publishing.

The stimulus for each writer was a song title or a line from the movie Pulp Fiction. It’s likely to the strongest pulp/noir/crime collection of the year as far as I’m concerned and the stories in there connect like the pieces of one bizarre and ground-breaking jigsaw.

It’s called PULP INK (UK | US) and it’s super cool. It will be the book that defines you in 2011/12 – did you read it or did you not?


Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Other than trying to get people to hear of those fantastic creations, I’m coming to the end of a novel. Teacher noir is what it is. The first draft’s been tough. The edit will be a whole heap of effort.


As well as writing, you're an editor too - Pulp Ink is an anthology packed full of stories from a really good line-up of writers. How do you find being on the other side of the fence? Any more similar projects planned?

At first being an editor felt more like being a collector of stories. In part that was due to the talent we were working with.

It soon became clear that the job involved was much more than that.

It took Chris and I a while, but as soon as we came across things that weren’t working for us we’d have a quick discussion and pass on our suggestions and comments. That was really interesting.

When working with writers of this calibre it wasn’t easy pressing the send button on messages about possible alterations. As it turned out, everyone responded with grace and appreciation for the thoughts, which just goes to show how dedicated they are to the craft.

We were also in the position of advising on stories where the writer had got a little lost – easily done when there are no maps – and that was really interesting, too.

After that, the issues around covers, pricing, release dates, publicity, collecting blurbs etc have all been fascinating and rather time-consuming. Thankfully, we had the expert support of the multi-talented Chris Weddle to help us through our sticky patches and, needless to say, we’re extremely grateful to him for his support.

Chris and I worked through the whole process by email contact alone. It was only when the book was available that we spoke. He was exactly the wonderful guy I’d imagined him to be. As a partner for such a project, he was perfect and I believe we thrived on each other’s ideas and energies.

It’s been such a good experience that I’d love to do it again next year. We’ve pencilled it in, though not in any shape. It may be that part or all of it works through open submissions and we’re also unsure of theme/no theme.

Above all, it’s the final product that matters. Anyone reading the collection will know just how well everything fell into place in the end. As I said before, there won’t be many better collections out this year.

The best way to reflect upon it is to imagine a couple of enthusiastic guys punching way above their weight. They managed to get in a couple of quick, hard and lucky blows and have since put on a pound or two.

For anyone thinking of going into such a project, I’d point out that once it’s begun there’s no turning back. It’s a great ride, but it’s long hours and graft so don’t start if you don’t have stamina and reserves of energy hidden somewhere.


What really does it for you when it comes to crime fiction?

It’s not something I can easily distil. I need an emotional connection. I like it when things lend themselves to the imagery of an old black and white B movie. Lean, well-muscled prose with poetry in there is what I love. Quips and dashes of humour help.


Conversely, what bugs you?

The more I read, the less patience I have for static scenes. Back-story that’s been crow-barred in when we didn’t need it in the first place or when it could have been introduced as an action or a phrase rather than a couple of pages that interfere with the flow. Hand in hand with that is exposition in dialogue, which I’ve had to improve on myself. Another thing is the repetition of plot and difficulties at every step where a writer seems to be determined that the reader is going to understand what’s happening.


You're working on your novel - how have you found the transition from (prolific) short story writer to working on a longer piece of fiction?

In all truth, I feel out of my depth with novel writing. It’s got something to do with my memory and the ability to hold such a widely-scoping thing in view at any one time.

I’m trying a new approach this time around, writing and continuing without any edits. I’m also going for first person/present tense and focussing on one period of time only.

The transition parts in a novel are parts I find awkward. When I’m reading, I love that cliff-hanger ending to chapters which means I simply have to carry on. Unfortunately my natural inclination is to round things off. When I try to signpost interesting events which are about to occur, it doesn’t seem to work for me.

You might suggest I look at the work of writers I admire and see how they do it. I’ve tried, believe me, but I might as well be watching someone perform close magic and hoping to see the invisible wires and up the sleeves.

The way I’m trying to do it is to keep a lot of simmering pots on the go at once and work at it so that any readers will be keen to know what’s happening in those pots when they lift the lids. Hopefully what’s in them will smell enticing.


Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

If I don’t include keeping diaries or writing long letters to friends, I think the first pieces of writing were poetry. They were an outlet for depression and pain at a particularly difficult point in life some 20 years ago. Once I’d done the first, I never managed to stop.


Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

I believe that tree and e books can exist together, though I’m sure that the vast majority of books will be in the e-format in a few years. I’d suspect that there will be limited releases of books, as hard-backs and paper backs. In a number of specialist areas, tree books will continue – young children’s books, books for collectors, books requiring lots of photographs of fine quality etc.

For me, I’d like to think the bookshop and library experience that I hope survives. It’s not going to be easy for them. In terms of what I’m going to do to prepare for the e book revolution, I guess I’ve got a lot less to do than those guys.

I’d like to see bookshops working more like the independent booksellers of yester year. They’re making a comeback and I hope it continues. Community based events, individual advice, human contact, readings for children, readers’ groups and author events would be all well-housed in a great store.


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I do far too much promotion, yet at the same time it can never be enough.

It’s too much because it sucks up writing and reading time. It’s too little because you can always do more.

There hasn’t been a major kick from anything I’ve done as far as I can tell. The sales I have seem to be more the drip effect than opening flood gates.

It’s amazing to look at sales figures on days when interviews or postings go live. Even an interview with a huge hit rate can have almost no difference. Other times it might be a simple Tweet that drives things for a small spike in sales. When I was away and offline in the summer, for the 3 weeks I did no promotion I sold copies of Dirty Old Town at the same 3 per day average that I achieve when I spend a couple of hours a night working on pushing it forward.

I’ll be interested in looking at other interviews here to steal ideas.


Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Tigbons.

What could you buy with your e-book sales thus far?

Well, having sold nearly 700 copies of Dirty Old Town and 30 of Beat On The Brat, I’m yet to see any money.

If I could average it out, I’d be able to purchase a cup of tea in a cheap cafĂ© most days.

If I could lump it together, it will have paid for my Kindle but not quite for the 3G (whatever that really is).

Fortunately, I’ve been paid for individual stories by some publishers and I’ve still got the teaching job to rely on. Regardless, my dream of becoming a full time writer remains firmly in place.



Meticulous research is both enjoyable and important / what's the point in writing fiction if you can't just make stuff up - discuss.

Research for me is the occasional enter-press on a Google search. My general approach is that if I need to know something, I make it up.


Thanks Nigel!


Saturday, 20 August 2011

Hey, Fragments of Noir author

If you come to this via a google search, Fragments of Noir is a nice blog. Really nice blog. Some great photos there.

Writers Talk About Writing - Neil Williamson

(Once you've finished reading what Neil's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here.)

Neil Williamson’s short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK and USA. His work has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award, British Science Fiction Award and World Fantasy Award (with Andrew J Wilson). Neil lives in Glasgow, Scotland, where he takes part in the savage critical ballet known as the Glasgow SF Writers Circle.


We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

The very good people at Infinity Plus have just released an ebook edition of my short story collection, The Ephemera (Amazon UK | US). It contains all of the stories in the original Elastic Press edition plus four new stories, story notes, a foreword by myself, an introduction by Hal Duncan, and beautiful cover art by Vincent Chong.


Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

You might still be able to get hold of Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction (Amazon UK | US), which I edited with Andrew J Wilson a few years ago. My most recent story in print was the British Science Fiction Association award-nominated, Arrhythmia, which you can find in an excellent anthology called Music For Another World (Amazon UK), published by Mutation Press.

Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Right now, this minute now, I'm working on a short story about sheep in space - Space Sheep, if you prefer - for a forthcoming anthology; but I'm also redrafting a novel called Queen Of Clouds - a tale of meritocracy, wooden men and sentient weather - which I hope to deliver to my agent soon.


You co-edited the World Fantasy Award nominated Nova Scotia, an anthology of new Scottish speculative fiction. Did you enjoy the process of being editor, rather than writer, and do you have plans to do it again?

Yes, I loved it. It's entirely different from being a writer. The two are both creative processes, but there's no real overlap. Reading the stories as they came in was pretty exciting, and choosing between them excruciating, but I was very pleased with the result. It was an especially interesting experience working with Andrew J Wilson. We found a fair amount of overlap in our tastes, but some differences as well, so I think that resulted in a really nice spread of styles. I'd love to do it again, and Andrew and I have plans for another book which we hope to push on with at some point when both our schedules allow.

Lift's not moving. I've got a stylophone in my pocket (yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge). You can give us a tune to pass the time, and while you're doing it, tell us about your adventures in music.

Okay, yes. The music. I play piano in a couple of bands in the Glasgow area. I write and record with my own band, Murnie, but also play with an outfit called San Fran And The Siscos. And then there's the cabaret stuff. I'm one half of Markee de Saw and Bert Finkle (I'll leave it to readers to guess which half), a kinda weird piano and vocal duo (with occasional musical saw). People can catch us at variety nights around Scotland, and we've been spotted at the Edinburgh Fringe for the last few years too.

So, yes, I'm quite involved musically. And, I've recently started experimenting with short stories that are essentially musicals - there is music in the world and the characters sing to each other instead of speaking. It's opened up some interesting avenues in terms of exploring fate/predestination versus story narrative. But making all the dialogue rhyme is hard work.

Come to think of it, I have another one planned...and there may be room for a Stylophone in it.

In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I like my prose, and my dialogue. But I wish I could plot better. This wasn't so obvious a failing in the short stories, but now I've written two novels I'm realising I've a lot to learn in that regard. Still, practice makes perfect...

Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

Very clearly. There was an Ian R McLeod story in Interzone around about 1991. It was called Well Loved, and it completely blew me away. So I copied it out word for word in an attempt to work out how it was done. Not really sure the exercise really taught me anything, but that was the start.

Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has.

Yes. I was mentioning my "musical stories" earlier. The second one, Arrhythmia, has done well but its predecessor, The Last Note Of The Song, kinda sunk without trace. It was originally published in a slightly strange venue (on a Pirates Of The Caribbean website to help promote the Vandermeer's pirate anthology, Fast Ships, Black Sails), but I've never heard from one person who read it and liked it, and personally I love it. It's a pirate story, but - as described above - it's also a musical. I've included it in the new ebook edition of The Ephemera to try and get it some more visibility.


Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

I think print books will be around for a while yet - at least until the cost of producing them makes it completely prohibitive. People still enjoy reading from a printed book. I think the mass market will move towards e-editions faster and faster, but the independents will balance between both. There are a lot of good presses out there making very lovely books, and while there's enough of a market for them to make it worth their while I hope they'll continue to do so. Meanwhile we can only hope that the in the huge sea of self published ebooks the cream will rise.

What book do you most wish that you had written?

Jonathan Carroll's Outside The Dog Museum. A masterful piece of contemporary fantasy.

You're publishing ebooks now - have you learned anything in that process?

What's been interesting is the ability to repackage an existing book in a new way and get it to market with comparatively little effort. I like that immediacy and reactivity, but I worry that it's perhaps too easy and that a lot of the ebooks that appear will perhaps not have the same standards of care over their content and presentation as you would expect.


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

I'm trying. I did a whack of things at publication, but you have to keep it going, don't you? Tools like blog stats and Amazon's sales graphs give you an impression of what produces results though, and I think that appearing in as many places as you can (for example, this interview) is the key to getting your name out there. Infinity Plus ebooks are priced fairly cheaply and I hope it's not too difficult to get people to take a punt on your product if you make it sound interesting enough.

What is it that really pushes your buttons as a reader?

Everything! I love style and voice, but not to the extent that it obscures the story. I love good characterisation too, but don't want to wallow in finely observed detail. Pacewise a story doesn't have to rocket along, but I prefer it to keep moving. But in general, a good story has to do everything well, and perhaps one or two things brilliantly.

If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Seek absolutely honest opinions of your writing.

If you could tell an aspiring writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

I guess most people will answer this question with: 'write what you know'. It's such patent tosh, that it doesn't even bear consideration.


Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?

Yes, I'm fairly openly outed. The reaction varies from genuine and ongoing interest to polite indifference (believe it or not, not everyone rates writing as a creative undertaking). But no scorn, not even when I admit that my field of endeavour is in the fantastical genres.

Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Gibbons. They're proper, full on hard cases. Ever seen a child cuddling a cutesy Disneyfied stuffed gibbon? Nuff said.


Meticulous research is both enjoyable and important / what's the point in writing fiction if you can't just make stuff up - discuss.

I'm a big fan of digging up enough nuggets to convince the reader of verisimilitude, but more research than that (while potentially interesting on a personal level) is distracting you from what you should be focusing on - writing the story.


Any question you wished you'd been asked?

What's your favourite Iain Rowan story? I'd say The Chain, from Rowan's collection Nowhere To Go. It's the kind of crime story that unfolds with such brilliant logic that you simply can't believe that it's not been done before. As a major Hollywood movie.

(Aw, shucks. Yr blushing Ed.)

Flash fiction - Odd Job

I almost didn't hear the doorbell ring because of the thump thump thump of the bass from next door. I almost didn't answer it, because between the thick wet heat of the day, and the sleepless, endless nights of noise I was in no fit state to do anything, let alone speak to anyone.

He was short, scruffy, like his clothes had been donated, rather than chosen.

"Odd jobs. Anything you want doing."

"No, thanks." I started to close the door.

"Guttering? Clean your guttering."

"Flat's rented. Landlord's job. Not that he does it, but I'm not about to pay for it."

"Painting. Decorating."

"Landlord's jo--"

"Bit of gardening. Must be something you need doing, and I need the money, makes us both winners."

"Sorry," I said, though I wasn't, because this day and this week and this month of incessant noise from the bastard next door made me hate the world and everyone in it. I couldn't think, didn't want to think. "There's nothing I need doing so you're wasting your time. Unless you can shut that bastard up."

I closed the door, wiped the sweat off my face and walked back to the kitchen. The bass rattled my mug on the counter, sending little waves across the surface of the tea.

The music stopped. There was a dull thud that I felt through the floorboards. A small noise, like a cat crying to come in. Then another thud, then another. Then there was just silence. I looked at my tea, and the ripples slowed and it became still.

My doorbell rang.

"Hundred quid," he said. "I'll want it in cash, like."




Friday, 19 August 2011

Nowhere To Go - feedback

Just taking a moment out for a little shameless self-promotion. There have been a number of reviews posted recently around the web for my collection of crime short stories, Nowhere To Go. Here are some of the things that kind people have said:

"All the stories are very well-written and superbly devised, with a wonderful eye for detail in both the cast and settings, letting the reader catch a glimpse into the dark abyss of the human heart. And it's always the ending of each and every story which is the cherry on the cake….In short: A great set of deep and dark crime stories! "

"Great collection of 11 short stories. Had a hard time putting it down, I kept trying to read faster to turn the next page."

"A good selection of short stories, which I have to admit wouldn't usually appeal to me but I throughly enjoyed them, and would pick up another book by this author without hesitating."

"Iain Rowan has hit a home run with Nowhere to Go, his short story collection. From the sad to the macabre, his stories take the reader on a fascinating journey into the darker elements of humanity. Each story is complete and self-sufficient. The writing is tight and professional and the plots intriguing. I highly recommend this book."

"Rowan offers an amazing fluidity of narrative; from the first paragraph it was a question of sitting back and allowing myself to be carried along by the flow."

"But there really isn't a bad story in the bunch. Nowhere To Go is classy and clever Brit Grit at it's best."

(All from Amazon, LibraryThing and Goodreads).


Sound interesting? Check it out on Amazon (US | UK) for Kindle, and for Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry, and on Smashwords for Sony, Stanza, and other e-readers. It's published by Infinity Plus.

"Being alone, it can be quite romantic/Like Jacques Cousteau underneath the Atlantic"

When I was little, I used to want to live in a submarine, and go around the world doing interesting undersea things. This man was why.

He also co-invented the aqualung, was an environmentalist, war hero, an engineer, a film-maker and writer, a marine biologist and a pioneer of underwater archaeology, was the inspiration for the narrator in Spongebob Squarepants and songs by Plastic Bertrand, John Denver and Old Dirty Bastard , and for many years was for me (with the possible exception of Ilyra Kuryakin), the coolest man in the entire world. And he had a lovely parka.




writers talk about writing - the interviews to date

What do the writers Charlie Williams, Anna Tambour, Ray Banks, Gary McMahon, Keith Brooke, Alan Ryker, John Grant, Ian Ayris, James Everington, Kaitlin Queen, Paul D Brazill, Julie Morrigan and Dave Zeltserman have in common?

Well, yes, the obvious is their fervent support of Scottish Second Division giants Forfar Athletic (you didn't know?), but they've also all been interviewed for this blog. The series is still ongoing (check back this weekend for an excellent interview with Neil Williamson), but I thought it was a good time to pull together an index of all of the interviews to date.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Writers talk about writing - Kaitlin Queen

(Once you've finished reading what Kaitlin's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here)


Born in Essex, Kaitlin moved to Northumberland in the north-east of England when she was a child and has lived there ever since. Her children's fiction (mostly for the 9-15 age range) has been published by Hodder, Puffin, Orion and others and has, in some weeks, out-sold the Harry Potter books. "Kaitlin Queen" is the name she uses for her adult fiction, and One More Unfortunate (Amazon UK | US) is her first adult crime novel.


We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book, One More Unfortunate.

It's the mid-1990s and Nick Redpath has some issues to resolve. Like why he is relentlessly drawn back to a circle of old friends and enemies - and an old love - in his seaside birthplace in north Essex. And why he won't let himself fall in love again. But first he must prove that he didn't murder his old flame, Geraldine Wyse... It's a murder story, and a love story, and a story deeply rooted in a part of the world I know well.


Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Currently I'm working on an adventure series for 9-11 year olds. As Kaitlin Queen I'm toying with various ideas for more adult crime fiction as I enjoyed working on OMU so much. Foremost among these would be continuing Nick Redpath's story with a sequel to One More Unfortunate called The Time of Roses, another story where a murder mystery is tangled up with Nick and Karen's developing relationship. The other idea I'm toying with is a series of short, noir stories inspired by the paintings of Jack Vettriano; whatever people may say about his art, Vettriano is a master at telling a story in paint.


You're a successful children's author, whose books in some weeks have out-sold Harry Potter. What's made you turn to crime fiction?

I think most writers are tempted to try something different, every now and then. Life would be so dull if we wrote the same book over and over again, although that doesn't stop some people. Why crime in particular? A lifelong love of the genre is what did it, particularly on TV. There are few things better than losing an hour or so to a TV crime story: Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Cracker, Taggart, and of course all the Agatha Christie adaptations over the years. As you can see, my tastes are eclectic, and I hope that comes across in my novel.


'One More Unfortunate' has been dubbed Essex Noir. Do you think that place is important for crime fiction, and if so, why?

That description hadn't occurred to me, but it's perfect. My influences were many and varied, and I hoped to pull off a novel that could be both gritty and noirish at one extreme and a gentle romance at the other, with many points in between. Place is, I hope, clearly a major factor in OMU: Nick is drawn to his home town and there's a lot of emphasis on the place's history. One of the things that fascinates me about writing is the way description can be used to establish atmosphere and tension: you can describe a scene in so many ways, but if the reader knows it's a murder scene every little descriptive detail takes on a new significance.


What have you enjoyed most about writing not just in a different genre, but for a very different audience? And what have you found more difficult?

Some of my children's stories are crime adventures, so it's a genre I have some history with. Crime for adults does allow you to explore different avenues, though, and one of the real draws for me was the opportunity to write about grown-up relationships and their complications through the eyes of the grown-ups themselves. It's like raising your own children: they're fascinating and fun creatures, but sometimes it's nice to get out of the house and have a grown-up conversation. One of the challenges was adjusting to a different pace of storytelling. It can be so easy to lose the attention of a younger reader and when they've grown bored and put the book down you've lost the game. I like to think that adult readers are more comfortable with a bit of digression, but after all this time it's natural for me to stick to the story and keep things moving. OMU is a full-length novel, but it's still relatively short, and I think that must be the reason.


In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

To succeed in children's fiction you have to have a knack for hooking the reader and then keeping them hooked: I think I write stories that have good pace and keep you wanting to read more. Page turners, if you like. I don't know about doing better, but I'd like to write more about adult relationships: the love story in OMU is one of my favourites of the things I've written.


Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

I've always written. When I was a child it was animal stories. I wrote so many variants of Watership Down featuring different animals! I think that of those people who love reading there's a certain proportion for whom the natural next step is to be fascinated by how the stories we love come about and are put together. I count myself lucky enough to be in that group.


Print publishing is a doomed but still predatory dinosaur rotting from the feet up. Ebook publishing is the vomiting out of the world's slushpiles onto the market. In the ongoing war of words and hyperbole, where's the happy medium to be found? Where do you think the publishing business is heading over the next few years, and what are you doing to be ready for it?

I really don't know. I must confess that I'm not a lover of technology. I'm enormously grateful to Keith Brooke (publishing supremo at Infinity Plus) for pushing me towards electronic publishing for OMU; it wouldn't have happened if I didn't have someone who understood how it all worked. For most writers the best thing we can do to be ready for the brave new world of publishing is to keep on writing our best stories in the belief that there will always be a means of getting them to our readers.


What book do you most wish that you had written?

Anything by Elizabeth David. For it to be authentic I would have had to have lived and travelled in Europe during a fascinating period, and learned to cook authentic food from masters. One day I intend to write a 1930s Mediterranean cookery murder mystery. Just think of the research!


Do you do much promotion for your books? What do you think is the most effective thing you've done?

Not nearly as much as my publishers would like! The most rewarding thing I've done in this line is visiting schools and other educational events. The audiences are always so rewarding and enthusiastic. I have no idea how effective that is, though.


If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Never be satisfied with your writing: you can always make it better. The other side of that is that you must also develop the ability to know when to leave a story alone and move on to the next one.


If you could tell an aspiring piece of writer to ignore one commonly given piece of advice, what would it be?

"Show, don't tell" is an excellent piece of advice. Far too many aspiring writers report a scene rather than dramatising it in a way that allows the reader to feel that they're there, immersed in events. However, if we showed everything our novels would be ten times as long and a great deal more dull. Much can be cut altogether, but there is also a lot that, while it has to be mentioned, can be skipped past with a brief bit of telling rather than a long passage of showing.


Are you 'out' as a writer of fiction with work colleagues/family, and if so, what reaction did you get?

I am well and truly out as me, but Kaitlin is still tucked away in her closet. I like it this way. I'm a fairly self-conscious person, and hiding behind a pen-name has allowed me to explore adult issues in ways I might shy away from as me, particularly as "me" is a children's writer!


Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Today is a gibbon day, I think. Tomorrow could be more tiger, but we'll have to wait and see.


Any questions that I should have asked?

The answer is, "Yes, but only when I've had a glass or two of Pinot Noir." I'm afraid the question includes a clause that forbids me from revealing it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Danny Macaskill - industrial revolutions

On looting

This. Absolutely, this.

Writers talk about writing - Ian Ayris

(Once you've finished reading what Ian's got to say, check out the whole series of interviews here)


Ian Ayris lives mostly inside his head, where he hears voices and sees things. Violent, odd, sweary things. The only way to rid himself of these voices and things is to listen and watch carefully and write down exactly what he sees and hears. It's an odd thing, but has resulted in almost forty published short -stories and a novel.


We're in a lift, I'm someone important (come on, pretend), you've got thirty seconds (tall building, slow lift) to tell me about your latest book.

My debut novel is called 'ABIDE WITH ME' published by Caffeine Nights Publishing. It's about two boys growing up in East London in the nineteen-seventies. It's about hope, community, friendship, football, gangsters, and biscuits. More noir than crime, more Mike Leigh than Guy Ritchie. It's been described as an 'Of Mice and Men' set in East London. Also as an attempt to single-handedly dismantle the English language by an octagenarian from Dorset. I love that one. Did I mention the biscuits?


Uh-oh. Not sure lifts are meant to stop suddenly between floors like this. Guess we've got a bit more time. Ignore the flickering lights and creaking sounds above us. Would you like to tell me about other books or stories that you have available?

I've had almost forty short-stories published both in print and online, mostly crime fiction, some just plain odd. Many of these can be accessed via my blog.


Please stop repeatedly pressing the emergency button. The comment about building a ladder of bones to reach the ceiling hatch and get out of here was just blue-skies thinking. So, what are you working on now?

Mostly working on promo for the book, but also turning over a sequel in my head. I mostly write in my head first then spew it all out onto paper when I get a minute. Most of ABIDE WITH ME was written inside my head waiting at bus stops, on the train, the school playground and pushing the littl'un round the park. I hasten to add, she was in a pushcair, the littl'un. I wasn 't just pushing her round the park on her arse. That would be silly,


What really pushes your buttons in crime fiction? What makes you put down a novel and think hell, now that's a good novel.

What I really love, what really makes a book stand out for me, is when I become completely absorbed in the world of the book. The sort of thing by the time I've turned the last page, it's like I've inhabited the main characters body and soul for the given period of hours, days, weeks it's taken to get to the end. Like I've seen the world through his own broken eyes, you know. I love two styles of writing: the minimilist Hemingway/Elroy stuff exemplified by some of the brilliant online noir writers on both sides of the pond, and the really deep stuff, where the author is trying to shine a light into the human psyche. Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, those sort of chaps.


Conversely, what bugs you?

Two things bug me most of all. When an author uses a story or book to make a personal statement, be it political, religious, whatever. That really bugs me. Also, when a writer stops being a writer and starts being a 'name'. With the online exposure nowadays I can be instantly put off even reading an author's work merely by how they present themselves as ego-driven monomaniacs whose sole interest is themselves. The cult of personality, I suppose you could call it. Two very big names in the crime fiction world spring to mind. I have read a book by each author and, to be honest, struggle to see what all the fuss is about.


Which writers have been the biggest influence on you?

The first time I read Ernest Hemingway, he blew my mind. Unfortunate turn of phrase there, but you know what I mean. I thought Blimey, I never realised you were allowed to write like that. Really freed me up, he did. Made me realise you can write anything in any way you want. I love the Russian authors. Chekov, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, and Dickens and Hugo. Modern day writers, again, though by all accounts he's a bit of a twat, James Ellroy was a massive influence. Chuck Palahniuk, Derek Raymond, Ted Lewis. I could really go on forever and ever and ever . . . But I wont.


You're about to see your debut novel published. How's the follow-up going, and do you feel it's a a different experience writing it now you know your first is seeing print?

Being my first novel, I just want to enjoy the experience of seeing ABIDE WITH ME published before I start anything else, but a sequel is definitely in the pipeline. And yes, I think it will be a completely different experience. A little like the challenge of recording a second album, I suppose. I wrote ABIDE WITH ME without any thought of publication. I had no expectations, no pressure, if you like. With regards the follow up, I suddenly have readers of ABIDE WITH ME, hopefully, looking forward to a book as good if not better than the original. The other difference, and it is a very big one for me, is with the publication of ABIDE WITH ME I am now tentatively beginning to see myself as an actual writer. ABIDE WITH ME was written in a chaotic shambles of weeks and months, riding the rails of runaway emotions into the dark corners of my self. I don't want to lose that spontaneity in my writing, but I know if I want to make a real go of this writing lark I need to treat it with the self-discipline of a job of work. And self-discipline has never been one of my best attributes. Too much looking out the window, you know.


In your own writing, what do you think you do well, and what do you wish you could do better?

I think what I do well in my writing is to write without fear or expectation. I just write what I see and hear in my head. Uncensored. What I could do much better is to be more organised in my work, more focussed. I'm not one of those writers that can sit down for a set amount of time and not get up until a certain amount of words are completed. If something comes into my head, I wander about a bit till I've seen it all play out in my mind, then dash it down quickly on the laptop. I've had periods where I've written four or five short stories in a week - all quickly accepted for publication. But weeks and months can go by where I write nothing at all. Like I said earlier, if I want to make a real go at this writing game, I need to become a little more professional in my approach. Perhaps.


Can you remember what made you sit down to write your first book or story?

I got this voice in my head. It was all sweary and everything. Horrible, it was. And it didn't let up till it'd told its tale. The story became 'My Mate, Tel' - my first published story (Radgepacket, vol One, Byker Books)


Do you have a book or story that you're very fond of, but you think should get more attention from the world than it has?

Maggie by Stephen Crane. An unbelievable little book a hundred years ahead of it's time.


What book do you most wish that you had written?

Without a doubt, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Blimey. What a book.


If you could give an aspiring writer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Write with truth, write with humility, write with courage. That's all.


Gibbons or tigers? (NB this question is to help me in compiling my List of People Who Are Wrong).

Tigers. Every time. You know it makes sense.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bluebird

Hello everyone. I've not forgotten you all, but I have been away a bit and will shortly be away again. More interviews and stuff when I get back.

This year I've participated for the first time in Metafilter's annual CD swap, where you get randomly assigned to a group of Mefi members from around the world, each of whom burns a CD with some of their favourite music on and sends it to everyone else. The CDs I've received so far have had some really good music on, and it's always interesting being exposed to stuff you haven't heard before, or were maybe unlikely ever to hear.

I tried to put together a CD that had some kind of feel as a piece, rather than as a random assembly of 20 songs. The various copies have gone winging their way over the ocean, so I thought I'd post it the track listing here too. I've managed to find youtube links to all of the songs except for the marvellous Another Shitty Day by The Sneetches and Systems/Layers by Rachel's (that's what you get for not picking one of the obvious songs from the album)

Anyway, here it is:

Blue Bird

1. Blue Bird - Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
2. She Gives Me The Chills - Lucas Renney
3. Ivory Tower - Nobukazu Takemura
4. Precious Plans - Field Music
5. Sand River - Beth Gibbons
6. The Last Good Day Of The Year - Cousteau
7. Raindrops - Tindersticks
8. Gone Gone Gone - The Notwist
9. Afraid - Nico
10. Another Shitty Day - The Sneetches
11. Marguerita Red - King Creosote
12. If I Were - Vashti Bunyan
13. The Not Knowing - Tindersticks
14. Systems/Layers - Rachel's
15. Rytm To Niesmiertelnosc II - Jacaszek
16. Written On The Sky - Max Richter
17. Temptation - James Yorkston
18. National Avenue (Sunday Afternoon) - Red Guitars
19. End Come Too Soon - Wild Beasts
20. Blue bird - Charles Bukowski