I’d like to thank my agent…

So this week I was nominated for not one but two Liebster Awards. This is kind of like waiting for a bus. I’ve  never been nominated for anything and then two come a long at once. Listen to me, anyone would think I’d won an Oscar.

Not quite, but nearly as exciting for little ol’ me. The Liebster Award is a fun award for bloggers which helps others to find new blogs and connect with other bloggers. Now, those of you familiar to my blog will know I don’t do short posts! Therefore I have amalgamated both of my nominations into one post. In order to accept the award(s) I have been asked to answer 10 questions posed by each of the two lovely ladies who nominated me. I then have to pose my own 10 questions to other bloggers who have less than 200 followers. More on this later.

My first nomination came from the very talented Amira Makansi who I met on Twitter this year and have since been enjoying her serial novel, ‘Porous’ on her blog which you can visit here. Amira is a great talent and ‘Porous’ is the result of an interesting concept where we the reader get to input our ideas into the novel each week.

Without further ado I present my (obviously long) responses to  Amira’s 10 questions.

1. What was the first story you ever wrote?

Hmmm. Well probably one at school when I was small but I can’t remember anything too specific. However the children’s fantasy adventure I have just finished does loosely come from an original idea I had when I was twelve. It was a story I wrote  in a small, blue exercise book in blue biro. I can still picture it now. It was very much a story based on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis but my story was called ‘Adventures in Babyland’, in which four children discover another world beyond a scrap yard.  The world is run by babies who have adult like brains. There is an evil baby Mayor running the place (sort of the White Witch equivalent!). Really it was a total rip-off of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. But on acid. Which I wasn’t because I was twelve. Whatever happened to that exercise book I’ll never know, but thankfully it’s no longer around.

2. What keeps you writing on the long nights when you’d much rather be sleeping, watching a movie, or socializing with friends?

Well I go to sleep! I’m not one of these dedicated writers who stays up into the wee, small hours attached to a drip of caffeine. I need 7-8 hours of sleep and that’s that! I have a little one and so I get woken up early and need energy for him. However I do write in some form or another most evenings between 7 and 10pm. What keeps me doing it? I can rarely go out anymore as a parent so I may as well be productive of an evening is how I see it. There’s little worth watching on TV anymore and I have spent too many years wasting away in front of movies and the like. I’ve also found that at times even if I intend to sit down and relax with a movie of an evening, my attention span is short and I want to be doing something. Saying that, if I do want to socialise, watch a film,read a book or whatever then I do. I try not to give myself  guilt trips for not writing.

3. What drink of choice accompanies you on your writing adventures?

Ha! Red Wine or single malt or port if an evening. Coffee if day time but quite honestly often nothing because once I’m sat down at the laptop it can be hours before I move again to refuel or even drink.

4. Do you have any special writing rituals?

Nope. I am a terribly sporadic writer. I don’t focus on one project at a time, I don’t have a certain day or time or place for writing. My moods are too erratic. I write when I want to and what I want to. I don’t have any particular method or special thing I do to write. I probably can’t even be classed as  a writer as I do so little compared to many others.

5. Which writers, dead or alive, inspire you the most?

This is hard. Anyone who has a genuinely original idea. Anyone who can transport me wholly into another place or make me cry for a character. I’ll give you a run down of my top four.

Firstly from childhood: It may be obvious but Roald Dahl. He just knew how to hook a child in and keep them there.  I will never forget a student teacher reading ‘The Witches’ to us every day over a week and I loved it. I loved how he made words up and wasn’t afraid to tackle the dark side of life. Children can cope with that. I think we’ve lost it in recent literature for children in an effort to protect them. Then as a teenager I read some of his short stories, some of which were used for the TV series Tales of The Unexpected. But the one which grabbed me most (not used as it was longer than others) was ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’. The idea that this character could learn to read through a playing card fascinated me. What I always loved most about that book was that the way Dahl wrote it had me questioning quite genuinely whether it was a true story or not. This to me is the mark of a genius writer. Can you convince the reader your fiction is real even when it’s not?

Secondly Agatha Christie. Now I know she is never greatly appreciated for her character development and some may say she was quite a crass, populist writer churning out books at a rate of a weekly magazine serial. BUT I am just in awe of how she managed to think of so many different motives and methods for murder and weave them around so many suspects and keep the reader guessing until the end.  For so many years! She could write a short story or novel with seemingly no problem. Quite astounding. One character I do absolutely love is Hercule Poirot just for his idiosyncrasies  but it was her ability to build such complex plots which really has me in awe of Christie. She put crime writing on the map and to my mind has never been touched.

Thirdly I would have to say Tolkien. Now with Tolkien my fascination with his work arose in my twenties, when I read The Lord of The Rings. What I admire most about his writing is his world building. To be able to create a whole world and a whole history and a whole language as well as multiple races of people and then to weave all that into a massive epic plot is just, well, awe inspiring. I find him a bit too long winded at times in his descriptive passages, but I guess in order to create such a massive world, you’ve got to paint that picture.

Finally and this is a modern actual alive author who I have come to admire greatly recently and that is Matt Haig. Haig writes with an honesty, a clarity and in a no BS way whilst making you really FEEL something. What that something is I don’t know. But I find if I pick up one of his books I cannot put it down. He has that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’; the X factor of the writing world. I cannot recommend his writing enough.

6. What is your favorite book? (Please, if possible, limit to three!)

Wuthering Heights has been my favourite book for as long as I can remember. I tried reading it at age 13 and didn’t get in it at all, but my English teacher told me to give it another try when I was older. So when I was 17, and studying 19th century female characters in classic fiction, I read it and was blown away. I liked the way there were different viewpoint narratives (something I  loved in Wilkie Collins’ Woman in White too) and for the first time I felt a genuine empathy for characters. Mainly Heathcliff. My heart bled for Heathcliff and at times for Cathy. I liked the way the story spanned the two generations and saw how the sins of the fathers are re-lived on their children. I liked the despair and the bleakness of the setting . I liked the flaws in Heathcliff and Cathy’s characters and how actually there was no really happy ending. The book made me feel. It may not have been happy feelings but I felt. Pride and Prejudice never did that!

My next, more recent, favourite book is ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig. I’m not going to say much about this as if you want to know what I think of it I’ve blogged about it before here. Check it out if you want to know what its all about and whatever you do, if you have never read this book, go and read it. NOW. Stop reading this blog and go get a copy.

Finally, Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell. I read this only recently and I can’t believe it took me so long. I mean it’s scary, depressing (oh, I  felt like I wanted to die at the end of it) but what genius. What an absolute genius of a writer to see into a future with such clarity. For Orwell was not far off from what I believe western ‘democracy’ is in danger of becoming though he himself said he was wrong on that point. Still, he doesn’t live post 2001.  The very fact that so many phrases from the book have made it into our everyday language is testament to the novel’s power. I think what I loved most about this book again was the unexpected lack of a happy ending. I was left reeling by the end, in shock and I felt Winston’s pain and conflict every step of the way but felt let down by him at the end. Let down that he stopped fighting, but what choice did he have? Orwell kept me there with Winston every step of the way. I wanted him to save the world, but ultimately he couldn’t which is why I felt so depressed by the end. It gives no hope for the future; for our future.

7. What kind of music do you listen to, if any, while writing?

Again, like with the drink question sometimes I have music, sometimes not. Quite often I will have the TV or radio on in the background just for noise, but I can write in complete silence just as easily. It often depends if I can be bothered to get up and put something on the stereo. I tend to avoid listening to really familiar favourite tracks as I end up singing along/getting distracted by them so if I deliberately choose music it’s something new which I will pull up on Spotify and so can allow to infiltrate without being too distracting. Usually indie rock type music. Right now as I’m writing this I’m listening to a band called Field Music. I’ll be doing a music blog post soon, so I’ll delve more into that then.

8. If you could spend a day inside one of your novels or stories, what would you do? 

I would hang out with my main characters in ‘Prophecy Of Innocence’ and ask them to tell me what I should write next! A bit like in The Muppet Movie when they reach the church and the script’s already with Dr Teeth! Cop out answer? Perhaps, but I have no desire to live under the ground where my characters reside!

9. What city would you most like to live in as a writer?

Oh that’s easy. Edinburgh. Not just as a writer but just for life. Edinburgh is an amazing city and when I am there I feel like I am home. I think the bracing, cool air and wind might be part of it. I always feel like I’m part of the elements when there. I think the place holds many fond memories for me too as my dad is from there and we visited my grandparents every year when we were growing up.  I still do. In Edinburgh, although very much a modern city, it has history in abundance, the buildings are stunning, the food and drink  amazing, bagpipes play on street corners in the city centre. There’s a castle, a beach, beautiful gardens, an art gallery, a volcanic plug, and then in August there is the festival which is a cacophony of colour, culture, comedy, music and vibrant,unusual  sounds and sights. How anyone could not find the place inspirational I don’t know. The surrounding area has hills to climb and Rosslyn Chapel to explore. There are miles of unspoilt, quiet, sandy beaches to the north and east and the magnificent  railway bridge dominates the Firth of the Forth which inspires awe every time I see it. The place just oozes sumptuous loveliness and a rich cultural history. Hell, I’m not sure why I’m not living there now!

10. Please link to whichever of your blog posts is your favorite, and tell us why you picked that one.

A Life Just Ordinary I choose this because it is a memoir I wrote but I didn’t let that be known when I first published it. It was in fact a little experiment of mine to see if I could write well enough to convince the reader I’d written a  piece of fiction when in fact it was completely factual (minus a couple of tiny details). I got a lot of positive feedback on the story although I did feel a bit bad leading people up the garden path. I did reveal in a subsequent post what I’d been doing. I hope no one felt too deceived!

My second nomination For the Liebster came from Nillu Stelter who I also met on Twitter just this year. Nillu has a brilliant blog full of fantastic writerly advice and is a professional through and though as well as a great champion and supporter of other writers. Check out her great blog here before you read my answers to her ten questions, which were a lot of fun to answer!

1. Describe a happy memory to us.

It’s my birthday and I’m sitting in one of my favourite bars with my best friend in the whole wide world. We are watching an awesome band and have had a couple of drinks. The music is sublime and  we are just sitting, only communicating with each other through smiles from our mutual appreciation of music. There is one particular moment I just consciously feel happier than I have ever felt. It was fleeting but was and still is one of my happiest memories.

2. Describe the setting in which you write.

Oh it’s so uninspiring do I have to? Okay, it’s my dining room table in my lounge. I face an almond-white painted wall and to my right is the door to the hallway and a sideboard with flowers and a photo of my nephew. To my left is the window to the garden with a few knick-knacks scattered about. That’s it. I wish I had a proper desk and sat in a leather wing-backed Chesterfield chair  surrounded by a library of books, but the reality is I’m sitting here on a chair which is bad for my back and the table is slightly too high.

3. What is the best book you have read recently?

Okay, if I go on about ‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig anymore people will end up wanting to lynch me and think I read nothing else. BUT he has set the bar VERY high! At the moment I have an advanced readers copy of a book called Zero Echo Shadow Prime by Peter Samet who I also have met through Twitter. ZESP is a Sci- Fi novel and although I’m not finished it yet, so far it is proving quite brilliant. Very different from anything I’ve read before. It’s due to be published soon on around the 13th April I believe. You can check out his site at the link above.

4. Which is your go to song to lift your spirits if you are feeling low?

This is going to sound really odd but anything by The Smiths. People mistake The Smiths for being terribly depressing but if you listen to the tunes they are incredibly uplifting. And the lyrics may seem depressing on the surface but I think they just give a dash of a reality check and when I am feeling low that is what I usually need. Furthermore there is a lot of tongue and cheek about Morrissey’s lyrics which make me smile. I also find listening to them helps my own creativity which in turn lifts my spirits.

5. Which author or artist has influenced you the most?

I would have to say as far as my own novel is concerned it would be Tolkien and J.K Rowling. The idea of building a world and an epic sized plot spanning time appeals to me. I think both authors were so very clever at this in their own way and using their own influence to such good effect, how can you not admire either of them even if their genre is not up your street? I know I will never reach their dizzy heights of genius, but I would say they have been my biggest influences on my writing to date.

6. What is your favourite item of clothing?

Ooh, this is like been interviewed for Vogue! I’d have to say my purple shoes. Do shoes count? I’m not that enamoured with any of my clothes right now. Plus I rather think shoes make an outfit. My purple shoes are shiny patent with a chunky buckle, a medium heel with a suedette trim around the side.  How have I managed to make them sound hideous? What kind of a writer am I?!

7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

Niagara Falls. Just because ever since seeing Superman 2  when I was young I’ve  wanted to go. Wow, is that the most bland answer to that question that anyone has ever come out with I wonder?!

8. What would you change about the world if you had the power?

Selfishness. It is a human trait which I feel is the one thing which ruins the world and we are all guilty of it. Linked to this  I would limit the number of children people could have.  I mean I realise this would make me a hated dictatorial sociopath but you did ask! In my opinion, and it is of course only my opinion,there are too many people in the world and the number is only growing yet we cannot sustain it. We need to stem population growth as we are in danger of causing our own extinction, ironically by doing the one thing intended to keep our species going.  Oooh watch blog numbers fall as oppose to increase. Okay… next question, quick.

9. What are your favourite and least favourite characteristics? 

(I originally took his to mean my own characteristics but now realise Nillu could have meant just generally. Anyway, I’m sticking with my initial thoughts, so apologies Nillu if you meant the other.)

Oooh. Least favourite?  I am too judgmental (see above question.) I am actually extremely tolerant of people on an individual basis and will always do my best to sympathise or empathise because we’re all in this thing called life together, but oh I do despair at how stupid we all are as a species and so I am prone to rants of opinion and opening my big mouth about issues I probably know very little about.  I hate that I can only ever see the big picture and that this overwhelms me and causes me to over-think everything.The other characteristic I can’t stand about myself is that I contradict myself constantly and change my mind too easily.

As for my best, ironically I would say it’s my honesty (even if it can get me into trouble)  and my integrity. I remain true to myself and do not say things I do not mean. I also believe I was put on this planet to help people wherever that is possible and so I do try hard to do that.

10. If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?

Oooh! Now that is a good question!

Let me see, I think I’d like to be able to read people’s minds. But not constantly. I’d have a switch otherwise it would end up driving me crazy! However it’d be very useful as oppose to trying to read the real motivations and intentions of others as I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to do! I’d like a cape too. I’d definitely need a cape. A green one if possible.

So now it’s my turn to nominate others (and here is some confusion as Amira tells me three and Nillu ten!) so I’m just going to go with three. Oh I know despair of me now. Having read up on the Liebster Award (and knowing my three nominees quite well) I’m very aware this may make them feel a little uncomfortable as really it is an internet blogging version of a chain letter. As I have never ever responded to a chain letter of chain text in my life it is an amazing thing I have even done this much. However I like the idea of giving recognition to people who I feel should have some, so here goes.

My first nomination goes to the amazingly talented Roger Jackson. Roger doesn’t blog constantly as he’s a modest chap not heavily into self promotion but when he does blog it is well worth the wait. Mostly you will find a fine selection of his fantastic short stories  there but he also gives some great insights into the writer’s life. Check his blog out  here.

Next I nominate Callie Armstrong. Currently Callie is undertaking the Ray Bradbury challenge and writing one short story per week for 52 weeks. This is what you will find on her blog right now and I’m in awe of how she manages to write so much, so well, so frequently. She also blogs/vlogs with honesty about her dual life as a writer and a full time home-schooling mum.

My third and final award goes to Cedrix E Clarke. Cedrix writes not only amazing short stories but also blogs about his writing experiences using brilliant metaphors and an honesty and truth sometimes missing in many other blogs.  You can find his musings and links to some absolutely fabulous short stories here.

Check all of these writer’s blogs out, each of whom write in very different genres yet nevertheless grip the reader with their mastery of the written word.

All three of my nominees should have far more recognition through their blogs than they do currently. All three are modest and quiet about their work, never really promoting themselves. All three are incredibly smart, intelligent, funny people and these traits radiate through into their writing.

I would like to point out to my lovely nominees you are under no obligation to answer the questions and know I will not at all be offended if you choose not to accept the award. You are busy people! If you haven’t time for this it’s because I know you will be working on some great piece of literature or a blog post of your own.

So my 10 questions, if you guys choose to answer them, follow next. Some are my own, some are stolen from Amira and Nillu. Some are completely hypothetical, so have fun you three! If you do choose to answer them, the next step is to post them on your own blog and then nominate others for the Liebster Award. As I seem to have broken the rules concerning numbers, I’m not sure what happens next. But remember, like with all chain letters, obviously some hideous fate will befall you if you don’t do it! Mwah ha ha! (I jest.  Just do what suits. Send me your answers on a post card if you like!) Okay your questions, should you choose to accept them are:

1) What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about something you’ve written?

2) What is your absolutely single most favourite thing about the act of writing? 

3) Which piece of writing ‘advice’ do you most ignore? 

4) You all know how I like a good rant on my blog! What’s the one thing guaranteed to get you into a writerly rant? (of course you may be perfectly placid and never do such a thing!)

5) Okay now to the serious stuff: Superman vs Batman? Who’s going to win? (Do you even care?)

6) You’re stranded on a desert island. (The dream I know!) You can take one book, one film (the island has a DVD player) and one album to listen to. What do you take?

7) You are given one superpower. What do you choose? 

8) If the internet died tomorrow forever, how would you cope? 

9) What was your favourite book as child and what is your favourite book as an adult?

10) Finally please link to whichever of your blog posts is your own personal favourite, and tell us why you picked that one.

I look forward to reading your responses to my sometimes slightly silly questions. 🙂

Thanks so much to Nillu and Amira again for my nominations for the award and I hope I have done your fine questions justice with my responses.

And.. thanks to you all for reading as always  🙂

Joanne out.

3 Comments

Filed under First post, Writing

3 responses to “I’d like to thank my agent…

  1. Love this post. And so wonderful of you to answer 20 questions and not tell us to *ugger off! You read my poorly worded question right :). Love your blogging style, conversational and refreshing. Now I must go follow Cedrix’s blog, put Peter’s one on my wish list and track down some Matt Haig too. Hope you get your Chesterfield one day 😉

  2. Thank you Nillu. If people ask me things to my face I find it difficult to answer, but on paper/screen I don’t mind at all. Probably because I can edit. Hope you enjoy the recommendations too! 🙂

  3. Wonderful reading your answers to these questions! Nillu came up with some great ones as well – and it was great to get to know you a little better by reading through your responses. Cheers, lady!

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