Why do you write?
I have always had an interest in words on paper. At school I could never tell a verb from an adjective but always got good marks in English because of my compositions. So a long-standing relationship is a given. As to why do I write now, well I was encouraged back after a period of non-writing following a family tragedy, and I am so glad I succumbed to both the encouragement and the temptation. Writing has become very important in these, my latter years. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it has helped me come to terms with my losses, but it does give me a reason to get up in the mornings. Suffice to say that I would be a sadder and more lost soul without it.
What books do you read?
I enjoy a good biography, auto or otherwise, especially of people from the music industry. Recently enjoyed were those of Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and Shirley Bassey. My fiction tastes are wide and varied with science fiction and horror genres always represented, along with a reasonable helping of mainstream or literary offerings. An era of perpetual interest is that covered by the Beats, both work by the writers themselves and books about them. Poetry I prefer to read in small doses. I could not take in a full volume in one sitting. Poetry is to dip into and then to consider.
What inspires you?
I don’t have an easy answer to this one because it varies according to my mood. I guess good writing in others is always inspirational, not because it pushes me to emulate – I know where my bar is set – but because talent is always appreciated. Sometimes music can do the trick, but there are moments when I prefer silence. A sunrise, sunsets, stars in a clear night sky: these, and similar scenic beauty, are things I can most certainly enjoy, but I would hesitate to claim inspiration from. Once I might have suggested the love of a good (or bad) woman. Maybe now I get most inspiration from memories.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
This was partly answered in the ‘why do you write?’ question. From my very first conscious involvement with books I always accepted a personal conviction that I would one day be instrumental in putting words on paper. As a child I filled untold numbers of exercise books with never ending sagas; the longest running one, which never did finish, concerned Germany winning WW2 and a guerrilla force operating from bases in the Welsh hills and mountains. I do so regret my teenage-self consigning all those improbable adventures to the rubbish bin. So, in answer to the question, even though there have been occasional periods when I haven’t written, I have always wanted to.
How do you deal with rejection?
Whatever I am currently writing is going to be the most superb thing I have ever come up with. When it is finished I start to think it might not be the best thing since sliced bread. Once submitted, it has become total rubbish and has no chance. This, I guess, is my inbuilt defence mechanism. When something is rejected it is virtually expected and an acceptance comes as a pleasant surprise. Mind you, a rejection doesn’t stop me sending the piece out again, though I might cast a critical eye over it first. It is worth remembering, of course, that whether a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, it is only that particular editor’s opinion. There are others who would offer a reverse decision.
Who are some writers you admire?
How much time have you got? Alright, I’ll just try to pick out a selection. Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, William S Burroughs, Norman Spinrad, Richard Matheson, J.G. Ballard, Paul Finch, Christopher Priest. The short stories of Raymond Carver, Cordwainer Smith and Anna Taborska. Poetry by Charles Bukowski, Andrew Darlington, A.D. Winans, Henry Denander, Clive James, Bruce Hodder and Dave Church. The plays of William Shakespeare and the lyrics of Leonard Cohen and Lorenz Hart. Well that is some, and I am already bringing to mind names not mentioned. So quickly moving on…
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
The simple answer is yes, writing is my only artistic medium, but life is never completely straight forward and simple. Some years ago I used to meet up with two friends who had previously played semi-professionally on the South Wales jazz and night club circuit. After coffee, wine and chat, I would sit back and listen while they ran through a few numbers on keyboard and bass guitar. Then one day I picked up a side drum, cymbal and brushes, going cheap in a sale. My friends showed extreme patience and I gradually got into the swing of things. By the time it all ended, with the unfortunate illness and then death of the bass guitarist, my brushwork had become a thing of intricate beauty – well in my fantasy based musicality anyway, in reality I might have been approaching a low level of competence. Either way it was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it while it lasted.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Listen, boy, you are never going to write a best seller, so just enjoy what you do at the level you do it. And if I can extend the advice to the more personal: learn the drums properly and join a band. Don’t get married, even though you will miss out on a glorious girl and magical family moments, because the heartbreak of losing a son and watching your wife slowly disintegrate because of it is to be avoided if at all possible. But if you can’t, then make the most of the family still with you and win what little battles you can while ignoring the rest.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Go write true romance for women’s magazines. You hear? I’ll keep away from your markets, and you keep away from mine. Comprehend, amigo? What’s that? You want me to be serious? What makes you think I’m not! Okay, keep your editorial hat on. My advice is: enjoy it. You might meet lots of interesting people at conventions or readings but the actual nuts and bolts of being a writer is a lonely business. It’s just you and a blank screen or piece of paper, and you need to put words in an order that best suits your purpose. If you are not getting some sort of relief or satisfaction from doing it, press delete and get down the pub.
What is your working process?
Put bluntly, I haven’t got one. Being the most un-prolific of writers, there has never been the slightest possibility of earning a living from it, so professionalism has never been a requirement. There are not many days, though there are some, when I don’t do at least a little writing. Sometimes the words flow, sometimes they don’t. There is no set time of day. There are occasions when I’ll spend hours trying to decide between two words, then end up using one I’d discarded the day before. I don’t wait for the muse to call or the spirit to move me; when I have a project on the go I will work at it, but not to any pre-set plan. Deadlines scare me to hell and back.