Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction are some of my Literary Interests





Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Italian Women Writers -- Announcing A New Reading Life Project


Today I am starting a new reading project focusing on short fiction by Italian women. All of my old projects such as The Irish Quarter, Yiddish Literature, post W W I I Japanese fiction, southern USA Gothic, Classics, Modern Fiction,  Early Australian Short Stories, Indian Subcontinent Stories, The Katherine Mansfield Project, Short stories of the Philippines, Austro-Hungarian Literature and others remain active.  I have found new projects enrich old ones rather than replace them.  I might stop reading or posting in one area for a while or wander off on tangents but I eventually come back.  

Why Italian women?  My first reading in this area was a short story by Natalie Ginzburg.  This was from a suggestion of Linda Lappin's.  I then was kindly gifted by Italica Press, a leading publisher of Italian literature and scholarship, an excellent anthology of short fiction by Italian women writers which will serve as my starting point for this new project.  I admit at first I imagined encountering writers resembling Claudia Cardinelli or Gina Lollobrigida, (OK showing my age), dining in Rome's finest establishments, drinking wine in centuries old villas in the Tuscan Hills while reading exquisite stories.  We will see where the stories really take us.  If we wind up in a dark alley in Naples trying to deal with the Fascists or hiding our own past, it will be a very interesting ride.


    Gratuitous indulgence of fantasies is not a bad thing.

 


Please share your experiences in this area with us.

Mel u


"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander (2011)


"What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank" by Nathan Englander (1970, USA) is the lead story of a collection of the same name which won the 2012 International Frank O'Connor Prize for best collection of short stories and which was nominated for the Pulitizer Prize.  That makes it must reading for anyone interested in the state of the contemporary short story.  I was happy to see it included in a collection of short stories I have, Best American Short Stories, 2012. 

The story, set in Miami, centers on two couples.  The wives were friends in college twenty or so years ago and have now reconnected through social media.  One woman and her husband now live in Isreal and have converted to Orthodox.    One of the women's father was a Holocaust survivor.  The women begin to reminisce about their colleges days.   A central focus of the increasingly whiskey fueled conversation, one of the men affirms whiskey is Kosher, is on who is really "Jewish".  They begin to play a game in which they consider which of their non-Jewish acquaintances would hide them from Nazi authorities like the Dutch family that hid Anne Frank. (The story title echoes a famous short story collection of Raymond Carver's).

This is a very interesting story with lots of thematic mine shafts one could explore.  

I hope to read the full collection one day.

Please share your experience with Englander with us.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"One Author's Journey" by Mike Phillips - A Guest Post by a Leading Fantasy and Alternative World Writer

Recently I was honored to be able to present a Q and A session with Mike Phillips, a leading author in the fantasy genre.  He also told us how he created alternative universes and let us see how a very creative mind works.  Today he has told us a lot about his professional and personal challenges of creating and publishing fiction and how he intertwines this with his work as an industrial safety engineer.













The World Below by Mike Phillips

 

 

Guest Post: One Author’s Journey

 

Hello everyone, and thank you for reading my guest post. My name is Mike Phillips and my new book is The World Below. I was asked to talk a little about my journey as a writer, and if I might have some advice for anyone wanting to get into the business. If you’ve never had a chance to read my work, I hope you click on over to mikephillipsfantasy.com and check it out.

 

My journey into writing is not what you might expect. Most writers go to college to learn their craft. They earn degrees in English or literature or journalism. They set themselves on a certain course in life, writing as a career being the focus of those efforts. With me, that wasn’t the case.Though I have always loved to read, I pursued advanced degrees in math and science. I never had a thought of writing professionally, no less becoming a novelist.

 

Eventually, my studies brought me into Industrial Safety and Toxicology. Though I love my work and I get to help people doing it, I found that my creative side needed an outlet. At first, making up short stories was a way to occupy my mind while travelling. Soon enough, the stories would take on a life of their own, strange as it may sound. Like any reader, I wanted to know what happened next. The stories would always be on my mind, bothering me until I finished them. The only way to get a story out of my head was to write it down.

 

The more I worked, the more I found I enjoyed writing. I started to amass a collection of short stories. Many of them were fantasy and horror, my favorites, but I wrote across all genres because I was doing it solely for my own enjoyment. Then I got the crazy idea to write a novel.

 

Writing something of that length is a huge undertaking. The typical short story is somewhere around five thousand words, where most novels are over a hundred thousand. Keeping the details of characters, setting and plot straight boggle the mind. It was a challenge I was totally unprepared for. Well, I loved every minute of it. That novel turned out to be long enough for two. It was a crime novel and, unfortunately, not very good. Forever will it remain hidden in the dark recesses of my hard drive, but I learned a lot in the process. The idea for Reign of the Nightmare Prince was already taking shape. This project, I knew, was something special.

 

Publishing, however, isn’t what most people expect. Working as a safety engineer, my professional contacts are other engineers and business people working in heavy industry. They aren’t writers. None of them have a convenient in with a major publisher. Like so many outsiders, my work was often times rejected without even being read. My luck was about the same with agents. Unless you know someone or have some other connection in the publishing business, it’s nearly impossible to get noticed.

 

So you have to have a thick skin. You have to accept rejection as part of the dealAt times, you wish they wouldn’t have bothered commenting on your workEditors have written me pages about how bad my writing is. It makes me wonder why. Can my writing possibly be bad enough to end the world as we know it? By some of the comments I’ve received, you might think so. My advice is to ignore the negative comments and believe in what you are doing. Some people are plain mean. Or maybe, you are doing something exceptional and they either don’t understand it or don’t like it for reasons that have nothing at all to do with your writing.

 

After many disappointments, Reign of the Nightmare Prince was accepted by a respectable boutique publisher. Before we could get it launched, however, they went out of business. That happened two more times before the book finally was published. The book didn’t do very well from a financial standpoint. I fault myself for lack of savvy when it comes to getting my work in front of people. It’s a great story, but I failed to connect with an audience, I failed to get sales.

 

During all this time I was writing. My work was getting better and better. I came up with my Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal characters and found great success in getting both series of short stories published in various outlets. By then, I probably had fifty credits to my name.

 

The book now entitled Dawn of Ages was ready to go, but was rejected by my publisher. Shortly thereafter, my third novel, The World Below was rejected also. I got the message. So I started looking for publishers again. After a month of trying, a publisher called Damnation Press and its sister Eternal Press offered to publish both. The World Below was released first and is doing very well. My next novel is Dawn of Ages. It is coming out early 2014.

 

Perseverance may be the most important attribute for writers in the modern age. With Amazon and eBooks competition is fierce. In some ways it’s harder than ever to find with an audience. Unless you somehow get lucky with a runaway hit, you are going to have to do more work promoting your book than writing it. But that can be fun too. Touring with blogs, I’ve met a lot of great people. Readers from all over the world have contacted me about my work. I feel lucky to have gotten to know some of them.

 

When it comes to writing, people say to write what you know or what interests you the most. That is certainly good advice. The fact of the matter is that material rewards for the majority of writers are few. There are only a handful of writers that support themselves in a reasonably comfortable fashion through their work. Personally, I like material comforts too much to embrace the life of a starving artist. Making money isn’t really the point for me. I enjoy the work. An increasing number of people like what I do. If I can do something I love and that makes other people happy too, well, then that’s really all I can hope for. Like everything else worth doing, writing takes time and hard work. My journey in some ways is just starting to get interesting. Stick with me, dear reader, and let’s see what happens next.

 

Thank you so much for joining meI hope you enjoy The World Below. Please visit me at mikephillipsfantasy.com.

 

 

General Information:

 

Title:The World Below

Author:Mike Phillips

Author Website:http://mikephillipsfantasy.com

Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-886-2

Digital ISBN:978-1-61572-885-5

 

Amazon Link:http://www.amazon.com/The-World-Below-ebook/dp/B00BODP3YU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381515184&sr=1-1&keywords=world+below+mike+phillips

 

Damnation Books Link:http://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615728855

Damnation Books Coupon Code:50worldbelow

 

Video Trailer:http://youtu.be/k8o6lq1ieLk

Video Trailer Embed Code:http://www.youtube.com/embed/k8o6lq1ieLk?rel=0

 



 

Synopsis:

 

In ancient times, magical creatures inhabited the earth. They lived on mountaintops, in trees, at the bottom of lakes and rivers. But that was long ago, before the human race declared war on the creatures they feared and hated. Now the enchanted peoples are all but gone. Those few that remain fear being stretched out on an examination table in some secret, governmental facility. The only place they can hide from the ever increasing number of satellites and smart phones is in the World Below.

Mitch Hardy is going through a hard time in his life. In his early twenties, he was working his way through college when he suffered an accident that left him flat broke and physically deformed. When Mitch decides to make a fresh start in a new town, things start looking up. He finds a place to live, a decent job, good friends. He even meets a nice girl. Unknown to Mitch, his new girlfriend is one of the Elder Race, what some call the Faerie Folk. Mitch doesn’t know that Elizabeth is looking for a father she never knew. The key to finding him is somehow tied up with the mysterious Blade of Caro. Desperate, she steals the Blade from its protector, the despotic ruler of the World Below, the Dragon of Worms, Baron Finkbeiner. When Elizabeth is kidnapped by the Baron, Mitch is pulled into a world or magic and monsters he never imagined.


End of guest post


Mike will be back! 



Monday, April 28, 2014

"Midnight Mass" by Paul Bowles (1962)


Paul Bowles (1910 to 1999), pictured above with his wife Jane Bowles, might be a writer of a forgotten era to most people, writing about  hash loving expats and exotic natives  living in Tangiers from some mysterious source of money while entertaining the elite of the stoned literary world.  I have read several of his stories and liked them all.  A while ago I got for only $1.95 an e book of his collected stories (sixty five of them) and I am slowly reading through them.   Imagine the film Casablanca, then think not of the semi respectable Rick's Cafe American but of the more noir  Blue Parrot and you can picture the world of a Bowles story.  If hanging out in the Blue Parrot leaves you cold, then probably you are not meant to be a Bowles reader.  

"Midnight Mass" centers on a well of European man who has returned to Tangiers after a seven year hiatus.  He long ago inherited his mother's house.  He left it for many years in the care of servants.  He decided to come back alone to see if he and his wife could spend Christmas there. The house is a wreck, totally neglected.  The servants have their excuses and in the Tangiers of Bowles' this is normal way of doing things.  He decides he does not want to be alone for Christmas Eve so he invites a lady that was a friend of his mother's to bring over some guests.  She promises to bring some "interesting" people.  She does.  One of the guests is a young Morocannan painter who induces the man to let him use one of the many rooms in the huge house for a painting studio.  He sends his wife a cable saying he is going to have the placed fixed up so they can celebrate Easter there. Events take an unfortuitious turn as the story closes.

All in all a decent story.  





Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884)



The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1835 to 1910, USA) is a very important work in American literature.  Some say it is The Great American Novel.  For sure anyone into the development of the American novel needs to read this work.  I prior to this  last read it maybe 40 years ago.  I recalled the plot as I read it but that might be from seeing movies based on the book.   

I do not especially like books with a great deal of rural character dialect in which authors try to replicate speech patterns.  This is not a value judgement but I don't like to be slowed down too much.  This book is full of this and I did get tired of it.  It is wonderful to see Huck struggle with the notion that the slave Jim was as fully human as he.  There are lots of great satirical bits.  

I am glad I took the time to reread this book.  Any body seriously into the novel needs to read it, especially Americans.  I think it is or maybe once was much taught by American pedagogical professionals.  This is an all-American classic.  I am not sure how much of the reputation of this book comes from literary patriotism.



Mel u




"The Competition" by Alberto Moravio (1963)


Very recently I read, Agostino, my first work by Alberto Moravio (1907 to 1990, Rome), one of the masters of post World War Two European literature.  I was pleased to find one of his short stories online, "The Competition". (No translation credit is given and I am guessing at the first publication date as around1963, if you know details please leave a comment.)

The story begins with an elderly man explaining how business competition works to one of his grandsons.  The grandfather once had a store but a competitor drove him into bankruptcy through under cutting his prices.  His grandson wants to set up his own business, a pushcart on a bridge, selling fruits and vegetables.  His manner is rough and unpolished but as he is the only cart on the well traveled bridge he does well.  Then a woman helped by her pretty eighteen year old granddaughter sets up a cart next to him.  She undercuts his prices, does a better job attracting peopleand the male customers prefer to be waited on by the pretty girl so his business begins to go badly downhill.  To make it sadder, he finds himself falling in love with the girl.   I don't want to tell much more of the plot of this very interesting story but the man becomes the victim of a vicious deception and ends up as a  cynic like his grandfather.  

I hope to read much more by Moravio.


Alberto Moravio and his wife, the writer Elsa Morante

You can read this story online here.


Mel u

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A great opportunity











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"Birdsong" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2010, from The New Yorker Twenty Under Forty Collection)


I have previously read and posted on a few short stories by the very highly regarded Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I hope to read her longer works one day.  I was looking at one of my short story collections this morning, 20 Under 40, Stories From The New Yorker and was happy to discover one of her stories in the collection. 


Set in Lagos "Birdsong" is a very interesting story centering on an unmarried woman, working in an office, the married man she is having an affair with and one of her work friends.  Her work friend tells her she needs to drop the married man and find a man to "settle down with" before it is "too late".  The story lets us see into the mind of the woman, learn about class markers and social issues in Nigeria and we can decide if the man is a user or not.

I am glad I read this very well crafted story.

Mel u

Jane Jazz A Question and Answer Session with the Author of Tantalus





I first became acquainted with the work of Jane Jazz when I read and posted on her wonderful debut novel Tantalus.

I am very pleased and honored that she has kindly consented to participate in a Q and A session.




Author supplied data


Hilary Mantel has spoken of ideas circling above her like aeroplanes waiting to land, but mine are silvery moths. They flutter round my head all day and wake me up at night. I have to capture them swiftly and pin them to the page before they dissolve. 

Over my writing career I have written newspaper articles, magazine features, advertising copy, short stories, poetry and songs. I even wrote greetings card verses for a time (I know) but although ludicrously lucrative, it had to stop. I was starting to think in rhyming couplets.

We recently relocated from wuthering moors to blue remembered hills and I love the gentle Shropshire landscape, but still miss dramatic Yorkshire hills and dales. Tantalus was written in our draughty old Yorkshire vicarage - one of a pair built for neighbouring artists in the late 1800s. The houses had adjacent studios and whenever I walked through our side voices would whisper at me. Loudly. A loud whisper can be hard to ignore, and they didn't give me any peace until I started to write their story.

I highly recommend following her consistently interesting blog, especially if you are into late Victorian or Edwardian Art or Literature.


I endorse without reservation Tantalus to all those who admired a well crafted work of literary fiction.  There is a lot to think about, a lot of great descriptions of the countryside around Yorkshire and of Tuscany, interesting long term life developments, and just a lot of fun to be found in Tantalus.  
Here is part of my reaction to Tantalus.




Tantalus by Jane Jazz is a deeply moving novel that is a perfect mix of Gothic, impossible romance, and psychological acuity combined with very believable people that we end up caring strongly about.  The author quotes from Jane Eyre in a chapter heading and has a profound fondness for Pre-Raphalite art, just throw in a little Edgar Alan Poe and a tiny dose of Montaque James and you maybe can begin to conjure up the wonder that is Tantalus.  (Remember as you read Tantalus that M R James, England's greatest writer of ghost stories, almost as good as Sheridan deLa Fanu, that his stories display a deep seated horror and attraction to human physical contact. It is with this in mind I invoke him.)  Jazz has clearly read deeply in the great Victorians and you can see, I think, an influence of this in her prose. Like many a central character in a Victorian novel, the lead character, Sylvia struggles to achieve psychological and personal independence from her family, hampered by the impact of childhood polio.  Her passion is painting.  She has had some success.  Sylvia has the opportunity to move into her own dwelling, not far from her parents house.  She also gives art lessons so she will make enough to survive.  


The place she occupies is a broken down old house, now divided into is two adjoining artist studios.    The time is May, 1975.  One night she hears strange disturbing sounds from next door and she for a moment begins to wish she were back home secure with her patents.  Now things begin to get strange.  Slyvia makes contact, not physical,  through the wall with something, maybe it is a man, maybe a spectral being or maybe the projection of the fantasies of a very lonely woman with quite a creative artistic temperment.  Her and Tom soon learn that they are living in different times, even though they are neighbors. Like her Tom is an artist, a sculptor.  Slyvia's life becomes increasingly bound up with Tom, she begins to doubt her sanity.  Tom travels to Tucany, escape world for many a Victorian, for his work, the best marble is found there.  Slyvia begins to arrange her life around his schedule.  I slowly began to accept Tom was real.  I certainly wanted him to be.  Of course this relationship blocks Slyvia from developing a bond with a partner from the same time era.  You have to wonder does her frustrated never to be realized in the flesh passion for Tom represent a deep fear of sexuality, a pre-Raphelite theme.  Tom is much older than her but somehow the time differential overrides this.  

There are lots of exciting plot twists and turns. Tantalus was always exciting and interesting.  The characters were beautifully rendered.





1.  I read your recent very well done blog post on Barcelona.  Not too long ago I saw a fascinating feature on the American TV series Sixty Minutes on Antoni Gaudi and the Church of La Sagrada.  The program suggested he was a genius way beyond his time.  Can you share with us a bit of your thoughts on seeing the cathedral. How does the experience compare with that of the great English cathedrals?  


It seems Gaudi was before his time, as his work fell out of favour in the years after his death, but his reputation has grown steadily since the 1950s and he is certainly held in high esteem today.

I found the Church of La Sagrada a fascinatingplace: while some elements, like the spires and stained glass windows,  find an echo in English cathedrals, others have a more surreal aspectThe harsh fretwork of scaffolding, army of booted builders and constant cacophony of machinery is in great contrast to the serene, contemplative atmosphere of cathedrals I have visited in England… though this serenity can sometimes be disturbed by an army of tourists!


2. Quoting from your blog  "I have been dreading the shortening, freezing days and the long, icy months before the earth begins to stir again. I envy the small creatures who can curl in warm burrows to sleep through the bleakness, but then I remember the mellow fruitfulness this season brings, the spicy soups and mulled wines, the rich, glowing colours autumn offers to offset the death of summer... and slowly autumn's misty gown begins to catch fire.

As temperatures start to fall, colours begin to heat up; even the names of autumn shades are warm and inviting: burnt orange, paprika, russet, chestnut, copper, gold…"


The above very evocative prose is from your blog.  I live where we have no rhythms of the seasons, no winter, Spring, summer, just hot pretty much all the time.  I wonder how this impacts the sensibilities of my three daughters.  Do you think the lack of this central metaphor of the human experience is part of the cause of the apparent much great literary and artistic productivity in the temperate zones of the planet versus the tropics.  A while ago I read and posted on a work by then editor of the Harvard Fiction Review in which she said the central metaphor of western literature is the story of Orpheus going into the underworld. Without seasons this seems to make no sense.  Do you think western literature depends heavily on seasonal metaphors of death and rebirth?


I think Western literature has always drawn inspiration from the seasons, and until recent times our lives were dictated by them. We are bound to reflect this in our writingsnot least because cold, grey, damp weather will keeppeople indoors and force them to focus on the inner being rather than the wider world.Metaphors of death and rebirth often appear in my work; as each ‘dead’ season finally gives up the ghost I feel I have earned the spring flowersand sunshine.


3.  How well formed in your mind did you have the plot of Tantalus before you began writing.


I had the skeleton formed before I began to write because the house I lived in was teeming with inspiration, but as I began to add flesh to the bones I often felt the story was coming throughme rather than from me, so I was guiding the flow of a stream, rather than turning a tap on and off.


4.  How rooted is your creative psyche in the evident beauty of Yorkshire?  


Although not born in Yorkshire, I lived there through many of my formative years and it is stitched into the fabric of my memoriesI really appreciate Shropshires gentle, verdant countryside but still miss the dramatic, wild moorland and dales of Yorkshire every day.


5.  Who are some of your favorite artists outside those on your blog.


I’ve probably mentioned most of my favourite (English spelling!) artists at some point on my blog, but in addition to many Pre-Raphaelites, IlikEvelyn de Morgan, Burne-Jones,WaterhouseER HughesJessie M KingEBLeightonGF WattsMargaret MacdonaldFBDickseeJA Grimshaw,  Bridget Riley, Laura Knight, and others too many to mention.


6.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing routine.  Do you typically set aside a certain period to write, always write in same place, do you listen to music while you write, do you need solitude?


I spent years as a freelance copywriter, so I’m used to writing all day. If I can’t be at my desk I write in my notebook and type it up later. I don’t have set word goals as the words usually come faster than I can type, but I do have a problem with stopping at a reasonable time to make sure I get enough sleep.

I usually write at my desk, overlooking  the tranquil Shropshire countryside. It’s a lovely, rural view but nothing much happens in it a lot less distracting than if I overlooked ever-changing city streets.

I would love to be able to listen to music as I write, but I have quite emotional responses to anymusic I might want to hear, and that would be fartoo distracting. I do need solitude for creative writing, but not for commercial work.


7.  If you could give your 18-year- old self one suggestion, what would it be?  


Focus: it’s later than you think.


8. "in the name of a humanism hypocritically turned champion of the reader’s rights. Classic criticism has never paid any attention to the reader; for it, the writer is the only person in literature. We are now beginning to let ourselves be fooled no longer by the arrogantantiphrastical recriminations of good society in favour of the very thing it sets aside, ignores, smothers, or destroys; we know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author."

What is your reaction to these very famous lines from "The Death of the Author" by Roland Barthes?  


Literary perception has always been two-pronged, and as Barthes’ essay suggests, the balance between author and reader shifts according to the values of the time, but I tend togo along with Margaret Atwood’s comment thatif the Death of the Author’ theory becomes prevalent, then writers are all in trouble!


9. "It is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art" - from  "Against Interpretation" by Susan Sontag.

As a writer, how do you feel when people Interpret your work, attribute meaning to it, see things in it you never thought about?


Once a piece of writing is complete, the authorhas to let it sail away, and watch its journey fromthe shoreReaders cannot help but imprint their own values and experiences on what they read,but these theories may say more about their ownpsyche than the authors they seek to interpret and analyze.


10. Who is your ideal reader?  


My ideal reader is uncannily like me. I write what I would like to read, and hope I’m not in an exclusive club of one!

 

11.  How important is seeing different parts of the world to you in terms of stimulating your creativity?


I have drawn on many inspirations from different parts of the world. In my novel Tantalus I was hugely inspired by the trompe l'oeil of the marble mountains of Carrara, in Tuscany, after visiting the area and being fooled into thinking I saw snow in the height of summerbut I was equally inspired by the local Yorkshire hills I walked through every day.


Writers can research places they have never visited, and use imagination as a magic carpet to transport themselves and their readers thereI loved Stef Penney’s novel, The Tenderness of Wolves, and it didn’t worry me that she had written this while suffering from agoraphobia and had never set foot in Canada. Similarly, Lynne Truss confessed she had never been on the London Eye, yet chose to set a key scene there in one of her books, and commentedI also once wrote a comic novel about a number of characters converging farcically on the town of Honiton, in Devon, without ever having been there; and, heavens, I once wrote a whole novel set in the1860s without bothering to do any exploratory time-travelling.


12.  Where can we find you online?


Blog http://thetimesculptor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter @JaneJazzWriter

Amazon UKhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00I9E6ANU

Amazon USA  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I9E6ANU

 

13.  Besides reading and writing, what are some of your hobbies or interests?


started singing in folk clubs in my teens, and still sing, play guitar and compose songs whenever I can.

 

 

14.  How and when did you begin to write?


I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t write, and I still have a tattered cardboard box full of all the little stories and poems I penned as a child. My family moved around a lot through my childhood, so I was quite a lonely little girlwho spent a lot of time reading. It just seemed natural to start telling stories as soon as I could scribble.


15Who are some of your favorite contemporary short story writers, poets or novelists?


I like individual works by different writers and there are far too many to list, so I’ve just plucked a few names from my bookshelvesA S Byatt, Khaled Hosseini, Hilary Mantel, Julian Barnes,Margaret Drabble, Kazuo Ishiguro, Doris Lessing, Lorrie MooreMargaret Atwood, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Ruth Padel, John Betjeman, Seamus Heaney, Sharon Olds.


16. What classic writers do you find yourself drawn to reread.


often turn to old favourites like Dickens, Jane Austen, Jean-Paul SartreHomer, C. S. Lewis,Tolstoy, Virginia Woolfand Daphne Du Maurier; I suppose it’s a bit like a mountaineer returning to base camp.


17.  When you write, do you picture an audience or do you just write?  


I try not to picture an audience as that would becounter-productive for me. I write the story that is bursting to get out, the story I’m dying to know, and if it moves me I hope others will besimilarly affected.


18Assuming this applies to you, how do you get past creative ‘dry spells, periods when you have a hard time coming up with ideas or when things seem futile?


I don’t really have dry spells’ as such; I usually have too many ideas scribbled in my notebooks and not enough time to execute them. Things do seem futile at times; I’ve learned that all you can do is hang on by the skin of your teeth and wait for the darkness to pass. It always has done, so far…


19.  If someone says to you, "I prefer to live life, not just read about it " what is your reaction inside?  (Besides cringing!)


I know they could live even more life by reading,experiencing not just their own life, but many other, more gripping and exciting lives in parallel.


20.  What are the last three novels you read?  


Remember Me, Melvyn Bragg; The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and DisappearedJonas JonassonThe Goldfinch,Donna Tartt.


21Last three movies?  Captain Phillips; Shawshank Redemption (again!); Before Midnight.


22Do you have any favorite TV shows?


The Great British Bake Off; Imagine (the arts series from Alan Yentob)The Big Bang Theory.


23Are there literary works you find reverberate in your mind in happy or in dark times?


The works I turn to in both happy and dark times are Alice in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll; The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett; and Winnie the Pooh: A A Milne. Interestingly, these are all children’s books!


End


My great thanks to Jane Jazz for taking the time to provide us with such interesting and very well considered answers.  I hope to read much more of her work.