It was about twelve years ago now

PepperMouseIt was about twelve years ago now.

I was sitting in the café of a train station in Bristol staring out the window, ignoring the scalding hot cup of tea on the counter in front of me. I was already twenty minutes late to meet someone in the car park. They’d sent me a text message to say they’d arrived, but I ignored it. I couldn’t leave yet.

I couldn’t leave because I’d been crying.  Continue reading

What is a genre?

The first decision I have to make when starting the preparations for a Novel In A Day event(A) is about what kind of story I want to tell: The original NiaD (2011’s The Dark) was a cross between a horror and a detective novel; The one after that (2012’s Lunar520) was a science fiction thriller; Last year’s effort (2013’s Made Man) was a mafia tale set in 1962 Las Vegas(B). I’m a big believer that the story comes first and everything else follows from that, but I’m equally conscious that there is a moral obligation on me to make sure each successive NiaD does something different; another gangster tale is (sadly) not an option(C).

Which got me thinking: Do I know what different genres there are out there? Do I even know what a genre is?  Continue reading

8Qs: Lee Child

Eight Questions is an occasional series of interviews that I’m including on the site. Being a naturally gifted (read: lazy) interviewer, I will be using the same eight questions in every interview.

This time, the questions are being answered by novelist, Lee Child. Previously a television director, union organizer, theater technician and law student, Lee was fired and on the dole when he hatched a harebrained scheme to write a bestselling novel, thus saving his family from ruin. Killing Floor went on to win worldwide acclaim. The hero of his series, Jack Reacher, besides being fictional, is a kind-hearted soul who allows Lee lots of spare time for reading, listening to music, and watching Yankees and Aston Villa games.

Lee was born in England but now lives in New York City and leaves the island of Manhattan only when required to by forces beyond his control.

Welcome, Lee!

Continue reading

8Qs: James R. Babb

Eight Questions is an occasional series of interviews that I’m including on the site. Being a naturally gifted (read: lazy) interviewer, I will be using the same eight questions in every interview.

This time, the questions are being answered by magazine editor, James R Babb. James has been the editor of Gray’s Sporting Journal for the past 17 years, which has been variously described as huntin’ and fishin’ for English Majors, and Field & Stream meets the New Yorker. Prior to that he spent 12 years as an acquiring editor at McGraw-Hill and The Lyons Press, and was a nautical- and outdoor-books advisor for W.W. Norton. He has written for Gray’s Sporting Journal, The Field, Big Sky Journal, Down East, and the New York Times, among others.

Welcome, James! Continue reading

Lessons on writing from Rocky

Before you go and get all “seriously?” on me, I’d like to share a few facts about the film and it’s writer.

Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing). Sylvester Stallone was nominated for two of those ten: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, making him only the third actor to ever receive those nominations for the same film (the first two being Orson Wells and Charlie Chaplin). Rocky has been recognised by the Writers Guild of America as one of their top 100 movies ever, and has featured in several of the AFI’s top 100 lists.

As for Sly himself, the press in 1976 compared Stallone to the likes of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. In Rocky and Rambo, Sly helped create and develop(1) two of the very first modern movie franchises. Rocky itself spawned 5 sequels (6 if you count the spin-off “Creed” currently in pre-production) at a time when franchises were often built around bad guys instead of heroes(2).

The movie remains one of the most quotable and best loved films ever made. A key reason for this success is Sylvester Stallone’s deep understanding of characterisation.  Continue reading

Why the Olympics aren’t sport

halfpipeLet me ask you a question that will test your logical reasoning, general knowledge and understanding of the English language all at the same time:
What is wrong with the following sentence? “Despite a love of sports, I have never been a fan of the Olympics.

The correct answer is that the word “Despite” is used incorrectly. My love of sports and apathy towards the Olympics are completely unrelated, since the Olympics has very little to do with sport(1). There is a reason why they are called the Olympic Games.

I find the dictionary definition of the word “sport” to be wholly insufficient, being cast broadly enough to allow all sorts of undesirable activities to be included (this is something, by the way, that Mrs Pigfender finds very annoying and wishes I’d stop going on about whenever the Olympics are on). Anyway, unsatisfied with the current classification, I set about coming up with my own set of principles to decide if something really was a sport or not. The following five rules were the outcome: Continue reading