Category Archives: Killing Daniel

In The Spotlight: A J Ashworth

In the Spotlight returns for a couple of weeks to showcase more new and established talent … and this week I welcome fellow Unthologist and so much more — the talented A J Ashworth. I met her at one of the launch events of Sarah Dobbs’s Killing Daniel novel where A J and I read extracts of our stories from Unthology 3, so if you have a copy — her story was the one about the monolith; very unusual and excellently written. We have stayed in touch and she now works as an editor as well as writer and I think she is one to watch for sure … so big warm welcome please …

<<<Pause of rapturous applause>>>

spotlightoj-md

A J Ashworth

 

Tell us something about yourself and your writing …

Hi everyone! I published a collection of short stories at the end of 2011 – Somewhere Else, or Even Here. The collection won Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize and was later shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. I’ve currently abandoned short stories though and am working on a novel.

Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.

I’ve wanted to be a published writer for a long time, yes – it’s been a long-held dream of mine. In my twenties/early thirties I was really struggling though. I couldn’t seem to get anything finished so I didn’t feel I was getting anywhere. I therefore decided to take some distance learning writing courses with Lancaster University and these helped me to be a bit more focused and to actually complete some stories. I then went on to do an MA at Sheffield Hallam University and completed the main bulk of my short story collection there. After the MA, I submitted this to Salt for the Scott Prize and was one of three winners.

 Do you have an agent? If not did you try to get one? Any advice about that?

I don’t have an agent at the moment. Most agents are reluctant to take on short story writers – mainly because publishers are hesitant when it comes to buying collections, especially when they’re by debut authors. Independent publishers such as Salt and Comma Press are excellent and you wouldn’t need an agent to have a book published by them.

Do or did you ever belong to a writing group? Crit group? Did you ever have someone professionally critique your work before first submitting? Or do you have friends or anyone else who sees it before you send it off?

On all the courses I’ve taken – distance learning; MA – I have been given feedback on my work, either by other students or tutors. My MA tutor, Felicity Skelton, gave excellent feedback and really helped me to improve my work, and that kind of support is invaluable really. There are other people who give me feedback also and I was previously a member of an online writing group. The key thing is to show your work to people you trust – those who want you to write well – and then take on board those comments you agree with.

Who did you first tell when you heard your first book had been accepted?

I told my partner and my parents. I was pretty excited as you can imagine but I had to restrain myself a bit because I was at work when I found out.

What happened next? Can you tell us something about working with an editor? How important is that to you now – is there a lot of discussion and does the editor make a real difference to your work?

During my MA, Felicity acted as an editor really so she gave good advice when something wasn’t working in a story. Then, when the collection was going to be published I got the first proofs from Jen Hamilton Emery at Salt and she made a few suggestions about words that could be cut, for example. I think it’s important to listen to feedback, whether it’s from a trusted reader or an editor – they’re able to see your work in a way you can’t because you’re so close to it. Good editors make your work better.

 Tell us something about your writing day, routine …

At the moment I’m writing most days because I don’t want to lose touch with the novel, but if I don’t feel like writing one day I don’t. Sometimes I write in the morning, other times the afternoon or evening – so I don’t have a strict routine where I have to be at my desk by a certain time. Some days I’m disciplined, some days I’m the laziest person on the planet.

What or who inspires you most, people, authors, books?

I’ve not read, or seen, all of the work by these people but I love: Woody Allen, Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Lorrie Moore, Amy Hempel… lots of Americans really. Two books I’ve loved in recent times: Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. I get inspired by people who are passionate about what they do – scientists, artists, writers, filmmakers.

Why do you write? (Now that’s the question!) What do you want your stories to do?

If I don’t have a piece of writing on the go I don’t feel right. That doesn’t mean I always want to write – often it’s the last thing I want to do – but there’s something inside me urging me to do it. I think about writing quite a lot. It’s always there whirring away somewhere in my brain. If I’m watching a film, I’m analyzing the story, thinking about how it’s been constructed, the dialogue. If I’m washing up, I’m thinking about stories – not necessarily mine, but other people’s. I’m not sure it ever really switches off. As for what I want my stories to do… I want them to resonate with people, to connect with something in their own lives, I suppose.

How much marketing have you had to do, even with a big publisher? How comfortable are you with self-promotion?

If you’re published by a small independent you have to promote yourself as much as you can. I don’t like self-promotion – a lot of people probably feel the same – but if you don’t do it then hardly anyone will know about your work. They may still not even know about it even if you do the self-promotion, but you have to try. I haven’t done much really, apart from doing the occasional blog interview, a few readings, etc.

Tell us about the latest published book…

Somewhere Else, or Even Here is a collection of 14 short stories exploring themes such as loss, love, loneliness and hope: a girl meets with danger on the beach when she is lured away by a strange boy; a bereaved wife enlists the help of a mysterious woman to perform rituals that will bring her dead husband back to life; a boy’s anger at his absent father leads him towards an act of destruction in the basement of his school. The book is available from:

Salt

Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions)

And I also have some paperback versions available via my blog

What next? Tell us about work in progress and aspirations.  Where do you see yourself in ten years time?

I’m currently writing a novel and also editing Red Room, a collection of new short stories inspired by the Brontës to raise funds for The Brontë Birthplace Trust – this will be published by Unthank Books later this year and will feature stories from David Constantine, Alison Moore, David Rose, Bill Broady, Vanessa Gebbie and many more. I hope I’ll still be writing in ten years’ time but I don’t know what else I might be doing.

Any advice for writers who are trying to get their work published?

Keep going. Perseverance is really important.

Can we publish an extract of your work?

A J Ashworth Sample (click link to read first story and beginning of next — pdf kindly provided by author and not to be reproduced without permission © A J Ashworth, Salt Publishing, 2012

Thanks you so much for being a guest and telling us about your writing. I am trying to get more writers for this spot so if you or someone you know wants to be here — please do let me know. Next week I welcome the talented writer Sophie Jackson to the spotlight …

Have a great day everyone. The sunshine is glorious and I almost wish I was out in it — although I am enjoying editing my novel. Work hard, play hard at the weekend …

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What are you reading?

Hi and sorry for the lack of post on Friday. I am in Essex and tired after my travel on Thursday and distracted, I realised much later in the day I had not Blogged! Sure I wasn’t missed.

I was thinking as I watched people reading on the train about what we read and how being a writer affects our critical eye?

I still think the best book I’ve read in ages is Sarah Dobbs’s Killing Daniel because not only is it a great story, I love a thriller, but it’s a literary one and the writing is just beautiful. It’s not a literary over wordy novel, just beautiful in its simplicity of language  and you can see how each word has been chosen so carefully, the exact right one. Just lovely. I kept wishing I’d written some of the lines!

At the moment I am reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce on a recommendation and although only four chapters in I am really enjoying it. Very different from Killing Daniel but I am enjoying the humour. It’s far more commercial but so far, so good. I also saw it has made it to the Commonwealth Book Prize 🙂 A light read.

But it is possible to turn off the editor in us? I did pick up on a couple of small typos as I was reading, actually more consistency issues in how she had spelled the same word and a ‘her Mum’ with a capital. I can’t help myself, but I am enjoying it so errors like this can be slipped over. I think if the writing is good and the story is good I calm my editing head!

The test is if I am completely immersed in the story and forget to be an editor then it has to be good — right?

I am amazed and remain amazed at how many writers I know who claim not to read that much! I even heard someone say to me once that they don’t like to read other stories in their genre in case it influences their writing. Er … isn’t that the point? Good writing should have a good influence, and bad writing — well put the book down or smile in the knowledge you can do better?

You need to know your market. I read all kinds of books, not just in genre and I am so glad I do.

What about you?

Well, a copy-edit calls but tomorrow I have special guest Gill Lewis In The Spotlight. I am also off to see Watership Down author, Richard Adams tomorrow which is a real treat, so I will Blog about it later in the week.

Set your dreams free ...

Set your dreams free …

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All fun … Book Launch and more

All the fun of Christmas 🙂

Book launches and everything …

Well I am back from my trip to the Manchester launch of Killing Daniel, by Sarah Dobbs. And what a great literary evening was had by all! The night was hosted by the publisher and agent Robin Jones from Unthank Books and kicked off with readings from Unthology 3 by yours truly reading an extract of The Theory Of Circles. Probably just as well I went first, before too much of the falling down water was consumed by the audience (or me!) … since my story is told using Tweets, Blog posts and Facebook statuses, with a connecting narrative but never the less it’s a lot of dates and times and like reading a Blog the beginning of the story is at the end … hmm … the art of reading backwards! It comes with a warning … pay attention here comes the science bit (some geometry thrown in as well!) But I think it went well.

Then we were then treated to another extract from the book by the talented Andrea, A J Ashworth and her story  The Monolith which is a great story about a monolith appearing in someone’s garden. Truly original, and so worth reading, it will hook you! What happens when the cat goes inside it … ? Love this story.

After a short break the lovely Sarah Dobbs launched her wonderful cross-cultural literary thriller. And what a treat this novel is. I am about to start reading it and will post a review in the new year, but any last-minute stocking thrillers for the literary types, order Killing Daniel from Unthank Books to get it in time for Christmas. Email: information@unthankbooks.com

Of course you can also get Unthology 3 from them as well. Why not buy both?!!!

I’ll add a photo from the event but also check out more on the Facebook page: LINK

A nice week for me as I prepare for Christmas and wind down work-wise (for a change) … I will be talking about my editing for Cafelit this week as I select stories for the Best of 2012 …

Have a great day all … and don’t forget, if you want to give something unusual to writer friends, why not send them a critique voucher, see Thursday’s post and email me!

Sarah Dobbs, Manchester

Sarah Dobbs, Manchester

Sarah Dobbs, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and A J Ashworth

Sarah Dobbs, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt and A J Ashworth

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The writer creeps out of her burrow … I am giving a reading tomorrow in Manchester

Head pokes out from under writer’s duvet … sniff sniff … is there anybody there?

So much of writing, as you will all know, is spent alone in front of a computer, with perhaps the cats that like to spread themselves across the keys, and the dog that nudges you with her wet nose when you’ve been so engrossed in another world you lose all track of time. I have often found a little feline face peering at me over the edge of my laptop and another to my side and a doggy at my knee and then eyes glance to the right hand corner of the screen to find it’s … oops it was dinner time like two hours ago.

There’s this thing called the Writers’ Licence that allows you to legitimately spend time in someone else’s head and in a place of your own creation … but if you spend too much time there … beware! We are a weird breed.

Some of us write because we like the solitude, we don’t want to be front of house … so … when those successes come (as you know they will) you are expected to stand in front of the people you wrote for (right?) and give a reading. Now some of you hate this. I have to say I am more used to it now, but we all get nervous … but since these are your words, enjoy showing them off as they’re intended to be read.

And why am I tittering on about this? Well … let me tell you … I would hardly call myself a mouse, although one for the limelight … maybe not. However, being the rather loud and mad person I am I can handle the spotlight …. kind of. And anyone in or near Manchester I will be there tomorrow evening celebrating the launch of Sarah Dobbs’s novel Killing Daniel … she had the guest post a few weeks ago. If you missed it, read it again here:  GUEST POST

The first part of the evening will be myself and A J Ashworth, fellow Unthologist reading from our stories (Sarah also has a story in this book) and the second half will be focussed on Sarah. The publisher Unthank Books will also be there 🙂

So here’s the details: The Kings Arms, 11 Bloom Street, Salford M3 6AN, 7.30 pm.

Details also on the FB page here: FACEBOOK

Books will be available and we will be signing. Gill from Bridge House will also be there and we’ll have a few other books I have stories in, for selling and signing too!

I would love it if anyone local can come and do come and say hi!

And for those that haven’t seen Unthology 3 (as if, not that I’ve talked about it or anything … much) follow the link to buy from Amazon!

Happy Writing all!

Unthology 3 Cover

Buy me!

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How to tell the story … being experimental

I will be brief this morning but I thought I would continue the theme of ‘story’ because then most common thing I seem to write when I critique, is ‘Is this the best way to tell this story?’

There are many ways to tell a story as you know, so it’s down to how to do it most effectively.

I also am one who likes experimental fiction, and with social media having such an intrusion into our lives this is another way of thinking about story telling.  Remember when a lot of stories we read had letters in them? And this is again another way to tell a story. It as given me an idea for a competition actually, but more on that another time.

When I wrote the story I have in Unthology 3 (oh no here she goes again!) I used Blog posts, Twitter and Facebook Statuses as a way of telling the story. What you have to be careful of is having too big a chunk of it told this way or the danger is it can get wearing, so you do need the connecting narrative to unify it. What was also complicated about this story as well was trying to tell in a backward sense the way you would look at Blogs and Facebook and Twitter with the most recent posts at the top and scrolling down.

I have since taken a real interest in these other experimental ways of telling a story and would be interested to know what other people have done. This idea I am expanding a little in a new short story although there will be more narrative in it, but I do want to use journal extracts and texts in it as well.

I thought I would (as previously suggested) include the start of my story here … The Theory of Circles

 

The Theory Of Circles

Unplugged.

It’s what you’ve written in your Blog, dated Wednesday 7th April 5.03 p.m.  The very last words. It’s all that’s left, as if you never existed.

Not really.

Marmalade pissed up the front door of number 6.

A message Tweeted at 4.47 p.m. on the same day. It’s ridiculously sublime and yet typical of you. Laced with humour, even to your last Tweet.

 

At the very edge of the day someone you’ve never met stares at the pages of the Blog he knows intimately, and waits, the thin white edges of a polo mint dissolving on his tongue. He reloads the page, cusses a dodgy Wi-Fi connection and waits. He waits again until he realises you might just have meant it. You might just be officially unplugged.

 

Facebook status: Undecided. That’s what you wrote twelve hours before you did it. Before that there was a brief mention that Marmalade had stalked a sock that was in Winifred’s garden. In his escapades you said he’d tipped over one of Winfred’s ornamental Buddhas which you noted must have been (your spelling) ahelluva lot lighter than it looked. You’ve ended with: Why do Buddhas look like that Fred Elliot character who used to be in Corrie? I say do why do Buddhas look like that Fred Elliot character?  Or perhaps, you added, it should be other way round.

No clues, then an hour later just the word undecided. Was that it?

And someone called Tracy J had responded with LOL. But it was too late by then — you’d already unplugged. LOL, POV, IMAO… RIP.

 

Everything seems so random — but it’s not.

Your words. You used to call yourself the Great Chaos Theorist. I remember the post: Does a polo mint obey the law of entropy when it dissolves. Experiment 1.

You never did say, or tell us if there was an Experiment 2 or 3.

 

Sunday April 4th 10.18 a.m: Tweet: It just goes to show love can blossom anywhere.

Sunday April 4th, 10.17 a.m: Tweet: It’s official! Mohammad has moved in with Winifred. His moving in present to her: 14 pairs of size 10 slippers.

 

Blog posted Monday, April 1st 4.13 p.m. Big Boobz kissed The Nerd on Winifred’s drive. They came home late from school again – boots and coats caked in mud.

 

Blog posted Monday April 1st 9.12 a.m:  Last night Mohammad went into Winifred’s with a big bunch of purple tulips. He didn’t come out for three hours, and when he did his shirt was untucked. By the way this isn’t an April Fool.

 

That was six days before ‘The Great Unplugging.’

That’s what they’re calling it – but they’re still waiting for you, hoping you’ll find a way back, tell them all the random going-ons on The Crescent. Send them more links to random eBooks like Social Networking for Dodos that you said you bought at the same time as: The Art of Reading Backwards. But deep down, in that gut place, they all know you’ve gone. At first they convinced themselves you’d just changed identity, like a snake shedding its skin.  They’re saying they’d find you, they’d know you anywhere.

But they don’t even know your real name …

©Debz Hobbs-Wyatt Unthank Books Unthology 3, published November 2012

Just a teaser, you will have to buy the book to read the rest.

I will be reading a longer extract of the story at the Manchester launch of Sarah’s Dobbs’s  Killing Daniel in Manchester on December 13th for anyone that wants to come along — details on her Facebook Page here: LAUNCH

That’s it!

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