Lorraine Wilson – Q&A

Lorraine Wilson

Lorraine Wilson

A conservation scientist and third culture Scot, Lorraine lives by the sea writing stories influenced by folklore and the wilderness. She has won the British Fantasy Award for her short fiction, and her debut novel, the dystopian thriller This Is Our Undoing, was a multi-award finalist. The Way The Light Bends, a dark folkloric mystery, was recently released, and her upcoming third book, Mother Sea, is an exploration of motherhood, climate change and belonging. She has been stalked by wolves and negotiated truces with tree frogs, runs the Rewriting The Margins mentorship scheme for marginalised writers, and can be found at https://linktr.ee/raine_clouds.

Lorraine can be found at:
Website – shadowsonwater.wordpress.com
Twitter – @raine_clouds
Instagram – @raine_clouds_writes
Mastodon – @raine_clouds
Book buying:
Luna Press – lunapresspublishing.com/novels
Fairlight Books – fairlightbooks.co.uk/Mother-Sea

Tell me what inspired you to write your latest novel?

The Way The Light Bends started with a very specific place & time – some empty arches in the cathedral ruins in St. Andrews in a thick haar (our east coast sea mist, destroyer of sunny days). I’ve been in the cathedral in a haar a couple of times, and highly recommend it for spooky vibes! There’s something incredibly liminal and otherworldly about it, and the image of the arches, the idea of someone looking through those arches searching for something lost stuck in my head for years before the rest of the story began to grow around it.

What came first the characters or the world?

Well, the world in-so-far as that scene above. But from there, the first parts of actual story to take shape were my sisters – Freya and Tamsin – the tension and distance between them, the sense of them both being lost in very different ways and trying to find a way back to one another.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

It was a long road! I was publishing short fiction in anthologies and magazines from fairly soon after starting writing, but it took me seven years from first starting writing to accepting the publication offer for my debut, This Is Our Undoing.

How long did it take to write?

I can’t remember exactly. The normal for my books is about five months for a first draft, then another few months of editing, interspersed amongst other projects, so about a year in total for a book to go from an idea to a fairly polished manuscript.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t! I listen to a lot of indie folk though, so pick an indie or acoustic folk playlist on Spotify & it’s probably one I’ve listened to as well!

How many publishers turned you down?

The Way The Light Bends

The Way The Light Bends

For my debut, This Is Our Undoing, not very many because the first batch of indie presses I subbed to included Luna Press. My second book, The Way The Light Bends, went on a bit of a longer road – I wrote it before Undoing, and had more or less shelved it because it had two pub contracts fall through late-on, and I’d kind of lost faith in it. Then, after Undoing was published I showed it to my publisher to see what she thought & fortunately she loved it! It’s one of those fortuitous things – if Light hadn’t had a rocky road I might never have found Luna Press, and working with Francesca Barbini has been the biggest joy so I’m forever grateful that my books found their perfect home. It was worth the wait.

What kind of reactions have you had to The Way The Light Bends?

I’ve made people cry quite a bit, apparently! Which is a strange thing because I always feel like I should apologise but I’m also kind of delighted – it’s such a special thing to know that your words have connected with someone else so strongly. So I’m always saying, ‘I’m sorry, but also yay and thank you!’

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to The Way The Light Bends?

It was one of my beta readers, actually, who said that Light helped her understand her sister in a way she hadn’t before, and helped her with her own bereavement as well. That is something I treasure.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Mother Sea is out with Fairlight Books in May next year. It’s about a scientist in a remote island society under crisis, trying to reconcile her community’s grief with her hopes of saving their home and her own unborn child. We’ve just revealed the cover, which is just so beautiful and captures the feel of the book’s setting perfectly I think.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Ummm… I don’t generally go looking for them. If someone tags me in, then yes, or when it’s part of a blog tour that I’m expected to help boost. And I keep a vague eye on overall numbers and ratings because I know that matters for the evil algorithms. But I try not to check too often – publishing is hard enough on your self-esteem without going searching for the inevitable meh reviews.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I don’t really write within any one genre, so … yes! My writing style is very genre-blending – genre labels aren’t something I think about when writing, so my books are all quite different – so far, This Is Our Undoing is a speculative dystopian (clifi) thriller, The Way The Light Bends is a contemporary dark folkloric mystery, and Mother Sea is a lightly speculative literary novel.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I was a conservation research scientist at St. Andrews University. It’s a background that deeply influences my writing, both in the settings I use, and in the themes I often explore – climate change, our relationship with the wilds, etc.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro and the much missed Ursula le Guin and Maya Angelou.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Almost everything! I will happily read any genre, although there are certain tropes that put me off where-ever they arise – mainly gratuitous violence or gore, or fridging of female characters.

What is your biggest motivator?

It depends on what kind of motivation – the drive to sit at the computer and write is mostly about me needing something to be working towards, to give me focus and challenge. The motivation to make my writing better is about wanting to connect with people, to make stories that resonate in some way, especially with people who don’t often get to see themselves or their stories on the page.

What will always distract you?

The cats. (also social media. Ugh I am weak)

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

It has varied – for Undoing, my publisher saw the artwork by Daniele Serra and knew that it suited the book perfectly, so checked that I agreed and snapped it up (I agreed immediately, it’s perfect); where-as for Light (with Luna Press again), and for Mother Sea (with Fairlight Books), I discussed themes, inspirations and comparative books with my editors before they then commissioned artists. I absolutely adore all three of my covers so consider myself very lucky.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Oh man, yes. I could read before I went to school, and have never stopped. I was lucky to grow up in a house full of books as my mum is an avid reader as well, so I read widely all the way through my childhood.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books were my greatest love, alongside Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. Then when I was into my teens I discovered Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood and fell in love with both of them too. I also read a lot of mythology, folklore and traditional ghost story books as a kid (the scarier the better).

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I love my local Toppings in St. Andrews. Any bookshop that has ladders and offers you tea is impossible to resist!

What books can you not resist buying?

I mean….I buy a lot of books!! A few authors that are automatic don’t-even-stop-to-read-the-blurb pre-orders are Natasha Pulley, Kazuo Ishiguro & Emily St John Mandel.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Cup of tea & music, does that count?

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

I almost exclusively read ebooks as it’s kinder on both my bank balance and migrainous brain, but my kindle says I have 51 bought books in my tbr folder, and 111 in my wish-list samples folder.

What is your current or latest read?

Currently reading Small Favors by Erin A Craig and beta reading an upcoming book by my marvellous friend and thriller author Jane Jesmond.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’ve recently read an ARC of Ascension by another friend, Nicholas Binge, so I’m really excited to see other people fall in love with that when it comes out. I’m also excited to get my hands on Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo, Ghost Girl Banana by Wiz Wharton, and Shauna Lawless’ sequel to her fabulous debut – The Words of Kings and Prophets.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

Well, I’ve already mentioned Mother Sea, which is coming out next year. This is a book that speaks about issues I care so, so deeply about (climate change, post-colonialism & motherhood), so I’m equal parts overjoyed and terrified to have it out in the world. I also have several other projects in the works, spanning a take on dark academia, a bit of Welsh gothic mystery and some Icelandic ghosts.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

Like I said, I don’t really write in one genre, so I’d say instead that I’m drawn to folklore and the wilderness, due mostly to the books I read as a child, and my experiences as a field biologist. I am fascinated by the way folklore intersects with the natural world and how different peoples’ relationships with their environment are shaped by their mythologic heritage, so even though my books range from deeply SFF to (almost) entirely real-world, contemporary, there is always a really strong thread of folklore within them, and the natural world is always a really powerful presence.


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Jon Barton – Q&A

Jon Barton

Jon Barton

Dive is a gripping crime thriller about the murky world of Metropolitan Police divers and the River Thames, London’s deadliest crime scene. When his daughter disappears and bodies surface in the river matching her description, workaholic diver David Cade and disgraced detective Naomi Harding join forces to uncover a sinister crime that will change the course of everything.

Jon can be found at:
Website: www.jon-barton.co.uk/
Twitter: @jnbarton
Instagram: @jn_barton
Facebook: www.facebook.com/j.n.barton

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

My side hustle starting out was pulling pints at the Captain Kidd, next to the Marine Police in Wapping. Those guys would sometimes come in to unwind after a shift and share war stories with trademark black humour. It struck me that divers are neglected characters in crime fiction, yet they have one of the diciest jobs in the Met. Sitting down to write ‘Dive’, I wanted to explore this shadowy world of policing, with the Thames at the heart of the action.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world came first in this case. The river holds secrets and has a habit of exposing them. If you’re lucky you’ll find treasure on the foreshore; if you’re not, you could see a body being dredged from the mud. I just felt it was the perfect setting for a thriller exploring a part of London that’s rarely glimpsed, this undertow of criminality concealed beneath the surface. It also felt like a great way to get under a character’s skin metaphorically.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Dive by Jon Barton

Dive by Jon Barton

I submitted the novel to agents during the first lockdown, and it was then Kate Nash Lit that picked it up. I spent six months developing the book before it went to editors in Spring 2021. It was a painful ten weeks, and a lot of rejection. It went to acquisitions with two other publishers, before it was picked up by Joffe Books for a three-book deal. I’d spent four years working on Dive on-and-off at that point, so it was hard not to take it personally. When you know you’ve written the best book you’re capable of, and people still don’t like it – that can take some getting used to.

How long did it take to write?

‘Dive’ was a screenplay before it became a novel, and I spent six months writing that before I thought of it in another form. All told it then took me a further six months to write the first draft. I easily spent a further two years revising and editing. I’m happy to say the second book didn’t take as long to write, but there’s something about that first novel. I was learning to write a novel the first time. I was teaching myself how to do it. Writing the second book meant I was trying to carry over everything I learned the first time round.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I have a playlist of movie soundtracks, although I do only put it on when I’m editing or have hit a snag and need inspiration. I’m jealous of people that can write to heavy metal or on public transport. I have to be totally immersed. I need silence when I write.

How many publishers turned you down?

Twenty publishers turned ‘Dive’ down, and it went as far as acquisitions elsewhere before Joffe Books acquired it.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I’ve had the full gamut. Some people (my agent and my friends) give me the biased response. There were definitely some publishers that said they wanted something more conventionally commercial. I get the strongest reaction from people that actually like crime fiction. While I’ve had nice responses in reviews on GoodReads and Netgalley, I’ve also had blank stares and muted reactions. You can’t please everyone.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

I don’t think I have a favourite. It’s gratifying when someone reads it and totally invests in the world and the characters, and they can see the same potential I saw listening to divers and their stories.

What can you tell us about your next book?

The Thames is the world’s biggest crime scene. There’s huge scope for criminality and darkness as I discovered in the research phase. The idea behind the ‘Dive’ series is that it explores the kind of crime with each book. The first story is about the drugs trade. There is a second story exploring human trafficking. The backdrop to all that is a long-running story about city-wide police corruption. But it all depends on whether Dive sells well enough to justify another story featuring those characters.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Yes I do. Though I’d love to say I have the willpower to ignore them.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I’d really love to write a children’s story. I have an idea that’s been burning a hole in my head for about a year now. Sooner or later, the time will come when I won’t be able to do anything but write that. On the other hand, all my new ideas are psychological and destination thrillers. We’ll see which comes first.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve done a lot of things. I graduated in 2011 when there were no jobs to be had thanks to the aftershock of the financial crisis. I found myself working in pubs, theatres, bookshops… anything that paid the rent. I’m lucky enough to teach creative writing now and I love it.

Which author(s) inspire you?

I loved Michael Crichton when I was younger. That mix of science fiction and science fact and fast-paced action just ticked the boxes for me at that time in my life. I’ve always loved children’s writing. Lately I’ve been digging into Michael Connelly and Jean Hanff Korelitz. Anything that I find propulsive an exciting inspires me one way or another.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I don’t discriminate if I can help it. I gravitate to commercial fiction. I really like good science-fiction if it’s grounded, and I have a lot of time for horror. Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend was a seminal moment when I read it the first time, but I would say the same of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather and Roald Dahl’s The BFG. I like to think I read widely.

What is your biggest motivator?

I love telling stories. I love breaking them, finding a way into them, spending time with the characters. I write because I often struggle to express myself. Writing is a way to articulate that lived experience. Stephen King has a great quote in On Writing that I can relate to: “Writing is not life, but sometimes, it can be a way back to life.”

What will always distract you?

I have a cocker spaniel that basically finds it insulting I’d have other interests besides her, so she does distract me often when I’m at my desk. I also have a prolific writing partner who can write much faster than I can. We’ve always got something in the air, but it’s nice to be spinning more than one plate.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I had a lot to say about the first cover design for Dive. I heard a statistic somewhere that 90% of authors don’t like the covers for their books. Make of that what you will.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes I was. I read a lot of Roald Dahl and Terry Pratchett, and because I loved movies I read a lot of novel adaptations for the films I enjoyed at the time. I think that’s why I found my way to Michael Crichton when I was too young to really understand what he was writing about.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I really loved one of Terry Pratchett’s early stories called Johnny and the Bomb. Almost nobody has heard of it now, but at the time, it was incredible. This bombastic adventure about a kid with a time machine in a shopping trolley being pursued by men in black… I’d never read anything like it because this was pre-Harry Potter.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Can’t say I do.

What books can you not resist buying?

It’s all about the story for me. If I write a blurb that grabs me, I’m all in.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Cup of strong coffee, total silence, and I really like to be by myself if I can help it. I find it difficult to write in public spaces.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

I don’t really buy books I don’t read if I can help it. I’d say about five at the moment, but I don’t tend to buy books if my TBR pile is too high.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I really liked Josh Winning’s first book The Shadow Glass so his second book, Burn the Negative, really appeals to me.

Any events in the near future?

I’ll be recording some podcasts with Chloe Timms and Yvonne Battle Felton, and I hope to attend one of the book festivals like Crimefest or Harrogate.

And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

The story came first and the genre made sense after that. It didn’t feel like anything other than a crime thriller. I also wanted to tell a story that wasn’t strictly procedural or a mystery, but something else, something people haven’t read before. Ultimately, I’ve written the book I think I would like to read.


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Steve Chambers – Q&A

Steve Chambers

Steve Chambers

Steve Chambers is the co-writer of the Radio 4 comedy drama HighLites with Phil Nodding. He’s the author of GLADIO: We can Neither Confirm nor Deny. and his feature film, Hold Back the Night, starring Sheila Hancock (Parallax Pictures, dir. Phil Davis), opened Critics Week and won the Prix du Public de la Ville de Cannes. He was the former programme leader in Creative Writing MA at Northumbria University.

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

The middle section began life as a TV idea about a real event. I’d been working with a journalist and he’d covered the story of a murderous rampage in and around the Yorkshire town of Malton in 1982. He unearthed a number of disturning facts before being warned off by the Special Branch. Apart from anything else, the warning confirmed that story had ‘legs’ and fiction appeared a good way of investigating further. I came up with an outline which was commissioned by Yorkshire/Tyne Tees just before they were taken over by Granada TV who weren’t interested in the idea. A few years later, I was offered some money to work on a novel and I returned to the original story.

What came first the characters or the world?

The world came first because that was the starting point.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Well, I worked on it for nine years. First draft for 18 months forllowed by a rejection then after three years another draft and further rejections and then another gap before two mates read it and gave helpful feedback at which point I was going to self-publish using Amazon but then Martin Ellis had a look at it (he attended aradio drama course I gave at the Lit&Phil in Newcastle and asked to have a read). He had lots of suggestions but they were all (most anyway) good ones,

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Not sure what you mean but a main character, an external problem and an internal theme/problem. When I’m writing, I tend to rewrite in the morning and write new stuff in the afternoon (a habit I formed as a dramatist. You’re usually on a deadline so it’s helpful to work out where you’d like to be week by week.)

How many publishers turned you down?

Too many. These days, people don’t bother getting back to you.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

From readers (i.e. punters), the vast majority are very positive.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

There’s a couple of reviews on the kindle site which are very positive, detailed, thoughtful and I’ve no idea who the reviewers are.

Gladio

Gladio

What can you tell us about your next book?

It’s about an ordinary person, a woman in her fifties who lives in rural Northumberland and comes across a dishevilled stranger in the church where she changes the flowers twice a week. When people come looking for the stranger and he begs the woman not to give him away, She lies for him and finds herself plunged into a conspiracy about a privatised UK poisons laboratory. The provisional title is ‘The Dark Months’.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Of course. You can’t ignore feedback.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Yes, I’ve written a comic short story about a disgruntled writer and I think that character might be fun to explore.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer? Which author(s) inspire you?

It’s a long time since since I did anything else. I wrote scripts for stage, TV and radio and then I taught scriptwriting at a university for 10 years. The authors that inspire me are usually ones that I enjoy. That’s usually conspiracy thrillers so John Le Carre, Helen Dunmore, Mick Heron, Alan Furst, Abir Mukherjee – I loved Raymond Chandler and Phillip Kerr and James Ellroy’s early stuff.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read the kind of stuff I write – I’m fascinated by the art of storytelling. Occasionally, I’ll read something else – Hilary Mantel for historical fiction or Joanne Harris or Kate Atkinson. I also like reading actual history books – I’ve just finished ‘A History of the Anglo-Saxons’ by Marc Morris. I’m an avid consumer of modern conspiracy exposes – Luke Harding’s book about the murder of Litvinenko – ‘A Very Expensive Poison’ – is detailed and useful.

What is your biggest motivator?

There are lots of drivers – when I was writing dramas, money was a motivator but I think it’s the idea of trying to do something as well as you can and getting to an end point.

What will always distract you?

Just about anything if it’s not going well and nothing if things are on a roll. A writer should be imprisoned in a black box with no distractions at all.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Some but not enough.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes, I read voraciously as a kid. The usual stuff – Enid Blighton, Richmal Crompton, W.E. Johns and then when I was a teenager, I read all of George Orwell’s stuff.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Not really. I like any bookshops – second-hand and new.

What books can you not resist buying?

Ones that appeal to me.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I like the room I’me working in to be clean and tidy. A writer friend of mine said she needed ‘external calm for the inner turmoil’. That’s it exactly.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Between 5 and 10.

What is your current or latest read?

‘A Necessary Evil’ by Abir Mukherjee

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

The ones in my TBR pile that I haven’t read yet.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’ve been researching a detective story set in Nottingham in 1950. I grew up in Nottingham and I’d like to investigate the world of my parents and grandparents. 1950 was the start of the future.

What inspired you to write the genre you do?

Not sure – I’ve always been drawn to stories that uncover the truth no matter what the consequences. My Dad died when I was very young and it disfigured my mother’s life and mine and my sister’s when we were growing up. Stories on TV always seemed to have happy endings but ours didn’t and I wonder if that’s where the need to bear witness to awkward truths began.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

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Nobody (2021)

Nobody (2021)

Nobody (2021)

I was a bit tired last night and didn’t have much brain power for a new film of much over 90 minutes, especially after at least the previous 20 minutes had been taken up with trying to decide on which film to watch.

Finally settled on Nobody (2021) which I had seen at the cinema previously, an easy film with nothing too taxing for the brain, exactly what I needed.

Starring Bob Odenkirk from so many different things but the latest biggie is Better Call Saul, with great parts for Christopher Lloyd, Connie Nelson, Michael Ironside, and more.

A ‘retired’ auditor (government killer) is living in the ‘burbs, a life of boring monotony, trying to grasp what he thought he really wanted, normality, until a home invasion sets off a stream of events which culminates in strapping a claymore mine to a shatter-proof window to make a final point.

Lots of extreme violence with a decent back story packed into the limited run time of the film made it feel as though there was no down time, apart from the bits about the monotony of American suburban life.

The choreographed violence often gets compared to that of John Wick, true to a certain extent, this feels more visceral, real, crunchy. John Wick’s action scenes almost feel like a well choreographed dance, you really feel the pain in Nobody, the crunch feels crunchy.

My favourite though is Christopher Lloyd as the retired FBI father, who else could get away with a shit-eating grin whilst draped in several shotguns.

Overall a fun film that is hyper-violent, but if you know this going in and view it almost like a cartoon you can get a lot out of it.

Looking forward to Nobody: Back from Obscurity, or whatever they decide to call the sequel.

Nobody | March 26, 2021 (United States) 7.4

Photos


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If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Indie Bookshops) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.