‘Like my earlier novel Quilt, An English Guide to Birdwatching is in truth very much a novel about anonymity’ — Nicholas Royle answers questions about his novel An English Guide to Birdwatching from Shiny New Books
Tony Peake was born in South Africa but has lived most of his life in London.
He is an acclaimed short story writer with work in many anthologies including The Penguin Book of Contemporary South African Short Stories, The Mammoth Book of Gay Short Stories and Best British Short Stories 2016.
He is the author of two novels, A Summer Tide (1993) and Son to the Father (1995), and Derek Jarman: A Biography (1999).
‘Unlike any other graphic novel we can think of, although Brookes has previous in that regard.’ Teddy Jamieson quizzes Gareth Brookes on method and macular degeneration.
Paula Knight talks to Joe Melia of B24/7 about the influence of Bristol on her creative life:
‘I’ve lived here since 1988 when I arrived from the north-east to study Graphic Design/ Illustration at Bristol Poly (now UWE). At college, the importance of keeping a sketchbook to hand was engraved on my consciousness for life, and I rarely go anywhere without one now for fear of losing ideas.’
Cynthia Enloe is a feminist writer and teacher who brings together activism and research cross-nationally.
She has investigated women in the global garment, trainer, banking and banana industries, domestic work, diplomacy and militarism. She is the author of 14 books, including most recently, Globalization and Militarism (2016), Bananas, Beaches and Bases (2014) and Seriously! Investigating Crashes and Crises as if Women Mattered (2013). Her work has been translated into French, German, Icelandic, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. She regularly publishes in Ms. Magazine and The Village Voice, and appears on National Public Radio, Al Jazeera, C-Span and the BBC.
A Research Professor at Clark University in Massachusetts, she has held taught at universities in Guyana, Malaysia, Wales, Tokyo, and Toronto. She has been awarded honorary doctorates by SOAS and the University of Lund, as well as the Howard Zinn Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Tom Connolly remembers his late brother, Pip, for the Guardian:
‘Something about the prospect of turning 50 in March this year had been niggling me for some time, despite the fact that I’ve never taken much notice of birthdays… I began to realise it was sadness at the fact that soon after my 50th birthday I would become older than my big brother; my beloved, late, big brother. And that felt like an abomination.’
S. V. Berlin was born and raised in London. She has worked as a copywriter, facilitator, speechwriter and wilderness Search-and-Rescue professional. She lives in Manhattan.
‘There are just wonderful turns of phrase that capture the feel of the city and the nuances of everyday life, at which Tom Connolly excels. You can tell that he is not only an author, but also a film maker, his prose has a very visual quality to it.’
Tripfiction reviews Men Like Air and talks to Tom Connolly as he shares some of his photographs of New York City.
‘I think I have always loved a book that makes me laugh out loud and yet feel deep, complex emotion ever since reading A Prayer for Owen Meany, and I had a desire to write something funny and poignant about people who are stimulated by the city they live in, moulded by it, but also left emotionally isolated by it, as that’s my experience of New York City.’
Tom shares insights about Men Like Air and New York City with Natalie from Food for Bookworms.
‘The appeal of writing fiction is discovering the individuality of one’s fictional characters, and for me Leo’s loneliness is not so much age- or gender-related so much as to do with a certain sort of urban solitude, and in particular the way that New York City can leave you feeling like you’re on the outside edge of the greatest party ever thrown.’
Tom talks about writing Men Like Air to Bookish Ramblings.
‘Finn arrives in NYC with an older, wiser, more travelled girlfriend who has a list of fabulous places she intends to see and wonderful things she intends to do. Finn, on the other hand, has come to do one thing, beat the crap out of his older brother for abandoning him.’
Tom introduces the characters of Men Like Air and describes some of his (and their) favourite New York films for The Owl on the Bookshelf.
‘My nineteen-year-old character, Finn, shares with thousands the experience of landing in New York City and feeling that anything is going to be possible in your life… all the characters in Men Like Air are at different stages of a love affair with the place… they are all transformed by New York City, for better or worse, in the lifetime of the book.’
Tom talks to David Hebblethwaite about his inspiration for setting Men Like Air in New York and shares some of his photos of the city in this guest blog for David’s Book World.
If you want good sex, maybe you need to read a graphic novel. So says Jade Sarson in this piece for the Huffington Post.
“ ‘I felt there was nothing out there that really described my own experience,” Beaumont said. “I think I’ve written the book I would have liked to read when Beth was little — something that described the difficulty I had loving Beth, without making me feel guilty.’ ”
Read an interview with Henny Beaumont here on The Mighty, a website dedicated to breaking the isolation around disability, disease and mental illness.
Nicola Streeten and Dan Berry talk about memoir and autobiography, the necessity of community and opening doors into the world of comics. Listen here or download the podcast.
Read Nicola Streeten’s comic Precarious Migration relating the experiences of Cambodian migrants produced for Migrating Out of Poverty Research at the University of Sussex for DFID and launched at WOMAD 2016.
Roald Dahl, Spike Milligan, Stephen King, Tobias Wolff – do read this fascinating account of Isabelle Ashdown’s favourite books at different times in her life, as told to Anne Cater for her blog Random Things Through My Letterbox.
An exhilarating romp through the whys and wherefores of For the Love of God, Marie; Jade Sarson at her sparkling best on Catholics, sex, gender, trans people and just having fun. 10 Things You Should Know about My Book For the Love of God, Marie!
‘My daughter made me face my own prejudices towards disability’: Henny Beaumont thought she was expressing the unspeakable when she wrote about how she coped with her daughter’s Down’s syndrome diagnosis. Read more here.
Jade Sarson, hosted by Joe Gordon, takes us on an exhilarating ride through the creative processes used in the making of For the Love of God, Marie! With lots of thumbnails, roughs and tips from a born professional… Click here to read the full post.
‘The child with Down’s is as much of a child as any other’. Read here for a full-length interview with Henny Beaumont by Joanna Moorhead in the Mail on Sunday on 12 June 2016.
Listen here to Henny’s interview on 21 June 2016 by Jane Garvey on BBC Woman’s Hour.
Henny Beaumont talks about her graphic novel to Jo Good on BBC Radio London on 14 June 2016.
‘Comics artist Will Volley may have the perfect pitch for his new graphic novel – selling door-to-door.’ Read this interview with Will Volley by Ellie Broughton in the East End Review.
View the post on the Learning Disability website here.
‘I‘ve never been particularly interested in reading fiction based on the lives and activities of real people, and I definitely never intended to write a novel about real people… But eventually I ended up writing a novel based on the real-life 18-year relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren [pictured]…’
Douglas Cowie’s guest post for the Foyles blog: ‘The Corners of Attachment – Imagining the spaces between the facts’.
Listen to Ian Williams discussing The Bad Doctor and the artistic side of medicine, in this exclusive interview with California-based Dr. Paddy Barrett, curator of The Doctor Paradox website and podcast.
‘I remember, at medical school, drunken discussions concerning the small number of class “nutters” in our year of 150 students… I kept quiet, but laughed along with the others. I was convinced that I, too, was doomed to a future as a “nutter”, having developed some kind of “madness” that I was struggling to hide.’
Read more of Ian’s article for the Independent in which he discusses his experience of OCD and how this has informed his work.
As part of a series of shows about ‘untold tales’, narratives not normally depicted in comics, Alex Fitch talked to artist Henny Beaumont about her debut graphic novel A Hole in the Heart, about bringing up a child with Down’s Syndrome:
‘In some ways all the characters I’ve ever written about are fighters: I never really know who they are, or how to write about them, until I test what they will and won’t do; pushing them into a story and seeing how they battle their way out.’
‘Toole is an honest writer, ruthlessly constructing and breaking down the psychology, as well as the physicality, of his characters.’
In her essay, ‘Prose that packs a punch’, for international short story forum Thresholds, Emily reflects on the short-story collection that strongly inspired her love of boxing literature: Rope Burns by F.X. Toole.
‘Historical research was important in trying to piece together the vanished landscape of bombed out London.’
Read an author interview with Emily Bullock over on Ink Pantry, where she discusses the inspiration behind The Longest Fight, how she became a boxing fan, and what’s next for her writing career.
‘When writing The Longest Fight I also wanted to know what other writers had to say about the sport. What I discovered was a whole sub-genre, fighting fiction…’
Find out which works of literary fiction, featuring fight scenes, Emily selected for We Love This Book‘s regular feature…
‘I always loved drawing from a young age… Nothing gives me more pleasure than gazing at a well drawn/constructed comic-book page. Drawings can both convey and evoke strong emotions, more so than photographs, I find, so add to that the fact that the drawings interact with words to tell a story, and you have a unique art form, a visual poetry.’
Will Volley talks graphic novels, door-to-door selling and Daredevil in this interview with Teddy Jamieson at the Herald.
‘Writing and drawing a graphic novel is a perfect vehicle for self-expression. I wanted to put my heart and soul in to the book, channelling my own feelings and frustrations through the protagonist…’
Read Will’s Director’s Commentary on his debut graphic novel, The Opportunity, for Forbidden Planet International.
Aneurin Wright’s cartoon for Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine was described as ‘worth the price of admission’ by Variety magazine, ‘a joyously funny cartoon sequence’ by The Hollywood Reporter and by Oprah as her favourite part of the film. FlickerLab’s Creative Director, Harold Moss, directed and voiced all the characters.
‘Harry was born 23 December 2013. Beautiful, loud, hungry. Clock of my day. Emperor of my household. At a conference on motherhood in London in June 2015 I heard Bracha Ettinger speak about ‘the three shocks of maternality’. It helped me to understand how much I am still recovering from my new reality…’
Extracts from The Book of Sarah feature in Studies in Comics (Vol 6, Issue 2), which also includes a report on contemporary comics by Jewish women co-authored by Sarah, Heike Bauer and Andrea Greenbaum.
‘There have been at least 19 books written about Sutcliffe, but, apart from one by a French feminist academic and Becoming Unbecoming, all are written by men… But the murders, and the police and press response, drove young women like me to feminism. Others were driven into fear. Una wanted to give those women, and all women and girls terrorised by sex crimes, a voice.’
Read journalist and activist Julie Bindel’s feature on Una and Becoming Unbecoming, for BBC News magazine.
‘As a big fan of graphic novels, I was excited to learn of a new release by a Yorkshire woman with the pen name Una. Being of northern origin, I’m always interested in hearing the voices of woman – and men – from the north of the country, particularly as their voices often go unheard or overlooked in comparison to those from the south and, more specifically, the south-east. I’m delighted to report that the novel Becoming Unbecoming is an absolute sensation: one of my favourite books of the year and, possibly, the best graphic novel I’ve ever read.’
Read Una’s interview with Joanna Whitehead of The F-Word.
‘An incredibly powerful new graphic novel… The illustrations are beautiful and the words are a powerful demand listen to women’s voices.’
Becoming Unbecoming sits alongside feminist classics such as The Colour Purple by Alice Walker and Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, in Anna James’ Ultimate Feminist Reading List, as featured on Elle UK. See the full selection here.
BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter has described Becoming Unbecoming as ‘touching, moving and tackling a really serious subject. A wonderful, wonderful book’. Listen again to Una’s appearance on Woman’s Hour, where she discusses the blame and shame associated with gender violence, and why the graphic form is the perfect medium through which to communicate difficult subjects.
Why do cultural forms so often dramatise the rape and murder of women and rarely men? Why should the notion of survivor be treated with caution? Will writing this book – or conveying your ideas to broad audiences more generally – ever compensate for a lack of justice?
Look at Una’s answers to these probing questions and read her thoughts about the nature of her work, in an honest and intriguing interview with Big Issue North.
‘It’s a mistake to think of comics as just a quick read on the bus, or a specific, formulaic type of aesthetic. As with all artistic realms there are an infinite variety of artists and writers working in the medium.’
Una makes a guest appearance on We Love This Book’s regular Top Five feature slot, selecting her ‘Top Five: Graphic Novels with Ambitious and Experimental Tendencies’. Full feature here.
‘Becoming Unbecoming shows what patriarchal violence does, on a nationwide and on a personal level…. But this graphic novel also shows what happen when women refuse to be silent. Read this. Get angry. Start shouting.’
This powerful call to arms appeared in Emerald Street – Stylist magazine’s online counterpart. Selected for the Reading Room feature, Becoming Unbecoming is described as ‘honest, matter of fact and absolutely gut wrenching’.
‘My workshop group was made up of talented writers and astute critics. They stood for no nonsense. The workshops themselves were gruelling, but prepared you like nothing else for the rigour of a professional edit. They taught me when to murder my darlings, and when to stand my ground.’
In ‘The big W’ for Bookanista, S.E. Craythorne discusses the merits of different kinds of creative writing groups; from council run community groups to her MA workshop group.
Having grown up on the south coast, Isabel now lives in Chichester, and says that Sussex is ‘a constant source of inspiration. All my novels have a coastal location, largely inspired by the beauty and range of our south coast beaches – I grew up in East Wittering, so I guess it’s in my blood!’
Read about Isabel’s perfect Sussex weekend on the Sussex Life site.
‘In my latest novel Flight, a happily married young mother wins the lottery – and runs away. Wren simply disappears, giving up her old connected life in favour of a new solitary one on the coast of North Cornwall. What she seeks, ultimately, is peace; peace, freedom, quiet, space to be alone… Haven’t we all felt this desire at some time or other?’
Isabel Ashdown selects her ‘Top Five: Women on the Run’ in fiction in a feature for We Love This Book.
‘Lily’s lectures were always crowded. Richard wasn’t sure whether she noticed him, sitting at the back of the room, shadowed by a sea of eager undergraduates. He hadn’t told her that he sometimes came to watch her, performing small miracles of revelation which might impact on ten people in the audience, or a hundred, or even, by osmosis, the whole world.’
Read an exclusive extract from Hush on the Writers’ Hub website.
‘There is something very powerful about looking at an image where the subjects are looking straight out at you, almost as if they are trying to communicate something without being able to tell you what it is.’
Sara Marshall-Ball writes for Shiny New Books describing how her novel began here.
‘It’s often said that writing is a form of escapism, and in some ways I don’t doubt that’s true — except that the only thing I’ve ever tried to escape is boredom. I write to escape to places, rather than escape from them…’
Sara Marshall-Ball explores the compulsion behind her writing on the Faber Academy blog.
Henny Beaumont is a London-based artist and portrait painter. She has an MA in Fine Art and Printmaking at Camberwell College of Art, where she has also been a visiting lecturer. She worked on an audio visual App for the New River and has been published in the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice. She has four children.
Henny’s graphic memoir, Hole in the Heart, was published by Myriad in June 2016. As well as appearing on BBC Woman’s Hour (see below for clip), and being featured in the Mail on Sunday YOU Magazine, Henny has spoken to midwives, MA social work students, the Tavistock Institute and has forthcoming engagements at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and at art colleges.
S.E. Craythorne is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her poetry and prose have previously been published by Gatehouse Press, Poetry Unbound and ink sweat and tears. In 2013 she was awarded a place on the METAL Culture Lab programme and performed at the Shorelines Festival. An extract from Craythorne’s debut novel, How You See Me, was shortlisted for the 2013 Writer’s Retreat Competition and was longlisted the same year for Mslexia‘s Women’s Novel Competition. In 2014, she was awarded Arts Council funding to write her second novel.
Brought up on a smallholding in rural Norfolk, S.E. Craythorne has also lived in Manchester and Hong Kong. She has worked as a bookseller, journalist, artist’s model, English teacher and librarian. S.E. Craythorne now lives and works in Norwich.
Myriad published How You See Me in August 2015.
Douglas Cowie is originally from Chicago and has lived in England and Berlin since 1999. He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is also the author of Owen Noone and the Marauder and two linked novellas, Sing for Life: Tin Pan Alley and Sing for Life: Away, You Rolling River.
‘For me, as a kid, it was never about the airplanes or the rockets. What captured my imagination were the men, not the machines.’
Benjamin Johncock selects his Top Five: Literary Pilots in a feature for We Love This Book.
1. Leave out as much as you can.
2. Simple words, in the right order, will surprise you with their power.
3. Don’t describe everything. We all know what stuff looks like. A forest is a forest; a table is a table – shut the hell up and get on with it.
‘Everyone is different. What works for one writer might not work for another. The trick is to cherry-pick the advice, the techniques, the stuff that works for you. Put it in a bag that you keep under your desk.’
Benjamin Johncock discusses his writing process in this new article for Writers & Artists.
‘There are pros and cons of writing under pressure. Every writer is different, and this applies to speed of production as much as it does to style.’
The tortoise and the hare: in an article for The Conversation, Sally O’Reilly discusses the perks and perils of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, versus writers who draw their novels out over months, years and even decades.
‘History is not a finite resource. It is looming behind us: growing and morphing and consuming the space age and glasnost and Blairism; Britpop and 9/11 and the Arab Spring.’
Sally discusses the impact of bestselling author Ali Smith winning the Baileys Prize, and the rise of historical fiction, in an article for The Conversation.
‘A battle of wills and a clash of egos. It is a love story, but also dramatises the conflict between men and women, and about the desire to create beauty and meaning in the midst of chaos and pain.’
In this post for the Waterstones blog, Sally explores the mystery surrounding the identity of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, who she re-imagines in her novel Dark Aemilia as Aemilia Bassano Lanyer.
‘If you want to write a story about a fundamental predicament, there is a Shakespeare play to fit the bill. So it’s not surprising that he has inspired so many writers, from Herman Melville to Angela Carter.’
Read Sally’s Top 10 novels inspired by Shakespeare for the Guardian.
‘Lose yourself. One of the unsung joys of writing a book is that you can create your own world and go there every day. There’s nothing like it. Forget about the bestseller list, this year’s Booker winner and all the rest of it. Invent your world, and follow the logic of your own imagination, and you will have one of the most rewarding experiences that life can offer.’
‘The most important role comics have played has been to give me a community. I love reading other comics and being part of this great surge by women to tell their life stories. I set up Laydeez do Comics with Nicola Streeten in 2009. We had no idea how many people would be interested in a comics forum that focused on autobiography.’ Read this fascinating interview with Sarah Lightman in Barely South Review.
Listen here to Darryl Cunningham talking with architect-cartoonist Alison Sampson and writer James McKelvie, interviewed at London’s GOSH comic shop in November 2014 by host Robin McConnell, for the influential Inkstuds international radio show about comics.
In an article for the Guardian, Kate writes about the challenges of, and the importance of making her voice heard on the joys of breastfeeding – also the subject of her graphic non-fiction title, The Food of Love.
Read Kate’s moving article for the Independent about her experience of miscarriage – an issue she also touches on in her books The Food of Love and Bump.
‘I had no idea, when I got pregnant, how different I would feel. I spent my time cocooned in a Zen-like fug of warm fuzzy feelings, which would be punctured at random intervals by spikes of rage or outbursts of weeping. Why did nobody warn me?’
In a guest blog post for Netmums, Kate explores and sympathises with the emotional rollercoaster many women experience during pregnancy.
Stand-up comedian Kit Nichols likes to satirise his boarding school experiences, but his past takes on a different light when he reads the obituary of an old school friend.
‘If anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be a blogger I would have laughed. I am a cautious Facebook user – by turns amused and horrified at the very public way that friends (and friends of friends of friends) conduct their lives. It feels like happening upon a hidden diary and taking the wrong decision to have a quick read…’
Read Sue’s article in the Guardian in which she talked about becoming a blogger.
In a feature for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on children and bereavement, Hannah was interviewed by presenter Jenni Murray. She talked about her role as learning mentor at a primary school and about her debut graphic novel, Naming Monsters.
Listen here to a podcast featuring Martine in conversation with American comedian, actor and writer Matt Dwyer, as they disucss the music industry, our declining environment and how Margaret Thatcher started the privatization of England’s social programmes.
‘I’m not someone who does housework to put off writing, I write to avoid housework. I only procrastinate when I’m getting ready to begin a long phase of work…’
Read Martine’s interview with Brighton Writer’s Retreat and find out about what she thinks about her ‘Inner critic’.
‘To a lot of people illustrating a graphic novel using techniques like linocut and embroidery might seem like a strange idea. For me it came out of a long process of questioning what I had been doing in previous comics. Why was I using a pen, when I had picked up so many other techniques during my time in art school?’
‘I think things that are made using a certain level of physicality have an aura about them that really communicates strongly at a time when most things are done on computers. At the same time, modern technology means you can now take the results and convert them into different formats like comics…’
Gareth Brookes talks with Paul Gravett about embroidery techniques, suburban life, and winning the First Graphic Novel Competition.
As part of a month long series of shows on horror and fantasy comics, Panel Borders’ presenter Alex Fitch talked to Gareth about making The Black Project. Originally broadcast in October 2013, on London’s Resonance 104.4 FM, you can listen again to Gareth’s interview.
Writing about ‘the dark side of life’: from strippers in Soho to soldiers in Hamburg, Nina discusses bisexuality, feminism and sex work in a new interview with For Book’s Sake who crown the author ‘Brighton’s fabulous queen of the gutter’.
In an exclusive article for New Statesman, entitled ‘Why Ayn Rand is still relevant (And dangerous)’ , Darryl discusses the argument at the core of his latest work of graphic journalism, Supercrash: How to hijack the global economy (read full article).
‘My book starts with Ayn Rand. I wanted to write about Rand, because I felt if I could understand her, I could get to the heart of what has gone wrong in Western politics over the past three decades, and at the same time, define my own beliefs more thoroughly.’
‘Strip clubs are often in the news; whether that’s the issue around licensing laws, new evidence on how clubs may effect the communities they are set in or documentaries exploring strip culture. But how often do we hear from the dancers themselves?’
Excellent ten-minute interview with Nye Wright.
Interview on the Danny Pike show.
‘Listen to an interview with Nicola Streeten about the making of her graphic novel.’
See co-author Dr Habib Benzian interviewed about ‘Mapping Oral Health Worldwide’ in Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry.
‘I stopped apologising for writing, declared it as my profession on my passport and in answer to people at parties who asked what I did…’
Read more from Hannah on Novelicious, as she shares the experience of signing her first book deal.
Una is an artist, academic and comics creator. Her self-published graphic narratives have explored disability, psychosis, political activism and violence against women and girls. She lives in Yorkshire. Becoming Unbecoming, her first graphic novel, was published by Myriad in September 2015.
Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press’s National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son.
Myriad published Johncock’s debut novel, The Last Pilot, in July 2015.
‘My experience of writing plays means I am confident writing dialogue – I can hear my characters speaking to one another. I did a lot of acting when I was young and this has been helpful too – I am ‘in role’ when I am writing…’
In this interview with Female First, Hannah talks about her experiences as a playwright, the advice she offers her creative writing students and what is next for her writing career.
‘The idea to set the novel in a climate-changed world was the end result of much thought about how the future might look. The conclusion I drew was that life in the mid-to-late 21st Century would probably look more like the historical past than the fictional future as envisaged by Hollywood…’
Martine discusses genre and talks setting her debut novel in a dysotpian world, in an interview with the Post Apocalyptic Book Club.
Isabel returned to her old school, Chichester High School for Girls to run a series of talks for Year 9 English students. She gave the girls an insight into the working life of a writer, and to offer some practical writing tips that they might take away with them to develop further.
Isabel’s advice for all? ‘Store it up, write down the dull, the fascinating, the troubling stuff – and it will undoubtedly rear up again in the future, as some kind of creative cue. Keeping a notebook is another vital habit for a writer to develop – and of course, if you want to be the best you can … read, read, read!’
‘I love the “golden moment.” In comics visuals, as you plot how you want to tell a story, what moments to show and what not to show, you have to choose the perfect beats in a continuum. I remember having a chat with an animator and he was jealous of the ability in comics to choose that perfect frozen moment to tell your story, and then choose another, and let the reader fill in the gaps. Animation, he said, almost felt like it made people lazy. Comics, challenges readers to work with the artist to build the story, in the mind of the reader, together. That’s some powerful stuff.’
Nye talking about why he loves comics in Teddy Jamieson’s Graphic Content section in the Herald Scotland
‘Mixing fantasy with the unflinching reality of living with a dying relative, the graphic novel combines tragedy, comedy and pinpoint observations of modern life, from unthinking neighbours to the caring professionals dealing with death on a daily basis…“I think of it like travel writing – if someone has gone to Rome and had an amazing experience it can be very compelling to read, whether or not you’ve been there. An autobiography can be travel writing about life, about grief, loss and getting on with it.”’
Nye reflects on his latest work in an author profile in The Argus
‘He was a successful architect with clients who adored him. He built some of the most celebrated houses in my home town and had a street named after him when he passed away…He’d defined himself by his work. He no longer had the energy to work, so had to turn his focus to other things…’
Nye Wright remembers his father – the inspiration behind his graphic novel, in The Metro
Listen to Nye Wright discussing the art of graphic memoir and talking about Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park in this exclusive, Orbital Comics podcast
‘I wish I could say that my decision at the end of 2002 to move in with and become full-time carer for my father in the last six months of his life as he succumbed to emphysema came from a deep well of saintly altruism…But that time, aided by a small, miraculous army of professional support, was also one of the most amazing of my life.’
Nye Wright discusses caring for his father in the last 6 months of his life, in an article for Guardian professional
Recorded as part of the 2013 Brighton Graphic Medicine conference, Nye discusses graphic medicine with fellow graphic novelists Hannah Eaton (Naming Monsters), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip) and Nicola Streeten (Billy, Me and You), alongside Myriad Creative Director and Graphics Editor, Corinne Pearlman.
Lesley teaches ‘How to Plot’ at the WEA Write Now masterclass weekend.
‘I am an only child, but for one year, when I was seven, I had a brother. David, also an only child, was three months older than me. I first met him when he visited with his father in the spring of that year. I was impressed by my uncle’s good looks, conflating him with Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. His son – my cousin – sat on our sagging green settee, done up in a grey school uniform although it was the weekend, his socks tightly pulled up to his knees. My school did not have a uniform, and none of the boys I knew could have kept so still…’
Lesley Thomson writes in the Guardian about how being an only child has shaped her career as a writer.
What I personally like about the comic form is its immediacy. In one panel you can convey a meaning very quickly. I think that if people who are in a state of shock in a hospital, recovering from some trauma, can sit down with a book that takes an hour to get through and has pictorial prompts is much easier than reading text…‘
Nicola chats with Elaine Aldred about the ways in which comics and graphic novels can talk about life, in a blog interview for Strange Alliances.
Nicola recently attended the third annual Comics and Medicine conference in Toronto, co-organised by Ian Williams, whose graphic novel The Bad Doctor will be published by Myriad in 2014. Paul Gravett opened the conference with a rousing speech about graphic medicine, including a mention of Myriad’s own contribution to the field. Ian and Nicola were later interviewed for Canadian CBC Radio’s Sunday book show, featuring Billy, Me & You. Listen to the podcast here
Recorded as part of the 2013 Brighton Graphic Medicine conference, Nicola discusses graphic medicine with fellow graphic novelists Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip),Nye Wright (Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park) and Hannah Eaton (Naming Monsters), alongside with Myriad Creative Director and Graphics Editor, Corinne Pearlman.
As part of the Ethics in Performance series at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Nicola joined fellow graphic novelist Nye Wright and geriatrics specialist Dr Muna Al-Jawad to discuss the importance of Graphics in Medicine. Hear her discussing Billy, Me & You and the interchange between ethics, comics and medicine at the Graphic Medicine Comics Forum in Leeds, November 2011.
‘This story may or may not end in Venice and in silent, unacknowledged tragedy but let it begin here, in London, where RubyTuesday and CallMeIshmael first meet in person, having arranged to do so under the tapestry which hangs in the lobby of The British Library…’
Natasha has contributed a short story to the prestigious quarterly art journal The White Review. ‘If Not, Not’ is about two internet daters, and can be found online in the fiction section of The White Review.
Listen to Natasha being interviewed at Edinburgh International Book Fair in a special edition of the Scottish Book Trust’s Book Talk programme. She speaks at 21 minutes into the podcast, following Kate Summerscale and Nick Harkaway.
My first encounter with Paul et Virginie was as an object – my mother’s old edition in French with beautiful engravings. I loved to look at it as a kid and would make up stories around the illustrations – some of these images have been reproduced inGenie and Paul. My mother told me the story of Paul et Virginie, but it wasn’t until I could read enough French that I came to know Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s text.
Read Natasha’s exclusive interview with London bookseller Foyles,in full here.
I see now that a writing retreat is productive only if removing yourself from a life so full of distraction that you need the isolation in order to focus on your work. But if you are the kind of writer who doesn’t do much of a day to merit this or any other job title, two weeks on a remote Scottish island will not help you chip away at your writer’s block. And if you share that retreat and the remote Scottish isolation with your best and most annoying friend, also a writer and also suffering from writer’s block, writing is probably the last thing either of you will do.
Read Natasha’s ‘Five-minute memoir’, as published in the Independent magazine.
‘I started writing Invisibles having recently returned to the UK, to Brighton, after living and working in Rio. I had a strong sense of saudade – a Portuguese word for an intense feeling of longing – for my life there, and so it made sense to write a novel about someone with a similar feeling.’
Read an interview with Ed Siegle on Booksquawk.
‘I don’t like to have everything mapped out, as a lot of the pleasure comes from daily discovery and invention – sitting down with a notion of what I’d like to engineer and ending up with something new.’
Read an interview with Ed Siegle on the Deckchair website.
From an essential plot device for Chandler to the voice of God in Muriel Spark, the author explains how the telephone has wormed its way into literature, and why the novel is itself a kind of phonecall, in the Guardian.
Woodrow recently exhibited extracts from his graphic novel, Rumble Strip, at an exhibition called Sequential City, which is part of this year’s London Design Festival. The exhibition was held at the offices of Baxter & Bailey, a design firm in Hoxton Square. There is an interview with Woodrow talking about London and the effect the city has had on his work, which you can watch here.
‘My first novel, I Have Waited, and You Have Come, is dystopian anti-chicklit – a stalker story with an unreliable narrator set in a climate-changed future, so might suit people who like creepy female characters and being scared…’
Discover Martine’s views on the differences between male and female writers, and why we need the Women’s Prize for Literature, in Stephen May’s interview with Martine for The Second Best Time blog.
Alex Fitch interviews Sarah Lightman and the artists of the touring show Graphic Details in London at the Space Station 65 gallery (first broadcast 20 November 2014).
Sarah discusses her personal projects, involvement with the graphic community and upcoming events, as well as novel, The Book of Sarah, with Danica Davidson in the article ‘Women’s Voices Through Comics‘ for Lilith.
‘The Book of Sarah is a project I’ve been doing since I was twenty-one or twenty-two. I called it The Book of Sarah because my namesake, the Matriarch Sarah, doesn’t have her own book, and my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel and they have the Scroll of Esther and The Book of Daniel respectively — so I had to make things fair!’
‘I was writing London Triptych the whole time I was studying for a PhD in comparative literature, so I was exposed to quite radical thinking around language and narrative, exposed to some very avant-garde and experimental writers, but nevertheless it was a novel I was working on so it did conform to character arcs, etc.’
Jonathan Kemp talks writing, getting published and the language of sex with Rachel Silverlight for Little Episodes.
“I could be a lesbian and I don’t know it” was Jonathan Kemp’s mum’s reaction when he first told her he was gay. Read Jonathan’s sensitive and frank autobiographical story about coming out, written for online LGBT magazine Polari.
Read Jonathan’s interview with playwright and author Neil Bartlett for the Winter 2012 issue of Beige Magazine. They discuss the ‘queer aesthetic’, Bartlett’s love of Oscar Wilde and his latest and forthcoming work.
‘Now that I have a so-called proper job, and a couple of books out, it’s easier to get complacent and put the writing off. Mañana, right? But everybody’s busy, writers or otherwise, so there’s nothing special about my predicament. It’s a matter of will and self-discipline. I think of the writers I admire, and try to take my cue from them.’
Insightful interview with Tyler by Lucy J Loves on her blog, as part of her ‘A Day in the Life of…‘ series.
Evidence that writing isn’t such a solitary existence but actually quite dangerous! Tyler fought D.D. Johnston at Cheltenham Literature Festival with literary critic Dr Martin Randall (who had interviewed them first) acting as referee. It was the first (and possibly last) boxing match the Cheltenham Literature Festival had ever seen! Head to Tyler’s website to read why the authors were boxing…
Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2012
Elizabeth was selected by ‘Queen of Crime’ Val McDermid as one of the future crime stars speaking on the New Blood panel at Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2012. After the events she was interviewed by reading website and magazine We Love This Book.
Along with fellow panelists David Mark (The Dark Winter), Oliver Harris (The Hollow Man) and Kate Rhodes (Crossbones Yard), Elizabeth answered questions about what it means to be a crime writer today. Read full interview
Elizabeth was named as one of the 10 Women to Watch in 2012 by BookPage’s influential literary blog The Book Case.
‘The best bit of all, I think, was that the whole process of writing a book, editing it and having it accepted for publication by Myriad Editions has all been such a fantasy come true that to actually see my book turning into something solid, tangible, real… it was just amazing. It was all I could do to stop myself jumping up and down and hugging people and whooping and shouting out “Look!!! That’s MY book!!! I wrote that, me, I did!!!” ‘
When Children Tell Stories – Fayette discusses her five favourite novels written from a child’s eye view on We Love This Book.
The Writer’s Room is a project run by Lizzie and fellow author Araminta Hall, offering one-day ‘Introduction to Creative Writing’ taster courses in a magical Brighton location.
‘We believe that writing is good for everyone. You don’t have to even want to have a book published to come on one of our courses; you might want to record a special family event or start a blog or diary… Our creative writing courses are held in a cosy cabin in a beautiful secret garden in the Roundhill area of Brighton, with lunch and lots of tea and cake included. Participants leave revitalised and often with the phone numbers of other like-minded writers in their community.’
Follow The Writer’s Room on Twitter.
‘I’ve seen the NHS at its very worst and its very best and amassed huge amounts of material for next year’s clinical ethics lectures; I’ve written an afternoon radio play pitch for an amputation comedy. And at my rehabilitation centre, with its wonderful staff and friendly volunteers, a mug of tea is only 30p.’
Read Sue Eckstein’s article for the Guardian in which she gave a wry account of the experience of amputation.
Recorded as part of the 2013 Brighton Graphic Medicine conference, Hannah discusses graphic medicine with fellow graphic novelists Nye Wright (Things to do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park), Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip) and Nicola Streeten (Billy, Me and You), alongside Myriad Creative Director and Graphics Editor, Corinne Pearlman.
‘The novel is about several things: a difficult fraternal relationship, the boundaries between unusual beliefs and mental illness. The recession is taken for granted. For my narrator, it’s just the background noise of his life.’
In a feature on the recession and literature for We Love This Book, Robert explores the way in which real-life financial crashes can form strong fictional settings.
‘How long did it take me to write my first novel? From its first incarnation as a series of letters to its final draft before publication, I’d say five years. What’s encouraging is that the unpublishable drivel of those letters somehow transmogrified over time into something that readers, real live readers, are picking up in bookshops.’
Read Nina’s interview, How to procrastinate, for local writing group Brighton Writers Retreat and learn just what it is that gets in the way of her writing.
‘Work hard, finger-achingly hard. Make sure your work is absolutely perfect before submitting to agents and publishers, and, lastly, have something to say. No point working hard at the bare bones of your writing, if there is nothing of substance to flesh it out into something fully fledged and challenging for the reader.’
Read Nina’s interview with i-studentglobal where she talks about her experience of studying at Sussex University in the early 1990s (‘eye-opening’) and discusses the motivation levels needed to be a writer (‘olympian’).
‘In the early 1990s I was a student in Hamburg, where I met British soldiers on the rave scene who were struggling to balance military life with their weekends spent clubbing – their lives were the inspiration for a story which I felt simply too good not to be told…’
Read Nina’s full interview with Bookgroup Info, in which she talks about the influences behind writing her debut novel, 4 a.m.
‘My books feature murder investigations as their core, largely because it’s a business I know well…’
Read Lisa’s piece on why crime fiction is so often about murder for We Love This Book.
‘It was crucial to me that anything I wrote about in Never Forget could actually happen and if I encountered the same scenarios and enquiries in a live investigation, I would deal with them in exactly the same way as the main character, DC Nina Foster.’
Lisa Cutts talks NaNoWriMo about insider police knowledge and books to take to a desert island, in an interview for Kent Libraries.
‘My aim, besides writing the best police procedural I could, was to show the real side to policing: basing facts on powers of search, entry, detaining a prisoner and custody time limits, but showing that officers are usually decent people with their own problems, lives and sense of humour.’
Lisa talks about writing and bringing the job home in a feature for SHOTS – the Crime and Thriller eZine.
‘Why did I choose to add material to the new editions of both Psychiatric Tales and Science Tales, I hear you ask? It wasn’t a deliberate choice. It was a decision that came out of a series of events…’
Darryl talks to Joe Gordon at Forbidden Planet about the new, expanded editions of his graphic non-fiction titles.
‘There is a particular adventure in feeling that we have reached the edge of land, in the illusion that we have discovered uncharted territory, even when we do so close to home….’
Read Tom Connolly in the Independent on the Kent landscape that inspires his writing.
‘He watched two cherubic kids swagger down the street, clutching their T-shirts, their bony torsos glaring in the sun…’
Read Tom Connolly’s short story, On Marsden Street, featured in Esquire magazine.
Liam attended Bloody Scotland 2013 – Scotland’s second annual International Crime Writing Festival held in Stirling – where he looked quite at home on stage introducing crime legend Val McDermid (see photo). He also ran a series of workshops over the weekend and hosted an event with Irish authors Colin Bateman and James Oswald, on the subject of ‘Good craic’ – the Irish way to tell a story… Read more about the fesitval on Liam’s blog
Liam teaches ‘Openings’ at the WEA Write Now masterclass weekend.
How does Liam Murray Bell stop himself procrastinating when writing novels?
‘I give myself a stern talking to…if I don’t do the work then I only get one biscuit with my mid-morning cup of tea instead of two. Once there are biscuits involved, I tend to get serious.’
Read the full interview for Brighton Writer’s Retreat.
‘When I write, there must be no sounds other than the distant purr of traffic and birdsong, and the tap of my fingers on the keyboard. But between the moments of physical writing, music plays a strong role in the development of my fictional worlds, and it provides me with a therapeutic contrast to the long hours of quiet and solitary creation.’
Isabel discusses her writing obsessions and social change on Roz Morris’s The Undercover Soundtrack.
‘It was several years ago that I first began to develop a fascination with memories of 1976, when I started writing in earnest, having given up my career to study English and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Images and senses of summer seemed to play a strong role in my writing – the heatbaked scent of drying lawns, the rise and fall of honeysuckle and the slip-slap of flip-flops on boiled asphalt – and my recollections were repeatedly drawn back to that heatwave summer, when I was turning six.’
Isabel talks to Retreat West about the creation of Summer of ’76 and her writing processes.
‘I remember my own teenage years with great clarity. From around the age of fourteen, I pretty much felt I knew my own mind, and started to leave behind the things of childhood…My interests had shifted: I wanted to read about bigger things than my parents chose for me – I was after free-thinking and books with adult themes.’
Read Isabel’s guest post on Young Adult fiction blog Mostly Reading YA as she discusses her growing popularity amongst adolescent readers.
Isabel is a supporter of NACOA, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics.
Isabel says, ‘Alcoholism in the family is one of society’s best kept secrets. In families where alcohol is a problem, children are often deeply affected by the guilt of this secret, of not understanding why their parent drinks or how to help them get better. It can be a lonely place. But thanks to Nacoa, today’s children have someone they can to talk to without fear of exposure, and sometimes that’s all a child needs to help them through it. I’m proud to be a supporter of Nacoa’s vital work.’
Read Isabel’s moving article in Red magazine about how her father’s addiction has shaped her life.
‘When I was 21, I walked into my local bookshop and asked the woman behind the counter if they could find a particular book for me. There was no internet shopping back then, and, as it was a specialist book, it would need to be ordered. I felt ashamed asking for it, and had to repeat the title several times before the assistant located it in her trade journal. ‘Ah, yes!’ she finally declared, loudly. ‘Here it is! Adult Children Of Alcoholics!’ She looked up at me, delighted, and I wanted to die on the spot.’
‘When I was 14 I took a job in a chemist in the West Sussex seaside village of East Wittering, where I lived. The owner was a softly spoken man called Mr Holmes who had an entirely female staff, many of whom had worked for him for decades.’
Isabel Ashdown remembers her first job working at a West Sussex Chemist in the Guardian.
Read about how Gareth first began making comics, his working process and his relationship with social media, in this interview by Nicola Pearce for the Young Arnolfini collective in Bristol.
Nicholas Royle is Professor of English at the University of Sussex.
As well as writing fiction, he has published numerous books about literature and literary criticism and theory. These include Telepathy and Literature: Essays on the Reading Mind (1991), Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel: Still Lives (1994, co-authored with Andrew Bennett), E. M. Forster (1999), The Uncanny (2003), Jacques Derrida (2003), How to Read Shakespeare (2005), Veering: A Theory of Literature (2011), This Thing Called Literature (2015, co-authored with Andrew Bennett) and Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (5th edition, 2016, co-authored with Andrew Bennett).
Royle’s work is distinguished by its playful language and linguistic invention. Despite their appearances, his ‘academic’ books contain unexpected interiors: Telepathy and Literature ends with a bizarre footnote comprising a short story called ‘Telephoning Home’; The Uncanny incorporates several pieces of short fiction (‘Exam’, ‘Chance Encounter’, ‘A Crowded After-Life’); Veering contains numerous embedded fictions and argues for a new conception of the relations between creative and critical writing.
Royle is director of the Quick Fictions app and an editor of the Oxford Literary Review. He runs the popular MA programme in Creative and Critical Writing at Sussex and is also a director of the Centre for Creative and Critical Thought.
‘There is a prejudice, usually held by people who haven’t read one, that the graphic format is unsuited to tackling weighty subjects, but the form abounds with examples to the contrary… Far from being a frivolous medium, the graphic book is a great way of getting to grips with serious issues, Cunningham says. ‘It summarises things very quickly and you can plough through a lot of information. I love the simplicity of it.”
Darryl discusses the benefits of the graphic form, as featured in the Observer.
‘During the weeks I spent having the wound dressed and re-dressed, I always felt I was more than just a complicated wound or body part – that it was me, rather than just my wound, that was being treated.’
Sue talked to Step Forward magazine, for the Limbless Association, about the rehabilitation she received after her amputation.
It was like attempting to build a ‘metaphorical onion’… Nina talks about monologues and observing people, places and emotions while writing 4 a.m., in an interview for the Strange Alliances blog.
‘The novel was based on a personal story… I went to Germany in my year abroad, studying languages. I was a real indie kid at the time. I wasn’t innocent but I turned my nose up at the whole electronic music thing.’
Discover the challenges Nina faced writing about raving, drugs & squaddies in her novel 4 a.m., in an interview for brap.fm.
Listen to Darryl talking about his investigative graphics title, Science Tales, in an interview with Lisa Chalkley for weekly UK podcast programme, The Pod Delusion. Darryl’s feature begins at 57 minutes into the programme – listen here.
In which Nye confesses to being a Yank, and talks about Idaho potatoes, art school, and how he stopped himself going crazy…
‘Nicola discusses the circumstances of Billy’s death and the grieving process with Matthew Bannister – (about 15 minutes in).’ – Outlook, BBC World Service
‘On 26 November 2011 the Orbital West Wing hosted a Comica conversation between graphic novelists Nicola Streeten and Sarah Leavitt. Nicola and Sarah have each used comics to address traumatic, highly personal experiences in their lives – Sarah Leavitt’s moving graphic memoir Tangles, published by Jonathan Cape, chronicles how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother, and those around her, forever. Nicola Streeten’s Billy, Me and You is a retrospective reflection of the experience of losing her two year old child thirteen years ago. In this fascinating conversation, they talk about both their books, share their experiences and discuss the use of comics to address such emotional subjects. The Orbiting Pod, ably hosted by Camila at Orbital Comics, recorded the whole thing for your listening pleasure. This is an enhanced podcast, with embedded images accompanying the audio. It’s best viewed on itunes or quicktime.’
You can listen to the podcast here.
‘Listen to an interview with Nicola Streeten about the making of her graphic novel.’
‘A wee dram of wit’: Novelists John Niven and Nina de la Mer grew up a stone’s throw from each other in North Ayrshire in the 1970s. In this interview with We Love This Book they discuss humour, slang, and controversy in their novels.