Tag: writing

Author Interview: Israfel Sivad

Author Interview: Israfel Sivad

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What cultural value do you see in writing?

In my opinion, writing is the foundation of human culture. As one of the earliest means human beings created to launch their thoughts into the future, there would be no cultures on this planet today without writing. However, writing is no longer the sole means of spreading stories and knowledge. With the 20th century advent of film and television, the idea of telling stories through writing is perhaps even the most archaic form of writing today. However, there’s a magic that still exists, for me at least, in a written story. I remember as a younger man thinking that I wanted to develop a form of writing that couldn’t translate to film, that had to be read to be understood. I wanted to expose what language alone is capable of being. It’s an internal experience rather than an external experience. That’s what I want to capitalize on in the stories I tell: the fact that they exist solely in the space between my mind and the reader’s. And therein, for me, lies the current cultural value of writing—that space between the writer’s mind and the reader’s and how it allows one person to comprehend another’s unmediated, unadulterated thoughts. There’s no actor to interpret. There’s no vision to see. There’s only one mind reaching out to another.

Well said, Israfel. I love a good film, but nothing beats the connection we get to a book and its author.

 

What was the hardest part of writing your books?

The hardest part of writing my books has always been getting the words to form themselves right on the paper. Stories come to me quite often and quite easily and relatively fully-formed. The act of sitting down to write is something I enjoy. I often put on music to keep myself still and simply stare at a blank computer screen or piece of paper until the words come out. However, getting those words shaped into the vision I want others to see, that’s a painstaking process. As I wrote many years ago in my poem “Break Through” published in my collection At the Side of the Road—“Words come too hard to mean nothing.”

Quite. I get a little put off when I read that an author has released seven books in a year. I want to read a craft, not a formula.

 

What inspires you?

My greatest inspiration over the years has always been my own memories. My muse is an internal one. I look back over my life and wonder if all the twists and turns really lead back to here, to this theme that recurs, that creeps into my head, that plays its twisted chords of gunfights and shootouts, of falling, laughing back into bed with someone I love tight in my arms. That’s from a poem of mine as well, “Saint Annie” in The Tree Outside My Window. I never thought of it as being a simple synopsis of what inspires me, but as I contemplate this question, I’m coming to believe it is.

I loved The Tree Outside My Window. Read my review here.

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How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I prefer reading physical books. They’re comforting. They remind me of childhood and running away from my daily cares, hiding in my bedroom from the rain outside. For me, ebooks don’t carry that nostalgia, but I believe they very well could for future generations. I also prefer my books to be read in print form for two reasons. First, I love the new covers coming out for the second editions of my works (and future first editions)—I only have three second editions currently available: The Tree Outside My Window, Indigo Glow and The Adversary’s Good News. I want these books to exist physically for people to hold and see. Second, a physical copy of my book is launched into the world. Who knows where it will land. Who knows who will discover it. As far as alternative vs. conventional publishing. I’ve never gone the conventional route. I’ve always enjoyed the control I exert over my product as a self-publisher. Friends of mine who have entered the traditional publishing world have rapidly lost control of their words. I’m very afraid of that. However, I’m also aware certain avenues are closed to me for marketing as a result. Personally, I feel it’s the writer’s choice how she wishes to proceed. Neither seems to me to be inherently superior to the other.

I agree, Israfel. I think it’s the author’s choice to publish in their preferred format(s). But, I love that I can lend a finished paperback to someone. I can read it in the bath without fear of the financial consequences. I can donate it to a charity shop and wonder where it will end up and who it will influence.

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What is your role in the writing community?

That’s an interesting question. As a young man, I would have said my role was to be the greatest writer in the English language of this day and age (laughs). However, today, I believe my role in the writing community is simply to expand genres, to push others to see that there is more we can do as authors. We don’t have to follow existing conventions. We can create new ones, new stories, new languages. To quote myself yet again, from the story “Catatonia” in Psychedelicizations, I want to write stories that a giant can fit in, to challenge artistic barriers and reveal how they can be overcome.

I’m surprised by this answer! I know that Israfel is active in the poetry community and works hard to promote/work with others, so I thought this would be his answer. I’m inspired by his big dreams though.

 

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

I think the most interesting book I’ve ever read is Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. It tells a powerful story in a fascinating manner. It’s thoroughly intriguing to me. I don’t understand it, and I don’t want to. I simply want to experience it again and again. I love the ideas of this book, the tone of this book and the language of this book.

Oo, I will look out for this.

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Where can we learn more about you?

The easiest place to learn more about me is by reading the books I’ve written. It’s the only place I’m truly comfortable revealing myself. And in reality, my books reveal more about me than I ever intended.

 

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

The shortest amount of time I’ve ever worked on a book was a year. The longest was ten years. I don’t know if there’s an average amount of time. Different projects require different investments.

I think this comes across in the author‘s writing. It’s honed, it’s considered. It changes as a person changes over a period of years.

 

If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Well, since I’ve never made a living as an author, I’ve done a number of things to make money, everything from construction to copywriting. I think if I could choose any one thing to do for a living other than writing, it would be teaching philosophy, which I was setting myself up to do at one point in time. However, life didn’t unfold in that direction for me.

I hope that life allows Israfel to dedicate more time to his writing. The world needs authors like this!

 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like writing with the lights off.

Enough said.


I have reviewed Israfel Sivad‘s poetry books and his excellent novel, The Adversary’s Good News. View all of his books here.

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The Beautifully Ornate Book Covers of Days Long Gone

The Beautifully Ornate Book Covers of Days Long Gone

I often judge a book by its cover and sometimes I’m wrong, often I’m right. But oh how I wish book covers could go back to being as deliciously detailed as they once were. Let’s take a look at some examples…

Book Cover of British Butterflies  archive.org/stream/generaspeciesofb00hump#page/n0/mode/2up
Book Cover of British Butterflies
archive.org/stream/generaspeciesofb00hump#page/n0/mode/2up

The text is so ornate that it’s hardly legible! Compare this to a modern book on the same subject.

Silver bookbinding - Augsburg (?) - 17th century
Silver bookbinding – Augsburg (?) – 17th century

This is so beautiful.

housewitch: Iran Book Binding, 18th/19th century Via: ghostsintherosegarden Source: ghostcafe
housewitch:
Iran Book Binding, 18th/19th century
Via: ghostsintherosegarden
Source: ghostcafe

I would love to know more about this book.

The ‘Codex Rotundus’ owes its name to its round shape. It is a small book of hours (9 cm diameter) made in Bruges in 1480.
The ‘Codex Rotundus’ owes its name to its round shape. It is a small book of hours (9 cm diameter) made in Bruges in 1480.

We need more round books!

The pleasures of book collecting

17TH CENTURY,FILIGREE, BINDING,Sotheby's,New York
17TH CENTURY,FILIGREE, BINDING,Sotheby’s,New York
SEGRE Benaja,ITALIAN BOOK BINDINGS,Sotheby's,New York
SEGRE Benaja,ITALIAN BOOK BINDINGS,Sotheby’s,New York
Having said all that, there are still people today making incredible books, such as this one from http://www.leslie-marsh.com/
Having said all that, there are still people today making incredible books, such as this one from http://www.leslie-marsh.com/
1860's Dutch Bible, Beautiful Gauffered Edges, Ornate Double Clasps, Simply Lovely
1860’s Dutch Bible, Beautiful Gauffered Edges, Ornate Double Clasps, Simply Lovely
Silver-gilt book-cover
Silver-gilt book-cover
Silver book-clasp
Silver book-clasp
Coronation Evangeliar cover by Hans von Reutlingen, c. 1500
Coronation Evangeliar cover by Hans von Reutlingen, c. 1500
H Noel (Henry Noel) Humphreys 1810-1879 The history of writing or, The origin and progress of the art of writing: a connected narrative of the development of the art London: Ingram, Cooke and Co., 1853 chromolithography and gilt on paper in papier maché and parchment binding Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland / RB 411.09 1853
H Noel (Henry Noel) Humphreys 1810-1879
The history of writing or, The origin and progress of the art of writing: a connected narrative of the development of the art
London: Ingram, Cooke and Co., 1853
chromolithography and gilt on paper in papier maché and parchment binding
Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland / RB 411.09 1853
Koster. Hamburgischer Taschen-Kalender auf das Schalt-Jahr 1828 Hamburg : F.H. Nestler, [1827?]. Glazed paper binding with embossed gold paper onlays and embossed cartonnage slipcase with gold paper onlays.
Koster. Hamburgischer Taschen-Kalender auf das Schalt-Jahr 1828 Hamburg : F.H. Nestler, [1827?]. Glazed paper binding with embossed gold paper onlays and embossed cartonnage slipcase with gold paper onlays.
The “Black Book of Hours” , facsimile of Codex Vindobonensis, a Burgundian Manuscript of c.1470 written and illuminated on black vellum. (Source: dndgalleries.com)
The “Black Book of Hours” , facsimile of Codex Vindobonensis, a Burgundian Manuscript of c.1470 written and illuminated on black vellum.
(Source: dndgalleries.com)

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Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett)

Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett)

A Dreamer's Tales

Irish fantasy author Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) is one of my all time favourite writers. His work is so different to anything else that I have read, and the exciting point for me is that I haven’t read them all yet (it’s a pretty big body of work)!

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The King of Elfland’s Daughter is my favourite so far, and it’s probably the most famous of his books too. It’s well known that Dunsany was a keen hunter and it’s not so well known that I’m a keen vegetarian and animal lover, so I’m sure I receive The King of Elfland’s Daughter (which contains a fair amount of hunting) quite differently to how he perhaps intended. Having said that, Dunsany was also an animal rights campaigner and was president of his local RSPCA branch, so he confuses me greatly! I guess it had something to do with the difference between animal and pet.

The Charwoman's Shadow

Dunsany made his first literary tour to the USA in 1919, and made further such visits right up to the 1950s, notably to California. Dunsany’s own work, and contribution to the Irish literary heritage, was recognised through an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin… In 1957, Lord Dunsany became ill while eating with the Earl and Countess of Fingall, in what proved to be an attack of appendicitis, and died in hospital in Dublin at the age of 79. He had directed that he be buried in the churchyard of the ancient church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Shoreham, Kent, in memory of shared war times… The catalogue of Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (Lord Dunsany)’s work during his 52-year active writing career is quite extensive, and is fraught with pitfalls for two reasons: first, many of Dunsany’s original books of collected short stories were later followed by reprint collections, some of which were unauthorised and included only previously published stories; and second, some later collections bore titles very similar to different original books. In 1993, S. T. Joshi and Darrell Schweitzer released a bibliographic volume which, while emphasising that it makes no claim to be the final word, gives considerable information on Dunsany’s work. Wikipedia

Many of Lord Dunsany’s stories were illustrated by Sidney H. Sime, who I created a blog post about earlier this year.

If you haven’t read any of Dunsany’s work before, I highly recommend you try a couple of his short stories. Most of them can be found for free online, or through your Kindle! The Public Domain is a wonderful thing. Please comment if you find any particularly good stories that you wish to share.

I hope for this book that it may come into the hands of those that were kind to my others and that it may not disappoint them. —Lord Dunsany (the preface for A Dreamer’s Tales)

4 Indie Authors that I want to Investigate

4 Indie Authors that I want to Investigate

I love Indie books, but there are so many out there that it can be hard to know what to give my time to. Based on research and reviews, here are four independent authors that seem interesting enough to take a punt on!

    1. Paul Ikin – Born: Australia, WebsiteTwitter,
      Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Goodreads profile 22395401 The Other Side of EveSometimes to tell one story…two must be told.”
    2. Mike Russell – Born: England, Website, Twitter, Genre: Fantasy, Weird Fiction, Fiction, Goodreads profile 25099252 Nothing Is Strange “For me, creating is discovering and storytelling is bringing into the world dreams that are universal.” Disclaimer: Mike is my other half, but I was a fan long before we became a couple!
    3. R. J. Davies MornixWebsite, Twitter, Genre: Science Fiction, Crime, Fiction, Goodreads profile  Maddox Files: Back to Business “I have never really had writer’s block … it’s kind of the opposite of that sometimes I keep getting ideas like a faucet that has been turned on…”

4. Wesley McCraw – Born: USA, Twitter, Genre: Fiction, Goodreads profile 18213385 The Forgiving “I’m writing weird short fiction for my collection The Queen in Yellow.”

The Diaries of Sun City – A Short Story

The Diaries of Sun City – A Short Story

Dear Diary,

Hello. It is Monday. I live in Sun City. Sun City is a city that is entirely contained inside an enormous concrete building in the shape of a sun. Its rays house our living quarters; its circular centre is where we work and shop. No one has ever been outside of the city; it is generally suspected that the environment outside of the city is uninhabitable.

People write diaries for a particular reason here, where our social etiquette is constricting. Diaries are so popular that they have their own shop. The shop is called ‘We Are Diaries’. I have not owned a diary until now. The idea of placing my most secret, most sacred feelings out in the world terrifies me but today I bought a small, black book with blank, white pages and the word ‘Diary’ embossed on its cover.

I walked from the shop and through the city centre with the diary in my pocket and caught the bus that runs up and down the concrete ray that houses my apartment.  My apartment is at the very end of the concrete ray.

Inside my apartment, I sat facing the far wall. I lay the diary on my lap, opened it at the first page, then began to write in it with pen and ink.

Why can I not tell Miss Baraclough that I care for her? It would be wrong to of course, inappropriate. She would be offended, that would be expected of her. Reluctantly, her associates would be obliged to sever their relations with me; my associates would be informed and forced to sever their relations with me also. I would feel ashamed because it would be expected of me. Yet I would not feel ashamed when talking to you dear Diary; I would be proud. But I cannot say it to her so this ink is wasted.

 

Dear Diary,

It is Tuesday. Despite my dismissal of its worth, I have decided to write to you again. When I opened the diary this evening I discovered the first page to be blank! My memory of writing on the page is clear. Is my memory lying to me?

 

Dear Diary,

It is Wednesday. When I opened the diary this evening the first page was blank again. Is the ink fading? I am scared. Imagine saying that to a colleague. ‘Mr Barton, I am scared.’ Imagine his horror, his embarrassment, his contempt. Tomorrow, I will whisper it to his back.

 

Dear Diary,

It is Thursday. When I opened the diary this evening, the first page was blank again. I decided to count the pages. I counted 362. The pages are disappearing. Someone must be stealing the pages. I have begun constructing elaborate scenarios from my suspicions. Who would want to know my secret thoughts? But had I not once wished to see inside Miss Baraclough’s diary? If I had spied it when visiting her in her apartment and she had briefly left the room to make a cup of tea, would I not have been tempted to steal a glance at a few words? From this confession, dear Diary, I deduce that the pages could have been stolen by absolutely anyone.

I expect that by tomorrow evening this page will also have disappeared.

 

Dear Diary,

It is Friday. I was right; the page has gone. Today, on the bus, I wanted to shout obscenities and bare myself to the other passengers. My confessions to you, dear Diary, are becoming more honest with the thought that they are being read. I am no longer scared of my words being seen because they are evidently being read by someone who welcomes them, who needs them. But I am fantasising.  My door is bolted from the inside at night and there are no windows in my apartment. How then are the pages disappearing? Am I destroying them myself in my sleep?  Is there a part of me that abhors these words, that would rather I was a perfect citizen with no feelings that need to be hidden? I will stay at Miss Baraclough’s tonight.

 

Dear Diary,

It is Saturday. The page has gone. The ‘We Are Diaries’ shop is wrong; they are not diaries. I do not write to them and it is not this book that I am writing to either. I am not addressing these paper pages or their cardboard cover. Dear Diary, who are you?

 

Dear Diary,

It is Sunday. I want to leave the city. What is outside of the city? Is that where you reside? Do you have a throne on the other side of the world?

 

Dear Diary,

It is Monday. I am hammering a chisel into the far wall of my apartment, the end of the concrete ray. Bang follows bang with no lessening of passion. My desire grows as my energy fades. Bang. Bang. It falls away in chunks.

I can see a little light that grows.

The hole is big enough to crawl through.

I crawl through.

It is so bright! The ground is covered in pages, knee deep, for as far as I can see. White pages covered in writing in different hands lay naked, exposed, pressed against one another. It is overwhelming. I wade through them.

I walk in a straight line all day, bewildered but purposeful, towards Diary’s throne.

In the distance I can see other people. They are also wading through the pages, striding from every direction towards the same destination, fearless, with nothing to lose. Could it be that everyone has broken through their respective concrete rays at the same time and for the same reason as I?

When we reach a distance where Diary’s throne should be in sight, we all realise that it is not there, and that it is not the throne that we are walking towards but each other.

The air is full of unrestricted speech.

We now no longer live inside the sun but are illuminated by it.

Now we become the throne.

Now we are Diary.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Mike Russell. All Rights Reserved.

Jonathan Glazer’s Birth

Jonathan Glazer’s Birth

birth

I’ve only just got round to watching director Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, even though it came out twelve years ago in 2004. To be honest, I didn’t know it existed until I saw Under the Skin (twice in three days) and desperately sought out more Glazer-goodness. However, I still thought it was worth writing a post about since I haven’t met a single other person who’s seen it. Please do comment with your thoughts about the film, as I’m intrigued to know why others liked or indeed didn’t like it. Most online reviews that I’ve seen have called it “staggering” and “incredible” and I feel like I’m missing something.

Being a huge fan of Sexy Beast and an ever bigger fan of Under the Skin, I was disappointed and confused, particularly by the music and sound choices throughout the film. I found it laughable in places, frustrating in others. There are many prolonged shots of people staring, walking, running… shots which would be beautiful if it weren’t for the strange music which made me feel as though I was watching Home Alone (particularly with the snowy scenes) or some other 90’s family film. This isn’t a film I would want to watch on a Sunday afternoon with my grandparents (although, I did awkwardly watch Under the Skin with my Grandfather), so why use magical, family music?

Nicole Kidman was great throughout, as she always is in non-mainstream films. She comes across as honest and real, surely in part due to the writing and direction, but I don’t think many actresses could pull this role off. In fact, this was Kidman’s greatest working period, with Dogville having just come out the year before. That really is a wonderful film and I highly recommend giving it a go if you’ve not come across it before.

I just cannot fathom how Glazer watched the film back and thought the music worked, particularly when the music in Under the Skin pretty much makes the film, and considering he has made fantastic music videos (Radiohead’s stunning and memorable Karma Police for one).

The image above, taken from the scene where Kidman stares ahead for considerable time whilst in a theatre, would probably have me crying buckets if the music were different. Even silence would work. The story itself seemed like a great idea when I read the synopsis, and I did enjoy much of it. Most of us have some anxiety regarding losing our partners at a young age and the difficulties of “starting again”. Trying to put yourself in the shoes of the main character, or even of the little boy, is fascinating, scary and exciting. Do you go back to your old life, with the person that your memories tell you was your true love?

I assume many people would find the idea of the story a little repulsive or “wrong” and I wonder if that’s why it didn’t do so well. Perhaps I would have enjoyed Birth more if I had seen it before Under the Skin, as I was desperately hoping for severe strangeness and a dream-like feeling which lingers long after the end credits.

The one brilliant thing which I think exists in Sexy BeastBirth and Under the Skin is to present such incredibly believable characters (although Glazer cheated in the latter in his genius move of using many non-actors throughout the film). I just wish Glazer would hurry up and give us another film to get excited about.