Iain is currently acting as editor and cat-herder-in-chief on a collaborative novel with TEN (count them, TEN) writers. A contemporary story set in a tacky British seaside resort, the Ten To One novel will follow ten characters whose lives intersect that of a mysterious old man…
We thought we’d ask those ten writers about themselves and their involvement in collaborative writing. All ten interviews will appear here over the course of the project.
First up, Danni Bentley…
Danni Bentley, tell us a bit about yourself.
I have just completed a degree in English Literature and Drama at the University of Birmingham. Family is very important to me, especially my little sister; I had the closest thing to a perfect childhood. I live in Sutton Coldfield next to a lovely bit of countryside and my parents always take us on treks and holidays in very rural areas. I’m currently doing part-time bar work, taking Kung Fu lessons, socialising a lot, and generally enjoying being a young and carefree person between my education and a career.
Tell us about your writing.
I’ve dabbled in journalism, poetry events and Arts blogs, but I only really want to write fiction. I want to travel, get jobs and friends all over the world, and then churn out some fantastic books about it all. I also want to make a point about the state of our society, its capitalism and corrupt politics, and help people to aspire to a more wholesome way of living.
I like finding new non-cliché ways of expressing a character’s experiences or making a point. My style is usually eloquent.
My favourite kind of character is the dashing, happy-go-lucky, rebellious adventurer. Jack Sparrow, The Doctor, Peter Pan and Zaphod Beeblebrox are a few examples. But then there are tragic characters like Gatsby, heroic characters like Sparrowhawk, and moral guides like Gandalf. There has to be something slightly ‘beyond’ or ‘more’ about them.
I favour writing short stories, but as a closet nerd I sometimes write spin-offs of favourite books and shows as a fun thing.
You’ve written fan-fiction?
I once began a Lord of the Rings parody with a friend about the Middle Earth folk who have to clean up after the main characters, or rub shoulders with them but never actually get a piece of the action. I also recently found some LOTR fiction that I wrote as a ten year old… in Tolkien’s rune language. Decoding that was a lot of fun.
Was it any good?
It needs a lot of work! I was very ambitious: I tried to rewrite the Moria scene so that Gandalf wouldn’t fall into the abyss of Khazad Dum. I think I would tell my ten year old self to be a realist, and possibly to find my own characters to save from certain death instead of scrounging off Tolkien.
What about the practicalities of writing? Everyone seems to do it differently.
My laptop is my life in terms of writing. I know it’s hypocritical, but such is the necessity of modern society. I have a bit of an obsession with notebooks – they are full of my initial ideas. I have a special book for all the things I’ve seen that would work well as narrative details or prompts.
What first drew you to the Ten To One project?
As far as publishing goes Ten to One is a great opportunity to get a foot in the door as early as I can. The idea of testing my skills against a lot of other writers drew me in. I’m always looking to improve and to find ways of measuring my skill; it’s good practice for the whole author thing.
What do you see as the advantages of collaborative writing?
I love stories that follow several different strands of narrative. This is an example of that, without the huge effort that one author would have to make to create all of these characters on their own.
Don’t you think it’s going to be a horrible literary train-wreck?
I hope not! I really want it to be a stunning novel. All it needs is a firm hand with organisational skills and a good mind for plotlines. I think we’re safe in Iain’s capable hands.
What do you think are the challenges/obstacles that face the collaborative writer?
At the moment everybody has their own theory about the old man in the story. It’s important to be wary of how your ideas could intertwine comprehensively with others’.
Who would be in your ideal collaborative writing team, dead or alive?
F. Scott Fitzgerald has the most elegant style; Tolkien created an entire universe full of endless history; Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and J.M. Barrie nurtured my persistent craving for adventure; Joseph Conrad taught me how powerful language can be; D.H. Lawrence made me want to write in order to fight for my beliefs, and Douglas Adams makes me howl with laughter. They would be a great team.
So what’s this Ten To One novel going to be about?
It’s hard to say exactly at this point, but that’s the joy of a collaborative novel. There’s mystery and murder and crime and crises of identity and a whole lot more. Every author will look at it differently as a whole, through the lens of their character. Gracie is just a child so her perspective will be more basic and emotional. For me, this novel will be about her relationship with the old man (the character at the heart of our narrative) and his adventure stories.
And what kind of character are you bringing to the story?
A very different kind from the rest. I suggested a child as a character, and immediately had my cheeky, charming, enigmatic little girl in mind. Hopefully people will enjoy reading her narrative voice as she tries to puzzle out the confusing adult world around her and also to confirm her own identity. She takes on a lot for a five year old.
How much of your protagonist is a reflection of you?
Only partially – she’s named after my little sister. I love folklore and forests and the supernatural, and a lot of the old man’s stories will be ones I wish somebody had told me.
This novel is set in contemporary Skegness. Folklore? Forests? Are you going to subvert this story and turn it into a fantasy? Is Skegness the new Middle Earth?
It all depends where the novel ends up, doesn’t it? For Gracie certainly our bleak seaside Skegness will be transformed by the old man’s stories into a site of magic and mystery. But is the magic real? Even I don’t know yet.
|Skegness – a place of magic and wonder!|
You can find out more about the Ten To One novel on the Pigeon Park Press website (http://pigeonparkpress.blogspot.co.uk/p/ten-to-one-collaboratively-written.html) and also sign up for the Ten To One newsletter.