We at Pigeon Park Press are very excited about the upcoming novel, Circ, written by ten different authors as part of the Ten To One project. You can get your own tickets for the launch (and claim a free e-book on the night!) by going to http://www.birmingham-box.co.uk/event/circ-can-ten-people-write-one-novel/
Between now and the launch on 28th November, we will be blogging interviews with all the authors plus some additional guest blogs and bonus material from the novel.
Today, Luke Beddow…
Luke Beddow, who are you? I’m twenty-four, I’ve lived in the West Midlands for my whole life, and I’ve just started training to become an English Teacher. At the moment, I live above a kebab shop in North Birmingham – I’m not sure if it influences my writing much, but I’m sure it has an effect on my waist line.
I write mostly poetry, a few short stories and a blog which I update sporadically I write what I think is going to work well and about what I am interested in, but I hope that other people will want to read it too.
I started writing seriously (but quite badly at first) at around 16 or 17. The first full story I remember finishing was a little obvious, and not brilliantly executed, but as a starting point it was probably ok.
I’ve always read a lot, and I wrote bits and pieces before then, but at that I age I was really enjoying reading better books because of A-level English literature, and that helped to push me in the right direction. After that I studied English and Creative Writing at Birmingham City University, which helped me to understand the craft involved in writing.
My goal is to keep writing, and to keep getting better at what I do. I’d like publish some collections of poetry and maybe write a novel on my own somewhere down the line.
Who are your writing heroes?
I really like Scarlett Thomas, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman for prose, and H.D., Geoffrey Hill and Ted Hughes for poetry. I tend to flit between lots of different writers rather than collecting ‘the works’ though. I’ve read Trilogy by H.D. twice since I bought it in the summer, and am already reading it again. I’ve loved Forster’s Howards End since I studied it at A-level, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hitchhiker’s Guide ‘trilogy’.
If I was forced to choose a favourite, I’d say H.D. for poetry and Scarlett Thomas for prose. What they have in common is their ability make links between different elements. I like it when writers draw from a wide base of references, and allow me to pick up interesting bits and bobs along the way.
Tell us about the tools of your trade – pen /laptop /notebooks
When I write I like to have a nice pen and a cool notebook, never anything as expensive as a moleskin though. I prefer to write poetry out by hand the first time, but I type out prose. I research the things I’m going to write. Does Wikipedia count as research? I tend to get distracted though.
I seem to do some of my best writing on busses or trains, but my favourite place to write is sat in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea. I quite like playing records (yes, actual vinyl ones) when I write, I think partly because I can’t pause it, so I’m forced to stay in one place until the side finishes. It stops me from getting up every ten minutes to make a drink or mooch aimlessly in the fridge. I love writing, but I don’t have a great attention span.
Describe your writing style.
My stories are usually either realist or mostly realist with one or two odd (but not necessarily supernatural) elements. On a sentence level, I think it’s important not to overcook things; you only have a few star sentences, and you really have to earn them. I really like the idea that the reader can get a full picture of a character or a scene just by choosing a few key details, too.
I like to think I let the situation shape the characters, but if I’m being honest, most of my protagonists are male and in their twenties. It’s probably a habit I should break out of.
How much of your male twenty-something Ten To One protagonist is a reflection of you?
Some similarities are probably inevitable, but I haven’t gone out of my way to put myself into the character. Some other life experiences inform my writing too…
Being raised in a religious household, but later losing my faith; working long hours as a general dogsbody in a cinema; working with annoying teenagers who don’t pay much attention.
Your character Shaun, is a young ex-cultist. We’ve not yet heard much about the “Brotherhood”. What is it like?
The Brotherhood of the Stars is a UFO cult in the Heaven’s Gate tradition, but without the mass-suicides. Basically they believe that aliens have been in contact with selected humans throughout history, and are communicating directly with the group’s ‘Council of Seven’.
Of course, whatever the dressing, most cults operate in a very similar manner. The Brotherhood encourage their members to cut off contact with the outside world and live simple communal lives so that they are more receptive to extra-terrestrial influences. There are harsh punishments to anyone within in the cult who might disrupt this.
Where is Shaun’s story going? What do you think is going to happen to him?
Unfortunately for Shaun, fiction thrives on characters being put into difficult situations. Shaun is only just starting to find his way back into society, and in his desperation to protect his ‘normal’ life in the flats, he risks being pushing himself back into the margins.
Flic and Valerie and Tim are now out of Ten To One. Anastasia, Bobby, Gracie, Mabel, Mungo, Nell and Shaun remain. Is there anything that identifies a successful character in a project like this?
I think the characters who have survived all see the world from very different viewpoints, and the writers have used this to create distinctive voices for their narratives. A strong back-story and a sense of mystery seems to help too.
Apart from Shaun, who is your favourite character?
Hmm, I don’t think this question is going to win me many friends among the other writers. There have been things I’ve liked about all the characters, but I’m particularly fond of Mungo’s downbeat brand of comic relief.
What first drew you to the Ten To One project?
I thought it would be an interesting challenge, and a way to really sharpen up my writing. I also thought it could be a fun way to meet other writers.
I think that group plotting like this is a good way to push us outside of our comfort zones and make us write things that will surprise ourselves.
What do you think are the challenges/obstacles that face the collaborative writer?
There’s a risk the story will be pulled into too many different directions. It will take a lot of co-operation to make sure the plot coheres.
The plot currently features murders, a circus fire mystery, an enigmatic Romanian and a little girl who thinks she’s a changeling. With the story almost half complete, is it pulling in too many directions already?
Actually, no. With a project like this there was always a risk that we would lose control, or that readers would feel let down if their favourite character went out without a sense of closure, but I think that has been handled well so far, and we’re getting to the point where the different threads are going to start pulling together. I’m confident that however the story ends, it will feel like the inevitable result of what has gone before.
If you had any advice to give to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Read widely, try to get into a routine with your writing, edit ruthlessly, and talk to other writers.
And participate in projects like Ten To One?
Yes! Writing can be a very solitary activity, but there are a lot of strong writing communities out there. Going to readings or getting involved in projects like this is a great way to meet and learn from other writers. And it’s fun.