Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff


Month: December 2011

The Tim Burton Campaign Starts Here

I finished my last post with “see you in 2012”, but there’s one last thing I’d like to squeeze in before 2011 goes out…

A week or so ago I tweeted that someone had found their way to the Mrs Darcy web site using the search term “darcy versus the aliens film”, which resulted in a brief exchange of ideas between myself and the lovely Amy McLean (remember her review?), in the course of which we both decided that Tim Burton would be a perfect choice of director for such a project – if only because it would mean we’d almost certainly be able to get Helena Bonham-Carter as Charlotte that way, to say nothing of Johnny Depp as Byron.

What follows is entirely unsolicited, with no further input from me. Apart from, as you can probably imagine, a vigorous shaking of the head when she asked me if I minded her doing this. Do please share this video as widely as you can. For Amy’s sake, obviously. Not mine. Definitely not mine.

And that definitely is it for 2011. Have fun tonight and don’t do anything silly, OK?

So, 2011 then…

Normally today would be the day when I do my reflective post about the past year. However, given what a bloody amazing year it’s been, there’s a danger that it could all turn out a bit smug. So I’ll just confirm that it has indeed been absolutely bloody amazing, and I hope yours has been too. But if it hasn’t, hang in there because there’s another year around the corner, and it might just turn out to be the one where wonderful things happen to you. No guarantees, mind, but see you in 2012 one way or another.

(But before you go, take a look at A J Ashworth’s selection of book voucher beauties– several there I recognise, including – ahem – one in particular…)


Last Minute Presents

OK, everyone. I’m guessing all of you have already gone out and bought a copy of Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens for everyone in your family (*stern face* you have, haven’t you?), but if you’re still looking for something, here are one or two ideas. I’ve been meaning to do proper reviews of all of these, but have singularly failed to do so – something I aim to rectify in the New Year.

I’m a bit torn when it comes to recommending a single best novel out of the ones I’ve read this year, so I’m going to cheat. The best paperback novel I’ve read this year is undoubtedly John Harding’s Florence and Giles. If you’re looking for an example of the power of a unique narrative voice, look no further. And it’s wondrously creepy too. The best hardback novel I’ve read this year is Vanessa Gebbie’s The Coward’s Tale: a lovely, warm patchwork quilt of a book with one of the most utterly satisfying and perfect endings I’ve read in a long, long time. Best Christmas stocking filler is Scott Pack’s Steve Stack’s 21st Century Dodos – like its progenitor’s blog, witty, entertaining and informative.

Best left-field oddball I’ve come across is probably Stanley Donwood’s Household Worms – as you would expect from Radiohead’s in-house artist, he has a completely unique voice. The best newcomer I’ve comes across this year is fellow Scott Prize winner Cassandra Parkin with her New World Fairy Tales, and I can only repeat what I’m quoted as saying on the cover: “A beguiling collection of present-day fables that effortlessly transcend their folk origins”. (I’m also really looking forward to reading AJ Ashworth’s Scott collection, Somewhere Else, or Even Here.) Finally, for the writer in your life, the best how-to book of the year has to be Nicola Morgan’s Write to be Published. It even has a mention of Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens in it – what more do you want?

So plenty of ideas there if you’re still looking for something. Probably too late for Amazon, but you can still go into a bookshop. There are a few left if you look around.

Lost for Words, amongst other things

My satirical poem “Lost for Words” is up at Ink, Sweat and Tears today. It’s the first poem I’ve had published for a while, and I’m quite pleased it’s at IS&T because I’m pretty certain it was their guidelines I read a while back that included the warning that anything containing the word “shards” would probably not make it as far as publication. Which ultimately set me off on the train of thought that led to this poem.

Also today I found out that my story “How I Became a New Man, and What Good It Did Me” has now been published in translation in the German magazine WortMosaik, alongside Valerie O’Riordan in the Internationale Literatur section. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a print copy, just so I can see my work in a language that I don’t speak. The original may be found here, by the way.

In other news, I’m really pleased that Camille Gooderham Campbell, head honcho of Every Day Publishing, has chosen to recommend Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens for the Advent Book Blog. Whilst I’m on the subject of Every Day Publishing, I’d also like to draw your attention to their latest project, Every Day Novels, which starts in the new year with K.C.Ball’s “Lifting up Veronica”. K.C. is a superb writer and I’m really looking forward to reading this.

Finally, I really should have been writing Part 2 of the Mrs Darcy Christmas Special today. But instead it struck me that Wickhampedia really should have an article on Regency Christmas. So I wrote one. Wickhampedia is one of the things I’m most proud of this year and I’m slightly sad it hasn’t attracted more of a fanbase outside the people who know me already. Maybe it’s just a bit too odd. Or possibly just not funny enough. You can never tell.

140 And Counting and Other Stuff

Right then. Got your Kindle handy? Good. Here’s a twitter anthology for you, from the splendid 7×20 magazine. I’m in there, with a twitter haiku, and there’s loads of other good stuff too from a wide variety of tweeters. If you’re in the UK, you can download it here, otherwise you’ll need to go here.

In other news, my good friend Oscar Windsor-Smith has come up with a Christmas present guide which for some reason includes Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, alongside such other gems as The Archangel and the White Hart. Do you need any more recommendation than that? (He’s also spot on about Vanessa Gebbie’s The Coward’s Tale, which I’ve only just finished and is absolutely wonderful. Make sure you buy that one as well.)

Finally, this year’s Christmas Special for Mrs Darcy has turned into a bit of an epic. The first of two parts may be found here. To make things even more complicated, it’s actually a sequel to last year’s special. Thinking about it, it’s only a matter of time before the word count in the specials outnumbers the original.

Interview with Niall Boyce

I’m very pleased to welcome fellow Proxima Books author Niall Boyce to my blog today. Niall is the very talented author of the utterly fab Veronica Britton: Chronic Detective serial, parts one and two of which are currently available from Amazon here and here respectively. If your taste is for an action-packed mystery story featuring a feisty time-travelling detective as a heroine, do yourself a favour and download both of them at the first available opportunity. You won’t regret it.

But do read the interview first.

Hello and welcome to the blog, Niall. I’d like to find out a bit about you yourself first. You’re a senior editor at the Lancet in your day job – I’m interested to know if your background is primarily in arts or science?

I studied English at A-level, and was seriously thinking about applying to do it at university – but medicine won out in the end. I have a medical degree and a PhD in physiology, and worked as a doctor for some time. I suppose my background in science explains why so many of my favourite authors – Kurt Vonnegut and Christopher Priest for example – didn’t go through the arts degree/creative writing route. I lack grounding in the theoretical aspects of English literature, and this means I have had to go the long way around learning certain parts of the craft. Then again, it means I’m not hemmed in by various preconceived notions and, frankly, snobberies.

Always good to come across another Christopher Priest fan! How do you find creative writing fits in with your non-fiction work?

An interesting question. In terms of content, science fiction is, to me, about conducting a thought experiment – reasoning out the consequences of a temporary suspension of the laws of physics or biology isn’t very different to what scientists do every day.

With regard to style, my preference is for clear prose – this isn’t the same thing as saying I don’t like complexity. The purpose of science writing is to make difficult ideas easily understandable to a large number of people, many of whom may not have English as their first language. It’s probably been said before that doctors who write have certain traits in common. The tendency is to avoid flourishes, but to pack a lot of information into a relatively short word count, with an emphasis on telling, pivotal details. This certainly applies to medics such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, and Arthur Schnitzler. They’re all very different in terms of subject matter, but I think you can trace a characteristic medical/scientific style in their writing.

As for the grind of writing – I set aside half an hour every day and write 500 words. I think getting precious about these things is the enemy of actual creativity.

I hadn’t realised until I looked at your blog how many short stories you’d had published (including some that I’d already listened to on the Liars’ League podcast). Do you see your future as purely a writer of full-length fiction, or do you think you’ll still continue with short forms as well?

I like short stories a lot and, as I said, there’s something about a medical background that tends towards brevity in prose. I’m planning to continue with both novels and short stories: the idea dictates the form. For example, I have written a few ghost stories, and I think these work best in the short format (either as short stories or novellas). Veronica Britton is rather more complex, and I think a longer format was needed to give the situations and characters space to breathe.

How did you get involved with Big Finish? When will we see your name on the credits for the Doctor Who TV series?

Doctor Who came about when Big Finish put out a call for new writers. I was just lucky that my submission was chosen (although I had previously written a few Doctor Who DVD sleeves and commentaries). I had a neat idea for a short story that would take the original rules of the show (eg, the Doctor couldn’t get his companions home), and blend in some things that wouldn’t or couldn’t have been done at the time. 1963, the year the show started, is now a historical era itself, and many of the attitudes and assumptions of the characters are things of the past. So it struck me as an interesting thing to explore.

I’d love to write a TV episode – in fact I have a cracking idea for one – but I’m not anticipating a call any time soon. Doctor Who is so big now that a strong track record of TV writing seems to be the minimum requirement. More Big Finish would be good. My story for the Bernice Summerfield range (The Empire Variations) was one of the most fun things I’ve written: being able to put Andy Warhol face-to-face with a giant floating alien dinosaur head was tremendous.

Ha. I bet! Veronica Britton features a strong, complex female heroine. Can you tell me a bit about where the inspiration for her character came from? And who would you like to see play her in a film adaptation?

I always saw the hero of these books as a woman: one reason for this is that I think women are rather more adaptable than men, in all sorts of ways. If time travel ever comes to be, I imagine women will be far better at it. So you’ll see that the male time travellers in VB are all rather bull-in-a-china-shop, whereas Veronica is more subtle, honest, and brave. As for who would play Veronica, I think Nicola Walker (Ruth from Spooks) would be ideal.

Did you see “Veronica Britton: Chronic Detective” as a serial right from the start?

I think the nature of good adventure fiction is that it consists of a series of cliffhangers, whether those come within a single story or in instalments. So I was keen on building plenty into Veronica Britton from the start. Every decent adventure narrative – from Exodus to King Solomon’s Mines and beyond – keeps you asking “How on earth are they going to get out of this one?” I think it works as a whole (the complete story is around 120, 000 words) or as individual episodes.

Do you think that electronic publishing is creating a new market for serials?

Although text-based serials declined in popularity through the twentieth century, serial fiction still persisted and thrived in the form of TV series and, of course, comics. Speaking for myself, I far prefer getting the new issue of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” every month to waiting for the trade paperback. Though whether or not e-serials are viable depends on the method of selling: it certainly seems to have worked for e-comics.

What are you working on next?

My next project is a novel about parallel universes, Arthurian legend, a TV show about a mysterious scientist, and 1970s Swansea. I’m currently at the phase of scribbling lots of different scenarios and bits of dialogue down on index cards: in 2012, these will hopefully coalesce into a seamless whole…

Fascinating stuff! Many thanks to Niall for dropping in. Now go and buy those first two episodes, OK? Seriously, they are very good indeed.

Every Day Poets Again and Other Stuff

I’ve been subbing a few odd things here and there in between whatever it is I’m doing right now and yesterday I heard that one of them, a poem called “Perspective”, had been accepted by Every Day Poets. Unlike pretty much everything else I’ve had published by EDP, this one is quite serious – sad even. More about it nearer the time.

In other news, we’ve had a rash of mentions for the VWC anthology, “The Archangel and the White Hart“. Scott Pack picked out a couple of stories in it for his Me and My Short Stories blog (making a total of four so far!) : Katie Carr’s prizewinning entry from the 2010 Get Writing competition, “Beating the Blues” and Oscar Windsor-Smith’s splendidly peculiar and somewhat filthy “Camera Segreta“. We also got a nice review for the anthology as a whole on Amazon, from someone who isn’t in it as far as we know.

Finally, I was more than a little stunned to read (via the wonderful medium of Twitter) that John Harding (of “Florence and Giles” fame – you have read it, haven’t you? If not why on earth not – it’s utterly brilliant) had lunch with none other than PD James today and gave her a copy of “Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens”. The bit that I’m struggling to get my head around is that apparently she was thrilled to bits. Sadly, I’m guessing this means that the challenge to a duel didn’t get any further than her agents, but this may actually be better still.

A Couple More Reviews

I was really pleased to see yesterday that Our Book Reviews had given Mrs Darcy an enthusiastic thumbs up. Five stars and this:

Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens is filled to the brim with my sort of humour – lots of in-jokes and obscure TV quotes that I needed to share with anyone who’d listen. I’d like to tell you about all the funny bits but would probably end up reading the book to you.

Not a book I’d recommend to Austen purists but for everyone else it’s a ‘must read’.

Couldn’t really ask for more.

I also received an e-mail from an old chum of mine, with the subject “Critique”. Here is the entire body of the e-mail:

Ek – Ek – Ek – Ek!!


PS Ek – Ek

Spot on, I’d say. (For more information on kk’Ekk, see here.)