Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

Category: Mrs Darcy (page 1 of 20)

“On my way here tonight…”

The thing I like most about having had a book or two published is the random stuff that tends to happen. Once you have a book out there, you have NO IDEA who is going to read it or what they’re going to think about it. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is less than good and sometimes it is downright odd.

Anyway, it struck me last night that I hadn’t Googled Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens for a while, and in doing so one or two new hits popped up. The first was a nice review on Anne Wrightwell’s blog from just over a year ago, in which she says:

It reminded me of a Carry On film, one of the better ones not the travesty that was ‘Carry on Columbus’. I think an alternative title for the book could have been ‘Carry On Darcy’ Now, there’s a film I’d like to see. It is stuffed with puns and allusions to modern day topics. Some of these are very clever and funny and some of them aren’t so much. Although mercifully (in my opinion) there aren’t too many references to ‘pearl necklaces’ and ‘pork swords’.

Mercifully, indeed. I tend to agree with the last point. I think if I had my time again, I’d probably trim some of the excess self-indulgences. One day, when I’m massively famous, I’d like to publish a revised edition. Or perhaps that long-promised sequel…

Next up was a review in Spanish of Señora Darcy vs. Aliens on this blog. As far as I can tell from Google Translate, it doesn’t say much, which is a blessing, since the last time I had a review from the Iberian peninsular, it was a Portuguese one that contained the word “atrocidades”.

And then it all got a bit weird. Because it turned out that Mrs Darcy had been mentioned in a sermon. Yes, you read that right. At St Barnabas’s Church, Southfields SW18, in February of this year, the vicar, Revd Ian Tattum, opened his address thus:

I don’t imagine that Jane Austen ever thought that one day there would be a sequel to Pride and Prejudice called ‘ Mrs Darcy versus the aliens.’ But there is- as one reviewer put it’ ‘it is much funnier than the original and has a lot more aliens.’

I can safely say that my career as a writer has now peaked. It’s not going to get any better than this, is it? The only thing that could possibly improve things would be for the vicar to turn out to be this chap:

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But then he ended up in a different parish altogether, didn’t he?

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All Sorts of Stuff

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 16.18.49And the pre-Christmas flurry of stuff continues. First, and most importantly, the excellent Refugees Welcome anthology is now available to download or order (US or UK). It’s got my story, “Pure Blood” in it, but that’s not the main reason for buying it (it’s actually around about the 273rd reason). Buy it because (a) all the profits go to excellent causes and (b) there are loads of other excellent writers contributing to it.

Next, my story “Heart of Snow” is up at Every Day Fiction today. It’s been a while since I’ve had a story there and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to their December invitation-only season. EDF was one of the very first places to publish a story of mine (this one, since you ask), so they always have a special place in my writer’s heart. Having agreed to do this, I’ve now remembered how active their commenters are and I’m dreading what anyone’s going to say, because I’m really not sure about this story at all!

Finally, seeing as it was Jane Austen’s 240th birthday yesterday, I thought I’d better put together a new Mrs Darcy special. So sit back, take a bite out of a two-headed lizard and enjoy Mrs Darcy: Fury Road. Had to happen, really.

Liars’ League at Sevenoaks

Last Wednesday I delivered my 40000 word (well, 41439, words to be accurate) manuscript to Bath Spa for marking. Since then I have been tidying up a few things that got slightly out of hand during that final burst of activity, and now it’s time to breathe some life back into this thing.

At some point, I’m going to blog about the strange and wonderful world of Creative Writing MA courses, and I’ve also got a review or two lined up. But first, I thought I’d gently ease into things with a brief report on Tuesday’s Liars’ League event at the Sevenoaks Literary Celebration.

I’ve been submitting stuff to Liars’ League since 2008. Sometimes they pick my stuff, sometimes they don’t (which is, incidentally, what makes it especially satisfying when they do pick one). Anyway, back in May, they picked a story of mine called “Ventriloquism for Dummies”. Unfortunately I didn’t get there on the night, so when I heard that it was also going to be read again at a special LL night in Sevenoaks featuring stories from all eight years of the League, I was determined to go along.

I was so glad I did. Clive Greenwood gave the piece an absolutely superb reading, bringing out every nuance of the story. In fact, every single reader was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening. What’s more, there was a decent sized audience – well in excess of 100, I would have thought. Eat your heart out, all you who say the short story is in trouble.

Anyway, judge for yourself. Here’s Clive:

And here’s a picture of the assembled actors, plus an author or two. One of these days I may learn to look like a normal human being when I’m having my picture taken.

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Meanwhile, in other news, I almost forgot to mention that TAKE IT COOL got a very nice review from the lovely Marija Smits:

This book is fascinating and as creative non-fiction goes, a highly-enjoyable read. The author is a fine writer and very, very funny; he has the kind of self-deprecating, weird humour that really tickles me and I laughed out loud at many parts.

One final thing: if you’re interested in a signed copy of MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS, I’ve reduced the UK price to £4.99 including P&P. Bargain, I say. Bargain. GET IN.

The Binnacle and Twiction Addiction Again

A couple of very short hits to report. First of all, I snagged an Honourable Honorable Mention in this years The Binnacle Ultra-Short Competition, with my 135-word story “99942 Apophis” (feel free to Google that if you want to find out a clue to the subject matter). The story will also appear in print, along with the winers and the other honourees honorees, which will be nice. Secondly, an as yet untitled 23-word story of mine was published today at Twiction Addiction.

I’ve also been tweaking this site a little bit, adding galleries of all the various anthologies and stuff I’ve been in to the bottom of the Fiction and Poetry pages, as well as a slide show of various appearances that Mrs Darcy made in the bookshops of the UK. Seems such a long time ago…

How to Avoid Being the Worst Among Sequels

[Thought I’d have a bit of rant every now and then to liven things up. I’d be interested to see what you think.]

We live in strange times. William Boyd’s Bond novel, “Solo”, is just about to be published, following in the footsteps of – amongst a surprising number of others – Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver. Sophie Hannah has recently been commissioned by the Agatha Christie estate to write a new Hercule Poirot novel. This isn’t by any means a new phenomenon. After all, “Virginia Andrews” has churned out considerably more novels since her death than prior to it. (BTW Did you realise there were quite that many? I didn’t. Whew.) But there seems to be more of it about now than there used to be.

Here’s what’s bothering me.

I have no problem with the idea of taking an existing character or set of characters and reusing them. It’s what literature has done ever since people started telling stories to while away the hours sitting around the campfire. But the whole point of creating stories is to add value to the material – to bring in something new. And I worry that any work generated to meet the demands of a dead author’s estate is necessarily going to be limited in terms of what the new writer can bring to the party.

On the contrary, I would argue that the only truly creative way to go when writing any sort of sequel, prequel or whatever is to mark out your own territory by heading off in a completely new direction.

The initial germ of an idea for “Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens” (ah, here we go) was actually a creative writing consequences game in which I started playing with the idea that, a couple of years post marriage, the Darcys hadn’t had any kids yet and that Wickham might not necessarily be quite such a bad guy. Then the alien concept came along, and that immediately opened up the possibility that Wickham was a hotshot deep cover alien hunter. In this new worldview, the elopement with Lydia was actually to protect her from alien kidnap and all the concomitant probing and stuff. The entire plot of “Pride and Prejudice” was henceforth up for reinterpretation.

I’d like to think that Jane would have approved. But I’m actually not that bothered. As I’ve said, my main concern was to use her characters as a starting point, not a straitjacket.

In fact, all the best Austen spinoffs are the least reverent and most outrageous ones. I normally try not mention “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (because of all that, you know, daring to turn up in print while I was still writing mine), but it’s surely got to be more interesting proposition than “Murder at Pemberley”. Best Austen film? Got to be “Clueless”. And so on.

I realise there are copyright reasons for all of this and that, at least outside the dark and weird worlds of unpublished fan-fiction, you can’t just grab anyone’s work and do whatever you like with it. But if you can’t do that, I do wonder a little what the point is, especially when there are big-name authors involved. I hope I’m wrong, and I wish the likes of Boyd and Hannah well (although I will admit to continuing to harbour ill will towards Eoin Colfer – I mean, how could he?)

All the same, I would still love to think that one day the Fleming estate will give the nod to someone like, I dunno, Jeanette Winterson and say to her, “Go on, do what you like. It’s all yours.”

Recommended Reading!

NSSW 2013Well, this is nice. DOT DASH has been chosen as one of five recommended short story collections for this year’s National Short Story Week. I’ve no idea what this is likely to mean in terms of sales (I suspect not a lot, as short story collections are never big sellers), but it can’t be bad for the old profile.

Quite coincidentally, the first review of MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS for a while (well, it is over two years since the book came out) popped up on Goodreads the other day as well, and fortunately, it was a good one. A bit of detective work also revealed that she’d urged all her Twitter followers to read it. So obviously I’m expecting THOUSANDS of new sales. I still have dreams of some celeb type stumbling across it by accident and hailing it as an overlooked comic classic, but unfortunately they tend to be the sort of dreams in which this is followed by me being chased naked through Brent Cross by a giant mutant jellyfish. You too, eh? I hate those dreams.

And of course TAKE IT COOL is still going, and in yesterday’s episode, the cliffhanger from episode fifteen is resolved…

Take It Cool, Episode 2

Episode two of TAKE IT COOL, “Googling Dennis“, is now up. It’s a bit shorter than the last one, but I think it sort of stands on its own. Breaking this one up into digestible chunks won’t be quite as easy as Mrs Darcy (which was actually conceived as a series of 600-700 word segments), but I think it should work reasonably well.

Speaking of the MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS, anyone out there who hasn’t yet got a copy (no, I can’t believe it either) can take advantage of this splendid half-price offer if they order direct from Salt. Well? What are you waiting for?

Short Stories Aloud and Other Stuff

Just realised it’s about time I made a bit of a noise about this upcoming thingShort Stories Aloud is a regular event held at the Old Fire Station in Oxford (what is it about Firestations and Arts Centres, by the way? Just wondering…). It’s a bit like Liars’ League, in that the short stories are read by trained actors, except that there’s a bit more of a focus on the writers.

This month, I’m going to be one of the featured writers, along with a couple of other blokes called Jon McGregor and Ernest Hemingway (nope, me neither). Apparently, four of the stories from DOT DASH are going to be read – one dot and three dashes, to be precise – which is more than a little exciting. Not only that, but as I’ll be the only one of the three authors present, I’ll be the one subjected to the audience Q&A.

Like a certain other Firestation-based event, it offers free entry to anyone bearing cake, so if I were you, I’d book the kitchen for next Tuesday. The fun starts at 19:30 and here’s the official Facebook event page. Be there or be square.

In other news, the estimable David Hebblethwaite has given DOT DASH the thumbs up, describing it as “lovely stuff”:

What brings them together so well is Pinnock’s wry wit, his knack for sharp twists and rueful endings. The dots are marvellously concentrated bursts of language – not just punchlines, but stories reduced to their essence in a few sentences.

Finally, Mrs P and I were browsing in a bookshop over the weekend and she drew my attention to this remarkable reference in Susannah Fullerton’s “Happily Ever After”. I say remarkable, because it’s quite clear from the description that the author – the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia, no less – has actually read the book :)

Another Christmas Special

Hope you had/are having a jolly super Christmas/Winter Solstice/whatever. Mrs Darcy’s been feeling left out lately, so I thought she was due for another Christmas Special. It’s not particularly seasonal, but you may find it mildly amusing.

In other news, if Santa happened to bring you a Kindle or other electronic book substitute, “Dot Dash” is still only 77p, and – amazingly – still in the Amazon charts, where it’s been almost continuously since the Kindle promotion began. Not that I’ve been checking ever hour or so. Oh no, not me.

Mrs Darcy’s Jubilee Special

I thought it was about time we had another Mrs Darcy Special (having not had one since the Christmas two-parter) and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee seemed as good an excuse as any. Possibly the only work of literature ever to feature references to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Duchy Originals and Talking Heads. At least I hope it is.

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