Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

Category: Other people (page 1 of 4)

National Short Story Week

B24l9NUIIAENwZq.jpg-smallIs it that time of year already? Apparently it is, and I’m not talking about that festival beginning with C either. No, I’m talking about National Short Story Week, the time when the entire nation comes together to celebrate the short form.

As is customary on these occasions, the week has been preceded by a competition for young writers and the resulting truly excellent anthology has just been published. Go and buy yourself a copy now – you won’t be disappointed. Not only that, but all the proceeds go to a terrific cause.

Well, come on, what are you waiting for?

While you’re visiting the NSSW site, you might also like to read this interview that Ian Skillicorn (aka Mr National Short Story Week) did with me, in which I talk about short stories and Take It Cool and stuff. I think it’s quite interesting, but then I suppose I would.

Our Book Reviews and Other Stuff

The lovely Maryom over at Our Book Reviews has given a definite thumbs up to TAKE IT COOL. This is what she says in her 4* review:

Having read Jonathan Pinnock’s fiction, I expected him to turn what could be a plodding piece of research into something interesting and fun – and he did!  The different threads are easily followed, and build an amusingly-told story that held the attention of a non-Pinnock with no interest in reggae.

Meanwhile, the excellent Dave Weaver has put up a post about TAKE IT COOL on his blog. Dave is a highly talented writer who has had three books published by Elsewhen Press, most recently THE BLACK HOLE BAR, which looks superb. I haven’t read that one yet, but I can say that JAPANESE DAISY CHAIN, his last one, was terrific: a short story sequence with a neat gimmick in which a minor character in each story becomes the main protagonist in the next one. Recommended. Here’s where you can buy it on Kindle.

This week, I had my most testing public appearance yet: the Allerton Women’s Institute. I think I got away with it, but I’m going to be more than usually paranoid about how people look at me in the village over the next few days. There’s nothing quite so unnerving as speaking for an hour in front of a bunch of people you know. Give me an audience of strangers any day.

Finally, for those of you who have already read TAKE IT COOL (which I guess means pretty much everyone reading this, right?), I’ve added a comprehensive picture gallery containing loads of images that didn’t make it into the book. So if you want to see what Dog-Face Phil really looked like, here’s where you need to go.

 

Interview with Carys Bray

Last week I was interviewed by the humungously talented Carys Bray. Carys was a Scott Prize winner in 2012 with her excellent short story collection Sweet Home and is currently enjoying stellar success with her first novel A Song for Issy Bradley, which I am going to pounce on as soon as it comes out in paperback. And when I say stellar, I mean stellar: massive advance, a slot on Radio 4′s Book at Bedtime and amazing reviews everywhere you look.

I am obviously not the slightest bit jealous about this. Definitely not.

OK, I am a tiny bit. But it’s also more than a little inspiring to see someone who’s kicked a ball around the same playground as yourself making it into the Premier League.

Many thanks to Carys for taking the time to talk to me. Let’s hope some of that stardust rubs off, eh?

Another TAKE IT COOL Interview and Other Stuff

I’m still awaiting that all-important third print review for TAKE IT COOL, but in the meantime, the excellent Gordon Darroch has furnished me with a physical copy of that splendid Herald review and a scan of it now graces the Review page. Gordon is an exceptionally fine writer going through a terrible time at the moment, and I do urge you to take a look at his remarkably moving blog.

I’ve been casting around for possible local groups to talk to and I’ve already got a few potential engagements beginning to line up . However, the first one on the list is going to be the most terrifying: the village WI. These are people I know: if I screw up, I will become a pariah.

I’ve also got myself added to the Literature West SW Writer Directory, which is nice, because all the other people on there look like proper writers.

Meanwhile, back in the world of TAKE IT COOL, I have been on the receiving end of a very comprehensive interview by the splendid Oscar Windsor-Smith, short story writer extraordinaire. There’s a mild spoiler in there if these things bother you, although the existence of a particular photo in the middle of the book does rather give the game away too, so I’m not that worried about this.

[EDITED TO ADD: Forgot to say that I had this unexpected mention of an old short story pop up on Twitter today. I love it when random stuff like that happens because you have things scattered around the place.]

Mark Watson’s “Hotel Alpha”

Hotel AlphaThose of you who have dipped into either Wickhampedia or – more recently – Dashipedia will realise that I’m a big fan of the idea that the content of a book can – and indeed should – spread a long way beyond the borders of the original physical source. And that’s why I was especially intrigued to hear of Mark Watson‘s new novel which just happens to be published today.

Here’s what Mark has to say about this, in the afterword to his new novel HOTEL ALPHA:

Hotel Alpha is designed to be read in two stages. There is the novel which you have just finished and, I hope, enjoyed – unless you’re one of those people who always flick to the back first. Then there are one hundred extra stories, which appear on a website: www.hotelalphastories.com. […] The extra stories span the same time period as the novel. They shine an alternative light on the plot, show the hidden links between some of its main events, solve mysteries, and give voice to some of the thousands of minor characters and dramas which make up the life of the Hotel Alpha while the main story is playing out. They can be read in any order and in any quantity. Or, of course, you can ignore them altogether – it’s entirely up to you.

Everyone knows that human stories are always bigger and more complex than they appear – the relationships and connections between us all are infinite, and a book can only do so much. The Internet, though, removes the physical limitations of the novel, opening up possibilities that have never before existed for readers and writers. We can now choose how much of a story we want to tell, and how much of it we want to know: in theory we can keep going forever. The one hundred extra stories of Hotel Alpha don’t quite go that far, and you as a reader probably have other plans for the rest of your life. But it’s a start . . .

Sounds cool, right? And just for you lucky people, here is one of those stories, right here on my blog. Read on…

Story 82: All Over the Hotel

Top ten reasons for sleeplessness in the Hotel Alpha, occurring in guests between 1965 and 2005:

1. General, unfocused sense of unease.

2. Noise from another room, or from the atrium.

3. Worries connected to work, finances, etc.

4. Worries related to romantic relationships, including marriage.

5. Woken up by strange dream or by unknown circumstances and unable to relax back into sleep.

6. Thinking too hard about need to sleep, paradoxically making goal unattainable.

7. Misjudgement of food or alcohol consumption leading to disturbed physical equilibrium.

8. Miscalculation of fatigue levels leading to too-early bedtime.

9. Body’s instinctive dread of relinquishing consciousness, as sleep too close a sensation to ultimate negation of death, against which human instinct automatically rebels.

10. Dripping tap.

Ten reasons for sleeplessness that have occurred just once in the Hotel Alpha between 1965 and 2005:

1. Allergy to detergent used to wash sheets, causing succession of 46 sneezes in two minutes, causing state of wakefulness impossible to shake off.

2. Fear of dark which cannot be admitted to new girlfriend.

3. Visitation of ghost, presumably in a dream.

4. Gout.

5. Hypochondria leading to conviction about imminent illness.

6. Partner’s wetting of bed.

7. Obsessive desire to solve riddle about getting a goat and some other items from one side of a river to the other.

8. Nostalgia for homeland, Transnistria, a part of Moldova which asserts its independence.

9. Person next door laughing indecently loud, and all through night, at rerun of 1970s sitcom On The Buses.

10. Once killed a man.

I really like that.

For more information, here’s a press release that tells you all about HOTEL ALPHA and here’s where you can find the other 99 stories. And here’s the obligatory link to the book on Amazon. I’m rather looking forward to reading it.

Christmas Dodos and Other Stuff

It’s possible that you’ll think I’m only doing this because the author provided a nice quote for the cover of Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens (STILL available from all tax-paying and non-tax-paying outlets - and wouldn’t a signed copy make a lovely Christmas present?). Or perhaps you think it’s because he said some nice things about Dot Dash (amazingly, this is ALSO still available from all tax-paying and non-tax-paying outlets). Or even it’s because I was given a free copy because I contributed a couple of ideas to the book?

IMG_0727

Well, obviously, it’s all of these. But it’s also because Christmas Dodos – Festive Things on the Verge of Extinction is the perfect stocking filler (assuming, obviously, that the recipient of your generosity already has both Mrs Darcy and Dot Dash). So I’d suggest you order one now – it’s available from the usual places. And tell Steve/Scott I recommended it – one of these days I may need another quote or review from him…

I almost forgot to mention that my short story “Cure for Burroughs” is in the new edition of Synaesthesia Magazine. This edition is nominally about science and numbers, although my piece has a pretty tangential relationship to real science, if the truth were told. I quite like it, though.

A Couple More Reviews and Other Things

Is it really over a fortnight since I last blogged? I guess it must be. Someone said to be on Twitter today that I’d been a bit quiet lately. I really must get back to blogging a bit more regularly as I have a number of reviews piling up waiting to appear, along with some really cool interviews.

Anyway, the reviews of “Dot Dash” have continued to trickle in and they’re still extremely positive. The enigmatic womagwriter certainly seems impressed, ending her brief review with:

they are beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm is even more positive, giving it five stars and remarking that

It’s one of the best short story collections I’ve read and one I think I will go back to repeatedly.

Many thanks to both bloggers for those generous comments.

I’d also like to give a quick mention for this blog post by my good friend Ian Cundell, which is mainly about the brilliant Julie Mayhew’s debut novel, “Red Ink”. There is a reason why all three of us (and I’m sure there are others) included Ian in the acknowledgements for our respective first novels, because a lot of our success in getting published is down to the curious combination of grumpy critique and unbridled enthusiasm that he brings to the process. I should add (as I’ve said before) that he really ought to get his finger out and write a bit more too, because he’s no slouch himself.

I’ll be saying a bit more about what I’ll be doing at Get Writing soon here. Once I’ve got everything else out of the way, of course…

Dot Dash Hits the Broadsheets!

Yesterday was one of those milestones in my career as a writer – the day when something of mine was reviewed by one of the broadsheets. Not only that, but The Independent on Sunday saw fit to give Dot Dash four stars out of five, describing it as

an entertaining collection of grotesque, fantastic, pungent little tales

which is as good a one-line summary of the book as I’m likely to get. Knowing how many books the papers get sent to them every week – and especially given that Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens was rigorously ignored by everyone apart from the British Fantasy Society, the Gatehouse Gazette and a handful of plucky bloggers (to whom I’ll be eternally grateful) – I’m absolutely over the moon about this. I do wonder if it’s evidence of Salt’s increasing presence in the book world, following on from Alison Moore’s Booker triumph. Or maybe I just struck lucky. I can’t say I mind either way.

Whether it actually means anything in terms of sales is yet to be revealed, but it does mean that I can point to a place that everyone’s heard of and say, “Look! That’s me! I’m a writer!” Pathetic, really, but you have no idea how insecure and needy we writers can be, and it doesn’t seem to get any better.

There’s also a somewhat longer review of Dot Dash in the first issue of Synaesthesia magazine, by Bec Zugor. This is an expanded version of her original blog post and very nice it is too. Seems like  a good publication; I recognise a some of the other contributors – in fact I remember Jac Cattaneo reading “Cry Wolf”, which has one of the best opening lines ever, at Sparks in Brighton a while back. Do take a look.

In other news, I was asked last week to provide a cover quote for a splendid new chapbook, “Threshold”, by David Hartley for the excellent Gumbo Press. Do watch out for this and get yourselves a copy when it comes out – this is where much of the cutting edge action is right now, places like Gumbo, Nightjar and Spectral. They’ll be collectors’ items one day, mark my words.

Dot Dash For 77p!

It’s madness, it is. Dot Dash arrived on the Kindle today and for a limited time only (at least I assume so) it will cost you no more than 77p! That’s SEVENTY-SEVEN PENCE, people. It also seems to be available in the US Kindle store, although there’s no price currently attached.

If, like me, you still prefer the feel of real paper books, it’s also finally made it to the ordinary Amazon store.

Other bookstores are, of course, available. For the time being, at any rate. Some of them pay a bit more tax than Amazon, too.

The ideal option, from my point of view, would be for you to spend 77p to see if you like the look of it, and then order a signed physical copy from me (see sidebar <–). Or pop into your nearest local independent bookshop.

Five other Scott prizewinners from Salt are also included in this offer, and the ones I’ve read (from Cassandra Parkin and A J Ashworth) and the one I’m currently reading (from Carys Bray) are bloody brilliant. Get in there, I say.

Interview with Mike French

Today we take a well-earned breather from the “Dot Dash” blog tour and turn our attention to another writer, the excellent Mike French. I first encountered Mike in his role as editor of the splendid literary magazine, The View From Here, where he accepted a short story of mine and then proceeded to invite me onto his team as an occasional contributor. TVFH is always worth a read, by the way – there are some excellent pieces published there.

Last year, Mike brought out his remarkably ambitious debut novel, “The Ascent of Isaac Steward”. Not surprisingly, such an unclassifiable book took some time to find a publisher prepared to take it on, but all credit to Cauliay Publishing for having the necessary vision. Since then, Mike has wasted no time at all in getting his next book, “Blue Friday”, to market, this time with the exciting new imprint Elsewhen Press (who, incidentally are also bringing out my good friend Dave Weaver’s debut novel, “Jacey’s Kingdom”, very soon).

Mike very kindly agreed to drop in here recently and answer a few questions. Actually, the process took some time because my mind was somewhat elsewhere, what with my own book coming out. Which may also go some way to explaining why I completely managed to cock up the name of his book in my first question. He was, however, very nice about it, as well as being surprisingly informative…

Can you tell me a bit about “Blue Monday”?

Blue Monday is a single released by New Order in 1983 and is the best selling 12 inch of all time – I think The Beach was on the b-side but I could be wrong.   The song begins with a distinctive semiquaver drum intro. Hope that helps.  Don’t know why you asked me that – but heh it was a great record.  [*smacks head*] Anyway as for Blue Friday it’s about a society that has gone to extreme measures to try and protect the family unit. No overtime is allowed for married couples, there is enforced viewing of family friendly TV, family meal times have to be had at set times and there is a coming of age where twenty-five year-olds are automatically assigned a spouse by the state computer if they have failed to marry.  It’s not on vinyl. It lasts longer than seven and a half minutes and it doesn’t open with a semiquaver drum beat. It does however have a family protection agency that will kick the shit out of you if you deviate from the rules. Apparently it’s dystopian – with a touch of Douglas Adams about it – which was a surprise to me, I thought I was writing a how to manual on caring for potted plants.

That sounds intriguing! Would I be right in thinking that it’s a slightly more straightforward proposition than your first book, “The Ascent of Isaac Steward” (which I’ll be honest I found quite a challenging – although ultimately rewarding – read)?

Yes, Blue Friday has a linear storyline and simpler structuring than Isaac Steward.  Isaac was written in that way to reflect the disintegration of his mind and there was no need to employ that technique with Blue Friday.  I missed the seminar on how to write your first novel with Isaac Steward and jumped straight to a James Joyce style end of career novel that split the reviewers – half loved it, half just seemed to be scratching their heads wondering what on earth it was supposed to be.  So my plan is to work backwards and flip my career progression and regress into pulp fiction – so by around my tenth book I will hit a low and reach the Dan Brown stage of writing style and plotting structures.  I think looking back Isaac was an intensely emotional book to write whilst I had a lot more fun with Blue Friday – and there is more humour in it.  I was also really interested in writing using minimalism to shape my style so Blue Friday is cut back hard and is faster paced as a result. In the same amount of words I used in Isaac to describe a sunset, Blue Friday would have jumped out of the page, ripped your throat out and asked you to muse over the state of society.

That makes perfect sense to me, although I know there are a lot of publishing industry folk who would say that it’s a mistake to dabble in both literary and genre. Has anyone ever suggested to you that you should be using different pen names? If not, what would be your reaction if they did?

No-one has suggested I use a penname and Isaac was part literary and part slipstream so I think as Blue Friday is speculative it’s not a huge jump into a different genre.  However in general I would not be keen to use a penname – I can see in some cases it makes sense, like when there’s another author with a similar name or you wish to remain anonymous, but generally I can’t see the point.  So is Jonathan Pinnock your real name?  I heard your real name was Jonathan Peacock but Salt Publishing thought that your career as a writer and that of an paralympian athlete would confuse the public. ( By the way I saw you win gold you were amazing!)

Sadly my real name is indeed Pinnock, although I have the penname suggestion put to me in the past which is why I asked you. But I’m not keen on them either. Did you find that the fact of having successfully finished and sold a book made the process easier the second time around?

Getting the publishing deal for Isaac Steward really set me on a massive high – and I wrote Blue Friday whilst riding that wave.  It was a good feeling knowing that I was writing something that would definitely exist as a book this time.  And I also came at the whole process differently – Isaac was written in snatches of time when I was looking after the kids as a homedad – Blue Friday was written in a block that lasted 3 months – well the first draft anyway.  In the past I would have thought that that was not enough time but I was struck by how long Iain Banks takes to get a book written when I interviewed him a few years ago, so I was open to the possibility.  I think a lot of the work is done beforehand as it swills around in your mind and Blue Friday had been sitting in my head for years so when I started it just came pouring out like releasing a flood.

Which leads me very naturally to ask you what you’re working on now?

I’m working on a third novel called Convergence with the tag line “The story is everything. And everything will become the story.”  It’s apocalyptic and in its very early stages – there’s a synopsis and prologue but that is it so far. I’m struggling to get the time at the moment with Blue Friday just coming out and I’ve been editing a short story collection from the Luton Writers’ Group called Underground Rivers which was launched last Friday at Luton Central Library – there was quite a crowd with over 80 people packing the place out.

Excellent stuff. Can’t wait to hear more! In the meantime, “Blue Monday Friday” is available from all good publishers bookshops – details available on Mike’s website. Do take a look.

Older posts