Today, after a concerted lobbying effort by the Amalgamated Balloon Blowers Union, Local 603, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I have decided to pop their balloon and their dreams of me doing an interview of their in-house poet, Leonard Plop (author of critically acclaimed poems such as “Ode to a Balloon,” “As We Float Away,” and “I Have a Head Rush”). Instead, I’m interviewing the celebrated Englishman, human, and subject of Her Majesty the Queen, James Everington. So, without further ado, here’s James.
Thank you for taking the time to visit, James. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself before we delve into the world of books.
I was born in Nottingham, England, and I’m guessing my childhood was pretty average as I don’t remember much of it. (Either that or something so dreadful happened that I’ve wiped it from my mind.) I was one of those children who was described as “always having his nose in a book” and in that respect I’ve never grown up. I went to university at Oxford Brookes – not the real Oxford University, but an ex-Poly a few miles out from the city centre. It’s a beautiful city to study in, although you do get a real sense there of how much class and wealth still affect everything behind the scenes. I studied English (obviously) and Economics. I’m back in Nottingham now, married, and with a job which I really don’t want to think about on a Sunday morning as I’m typing this…
“Back in Nottingham now, married…” That almost sounds like something Robin Hood would twitter. I’m afraid, though, that the direction we’re going is not going to make the heavies at Local 603 happy. They have a strange bias against bows and arrows. Can’t imagine why. Oh, well. Do you get a lot of tourists in your area due to Robin Hood?
You do get tourists in Nottingham, yes, although I think they must be pretty disappointed if they’ve come for the Robin Hood connection – what’s left of Sherwood Forest is miles away, and Nottingham Castle is… Well, it’s a big house. The real castle burnt down hundreds of years ago, and what you’re paying to see now is a big house. It’s a nice big house, but still. There’s not much robbing the rich to feed the poor nowadays, either.
Speaking of rich and poor, what got you into writing in the first place?
Books. Sounds a boring answer, but there you go – I love books. So I think it was inevitable I’d want to write them as well as read them at some point.
Sometimes the best answers are the shortest ones. My favorite short answers are: cheese, three, and Egypt. All quite short. Speaking of short, tell us about your writing.
I mainly write short stories; a lot of what I write is horror fiction, but my current story on Amazon and elsewhere has no horrific elements. It’s called Feed The Enemy and is about terrorism, and the effects it has on our lives and relationships. It started off more of a sci-fi kind of thing, but upon rewriting it I removed all the futuristic elements, so now it’s set in an alternate version of present day England, where there’s evidently a high level of terrorist threat. The central character is married to a high-ranking civil servant called Leo who wants to get her out of the city. It becomes clear that Leo’s real motivations for wanting to do so, and the real reasons for his wife’s anxiety, might be something other than the media stories of terrorism… (And if anyone remembers the post-punk band Magazine, then yes, I did get the title from one of their songs!)
Why have you chosen the short story as your preferred medium, as opposed to novels or some other kind of vehicle of written communication (such as hieroglyphics in creepy tombs)?
Personally, I think short stories are great, but they seem to be under appreciated at the moment. People seem to tend to think of them as ‘small novels’ and judge them accordingly, rather than seeing them as a separate art form with their own reason for existence. Because they’re so concentrated, and you can read them in one sitting, a good short story can hit a lot harder than a novel. Does anyone forget the first time they read ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson?
New technology like the Kindle etc. seems almost designed for short stories (I refuse to call them shorts) in my opinion, because they can now be sold or even given away separately, as well as in collections. So they’re a great promotional tool for writers, like singles are for bands. You can put something out there that’s cheap and easy for readers to see if they like your style.
Very true. Stories are excellent promotion opportunities. I see more and more writers using them for that purpose. Anyway, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from members of Local 603 in the last five minutes. I’ll skip over most of them for sake of, er, time. However, here’s one valid question from someone who charmingly refers to himself as DoomHammer72. “U thnk u cn hyde 4evr?!” His syntax is somewhat lacking, but I think what he’s meaning to ask is: can you give us the scoop on any work in progress?
I found a few months ago a story which I wrote when I was about seventeen. It’s dreadful, obviously – all clichés and stilted language. But I thought the plot was pretty good – it’s a kind of coming of age horror story called ‘The Shelter’. So I’m rewriting that from scratch, hoping to keep the youthful energy and ideas, but bring a bit of maturity to the writing itself. If I don’t mess it up, I aim to self-publish it as a novella later this year.
You’re a brave soul. I shudder and then mostly pass out when I read my essays from my teen years. Brr. Anyway, speaking of reading, are there any books that had a great deal of influence on you?
The first would be ‘Salem’s Lot’ by Stephen King. My dad suggested I read it when I was about fifteen… My dad had huge, groaning bookshelves (he still has, actually) and I would pester him for books to read. One day he took down ‘Salem’s Lot’. I’ll always remember the cover of this particular edition – an almost completely black cover, with no text, but an embossed image of a girl’s face. The only colour was one drop of blood in the corner of her mouth. Anyway, it was the first adult horror book I’d read I think, and it made a huge impression. Not any one specific thing, but I could tell, even though it was about vampires, that it has been written seriously. With sweat and dedication. There was no light bulb above my head, but it was around that time that I first started thinking that being a writer would be a good thing to be.
Second, Success by Martin Amis. I was about seventeen when I read this. It was the first book I can remember where the language, the author’s style, made an impression on me. The book’s full of swearing and slang, but that’s all part of the style. Before, I’d thought caring about words had seemed the preserve of dusty 19C poets; after reading Amis I realised it could be cool. What a shallow youth I was…
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, was ‘Dark Feasts’, a collection of Ramsay Campbell’s short stories. I pick this one for three reasons. Number one, it was like a combination of King and Amis – he was writing genre fiction, but Campbell’s a prose stylist equal to anyone. Two, they were short stories, and I started to get an appreciation of the form, both for horror fiction and in general. And three, the first story in the book was, as Campbell’s himself said, a pretty generic Lovecraftian story. It was good to know that even great, great authors wrote some garbage when they started out.
Is Martin Amis any relation to Kingsley Amis? I get the two mixed up. I’ve never read Martin, but I’ve read Kingsley. I suppose, to mix a metaphor, I should broaden my horizons in that particular family tree. Perhaps they’re not related, but writers certainly do breed or, at the least, influence other writers. In that regard, to you have any advice you’d care to share on writing?
I guess the old cliché of ‘read a lot, write a lot’ says it all. Make sure you read a variety of books, not just what you want to write – the classics, genre fiction, plays, everything and anything. Your education as a writer comes from reading authors who know what they’re doing with language. Similarly, and particularly if you’re young and starting off, write different types of things too. Have fun and experiment. I wrote some excruciatingly bad poetry as a student; so should you. Of course, if you want to be a poet you’ll have to write some good poems at some point too…
Writing different types of things is great advice. A great many writers (self included) get stuck in genre ruts. Anyway, do you have an aspirations for your own writing?
Artistically, I just want to write the best I can. Commercially, I have no driving ambition to become the next big thing; I think my writing is likely to be more of a niche/cult thing. What I hope for is to build up a core audience who like what I do, and are enthusiastically waiting for the next story or whatever. People who think like I do when there’s a new book from an author I love – “Wow, there’s a new James Everington out!”. It would be pretty great to know even just a few people felt like that.
Before you depart, and I don’t mean that in terms of mortality, one last question: what would you like to be known for when you leave this little planet? And, yes, I do mean that in terms of mortality.
Hopefully by then they’ll be able to download my consciousness to a computer, and people can posthumously rate me on Amazon. I’d hope to get a few 5-Stars.
Thanks, James, for stopping by! Best of luck to you with your writing.
You can visit James Everington online at his blog. His book, Feed The Enemy, can be purchased for Kindle at AmazonUS and AmazonUK. Other formats can be found at Books To Go Now. He has a second book out called The Other Room, which can also be purchased for Kindle at AmazonUS and AmazonUK.