Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Poet and writer, Jonathan Finch, joins me on the blog today…

Hi, Jonathan, thanks for making time to be here.  I recently reviewed your poetry collection The Light Of Day II (you can read my review here) and thoroughly enjoyed the book.  So, tell me, what first got you into writing and why poetry particularly?

JF    A big adolescent hormone-fuelled nervous breakdown got me seriously into writing and certain poets just seemed to be saying it all.  For example, Keats in his “Ode To A Nightingale”.
AW  You're an Indie author, have you ever thought about securing a deal with a publisher or an agent?
JF    Well, I’m not exactly an Indie author.  Two collections of poems, “Poems People Liked (1)” and “Poems People Liked (2)”, are collections of verse which editors saw fit to publish in magazines and anthologies and some short stories were conventionally published.  The truth is I stopped writing altogether and then (re)started writing (altogether)…..again and again!  When I came back to writing, the internet revolution had occurred!  I wrote a novel in 2015/2016 called “Great Tits I’ve Known (And Other Species)”, extremely near and dear to my heart, sought advice from a fellow-writer, and was directed towards self-publishing.  Simultaneously, a publishing house showed interest but I took the Kindle (KDP) route.  As for poetry, it just can’t get you a publisher (generally speaking) and fiction - which I’ve been writing for about as long as I’ve been writing or interested in poetry - just gets you caught up in rejection-slips and difficulties.  When I saw the self-publishing path and believed it was not vanity-publishing, I went for it!
AW  I have to ask, Jonathan, the cover art on The Light of Day.  Why that particular piece of art?
JF   It’s about revelation, about religion, and about light.  Many of the poems are obviously inspired by religion (for example, “And Satan Said”, Page 94).  Poetry is also about messages, the supernatural, and going beyond.  Hence the cover art.  At a more mundane level, at the time of publication I was in close contact with someone I considered a friend and he suggested that inspirational piece of art which became the cover.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
JF   Yes, as mentioned.  And even drama.  The dedication of “The Light Of Day (II)” (“To The Departed Muse”) lets any potential reader know I’m a lapsed poet.  Prose and novels have taken over, and even if I tried my hardest, I couldn’t write poetry as I used to write it.
AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
JF   No, I don’t, but I can say that when the poetry was at its most intense (from my adolescence to 30 - 35 years of age) I felt and indeed was so on my own that the world was my ‘shed’.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
JF  Yes, I’d like to spend a whole afternoon with Shakespeare and the devil, and if he would grant it me (which he wouldn’t!), far more than one afternoon with Shakespeare, the greatest poet the language has!
about the author… Jonathan Finch was born in London into a family of teachers where fanaticism was not criticised.  His father was a devout communist for many decades.  His mother was a socialist and lapsed Roman Catholic (till a few weeks before her death).  Both parents were not English.  His mother was Irish.  His father’s grandparents were from Poland and Austria.  Post-war London was grim for Finch (despite the swinging sixties) but after grim schooling he went on to get a degree at Bristol University (and a farcical PGCE – post graduate certificate of education – at London University).  His sister got a degree at Cambridge University and went on to become an academic, a Francophile and a global feminist.  At 33 Finch left England.  At 55 Finch left Italy where he had taught English for 22 years at “La Sapienza”, Italy’s largest university.  He has now lived too long in Thailand but he is still there.

You can follow Jonathan on Amazon on his Website Twitter and on Facebook

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Off my beaten track...

Temple of Apollo, Siracusa
... I'm back in Sicily and today I'm in Siracusa...

A city of Shakespeare's choosing for some of the characters in A Comedy of Errors.  Egeon, Antipholus and Dromio are 'of Syracuse,' as Will puts it in his list of charcters - the spelling of the city name being his.  Egeon, father of Antipholus, is a merchant.  Antipholus is trying to find his long lost twin brother.  His servant, Dromio, also has a lost twin that he is searching for. And if you know your Shakespeare, you will recognise that what comes next, in my view at least, is one of the best farces ever written for stage.  But Siracusa is not the only mention of Sicily in Shakespeare.  Leonato, Governor of Messina is a central character in Much Ado About Nothing and the play opens in Leonato's court in the city.  A Winter's Tale is set on the island of Sicily and The Tempest?  Well, I think the magical place inhabited by Prospero, Miranda and Ariel might have been Sicily or perhaps somewhere very close by.  The play is set on an island somewhere between Tunis and Naples.  If you look at a map and draw a line between those two cities you will see that it skirts the islands off the coast of Trapani.  Perhaps it was one of those islands that Will may have had in mind, or a stretch of that particular Sicilian coast.  Who knows?  But I knid of like the connection.
What has this to do with being off my usual beaten track?  An awful lot.  I've been learning and reciting Shakespeare since I was six.  Reading about these unfamiliar and far away places has always fascinated me and I made up my mind that I would visit them at some point.  So, here I am in Siracusa, on the beautiful island of Sicily.
With a population of around 120,000 it is the 4th largest city on the island.  I've come in by train from Catania and it's a short walk from the station, along Corso Umberto to the old port.  As I stroll I'll tell you a little about the history.  Established around 730 BC by settlers from Corinth it won't surprise you to know that this city became a powerhouse in the ancient Mediterranean world and the population and the city grew considerably.  In the 5th century, the city covered about 300 acres - that's about 150 football pitches, if you need to visualise the area - and the population was around that of Athens.  
At the end of Corso Umberto is a bridge and ahead I can see a square with ancient stones enclosed in a garden of palms. The stones are the remains of the temple of Apollo.  Constructed in the 6th century BC.  Doric in style, it is one of the earliest temples on the island.  Over the centuries it has suffered many transformations, but is preserved today and forms one side of the Piazza Pancali.
As I turn away from the temple I notice the market stalls on my left and I stroll over, my plan to follow the route through the city recommended by the tourist's guide completely abandoned.  The stalls on Via del Mercato extend around the corner into Via Emmanuele de Benedictis and I'm suddenly hit with the rich smell of spices and herbs.  I progress between the stalls and the curry, ginger and cinnamon of the spice stall is replaced by the aroma of sea-fresh fish and crustaceans.  Vast stalls of any number of different kinds of fish. I spot a huge tuna, the dark flesh inviting and glistening as a moment of sunshine catches it.  I move on, the salt and sea of the air is replaced by a ripe essence of cheese.  I discover a corner shop full of cheese, oils and vinegars.  The counter is stacked high and
the customers are numerous and patient as they wait to be served.  I spend a while waiting for my opportunity for a pic.
Leaving the food stalls, my tummy now set a rumbling as a result of all those gorgeous smells, I continue my stroll along Via Emmanuele and I take a right into Via Vittorio Veneto and from there into the narrow streets of the old town…

I will be back in Siracusa next month, so, join me Here for more of my little Sicilian adventure...

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Friend and author, Jo Fenton...

...makes a very welcome return to my blog this week.  Hi Jo, and thanks for making time to be here.  So, you have your character, Martin, with you and you're both all settled with tea and fruit cake - absolutely scrumptious, thank you.  The page is yours...

JF  Can you tell me your role in this story?
M   I’m the house tutor.  It’s my responsibility to look after the students on floors 10 and 11 of The Tower.  Many of them are away from home for the first time.  It affects people differently.
JF  In what way?
M   Some get a bit wild.  A few struggle with depression.  Obviously drink is a big problem for some.  And too many parties, not enough studying.  The phone causes a few issues too.
JF   Can you expand on that?  The bit about the phone, I mean.
M   There’s one phone between 46 students.  They can go down to the courtyard if they don’t want to wait, but it’s pretty cold down there at the moment.  Some of the students find it a bit isolating.  They can’t call their families when they need to.
JF   How well did you know the young man that died - Rick?
M   As well as I knew most of the students.  He was a friendly, approachable young man. Very popular with many of the girls and boys in the house.  I gather many of the girls found him attractive.  For my own part, he seemed very charming.  It’s very sad that he died.  The police are suggesting there were drugs involved, but he didn’t seem the type.
Between you and me, I asked Becky, one of my favourite students in the house (and yes, I know I shouldn’t have favourites, but I can’t help it sometimes)…  Where was I?  Oh yes, I asked Becky to prepare Rick’s room for his parents to collect his belongings.  I’m hoping she’ll find something to exonerate him from having taken his own life, or for it to have been an accident.  But I suppose the alternative isn’t ideal either.
JF  What do you think happened?
M   I would very much like it to have been an accident, but I’m terribly afraid they’ll find it was foul play.  I have no idea why anyone would want to kill such a pleasant young man, but I do think he must have been murdered.
JF  Well, thank you for such a candid interview, Martin.  I hope everything works out for the best…

about the book… Manchester, 1989
A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.  His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan. Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.  Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?
about the author… Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire.  She devoured books from an early age and, at eleven, discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer.  She now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.  Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.  When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people.  She lives in Manchester with her family and is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and two reading groups.

You can get Jo's book from  Amazon
You can follow Jo on her  Website  and on  Facebook and on  Twitter

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Friend and author, Denise Bloom...

... joins me today.  Hi, Denise, and thanks for making time in your busy schedule to be here.  So, tell me all about your new book?
DB  My current release is a set of four stories called The Ladies of Whitechapel.  It is my take on the ‘Jack the ripper’ murders.  I love writing about women and how they are challenged with life regardless of their race, class or age.
AW   What first got you into writing and why?
DB   I have written from a young age, when television wasn’t available twenty-four hours a day.  I would write short plays, that my friends and brother would perform.  I was always too busy during my career so when I retired it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.  I met Kate Rose who facilitated creative writing classes and I was hooked.
AW   You write historical fiction.  Is it all imagination or do you do research?
DB   I did a fair amount of research for this book.  Although it is fictional, the women in the stories are actual women who were murdered in 1888.  You need to paint a picture for your reader so they can use their imagination to bring it to life.  I do like research however, I can be distracted by it also.
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you dabbled with other genres?
DB   I do write in other genres and have a few books on the boil.  I have a supernatural one based in current day and 1940’s Vichy France.  There is also a detective novel that runs parallel to The Ladies of Whitechapel.
AW  Famous authors such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing shed of your own?
DB   A writing shed is on my husband’s to do list.  I don’t have a special space to write, I can write anywhere.  On the plane, in the doctor’s surgery, at any social event.  I have a notebook in my handbag and use it constantly.
AW   And finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead, or a character from a book, who would it be and what would you discuss?
DB   My character from a book would be Hannibal Lecter.  Unfortunately, I may not last the afternoon.  His character is fascinating.  I studied criminal psychology within my degree and have an unhealthy curiosity about psychopaths and how their minds work.  I would ask him if he did have any feelings for Starling, or why he didn’t kill her.  Gruesome I know but exciting.
AW   You're telling me!!  Pretty scary too, I would expect. 

…about the book In the dark lanes, away from the hustle and bustle of Whitechapel High Street, four women live their lives.  But someone is watching – and waiting.
In 1888, five victims of Jack the Ripper became famous for their horrific fate.  That same year, police ignored many other women’s murders because of their class, or in an attempt to dispel the idea of a serial killer loose in Whitechapel.
Discover the forgotten women of Whitechapel: from heiress to whore, from wife to murderer.  Four woven tales of women struggling to survive the terror of Jack the Ripper’s reign.

…about the author  Denise Bloom is a retired Women’s services manager.  She started work with Bradford Social Services and Bradford Housing.  The final years of her career was managing hostels, refuges and outreach domestic violence services across Humberside and Lincolnshire.  She now writes full time along with inspiring others in creative writing classes.  Through her love of Victorian England and Ripperology a book was a natural step, using her knowledge of women’s struggles in gruelling situations.  This enables her to breathe life into her characters and allows the reader to experience the brutal life that women had to bear in the harsh streets of London Whitechapel 1888.

You can get the book from Amazon and you can follow Denise on her Website  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest and  Instagram