Monday, June 9, 2014

Co-ed Stephanie Crets interviews #BLauthor8 R.M.F. Brown

"Sleepytime," by Kelene Karetski
Co-editor Stephanie Crets interviewed #BLauthor8 R.M.F. Brown after we published his short story “Hyacinth” last week. It’s interesting because we don’t often come across writers who don’t claim to be immersed in contemporary lit (don’t most of us usually wear our tedious knowledge of this or that new publication, or this or that obscure indie up-and-comer, on our sleeves?). Brown lives in Scotland, so he’s a bit removed from at least American print mags. Plus, he’s a historian, so he is, in his words, “fascinated with the past.”

Do you think unplugging from the cacophony of modern lit, even for a little while, can be beneficial? Does focusing on one’s own craft more than on what others are crafting isolate or liberate us?

Read the interview and let us know what you think in the comments.

"Molds," by Kelene Karetski
SC: What is your favorite genre to write? What is your favorite genre to read?

RMFB: My favourite genre to write is historical fiction. Being a historian myself, I'm fascinated with the past, and it gives you the opportunity to get inside the heads of people and how they lived: their attitudes, how they reacted to events unfolding around them, and how they saw the world, etc. Also, from a writing point of view, historical fiction is incredibly helpful when plotting a story. Building a plot or story from scratch is not as easy as it sounds…well, for me, anyway. If you're dealing with a historical event, you have a ready-made template to follow, and it's easy to progress the story if you know your main character gets killed in a battle later on. So, yeah, it may feel like cheating, somewhat, but from a technical point of view, it's very helpful!

My favourite genre to read is thrillers. Sci-fi and fantasy come a very close second, but when you sit down early in the morning with a first-rate thriller, and your backside is sore in the afternoon because you’re still sitting in the chair…well…very rarely do I get that from another genre!

SC: You've listed a number of influences, including Stephen King and HG Wells. What about these authors and more influenced your writing?

RMFB: HG Wells is an inspiration because, like myself, he came from a humble background, had many a rubbish job, and aimed to better himself through education and culture. These are things I can relate to. And of course, “War of the Worlds” is a great book to read, and it inspired great music with Jeff Wayne's musical version of the same name (which is a favourite album of mine). So kudos to HG Wells for that.

Stephen King is another favourite for being such a great storyteller. His books inspired me to become a writer myself—not because they were rubbish and I thought I could do better, but for the everyman quality they have. His worlds are populated with ordinary people and small towns. Again, these are things I can relate to. The one exception to his works is “Cujo.” I hate that book!

King also deserves credit for what he has to say about writing, especially his interviews about a writer's life, and his disdain of snobbery within the industry. These are views that chime with my own. His general helpfulness to aspiring authors is another worthy trait. “On Writing” is a first class guide to becoming a writer, and in my view, is probably worth a thousand creative writing classes.

SC: Any particular works that really inspired you to go down the writer path?

RMFB: “Tower of the Elephant,” by Robert E. Howard, is probably one of the finest short stories I have ever read, but because it's a Conan the Barbarian story, and because fantasy has long been dismissed as a genre packed full of elves and dwarves; it's never received the credit it deserves, in my view. Full of imaginative imagery and written by somebody vastly talented, it's one of my favourite stories.

SC: How about any recent works by any author that have been inspiring?

RMFB: I'm ashamed to say that fiction-wise, I haven't read anything that has been published in the last ten years. Most of the fiction I'm reading now is fantasy from the 1980s, or 1960s sci-fi. Nonfiction, however, is a different story. Christopher Clark's “The Sleepwalkers” (dealing with the origins of The Great War) is a master class in historical scholarship.

SC: What is your writing process like? How does the process differ when you're writing short stories, novels, or film reviews?

RMFB: For the writing process, my main priority is to sit down and get something onto paper. With random internet browsing, silly YouTube videos, and a plethora of PC games at my disposal, I've got too many distractions for my own good. When I do write, my first priority is to create a “skeleton.” By this I mean, get the framework done. In my experience, many people get hung up with the right words, or sentence construction. When I've got a few thousand words down on the page, then I can go back and fine tune what I've written. In a sense, I'm adding “muscle” to the skeleton. That doesn't mean to say I'm churning out garbage, but a blank page can sap a writer's will to write.

When I'm writing film reviews, I'm interested in analysis with other films and adding light touches of humour. When I'm doing a novel, structure and themes, plus the discipline to write everyday, are the priorities. So yeah, different approaches are needed.

"KittyKat" by Kelene Karetski
SC: Do you have any favorite literary magazines or presses?

RMFB: It probably borders on the heretical for me to say this, but I'm pretty ignorant of literary magazines and presses. Mostly, I've never had the money to buy what they produce, and generally, I've never found one to my liking. However, with Twitter, and the increasing exposure that things like that bring to their publications, I will be actively seeking out presses and literary magazines, and doing my best to support one or two. To me, they are the cornerstone of the profession, and many are unsung heroes. I've always believed in giving something back to the community, so, yeah, I'll try and make the effort. If I'm not distracted by something else.

SC: Which of your own works are you most proud of?

RMFB: Tough question. I don't like blowing my own trumpet, but since you've put me on the spot, I'd have to say a short story I did a few years ago about a renegade ice cream stall owner getting his revenge on his customers. He was running over kids with his van, and putting garlic in the ice cream and stuff like that. That was a lot of fun to write.

SC: What are you working on right now? Anything exciting on the horizon for you?

RMFB: I'm working on a few short stories for various writing competitions that are upcoming. I'm trying to build up a portfolio of work for when I seek out a literary agent.

SC: Anything to plug?

RMFB: Unfortunately, no.

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