My Interview with Writer Tricia Gilbey

Today I’m interviewing writer Tricia Gilbey, an author from near Sudbury, England. Tricia, it’s great to be with you today.
Thank you for asking me, Jeff. It’s great to be here.
Jeff: Have you lived in England all your life?

tricia GilbeyTricia: Yes, I live in East Anglia. I spent my university years in London, but each time I’ve moved, I’ve gone deeper into the countryside, until I ended up in our cottage by the woods. I grew up in a new town – a satellite of London, and longed to be in a place with some history, and so I moved to the oldest town in England – Colchester, once the Roman town of Camulodunum which Boudicca destroyed. There are still the carbonised remains of meals eaten that day in the Castle museum, built on the remains of the Roman temple. I’ve been down in the temple vaults and heard the stories with many of the groups of children I’ve taught over the years. Now, I live in the Stour Valley.

J: What are some of the things you like best about where you live?
T: I love the light, and the rolling hills. It is an area immortalised by painters such as John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough and John Nash. Our village is on the Essex/Suffolk border – so it is possible to stand with one foot in each county, overlooking the beautiful River Stour. I love the timber framed buildings with their rich colours, and the sense of community. I also enjoy only being one hour from London, and being able to access everything going on there too. We have a tiny train halt in our village and a two coach train which trundles up and down to the mainline.

J: We’re probably loathe to admit it, but I think many Americans are all terribly confused (well, I’m not, of course!) over here about how this United Kingdom, Great Britain, England thing all fits together. Do you hear that a lot from people outside the UK?

T: No…well they haven’t mentioned it, but I don’t think many people think about it as deeply as you do, Jeff! Of course, you’ll know better than most that there are many historical reasons for the different names. It’s something that can really confuse children though, and it makes our geography difficult to teach. But the more you go into the reasons for the different names, and the way England itself grew from a patchwork of kingdoms, the more you realise we really are a culture shaped by invaders and settlers. I value all the people who come to our country and contribute to our rich, diverse culture. I was relieved in the recent referendum that Scotland remained a part of the UK, even though I understood their reasons for wanting to break away.

J: What is something you wish Americans better understood about England?

T: Well, recently I was watching an episode of The Good Wife which featured an English case, about publishing, funnily enough, and the clichés about English people were coming so thick and fast I nearly threw something at the TV! I love that series, it was just that one episode that bugged me. It seemed that English people were seen as being very stuffy and rule-bound and conventional, and that is definitely an unfair stereotype. As I mentioned earlier, I think one of the strengths of this country is that we are all very different, and yet we have so much in common. Perhaps we are a little more reserved than you, but as we make connections in the global meeting places of the internet, and as our families move to different countries – my sister married a Canadian and lives over there – it leads  to greater understanding, which I think is a wonderful bonus.

J: Could you tell us how the desire to write came about for you?

T: It’s been there ever since I can remember. I loved writing stories and poems at primary school and a teacher thought my story was so good she serialised it and read a chapter a day. It was my first experience of seeing how my stories would go down with readers, and the other kids loved it, luckily for me! It was about a pair of shoes which came to life. I seem to remember they argued a lot! The shoes, not the kids. My mum encouraged me to write, one of my best presents ever was a set of little books and transfers- an early form of ‘self publishing’! And Mum suggested I send my stories into Heinemann – so I packaged up my collection of red Silvine exercise books and sent them off. One of the stories was an adventure called The Monster’s Cave. I’d stuck my own picture of the monster onto the front cover! Definitely influenced by the Minotaur, but set in Cornwall, England. I got a lovely letter back saying that, aged nine, I was perhaps a little too young, but they were sure I would one day have something published. Another early memory is going to a big house where my Dad’s friend worked and there, in the window, was the largest typewriter I’d ever seen – this was way before word processors. And he let me type on it, and it was just the biggest thrill. I always knew I wanted to write.

J: What would you say were the authors that influenced you the most.

T: Oh, so many, I read so much. But ones that have stayed with me were C.S Lewis – I adored Narnia, Alice in Wonderland was a big favourite and I also loved Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll books. I enjoyed stories where there was a world within a world, and where that line between fantasy and reality was so thin, you could step from one world into the other. I also loved A Traveller in Time by Alison Utley and Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce and each year I now attend the Pearce lectures in Cambridge, and I’ve seen some great people talk there, including Phillip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and many more. If you look them up online you can watch them too, they’re all on video.

J: Could you tell us a little about the different things you’ve written?

T: I write mainly for ages 10-14 – so YA books. It’s the age we really start to discover the world beyond our immediate homes, and begin to imagine our futures for ourselves, and so it’s a very rewarding age-group to write for. I’m writing a trilogy called The Thought Shapers about a near future world, a dystopian city, and a girl who, through a community of storytellers, finds she can alter her reality through her imagination. And when I got the idea for my current book I just knew I had to take a break from teaching to write it. It’s called To Know the Dark, and it’s about a fourteen year old girl, Martha, who returns from an itinerant life with her mother, travelling in India and elsewhere, to settle down with her Gran in a sleepy Suffolk town. But then, a ghostly soldier from World War One emerges from a portrait in her Grandmother’s barn, with secrets too terrible for him to bear alone. While based very much in the twenty-first century, I explore the influence of the past on the present and of the present on our memories of the past. My stories are often about how we remember and why we might try to forget. I’m so excited about this book, and am currently submitting it to agents.

J: I really appreciate the motivations you have for writing. They would lend themselves to fascinating ideas. Aside from favourite authors, what other influences inspire your writing?

T: I love to walk while thinking about ideas. I invariably come back with everything sorted in my mind. And for my current book To Know the Dark I have been very inspired by a particular small Suffolk town. There is a country park with a disused station building but they have left the tracks in the grass even though they go nowhere, and the platform. And there is a single old castle wall on top of a motte. All just right for a ghost story! I’ve combined the two vintage shops in the town into one where one of the characters works, and used the war memorial and so on. There is also a particular house where I imagine Martha lives. When I went there with a friend recently I gave her a guided tour and it felt as if I was walking through my book! The other thing I love is music. I don’t often play music when I’m writing, but with this book there are sections where I used music to get me in the mood. For example at the beginning there is a Halloween party in a barn and I found some music that might have been playing, and then again for the end of the book there was a particular piece by Elgar that really got me welling up. It’s a very emotional thing writing a book, and music helps to evoke the right feelings.

J: Tricia, I have to ask you. What is it with the British and their extra vowels? It’s so much extra work! As I was writing the question above, I wrote favorite and my spell checker corrected it to favourite! My own computer! You’re having great fun confusing us, right?

T: Now that’s odd because my computer does the same thing, but it takes the vowels out. Maybe we should swap?!

J: Tricia, I think it’s a wonderful you are writing for this age group. Young people need to be challenged more. You’re igniting their curiosity with invitations to explore the world around them and that’s a marvelous thing. Thank you so much for this interview. It’s been great to learn more about you and we’ll be looking forward to these great stories you’re working on!

T: Thank you, Jeff. I can’t wait until they’re out there, being read!

Catch up with Tricia on Twitter @ https://twitter.com/autho

And catch the spirit of her passion for writing for young people at  http://www.pearcelecture.com/

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My Interview with Author Matthew Carter

Jeff: Today I’m interviewing author Matthew Carter who hails from Romulus Michigan. He’s written the book Liquid Soul. Matthew, it’s a very interesting title. To those unfamiliar with the book, could you tell us a little about that?Matthew C

Matthew: Liquid Soul is a story about a guy who, through his killings, is able to live a moment in his victims’ lives. He lives a solitary existence and he views this as his only way in which to not only communicate with the outside world, but more importantly to him anyway, he is able to become someone else even if it is just for a short period of time. This act is addictive to him and he does whatever it takes in order to make it get the sensation time and again.

J: What inspired you to tell this story?

M: It was originally a short story I wrote in college. I had finally found my writing voice and this was the second story I had written after that. I have always been curious about other people. I wonder what goes on in their minds, whether they are good, or bad and I wonder about their lives. I am an eternally curious person, but I wouldn’t go to such lengths to know what it is like to be someone else.

J: Could you tell us how you came to know you wanted to be a writer?

M: I’ve always been introverted and so from a very young age I would play different scenarios in my head and let my imagination run free. I didn’t start to write down my thoughts into stories until middle school and they didn’t really form coherently until college. I had steadily gotten better and I rarely if ever showed anybody what I wrote until about college. 

J: This story concept hints at a number of things. It’s been said “we all have thoughts that would shame hell.” I think most of us wonder if being able read another’s mind wouldn’t be an incredibly useful thing. Being able to read the mind of an “average” person (if there is such a thing), do you think we would be bored, surprised, or alarmed, or something else?

M: Well, I don’t particularly like the word average because when it comes down to it there is no average in people. Everybody has their own streak of uniqueness within them. Everybody has secrets and some are deeper and darker than others. I think if we peered within the psyche of another we would be all of those things and so very much more.

As humans, no matter our level of understanding, we are very complex beings with very complex thoughts. There are ideas that each of us have within our heads that are so different from each other it is mind boggling. Even if the ideas are the same, how the people were able to come up with the ideas are completely different. There might be lots of boring thoughts coming from someone else, but the way they come across, they would be mind blowing because they would come in such a way so foreign to me. I think I would mostly be surprised, but alarmed also. There will be something within each of us, despite our differences, in thought processes to connect us.

J: You make me wonder if we may all have the same sorts of dark thoughts, but the “good” people are better able to control them?

M: I think so, and that to me is part of the human experience. Many of us struggle with ideas that come to our head from our self-identification. Our self-identification changes with our environment, but sometimes those dark thoughts permeate within us and there are those who are able to fight off those thoughts and others who don’t want to fight them, or have just given in for whatever reason and whether they know the darkness they act upon is wrong, they love the darkness. “Good” people are those who don’t hold in the thoughts, but find proper outlets like writing, painting, music, etc.

J: And that’s a compelling argument for funding the arts!

M: Oh yeah, I love the arts, and enjoy going to the art museum whenever I get a chance.

J: Your main character, he’s not the typical protagonist. Would you describe him as an anti-hero in search of redemption, or something else?

M: One of the ideas behind the story was to make him appear as someone who would fit quietly into society without anyone suspecting anything. Now, he is a bit of an antihero because he thinks there is something spiritual about what he does, but on another level he realizes that what he is doing is completely off base of what is okay to do in society. Yet he even recognizes that he isn’t really a part of society, and is more really on the outside looking it, and taking what he wants from time to time in an effort to try to feel like he belongs and is needed even if it is under false pretenses.

How did he get started down this path? He had a bad home life, which he learns about through a few bouts of Liquid Soul. In the beginning he learns he has the gift, but knows little of his life before he had Liquid Soul. Only through LS does he become better aware of his world. Of course he sees it through his perceived reality and not through a healthy reality.

J: As we go through our lives, trying to find out who we are, the people we get to know make the journey more interesting. It sounds as if, for your character, killing another person is the only way he’s been able to find out who he is?

M: That’s exactly what is going on there. For years growing up he was isolated from his family when traumatic events struck him and the only way he was able to deal with it was through this interesting dance of through their death becoming them for a moment of their lives. He isn’t sure how to relate back to society, even though he has this deep desire to reenter it.

J: To be able to continue this life for an extended period of time, is your main character very clever at avoiding being caught, or just very lucky?

M: A bit of both actually. He may be a loner on the outside of society, but he knows where to go to avoid capture. But like any killers, there is luck involved.

J: Many writers use a third person point of view, fewer use first person, but that’s what you’ve done here, and I think it’s inspired. The reader has only your main character’s point of view for reference. It’s more subjective, but we can really get wrapped in that perspective, that singular point of view. We can get deep into the psyche, the motivations and with each killing and the acquiring of additional layers of experience and memory…I can see how the reader can almost become a captive part of this journey; a victim in a different sort of way. And because of the way your character lives his life, we find ourselves in sort of a multiple first person perspective.  Could you elaborate on that a bit?

M: Yes I don’t think this story would have worked as well if it was a 3rd person story. I really thought it was essential to get to know the whys of the narrator’s motives. Or, at least why he thinks he does what he does. Through this type of 1st person I feel like it is more personal and whether you want to or not you get to know him through all of his psychosis. The readers needed to feel as if they were on a personal journey through his darkness no matter where it leads. If I went with 3rd person he would have just been portrayed as a mysterious serial killer with subtle drops here or there, but what I tried to reach for was a man in which you got to experience life as he did, and through his eyes.

J: Could you share an excerpt of Liquid Soul with us?

 liquid soulM: Of course.
“I don’t have a past. I don’t have a future. I just need Liquid Soul. It wasn’t like this had been my first time, but it felt just as good and as pure. The addiction was something I just couldn’t help. It wasn’t alcohol or drugs, but instead it was feeling the crimson of my victims; most likely the only pure things left in them. I examined their souls and peered inside to see what experiences they’d had. In my head I had certain ideas of what I needed to shake my core, and to keep the high going. But the more I got into it, the more I realized it was more than just the blood drug that gripped me; I soon became attached to the people themselves. Throughout my life I had wandered alone, trying to find pieces of me in any place I could and when it came down to it, I was nothing but a shell of missed opportunities. But when I saw others’ lives there was a glimmer of hope that resonated within. A certain wish blew over me and I was finally rectified. There was never a point in which I was worried about being jealous about what my friends had seen or done. Instead, I felt blessed that I was able to feel what others were all about. I was enlightened by their truth and way about things.”

J: And finally, wondering if you have anything else in the works at the moment?

M: Yes there is. I am penning two novels right now and hope to have one out by December.

J: And would either one be a sequel to Liquid Soul?

M: No, but there is a sequel in the works; just not yet.

J: Matthew, thanks for hanging in there with me on this! I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

M: This has been two tons of fun.

Catch up with Matthew at his website: http://www.liquidsoulsessence.com/

And on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Liquidsoul9/about

 

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My Interview with Eric Mutch

Eric is the author of the suspense novel Miranda (published by Thorstruck Press) and a resident of Provo, Utah.

EricI read Miranda last month and was caught up in this gripping story of intrigue. It’s hard to put it down because it feeds into our concerns that we don’t really have privacy; perhaps we don’t have nearly as much free will as we think and that there is some shadowy organization that’s got its clutches into just about everything important.

Jeff: Eric, could you tell us a bit about the process that brought this book to life, how long it took you to write it and where the inspiration came from?

Eric: The idea soaked in my brain for some 20 years before I ever started typing. I had a terrible run of luck for a while and lost a few opportunities to coincidental mishap. Mail mis-route in one case and a car breaking down in another. After a while it occurred to me just how easily these things could be made to happen deliberately. I imagined a shadowy figure running around tampering with lives.

Miranda as a concept formed in an abnormal Psych class in college. Identifying a dangerous personality, or a useful personality could be accomplished by a system of tests in the school system at a very early age. After the identification, its easy enough to create a system of coincidental happenings to nudge a person one direction or another. Those people running the system can be left largely unaware. Simply set up the right policy and procedure outline and have access to the records.
 There’s not much of a story there, just a world in which to tell the stories. Granted, it’s a pretty robust world. The idea of telling the story of the shadowy figure who *does know some of the behind the scenes facts and performs the distasteful tasks is a much more interesting way of giving the readers a glimpse into the inner circle of our secret society. The actual writing began after talking to a friend (whose name is Porter, not coincidentally) about my idea and he liked it so much he brought me a laptop the next day to write it on. How could I not start the story after that. It took me some 6 months to pound out the story, and some years to learn to write and revise it.

J: With motivation like that it would be tough not to proceed! In today’s society, with everything we see going on it’s easy for those thoughts to creep into our mind. We see real cover ups and wonder how many more are going on that we don’t hear about. Thoughts of paranoia can take hold without too much trouble and it seems easy to get caught up in reading stories about conspiracy theories. Could you speak to that?

E: I would love to. We tend to focus on the spectacular ideas – Aliens and the like. We see maliciousness around every corner and see that some wild paranoias exist. In truth the dangerous conspiracy is much more banal than that. We forget that everything is a conspiracy. If I make a grocery list with my wife, we have conspired to go to the store. Very powerful people, be they politician, businessman, scientist, or other, like to keep the power. They all have secret plans to squash the competition and control the market. Go to any board meeting or political office and tell me I am wrong. Remember, *you* are either the competition or the market. The goal is to manipulate your behavior through direct or indirect means.

The question becomes, at what point is this a conspiracy worth calling conspiracy? At what point are they powerful enough and good enough at the game to become an illuminate ranking group and is this even a bad thing? Sometimes I watch the disinformation spread around the internet, the lack of critical thinking in the mainstream, and I pray that there IS a group with enough sense to guide the outcome. Someone who wants to stay powerful and realizes that in order to do so, they need me to have the will and resources to support them. I know that a market has to be able to afford what I am selling. I think there are huge untapped resources available and it takes some very powerful people to develop them.
I often get asked if I feel any danger in publishing Miranda if I feel there really is a Miranda out there. I dont. The best thing they could do is allow me to publish. It discredits me. Then stir in a ton of disinformation and the story fades. We dismiss the people around us as potentially part of this because we separate ourselves, we think of our own religions, businesses and politicians as exempt simply because we know them. Which is of course what makes them able to manipulate us so easily.

J: It sounds like your journey to writing a novel was a bit different than some. Many writers seem to have an urge to write that takes place early in life, without any specific stories to write. It sounds like, for you, the passion for the idea ignited the urge to write?

E: Very true. I have something to say and I want to it do through fiction. It’s not about the conspiracy however. Its about human nature and how we are developing as a society and our maturity as a people. I try to put a context into the stories to make people think, which at first glance makes me sound a bit arrogant and I suppose I may be. Success to me is in making people question what they have assumed to be true. Miranda has part of that message. The rest will come as the story unfolds further.  

J: You live in Provo, Utah, a place where the LDS church has a lot of influence. Some would say that influence is very controlling. Did living in this sort of environment have any impact on the writing of Miranda?

E: I would be lying if I said no. The worst tyrant is one who wants to save you from yourself, one who thinks he is acting in your own best interest. Greedy people can be sated but a religious fanatic can never be. The LDS church is, as a whole, benevolent. However, they are as willing as any religion to play where they are not welcome, as they did with Prop 8. They aren’t a violent people, they actually have a brilliant social structure and preparedness. There is a lot to admire about them; they are smart, educated, frugal, and driven. Still, they will take your rights away to accomplish their goals. People who advocate for legislation of morality are moving us closer to a theocracy. In a theocracy only one religion gets to be state sanctioned. That is my worst fear.

J: I like your comment about disinformation on the internet. For me, the most important thing I learned in college was critical thinking. I see people jumping on every urban myth and wild news story and think about our desire to believe gossip, and outlandish rumors. So many people want to be that person, the one who heard it first and let all their friends and family know some shocking truth. I know a few people who do this and I finally gave up trying to steer them straight. It seems this rabid desire to get to the bottom of things is just clogging up the works even more. Your thoughts?

E: One might think its deliberate; a method of hiding the truth in this ridiculous disinformation. If I wanted to discredit an idea, I would surround it with lies and half truths. I would arrange to have a bunch of nutty comments surround it and twist it until it became laughable.

J: Your main character’s name is Porter, and you mentioned Porter Rockwell in the story as being the source for that name. Rockwell is a figure we find in early Mormon history, but few Mormons know anything about him. I think most people have never heard of him. Thoughts on that?

E: Porter Rockwell is one of my favorite historical characters. He is often thought of as a part of secret society and there is some grounds to support that. I snuck him in because his colorful life reflects the nature Miranda’s employees share. He was very possibly a mass murderer, but was without doubt influential in the direction the entire western development took. He did what he did (presumably) out of religious fervor. Or perhaps he was a sociopath…who knows. Either way he fits the Miranda profile.

J: Miranda makes us think. It makes us wonder. It worries us a little. What do you hope Miranda’s effect will be on people?

E: I hope they realize that we still have the power. I hope they realize that critical thought will save us. I hope they understand that nice and good are different, that hard and evil are different, and that a lack of accountability is why power corrupts.

J: And lastly: earlier you said “The rest will come as the story unfolds further.”   Is there a sequel to Miranda? If so, what can you tell us about it?

E: Yes there is. Its called ‘The Mark of Kale’. It takes the story deeper into Miranda’s inner circle and shows a little of their perspective.

J: Eric, thanks so much for letting us get to know you a bit better and sharing some thoughts about Miranda.

Miranda

Eric uses the pen name Ayrich Mutch.

Click on the image to go Miranda on Amazon.com

You can find Eric on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/eric.b.mutch?fref=ts

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