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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Author Interview With K J Rigby

I was born in Crosby, north Liverpool and am now living in Devon, England.  I have been writing for over thirty years.
I realized my unhip credentials were mounting up so I decided to write about it.
However I’m not completely unhip. My punk novel, Fall Of The Flamingo Circus was published by Allison & Busby (1990) and by Villard (American hardback 1990). Skrev Press published my novels Seaview Terrace (2003) Sucka! (2004) and Break Point (2006) and other shorter work has appeared in Skrev’s avant garde magazine Texts’ Bones including a version of my satirical novella Lost The Plot. 
Thalidomide Kid was published by Bewrite Books (2007).
I’ve had other short stories published and shortlisted including Hard Workers, first published in The Diva Book of Short Stories and now published as part of the Dancing In The Dark erotic anthology, edited by Diane Nelson (Night Publishing 2010)
I also received a Southern Arts bursary for my novel Where A Shadow Played. 
My latest book Little Guide to Unhip is published by Night Publishing. 

Tell us a bit about your latest book: Little Guide to Unhip.

 Little Guide To Unhip is a departure from my usual fiction.  I would describe it as a quirky look at my own personal unhip top 50, each with its own star rating. My list includes Leo Sayer, Morris Dancing, the colour beige and umbrellas!  Although some of the choices are quintessentially English, it has also been appreciated by friends across the Pond.

What inspired you to write this book?

Funnily enough, Gilbert O’Sullivan was the inspiration for Little Guide To Unhip. Gilbert had me pondering how it was that he’d never enjoyed a comeback, unlike many of his contemporaries such as Slade, Sweet, even Abba.  From Gilbert, I started to reflect on other unhip paraphernalia, people, props, personality traits, and it grew from there.

Did you learn anything from writing this book?

I’ve learned that I can do non-fiction as well as fiction and that it doesn’t have to be lofty, dry or inaccessible – that actually it can be a lot of fun.  

How do you do research for your books?

I’m quite an obsessive note-taker, but research is now easier than it ever was with Google and widespread access to the internet.  They say write what you know and I do try and draw on my own experiences.

What qualities make a successful writer?

I would say, persistence and self-belief. You need that staying power and not to give up at the first or even the tenth hurdle.  You need a balance between developing a tough skin but being humble enough to take on board constructive criticism. You need to learn to be your own critic. Yes, take on board suggestions for improvement, but don’t go changing everything on the basis of one comment if you disagree with it,  otherwise you may end up like a boat without a rudder.  I think the general rule of thumb is – if enough people say it, then there’s probably something in it. Otherwise, it might just be personal taste.  It also begs the question as to what is successful. Aim for the sky by all means, but if you only get as far as the roof of your house, well, that ain’t such a bad thing in this day and age!  Which is another way of saying be proud of small successes.
New writers make many mistakes: what do you think is the most harmful?

I would say being too arrogant and not accepting constructive suggestions for improvement.  All other mistakes, whether it be telling too much instead of showing, or sudden changes of tense in the wrong place etc can easily be rectified as long as the attitude of the writer is good and they are willing to improve.
To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

I would say they’re pretty important.  If the story or concept is brilliant, or the spelling and grammar are intentionally breaking the rules, then OK, but it’s easy for a sloppy piece to pull the reader up and detract from the piece.

How much revision do you do before you send it off?

This varies.  I do fewer drafts than I used to.  I’ve learned that you can over-revise. In many cases I tend to try the market when I want to move on to something else. There’s nothing like the offer of publication to galvanize you into doing final edits.  There’s always scope for a bit more revision, I’ve found, before it goes into print!

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

It’s important for marketers, mainstream book publishers and shops for their shelves, but some of my favourite fiction is often a bit off-beat and doesn’t easily sit in a particular pigeonhole – it would probably be classified as literary fiction.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

For me it’s organic.  I gradually build the story up and often it’s not until you start writing it that you know for sure whether you have started in the right place. This is why many authors leave their beginnings until later or even leave it until the end!

Do you have support from family, friends or a writing group?

Very much so.  My mother was a major influence on me as she was writing a novel when I was 17, so the idea of novel-writing wasn’t an alien concept. I was able to pick her brains and get lots of tips passed on from her.  My family are or have been generally  involved in creative ventures be it art, music or writing.  I also have writing friends and even more since I joined several writing network sites, earlier this year, such as Authonomy and Night Reading

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

Well, there’s the usual household chores that need to be done.  There’s emails and Facebook.  I also have fibromyalgia so I suddenly run out of energy late afternoon and need to lie down or sleep.  This, with a late start to the day actually shrinks the window of opportunity for focussed uninterrupted writing.

Which genre or authors inspire you?

My favourite genres are contemporary/literary fiction, popular culture or well-written non-fiction - something to make me sit up, or laugh, or move me.  A good story is important but more important to me is the way it is written.  Original voice and imagery is what floats my boat. Writers I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of years include Sebastian Barry, Ali Smith, Bill Broady, Paul Magrs, Jane Gardam, Daithidh MacEoichaidh, Markus Zusak, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I’ve also enjoyed books from many writers I’ve met on Authonomy. I’ve not long finished reading Gerald Hansen’s ‘An Embarrassment of Riches’ a superb blackly comic novel and I’m now reading Allie Sommerville’s non-fiction account of her travels in Europe ‘Uneasy Rider: Confessions of A Reluctant Traveller’. I now have a backlog of books I want to read from Authonomy and Night Publishing.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

Both. The old adage of 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration still holds true!

What are you writing now?

I’ve returned to writing fiction for the time being.  It’s in the very early stages – I’m still trying to fashion the clay as it were, though a follow-up to Little Guide isn’t out of the question. I’ve had plenty more ideas on that score and suggestions from others!

Do you have a website or blog that readers can visit?

My blog: Bub’s Burble (I’ve only done two posts so far)!
The facebook pages for Little Guide to Unhip:

Where can you get a copy of the book?

It is orderable from all bookshops in the UK.  Or online from Amazon UK

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