Johnson Vs Miles

disappear

Would you give us a little info about yourself?
I’m thirty three years old, I have a wife and daughter and mortgage. I look like Ellen Degeneres and dress like a cross between Niles from Frasier and Johnny Marr. I speak English quite well and I work for the NHS. I have a book out, it is called This Is How You Disappear.
And a bit about your writing process?
My previous novella, 18 Days, was written in five days whilst I was delirious from lack of sleep due to the night-time antics of my new-born daughter. I got an idea in my head and loaded up on coffee and wine and just typed and typed and typed. It was a very dark story and rather draining to write. This one was much easier to write. I took the best part of a year to scribble ten stories and although many of them are still on the bleak side, I actually enjoyed the process. The writing is pretty languid and evocative but with a hard-hitting core. 18 Days was like passing a kidney stone, This Is How You Disappear is like finding a razor blade in a chocolate cake.
Following on from the success of your last book, how has this helped you and has there been any negatives to tackling your new book of short stories?
I wouldn’t say my last book was successful. It got loads of five-star reviews, but I didn’t make any money from it. Having said that, I wasn’t expecting to, and I didn’t really care if I did. I learnt a lot from the first one; for example it is idiotic to attempt to write 30000 words in five days while working a fifty hour week and attending to a six month-old baby. Writing this one, I attempted to work on my weaknesses, such as dialogue, and I definitely created many more characters. The negatives were keeping the stories short, a few of them run to 10000 words or more, which strictly speaking aren’t short stories.
Why short stories and not a novel?
I have neither the discipline nor the level of concentration to write a novel. I have one on the back burner, but I’ll write big chunks of it then leave it for ages and forget my train of narrative thought. I will finish it, but it will be when I’ve got less hair and more spare time. It’s said that Martin Scorsese had been waiting twenty years for the right time to do Gangs Of New York, because it was such a monstrous undertaking. It will be the same with my novel.
Could you tell us a little about your new book?
It is a collection of ten short stories and the afore-mentioned novella. It is my first paperback. It is mostly based on themes of isolation and escapism, and I’ve taken a lot of influence from the writings of Charles Bukowski, John Fante and Cormac McCarthy. The lyrics of Elvis Costello also had a huge influence, as did the life and times of Howard Hughes. I’m immensely proud of it, and the story, Paradise, is the best thing I have ever written. As I say above, I enjoyed writing it, which is really rare for me. My favourite part of the book is called Blue and Yellow Stripes, which is an autobiographical prose about my childhood. All the characters in it are actual people, including my mate’s amazingly cool older brother, my then-best mate’s grandmother who couldn’t speak English, and the whole football team from my primary school.
Getting published – what have you done?
Long story. I was approached by my friend and mentor Darren Sant who’d read one of my stories, which was tentatively-titled A Night Out, which was a sort-of throwaway comedy story I’d written based on real events. He offered to put it out as an e-book through his fledgling publishing company, but suggested I write another short story as a bonus, to make it worth the price. Sadly, Darren’s would-be partner moved abroad so they decided not to continue with their plans. I was gutted at this because I thought the bonus short that I’d written, which I’d titled This Is How You Disappear, was one of my best pieces. I decided to write a collection of short stories with a view to self-publishing it as an e-book. During this time I’d started my own website, and one of the contributors, a magnificent author called Ryan Bracha, got in touch and asked if I’d like to contribute to an anthology he was curating and publishing called Twelve Mad Men, which I did. A while after, I decided to chance my arm and see if he fancied putting my collection out himself, because frankly I didn’t have the first idea how to do it. To my absolute joy, he said he would, and due to the fact he’s an all-round splendid chap, I’m now sitting here with a paperback volume of my own work in my hands.

 

Follow Fiona on Twitter @McDroll. Shes very good.

Follow Fiona on Twitter @McDroll. Shes very good. I know she looks pretty bored with my waffling, but that’s my fault.

Have you built on the dark themes from your last book or have you headed in different directions?
Lots of people told me that 18 Days was incredibly dark. My bezzy-mate at work told me she burst into tears at the end, but she does drink a lot of gin so that could’ve been a factor (love you Mel!) I’ve not read it since I finished it so with hindsight I can’t really say, but when I wrote that book I’d completely zoned out and was following a trail, so I didn’t really pick up on it at the time. The stories on this one are quite dark in places, The Holy Dusk Tricolore is particularly upsetting, but there’s certainly a level of black humour in a few of the stories, which I learnt from writing my contribution to the afore-mentioned Twelve Mad Men. The First Aider is particularly malevolent, and it will raise a grin or two. Ditto Nebraska, East Yorkshire, which is the re-write of A Night Out, as mentioned above.
What improvements do you see in your writing ?
I’ve made a conscious effort to write dialogue, because there was hardly any in 18 Days. I’ve also varied from first person to third person in a few of the stories, and as I’ve said, I’ve tried to inject a bit of humour into it. In many ways, I’ve tried to get away from my own style, if that makes sense.
What’s next?
I’m going to do lots of promo in order to try and sell copies of my book, have a rest for a while, then carry on with my novel. Hopefully it will be finished before Putin blows the world up.

Allen Miles, author

 

This Is How You Disappear is published through Abrachadabra Books and is available on Amazon here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

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Miles Vs Waudby

mike 2014
About seven years ago, I dropped round a mate’s house to drop off a birthday card. I hadn’t seen him in a long while and on the last occasion I had spent time with him he was a good few stone overweight, rather introverted and he’d confessed to me that he’d been struggling with the drink. His mam shouted up the stairs that I was waiting for him and when he walked through the living room door I actually skipped a heartbeat upon taking stock of his appearance. The man that I once knew as an athletic, handsome twenty-one year-old had descended further down the road to obesity and alcohol dependence and stood before me deathly pale, wearing a faded t-shirt and jogging bottoms, and, by his own admission, well in excess of thirty stone. I left that his house day stunned and upset that my friend had succumbed to such terrible problems. A couple of vague text messages were sent with the intention of meeting sometime soon, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t happen, and with the event of my grandfather passing on a short while later, I’m ashamed to admit that I kind of forgot about Mike Waudby over the next few weeks. It came to pass that I wouldn’t see him for another three years, and one night in 2010 when I wandered onto the streets of HU5 having just done the soundcheck for one of my band’s many “last ever gigs”, I received a text from my good friend Danny West, something along the lines of “I’m in (name of bar), swing by if you can, I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you.”

That surprise was the once-again lithe and muscular Mike Waudby, with his chiselled jawline and smiling face that I remembered from when he was twenty-one. During that three year absence, Mike had undergone the most astonishing and inspiring transformation, both physically and mentally. Through sheer hard work and phenomenal discipline, he had shed eighteen stone of his body weight. When I started this website, it had always been an idea of mine to get Mike to write his story, and although it took much persuading, he eventually did. If you’re one of the twenty people on Earth who hasn’t read it, it can be found here. https://sittingontheswings.com/2013/10/07/18-stone-weightloss-by-mike-waudby/
His story has captured the hearts and minds of many thousands of people all around the world, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him about the changes that his article brought to his life. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

So Mike, it’s almost exactly one year on. Your extraordinary article about your weight loss is the most viewed piece on this site by a mile. Where you slightly overwhelmed by the response?
Allen, I was in complete shock. To be honest I was bricking it when you posted my article, terrified people would ridicule me. If you hadn’t sent that text saying it was the best piece of writing you had ever read I probably wouldn’t have let you post it (by the way, I thought you was being sarcastic at first!) The second you posted it I actually had to leave the computer and go downstairs thinking “What the hell have I just done?” I was trembling to be honest and anxious to see the replies. When I saw them it was a relief, in fact it meant so much, more then I can express.

It was an unbelievably honest piece of writing. Did you sit down and think about it for ages before you did it or did you just think “Fuck it, I’m just gonna let it all out”?
I wasn’t seeing my girlfriend that evening and was just sat in my room reading discussion boards on training so I thought I’ll open Word and just give it a go. Then it just came out, I didn’t go over it a few times or change anything, just wrote from my heart and tried to be totally honest. I’m no writer; I got an E in English at school. It was in fact the first piece of writing I had ever written and I didn’t even plan on writing it as my weight was like my dirty secret, something I was greatly ashamed of. I only told people I trusted and would understand like the guys/girls at the gym and the odd person in the pub. Felt good to get it out there, like a massive weight off my chest (no pun intended).

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the comments and replies were hugely positive, you sadly had to deal with a few people who for some reason felt the need to have a dig at you. Can you tell us about that and how you dealt with it?
You mean those sad losers on the newspaper websites? Firstly, I won’t pretend to be Mr tough guy, it pretty much destroyed me. I’m not wanting to sound like a fanny but the main one was “I bet he looks disgusting under his clothes with loose skin, better off being fat or dead”

Since losing my weight, loose skin was my biggest fear. I tried to top myself again because of it so for some prick to say that just hit me hard, my biggest fear was if people notice it and go ewww so yeah, I had a little a cry, not going to lie, but about 90 mins later I thought don’t be a wimp, I could probably shoulder press this twat above my head, I’m twice the man he is (my character, not size).
In the end I stopped looking, I didn’t even buy the national papers I was in the next day, or any of the online stuff which I deeply regret now as 90% was actually positive comments like you said.

One thing I can do now is use this sort of thing to push me harder. The day after I completed a 13k assault course, now bearing in mind on that day I was weighing 16 and a half stone; I train for explosive power, not long distance, so every time I thought about giving in I thought of what that prick said and then I thought of all the positives too and those kept me going. I finally made it in a respectable time. I got weighed a few days later, I had lost 7 pounds. Probably muscle. Bugger.

You wrote about your dad’s part in turning your life around. How has he felt about your recent notoriety?
He’s proud. Though he always had been. His biggest worry was people taking advantage of me. An agent wanted me to do this and do that, he was just concerned about it all. He knows more than anyone how much hard work I put in, especially mentally.
I declined going on Daybreak, for which he said I was a fool. He was right, I should have gone on it but this was happening way too fast, I would’ve just been a mumbling wreck at the time. Today though I would be on there in a flash!

When we were in the pub a few weeks back you were keen to stress that the key to this sort of achievement is not the physical effort, but the mental strength. Is this something that you believe in strongly?
You need the mental strength to make the physical effort. I mentioned in my article that people may be over weight for many reasons, not just greed. You need to change your mind set, you have to fight the demons in your head that are preventing you from making the effort. Depression as many know can knock the shit out of you; you have no energy or enthusiasm. This was just one battle in my mind I had to tackle. There was many more. Physical effort is important but without the correct mindset, it’s hard to make that impact on the training side.

Having been in that position and pulled it round yourself, how would you convince someone who’d completely given up on themselves to start on the road back?
Buy my book and join our forum!
I could write pages on this Allen but the best way I can sum it up is make a start now.
Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong or it’s only for a bit at a time. Just do what you think is right. Make the effort just like I had to.
If you try, you see results. Then you try a little harder. You see more results. Then you’re a fucking machine, seeking more knowledge to improve what you are doing and how to better yourself and make what you’re doing even more progressive.

Tell us about the work you’ve been doing and what projects you’ve got in the pipeline.

I mentioned I have never written before, well now I can’t stop! I have my book which is receiving amazing reviews; I have The Weight Loss Warriors along with Mike Pratt which is an amazing community people can go and seek help for all aspects of life as well as weight loss. I’m also writing articles for other sites and even working on the next book which will be a complete weight loss package as well as our own supplement range and clothing line.

Are you happy Mike?
Good final question. Ask me this a year ago I’d have said no. Today I feel fucking amazing! Inspiring people from all over the world is an overwhelming feeling you just cannot put into words that do it justice. I’ve made it my ambition to help others fight obesity and trust me, you know I’ll never stop until I have made the biggest impact on not only people’s lives but the weight loss market too.

All of Mike’s current work along with his EBook is available here

http://www.theweightlosswarriors.co.uk

Mr Miles’s new book is available here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Miles vs Chatterton

gabrael

Some of you may remember a bit back that I did a couple of articles about my time in the semi-legendary Hull punk band Sal Paradise. If you read the second one, you’ll remember that I spoke very highly of a chap called Mark Chatterton, who to this day I rate as the nicest man I met in my brief sojourn in the music industry. Mark is the singer in a Peter Gabriel tribute act called Gabrael and, being somewhat of a fan of the former Genesis man myself, I was keen to shoot Mark a few questions.

How’s it going Mark?

Hello Allen, I am very well thank you. It’s very nice that you think of me so nicely.

Tell us about GABRAEL.

GABRAEL is something I have been wanting to do since my earliest days being in bands. More years than i care to remember. The problem was, up until now finding the musicians that were interested in doing Peter’s music, as well as capable and confident enough to perform it. He isn’t the easiest of artists to tribute, as we are finding out all the time.

I have borne witness to your musical taste and it’s very varied. Why Peter Gabriel?

Its true, my musical tastes are very varied. i have my parents to thank for that. when i was growing up, we always had music playing in the house. As a result, i love listening to big band jazz, as well as motown thanks to my sister Lynn, reggae, rock, (as long as i can understand the vocalsI). Most important for me is the voice. I’m a big fan of a unique voice. Singers like Thom Yorke, Xavier Rudd, Paul Simon, Ben Okafor, Stevie Nicks, Marvin Gaye, Billy Holliday really evoke a reaction in me, just through the way they deliver a line, even just a phrase. The masters of vocal delivery for me though are Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel. Two totally different styles, but both can move me to tears, or make me dance, which is no mean feat.

I first heard Peter’s voice on a Genesis concept album called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway when I was eleven years old. Thirty seven years ago. A family member at the time recorded me onto tape the first half of a double concept album, telling me that the last half was “heavy going”, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Instantly, Peter’s voice struck a chord with me, and although the concept was supposed to be confusing, I instantly put images to his words to the point where i had the story of the album as a film playing in my head.
Also, the sound of the album was unlike anything i had heard before. its that album in particular that sparked my interest in sound,. I was captivated by the way the sound filled the left, right, downside, upside, front and rear and how sound, when cleverly manipulated, can play tricks on you. I actually heard sounds as colours and shades for the first tim. That’s what took me down my path to becoming a sound engineer.

I had other bands that I listened to at the time that I first heard this album, but Genesis, in particular the Gabriel era Genesis has always been with me. The rest, over the years have gone from my record collection, never to be replaced.


Gabriel is a phenomenal singer. From a personal stand point I rate the vocal to Biko as one of the top 5 performances in all of rock. Were you at all intimidated trying to re-create the work of such a gifted vocalist?

Maybe not intimidated by the task. but because i was sure that at some point in my life, i was going to get this together. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, not just for me, but also for whoever was going to make up he band. Because I have had decades of listening to his body of work, and digesting it subliminally, i was confident i could do my part. We, as a band would never be able to recreate 100% what he puts onto his studio albums. That would be impossible, but hearing the live albums has given us an insight as to how he performs the songs. Almost all of the tracks as we perform them, we have been referencing his live versions.

Regarding the track Biko, it is such a powerful song, very poignant, and although of a specific era, relating to a specific point in time, it’s a song that still resonates today.

You rehearsed for what seemed like an ice age before your first show. Was this a deliberate thing?

Absolutely a conscious decision. This is music that has to be right. Fans of Peter’s music i am assuming are very protective over his work. If we had rushed the songs just to perform them, they would not have been right, and that was not what any of us in the band wanted to do. It wouldn’t have been a good start. Every member of GABRAEL has been in bands for decades, and without using cliches, we have all really been there, done that and worn the t shirt out. So, although there was an eagerness in us to get out there, we knew we had to wait till we had things right.
Our first ever show was virtually unannounced, as a guest of Shine Over Babylon at a venue in our hometown. It was kind of a “lets see how NOT ready we are. Lets do a show, see where we are polished, and see what needs polishing”. As it turned out, although we made a few slight mistakes, on the whole it was better than any of us were expecting. And although it was an unannounced show, many people heard that we were performing, found out where and when, and turned up. We got a really good response to the show, which really did us all a power of good. It sort of confirmed that we were onto something here.

Signal To Noise is my favourite Peter Gabriel song. Will you be doing the weird shit like that or are you doing the crowd pleasers such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer?

Were gonna go right across the board with the set list for our first few shows, which is still being arranged at the moment. When approaching the set list, it’s fair to say that the rest of the band have followed my lead to some extent, with me knowing more of his stuff than the rest of the band for the first few rehearsals. Obviously, we have to play the “hits” such as Sledgehammer, Biko, Solisbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers and Don’t Give Up to mention a few. After that, we have all had a say in the remainder of the set. We did actually ask our Facebook followers to name songs which they wold like to see us perform, which has been interesting. A lot of obscure album tracks have popped up a few times. It’s been nice to gauge opinions of fellow fans.

We are picking the songs which are interesting, challenging, and fun to perform. I don’t want to give away too much about our set, but hopefully there will be something for everyone.


His music is often very complex, usually using a huge amount of studio wizardry. Did you find that your background as a sound engineer gave you a few ideas of how to recreate it in a live setting?

Listening to his studio albums with my live and recording engineers hat on, I do understand a lot about how he has put the songs together, or at least I think I do. We are currently working on the various sound loops Peter uses, creating our own versions. To recreate his studio sounds live would take an army of musicians.

GABRAEL would be something that, as a sound engineer I wold love to be controlling from a mixing desk in a live setting. I had the opportunity of working with Genes-ish a few years ago, and because I knew every part of every song they performed, I like to think I was able to give them the sound that they would have wanted the audience to hear.

Luckily, we have a wonderful sound guy called David Elf, who asides from being a really nice guy to work with, is a good sound engineer who cares about the sound he gives us. He is just as eager to get it right as we are. It will be down to him to add the trickery.

What are you hoping to achieve with this act Mark?

Not actually sure what we are hoping to achieve from this. It’s just something we are all very passionate about doing, and doing well. It would be nice to, at some point in the future, get onto some of the bigger stages and festivals. That’s something for further down the line though, but definitely our aim. We just want to put on spectacular shows that people come away from singing the songs.


Rattle us off a few dates, venues and stuff like that.

We have a couple more unannounced “dipping toes in the water” shows during August and September, just to get used to playing together as a band out of the comfort zone of our rehearsal rooms.
The next few main shows are at Hornsea Floral Hall on November 1st, Hennigans in Bolton at the end of November.
Our first full length Hull show is at Fruit on January 29th through our friends at GJM Music promotions. We have a few tricks up our sleeve for that one, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about what they are. Hopefully, it will be unlike any other show.

And do you have a website?

We have, yes. gabrael.co.uk. There isn’t a great deal on it yet. Until we have some music or video, it’s just a site. We are planning to go into the studio and do a live recording session with no overdubs. We just have to draft in the female vocalist, the final piece of the jigsaw that makes up GABRAEL, and then we will book a date with Dave and record maybe half a dozen tracks. Once we have them, we will probably launch the site with those songs, as well as some really cool photographs from our own photographer Ian.

Our motto with the website, as well as our approach to the shows is “build it, and they will come”.


There you go folks. These boys are worth checking out. Cheers for talking to us Mark. And… just out of interest, what is your favourite Peter Gabriel song?

I don’t have a particular favourite. I absolutely adore Father Son. I defy anyone to not like it. Lyrically, it says just enough, without saying too much. A very emotional song. You mentioned Signal To Noise, another favourite of mine. I love singing Family Snapshot, with its imagery that seems obvious but has a wonderful twist to the story at the end. There really are too many to mention. I really could be hear till the end of the year telling you what I like about any of his songs. Oh, Washing Of The Water, I absolutely adore his voice on that. See what I meet, I could be here for ages.

Thanks for the questions Allen, it’s been a pleasure answering them for you.

Miles vs Bracha

Ryan Bracha is a genuine nutcase who writes hyper-modern fiction from his Bond-villain-esque lair in Barnsley. 90% of the country will tell you that his work is purile and revolting and will write strongly worded letters to their local church mouse asking for it to be banned. The other 10% will tell you that he is the best British writer to emerge for years and we should all be reading his magnificent books right now. After he wrote a couple of hilarious articles for this very website, Mr Bracha was kind enough to beta-read some of my deeply miserable stories that will make up my forthcoming book. Possibly sensing that I am almost as deranged as he is, he then invited me to write a few thousand words imagining what it would be like if I flipped my lid and ended up in a loony bin. Fortunately, as I think of that scenario pretty much every minute I spend doing my ludicrous job, I was only too happy to oblige. The resulting book, Twelve Mad Men, has stories by other SOTS alumni such as Darren Sant, Paul D Brazil, and Gareth Spark, along with a whole host of other macabre and malicious minds. The whole thing is held together by a running narrative from Bracha’s own chewed biro. I recently managed to contact him at what he refers to as his “institute” and conducted the following interview.

12 cover

 

So.. Twelve Mad Men. Are these people your friends, acquaintances you made through various acts of vagrancy or simply the twelve lunatics sat in your head working the controls?
They’re me, and eleven other lunatic writers that I managed to coerce through blackmail, bribery, sex, and begging into contributing to an idea I’d had. Some were closer than others, some I’d never interacted with at all, but I’d like to think we’d bonded a little in the process. One of them is pregnant with my child. You’ll have to guess who.

What gave you the idea to inflict something this unpleasant on the book-buying public?
Too much fluff out there. Too many Tesco bookshelf writers with not enough ideas between them. ‘Safe’ pisses me off. I wanted to give some kindred spirits a release for the most horrendous stuff that’s been building up in the writer parts of their brains, but perhaps never wanted to go that risky on their own. It’s strength in numbers. I’m Spartacus, and so are all my mates. So yeah, I wanted to offend as many people as possible with this book, and have some other people to blame. They’re all fucked in the nut. Especially Richard Godwin. He scares me.

I’ve read some of your earlier work and it’s obvious to me that you’re clearly a deeply disturbed individual. How were you able to find people of a similar mindset?

Thank you very much, very kind of you to say. We’re in a very network reliant sector of the industry, to be successful you can’t go it alone, you have to make some friends along the way. So it was easy to find great minds in the network I’ve managed to weasel my way in to, really cool chaps too. I refuse to associate with people who are dicks about it all.

Tell us a bit about yourself Bracha, and please try and limit it to just one of your personalities.

I’m a man. I married a woman. I’ve lived on the planet for close to 35 years and I’ve always played the joker and tried to entertain. My wife told her mate when we’d first met “I think he’s a keeper, but his mind doesn’t work like everybody else’s.” – That sums me up. If you can handle, and get used to the way my mind works then we can probably be friends.

This is quite a ground breaking concept, probably because no one has been warped enough to think of such a thing before. Will there be more chapters in this tawdry little story?
Definitely, I’m already working on two other projects like this one. Twelve Ways to Die, and Twelve Nights at Table Six. The former is set in Hell, the latter at table six. The clue’s in the title. I exposed the writers’ messed up sides with great character pieces, these others are intended to explore how they write good set pieces and how they deal with dialogue. I’m an experimental chap.

What do you think to the rumours that a group of militant Daily Mail readers are attempting re-animate the corpse of Mary Whitehouse in a bid to have this shocking book banned?
They can have a go, I harvested the thing for organs years ago. They could probably make a nice kayak out of her.

Do you feel guilty about providing a platform for such evidently damaged and dangerous people to vent their spleens, or you get some of perverse, voyeuristic thrill out of it?
The latter. I want them to have fun going nuts, and I want front row seats to it. You should see Mark Wilson’s story. The man is damaged.

And how would you respond to the allegations that you’re merely using these writers to establish a pedestal to foist your own horrifying literary manifesto on an unsuspecting public?
I’d kind of agree, but only in the same sense of a fat middle aged Spanish woman taking my virginity in Ibiza. It’s a grotesque scene these boys are a part of, but they love it. The manifesto is a superb way of challenging yourself. It holds you over the deep end and gives your forehead a little kiss before dropping you into the water to fend for yourself.

And presumably the profits of this book will go on building some sort of underground bunker for yourself?

Nope. Charity. Every penny will go to a healthy rotation of good causes, the first of which is Teenage Cancer Trust.

Ah, a redemptive statement right at the end. Where can we find this book, Mr Bracha?
Amazon for now, but in talks with local vendors about stocking the paperbacks.

Thank you. And incidentally, good luck making the bail payment.
Cheers. I’ve got an indiegogo campaign to raise the money. One of the perks is that for a fiver, I don’t murder your family.

bracha 12 int

Ryan Bracha is the bestselling author of Strangers Are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet and Paul Carter is a Dead Man, he’s also got every intention of being the saviour of British literature, but will happily accept the ‘Most likely to fail at being the saviour of British literature’ award at school. He just wants to entertain you and his wife. His wife refuses to read his work on the basis that it freaks her out, so it’s your responsibility now.

Twelve Mad Men is a comedic psycho-horror and literary portmanteau written by twelve unbelievably talented writers, and devised and narrated by one ludicrously ambitious turd.

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Twelve-Mad-Men-Ryan-Bracha-ebook/dp/B00LV0VLQA/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=0T81TSYPAAFSE8WTXD46

US: http://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Mad-Men-Ryan-Bracha-ebook/dp/B00LV0VLQA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Miles vs Hoffs

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Ok… erm… um… Actually I’m just gonna come out and ask it. Why have you written a book about a ship that sank 160 years ago?

Because the book I wanted to read about it hadn’t been written yet.  I was haunted by the story when I first came across mention of it in Warrington Museum, and the more I found out about the people involved, the more I had to know.  I don’t like writing about something that’s been chronicled a million times over, and the beauty of the Tayleur story for me as an author was that although it’s pretty much unknown these days (though I should point out that there are two excellent books also available, by H.F. Starkey and Edward Bourke, which provide great detail about the technical specifications of the ship), at the time it was MASSIVE news and the survivor accounts were well documented.  I have a terrible memory so give me a year and the book will be an exciting new read.  I hope.

 

I am a fiction writer and I do zero research into my stories so I have no idea how you would go about starting something like this. Could you take us through the process briefly?

Google was my friend.  I did the vast majority of the research sat on my arse at home – it would have been impossible to do otherwise as my little boy was only at pre-school for a couple of hours a day when I started work on it.  A lot of the information was available online, and when the curator at Warrington Museum who first told me about the wreck advised me to look up the survivor accounts, they basically destroyed me: I struggled to sleep and just kept visualising the deaths of the babies on board, over a dozen of them.  I refused to read any more about it, but the story kept niggling at me and in the end I just had to immerse myself in it and get googling.  I joined Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.co.uk/) and the British Newspaper Archive (http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk) and that was it, I was off.

Having followed your labours on the infernal Facebook over the past eighteen months or so, I’ve noticed that you’ve been able to meet descendants of people who were involved and others that were concerned in various ways. Was there a moment when you got a call or e-mail or letter and you thought “I’ve cracked it here?”

Yes, there were maybe 700 or so people on board (impossible to be accurate this long after) and one family, an ex-convict who made his fortune in the Australian Gold Rush and returned to Stamford to collect his sweetheart and son, were proving impossible to trace.  It turned out that the name was wrong – the accounts I was going from had him as ‘Carley’ instead of ‘Carby’.  I typed the place name of the Assizes he was tried at (for the crime of sheep-slaughtering) into an Australian search engine to do with convict ships and suddenly all these details popped up – his physical description, court details, the lot – and I was bouncing about the room cheering and swearing with joy!  Once I had that and some other details from Ancestry, I started searching individual addresses online in case anything else was associated with them (for example, one chap had grown up next door to the Bronte sisters’ school just a short while after they’d attended class there, which I found pretty cool) and I found an ancient post on an old forum from somebody looking for information about their great-grandfather, who’d lived in one of the houses I’d looked up.  I searched them out and it turned out he was the ex-convict’s son – and they’d had NO idea their family had ever been out of England, let alone making fortunes in Australia.

Did researching such an upsetting story affect you in a personal way at all?

Oh totally.  I was a snottery, blubbering, stress-eating mess.  Spending several years examining and reliving these poor sods’ last moments, their hopes and dreams and reasons for emigrating, made them feel like close friends or family, and sometimes I wouldn’t know for sure whether they lived or died on the wreck until I came across a witness account or traced them in a later census record.   The suspense was awful!  Some of them went on to live long and hopefully happy lives, but a few died miserable, painful deaths shortly after and that seemed terribly unfair after they’d already been through so much.  I was pretty much obsessed with the Tayleur and even when I was doing pleasant things, like watching a film with my family, my mind was with the travellers or the wreck.

What was the saddest thing you found out?

That’s like making me choose my most missed childhood pudding (on a grander, shittier scale, obviously).  Every death was horrendous to read about.  The accounts of children dying on or shortly after the wreck had me in pieces.  I don’t drink but my recycling bin soon clinked with the many Nutella empties I racked up.  For example, there was a boy, maybe about ten years old, struggling in the water by the ship after watching his mother drown.  A young man from Wakefield, Yorkshire, tried to rescue him while he too was in the water.  He attempted to help the boy to the rocks, soothing him when he sobbed and told the man to leave him be as he knew he was done for.  The man was battered by wreckage and the action of the waves, injured from guarding the child from items crashing into them, but persevered and they almost made it – I’m welling up typing this – and then a bastard great wooden spar smashed the kid’s head in, just as they reached the rock.  The young man was clearly horrified, and no wonder.  Then there was the tale about how when the cries of land were heard below decks, the younger children were SOOO excited because – despite being only two days into the voyage – they thought they’d already reached Australia.  I can imagine my son thinking the same thing.  Minutes later, all but three of the seventy children aboard drowned or were dashed against the rocks.  Grim, awful, shattering stuff.

You’ve written for this site a few times and I’m always struck by the natural humour in your articles. Was it a departure for you to write about such a sombre subject?

For me, humour and darkness are fingers on the same hand.  The more awful the subject matter, the more likely I am to make a joke of it, and generally a tasteless one at that.  It’s not from a lack of respect or humanity, it’s a coping mechanism, I suppose, and a useful one.  Humans need to cry sometimes but they also need to laugh.  A lot of my short stories are quite sombre or bleak (though the horror pieces tend to be graphic, gruesome, disgusting, and somewhat tongue-in-cheek) and my novel, currently out on submission, is certainly the dark side of a nightmare.  This means I’m more likely to take the piss out of myself online and in interviews in order to maintain my equilibrium/sanity.  I know from experience that without making time and opportunities for laughter when immersing myself in truly horrific and depressing knowledge, I’ll be ruined mentally, and I have no urge to destroy myself like that.  That said, I don’t enjoy or have the appetite for 100% happy endings.  I want realistic satisfaction, and that often involves shit happening, and lots of it.  But when writing nonfiction, and especially nonfiction about people who suffered horrific trauma, I felt it would be disrespectful to introduce even a sniff of humour within the book’s text.  I even agonized over the author photo for the jacket – and trust me, I don’t give a shit about looking pretty – in case I looked light-hearted or smirk-y.

This book I would imagine would appeal to a very select audience. Was that something you had in mind when you wrote it?

I wrote it to appeal to me, to be honest, though I knew from browsing in bookshops nearby that there would be a market for it.  It has broader appeal than you might initially think: “The Suspicions of Mr Whicher” by Kate Summerscale made historical nonfiction seem more of an option to readers of other subjects and genres, and “The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic’” isn’t just about a shipwreck, it’s about love stories, bravery, tragedy, Victoriana, and a massive cover-up the like of which I hadn’t previously seen.  Heroism and villainy is a theme as ancient as humanity yet somehow it never grows old.

Have you been pleased with how it’s been received?

Bloody ecstatic!  I’m so pleased with the reviews it’s receiving, the feedback it’s getting, and the awareness it’s raised for the poor sods involved with this wreck and many others.  They shouldn’t have been forgotten – indeed, Charles Dickens’ magazine ‘Household Words’ urged the world to remember Dr Robert Hannay Cunningham, the ship’s surgeon, for his bravery and selfless devotion to others forever more.  This book attempts to rectify this sad situation and has already led to several descendants getting in touch who had previously known nothing of what their ancestors had been through.

Do you write anything other than non-fiction? And where can we find your other stuff?

Oh, I write pretty much anything and everything, whatever comes into my head, though I’ve been focussing on this shipwreck book and related articles almost exclusively of late.  My back catalogue, so to speak, is listed with links where appropriate at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ or if you want to know about something in particular then feel free to email me at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk or contact me (@GillHoffs) on twitter.  My first book, “Wild: a collection”, which is a mixture of short fiction and nonfiction including a piece about one of the Tayleur survivors (an anonymous orphan known as the ‘Ocean Child’) is out now from Pure Slush.  I work with them a lot and I’m currently writing a story a month about a Mancunian sex worker for Pure Slush’s “2014: a year in stories” (http://pureslush.webs.com/2014.htm).  I also have a nonfiction piece about the generosity of the Irish towards the Tayleur survivors up at Literary Orphans (http://www.literaryorphans.org/playdb/) sometime around Easter, which of course I’ll be celebrating with chocolate. 

Well, thanks for the interview Hoffs. And… just one more thing… I know it’s probably a stupid question but I’ve got to ask. That surely isn’t your natural hair colour is it?

I wish it was – nope, this is from a bottle of foul-smelling chemicals.  I was blonde till my teens then my natural colour started turning more mousey.  I think there’s some grey coming in now though I only really know about it from my roots.  I’ve dyed it every colour I could get my hands on.  Purple, green (earned me shouts of “Grotbags!” from cheeky schoolkids), black … all sorts.  I particularly relished turning up at school (it was for ‘Young Ladies’, apparently) with very long blue hair.  I was (and perhaps still am) quite an obnoxious little sod.

The Sinking of RMS Tayleur is available from Amazon through the following link http://tinyurl.com/gillhoffsrmstayleur

 

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.

 

The Martyn Taylor Show (Part 1)

Hello there, 12:02 on Friday Afternoon and how are you today? You’re listening to The Martyn Taylor Show and we’ve a busy programme ahead of us this afternoon so we best crack on.


Don’t forget, coming up at 1 o’clock, our resident gardening expert Dave Carrots will be in the studio raking over all your seasonal gardening questions. Followed by our musical theatre review with Simon Luvvy at 2.


If you have any comments or queries for either of our afore-mentioned gurus, simply tweet me @Martyn_Taylor, thats @Martyn_Taylor, Text me on the 77834 and remember to start all texts with MTS or “like” me on Facebook.com/TheMartynTaylorShow’. Alternatively, get in touch the old fashioned way by sending me an E-mail to, ‘Martyn@Taylor.Karoo.co.uk’.


In the studio first off today is Allen Miles, local amateur author. Hi Allen.

Hello there.

You may have seen Allen recently in the Hull Daily Mail discussing his first release “18 Days,” which is published by Byker Books. That’s in Newcastle isn’t it Allen?

Well, the place is actually in Oxford, but the bloke who runs it is very much from Newcastle.

But you’re actually here today to talk about your next book, Down And Out On Hartoft Road, which you claim is 98.2% autobiographical.

I’m afraid I can’t remember the exact figures but it’s in that area.

The book obviously reflects on your experiences while on remand in Hull Prison in 1997. It goes without saying that these were difficult days for you?

The word “difficult” would describe my experience very well. I was only fifteen years old and to be thrown into this place with these enormous hardened criminals was terrible.

In what way?

None of them knew how to cook for a start. They were content to eat pies every night and they weren’t interested in broadening their culinary prowess at all. Eventually I managed to teach a chap called Hebbelthwaite how to make a passable risotto but that was about as far as I got. Many of them had no formal qualifications and I found it almost impossible to get hold of a quality newspaper. The thing that struck me most though, was the smell. I think every single one of them wore Old Spice, an awful stench.

Did you ever find yourself physically threatened?

The atmosphere was rather intimidating. On one occasion I was talking to a chap called “Stabber.” He gave himself that name, he was actually called Cyril and he was captain of the B Wing maypole dancing team. I tried to point out to him that the tattoos on his hands were, in my opinion, terribly vulgar. He took exception to this and told me he was going to “lay into to me.” Fortunately a man called Horace came to my aid. He recognised me from my Saturday job pushing a tea trolley round a hospital ward, it seemed I’d become quite chatty with his mother, who was in there at the time.

Yes you mention him several times in the book. What was his mother in hospital for exactly?

Well, it seemed that Horace had asked her to tape Ground Force with Charlie Dimmock for him and she forgot. It was his favourite programme and in a fit of temper he savagely belaboured his mother around the head with her own rolling pin. Dreadful business.

You were of course acquitted of all charges. Could you remind the listeners of the charges that were brought against you?

I was accused of stealing 200 packets of Quavers from the storeroom of the Macro Superstore on St Andrews Quay, with the intention of selling them in the school playground; I was also accused of selling pirated Playstation games, and being involved in the illegal trafficking of twenty-seven Bosnian refugees to come and work as cheap labour on a building site round the corner from my house. It was also alleged that I’d bribed the judge. As you say, all the charges were thrown out.

There has been talk on the internet that you stole your story from your cell mate’s own memoirs. Accusations of which you have denied, but you are being pursued in court for by your former friend for royalties. I know you can’t go into details as the case is still on-going, but how do you react to these stories?

I was furious at first, then when I thought of all the times Horace and I had together I became more saddened than angry. He’s also appealing the fact that his mother made me the major beneficiary of her will. Although the man maybe enormous in physical stature his ego would seem terribly fragile. The bottom line is he never copyrighted anything so nothing can be proved.

How difficult was it for you to get your novella published, being an unestablished writer? I myself was unable to find a publisher willing to work with me for my novel!

Well, Byker seemed a fantastic option for me, I read up on them and was absolutely thrilled. They also came personally recommended by some of my absolute heroes.

Who in particular?

Oh too many to mention; Johnny Marr, Ian Hislop, Noel Gallagher, Jose Mourinho…

You know these people?

Well, I’ve had correspondence with them all. Basically I wrote them all a letter explaining that I was about to sign with Byker and if they had any issues with that they should contact me immediately advising against it. I didn’t get a single reply so as I say I took these as personal recommendations. I have regular contact with the editor, they didn’t want me to change my work in anyway and the contract is very amicable. Most accommodating for one’s first forays into the world of literature.

Oh, I had contacted them and they told me that they only worked with ‘known’ authors but…….

(Interrupting) I think I see what you’ve done here, you may have got the word “known” mixed up with “talented.”

O.k, anyways back to your book. Was it difficult to write about your struggles with drink and drugs, the latter of which led to you having to prostitute yourself, knowing that your family will be reading the book?

Well as you know, my family live in Romania and don’t speak any English so it wasn’t that much of an issue. They know I’ve been published but I told them I’d written a book on bicycle maintenance.

Were they proud?

They were absolutely elated. To own a bike in the village where they live is like owning a Rolls Royce here. I’m told the local artist has sculpted a statue of me from goat droppings.

Getting back to the addictions you had, you’ve spoken frankly about your flirtation with heroin…

Yes I used to have one shot each morning with my Rice Krispies whilst watching a repeat of The Bill on UK Gold. Most stimulating. Heroin never became a problem for me, there were much more dangerous things about to make my life a living hell. I had two major vices in particular.

Which were…?

The first was Green Giant Sweetcorn. I was once casually strolling down the tinned food aisle of my local branch of Morrison’s and I put six cans in my basket, with the intention of making some fritters that I’d seen Delia make on TV the previous evening. All of a sudden I noticed a rake thin Spaniard who I would come to know as Miguel beckoning me. He asked me if I liked Green Giant sweetcorn and obviously I said yes. He then told me he could get hold of “the proper shit, direct from Minnesota.” As I was in a rather vulnerable frame of mind at the time I agreed to try it. It was incredibly powerful, much stronger than the supermarket issue. Before I knew where I was I was spending £2000 a week on my habit.

Harrowing stuff. And the other…?

Lemmings.

Lemmings the video game?

Well, it’s a video game for most people but to me it became a way of life. Everything that I held dear went out of the window. My girlfriend left, I lost my job, I had been served an eviction notice but I didn’t care. All I could think about was the next level. I saw lemmings in my dreams, on two or three occasions I actually went out for groceries dressed as a lemming, I was an utter mess.

What was the lowest point?

(Long silence) My computer overheated and shut down. I snapped back into reality to find that every single square inch of the floor was covered in empty tins of sweetcorn. It wasn’t even Green Giant by this point, it was just anything I could get my hands on; Princes, Heinz, anything… There was exposed bone on the tip of my right index finger from repeated clicking of the mouse. It transpired that I’d been playing Lemmings and eating sweetcorn for fifteen successive days without sleep. When I think back… the amount of milk piled up outside my front door… (looks like he’s about to cry)

Are you okay Mr Miles?

(Braces himself) Yeah I’m alright.

I’m sorry, a question I must ask is how did you manage to stay awake for fifteen days? Was it inspired by the high carbohydrate content in the sweetcorn?

No, I’d ingested almost a whole kilo of cocaine.

And the prostitution?

Well it wasn’t as tawdry as you are implying, I merely provided an escort service for lonely single people, male or female. Back then, before the sweetcorn took hold, I was viewed as somewhat of a looker, and people would take me to social events in order to elevate their stature.

In chapter 7, you state that while you were “on the game” one of your regular punters was, and I quote, “A Local Sports Star”. Care to elaborate?

Well he called himself a local sports star, he actually had ideas way above his station. It turned out he played 5-a-side at National Ave Cricket Centre. Wayne, his name was. Very charming man, and not unattractive. Frankly I was amazed he needed to use my service.

Did you become close?

Yes we did. He used to buy me all manner of expensive gifts; suits, fine wine, he took me to see Simply Red in concert once, a wonderful evening.

Are you still in touch?

No. One evening he bought me this spectacular diamond ring, which he presented to me at the top of the Eiffel Tower as he was tying his shoelace. I took it with enthusiasm at the time, which seemed to make him ecstatically happy, but a couple of days later I decided it didn’t suit me, I don’t really wear platinum, and I sold it at a pawn shop to buy more sweetcorn. I felt a wee bit guilty after that so I ignored his calls until they stopped.

Right, O.K. You’re cleared of the charges, cleaned up your act, you get a job with the N.H.S, you’re settled, and then the bombshell in chapter 11 happens. How did you deal with the disappointment?

I wouldn’t describe it as disappointment. I found out that the people I’d known as mum and dad for twenty years had in fact adopted me. I would describe it as jaw-dropping shock.

How did you react when they told you?

I broke down and sobbed. I had absolutely no inkling at all. I simply could not believe I had no genetic link with these people. They had given me so much influence throughout my life.

In what way?

So many ways. My father played me records that would become engrained on my heart; James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, I still love them now. When I was a child my mother would read to me the poetry of Maya Angelou at bedtime and take me to her gospel church on Sundays. When I was thirteen my father gave me a copy of Dr Martin Luther King’s biography which I read a hundred times. Such beautiful memories. I still can’t believe they weren’t my real parents.

So then you tracked down your real parents to a small hamlet in Romania. Yet they didn’t seem too welcoming?

Not at first but then we didn’t know a word of each other’s language. Fortunately Miguel put me in touch with Ilie Dumitrescu, who had become a Green Giant addict during his time at West Ham, and he kindly provided a rudimentary translation service.

Yes, I’ve seen the photo of your family re-union that was taken in the squalid Romanian village where they live. It looks ghastly.

No, that photo was taken when I flew them over here, during a shopping trip to Leeds. Its not really a relationship I have an interest in cultivating, to be honest. Once they found out I earn a decent wage they have been bothering me day and night to send them money so they can buy a cow. I’ve taken back their surname, obviously, but I’ve anglicised it; it was Milescu.

Oh, I see. What was your surname under your adoptive parents?

M’Boko.

Really? M’Boko would seem rather a… Oh shit… Sydney! Sydney!

Is there a problem?

Well, I’m afraid my producer has fallen asleep so that will have to conclude the first part of our interview Mr Miles, do you have a song you’d like to request and perhaps dedicate to someone special?

Yes, I’d like to request If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Simply Red, and it’s dedicated to my former client Wayne. So terrible when a man of such tender years takes his own life.

Thank You. We’ll be back with more from Allen Miles in the next episode of The Martyn Taylor Show. Stay tuned for Dave Carrots and his advice on growing a really big parsnip this winter.

18 Days is available through Byker Books at http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx

After the interview we gatecrashed some old bag's fiftieth birthday party. They threw us out when they realised we had no money.

After the interview we gatecrashed some old bag’s fiftieth birthday party. They threw us out when they realised we had no money.

Check out their range of other hard-hitting titles at http://www.bykerbooks.co.uk/

In Part 2 Mr Taylor and Mr Miles discuss Mr Miles’s less than triumphant return to Romania, his spell in Alcoholics Anonymous and his inadvertent harbouring of a member of the IRA…