By Laurel-Rain Snow
Today I’d like to welcome our guest, Alan S. Blood.
–Tell us about your latest book : ‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’
Originally published in the UK (1997) the book has been republished in the USA by GMTA Publishing (August 2012) under the ‘MYTHOS PRESS’ Imprint and classified as ‘Fantasy Novella’
‘ONCE UPON A CASTLE’ BLURB Uncle Toby had said that there would be castles to explore, with ghosts and things. This helps to cheer up the glum twelve-year old Lovell twins, Tom and Mary, leaving their schools and loving parents to be evacuated to wild Northumbria during World War II. Then the adventure begins. They live with their Aunt Victoria and Uncle Leslie, meet the loveable ‘Mrs. M’, a strange dog called ‘Scamp’ and, worst, the terrible private tutor, Miss Urquart, from whom they run away to find a mysterious castle seen through an old telescope. Now they are drawn into bizarre supernatural events of a time-warp between the war itself and ancient warfare. They encounter dark forces, as the story twists and turns, and are even rescued by the Royal Navy. Yet, this is only the beginning of more unexpected tragedies before the twins begin to escape from it all.–
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
At the moment, I am writing a massive Historical novel set in 17th Britain about one of the greatest stories in English History which has never been fictionalized. Originally written as a Film Screenplay, I am converting it to a full-blown book – the details of which I am Keeping ‘under wraps’ until nearer the time when it will be published in the USA by my Publishers : GMTA Publishing.
--How long have you been writing?
I was told I was very good at writing by an English Teacher and first started writing stories/articles for my own school newspaper (aged 14/15). I continued the writing of such throughout my life. I am sixty seven and and a half years old and have had an amazing, highly stimulating and extremely varied life – which apart from my 25 year Teaching Career, has included many diverse jobs (not in chronological order) – ranging from builder’s/farm labourer to postman to office work – including Advertising/PR – to being PA to a Naval Commander ! I was an industrial Journalist and edited the ‘House Magazine’ of an electronics’ company involved in the early US ‘Gemini’ Space Programme. Exciting stuff ! At University, I edited my College (Tabloid) newspaper ‘Tombull’. Teaching highlights include an ‘Exchange Programme’ (1983) in American Schools and organizing a 2 day Industry/Education Conference (following a ‘post-graduate’ course at Cambridge University). I was amongst the first Teachers to organise ‘Work Experience’ for students on a massive scale and addressed a London Conference on this.
--Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I am very fortunate to live in a rambling Victorian (1873) house in a beautiful Welsh village by the famous River Severn below the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains. It is modest place with deep traditions and a sense of ancient belonging, where relationships amongst people and respect for others is still of paramount importance. I am a keen wildlife photographer and there is an abundance of mammals and birds from badgers and foxes to red kites and buzzards. Otters live along the river but it is rare to see them !
–Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
My huge range of experiences has provided a reservoir of real places, people, situations and ideas that I still draw upon to this day.
I am of the opinion that a writer is always at work and, apart from direct ‘contact experiences’ I make observations and take note of many things as I walk the passage of life. It could be the way in which a man sits looking apprehensively on train or how a lady nervously (or joyously) sips tea in a café – all manner of little things unnoticed by most people – how they are dressed, for example, in relation to age, surroundings, time of year – trivial stuff to most – but the source, maybe, of a character (major or minor) in a future novel, short story or even a poem !
Widely travelling around the world has furnished me with unlimited (visual imagery) ‘recall’ of myriads of locations, events and the associated personnel from watching a crowd enjoying the spectacular, Hollywood, ‘Disneyland Parade’ to a lone Chilean guitarist serenading travellers on a Santiago funicular or the visible fear of people climbing some of the quite formidable two foot high steps on the Great Wall of China. Whilst teaching in America I was fortunate enough to meet the Astronaut Rick Hauk and shaking hands with a man who has been ‘out there’ is truly memorable !
My village in Wales is also a constant source of inspiration and I have a wonderful view of the hills from the window of my study where I write.
–When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
This is a question which I will attempt to answer with an interesting analogy. For a while, during a ‘subsidiary’ Art Course at University, I became hooked on ‘Sculpture’ and took myself to the Art Block where the opportunity and facilities enabled me to indulge in actually doing it.
I soon realized that what I had been told in Art lectures was actually true in that, with ‘sculpting’, the ‘end product’ is determined by a ‘battle’ between man and stone – in which neither is actually in control !
I feel that, when writing a novel, in particular, the same applies as the characters gain a ‘reality’ of their own in relation to the complex interaction between themselves, the Author and each other in the burgeoning (sometimes constantly changing) situations as the story develops – very often with fresh dimensions that were not originally envisaged ! As with the sculpting example, the result is often a ‘compromise’ in a kind of ‘battle’ between the Author (creator) and those that are created – where neither is in total ‘control’ – but the ‘end product’ is all the more exciting as a result ! Phillip Pullman has described this as going on an ‘adventure’ which makes the ‘unpredictability’ of writing so much more enjoyable for the Author – and, hopefully, in due course, for the readers !
–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Writing for me has been a compulsion since adolescence. It is not ‘optional’ but something I continually have to do ! Given, therefore, that I seem to have no choice in the matter, the utmost satisfaction from becoming published is the sense of achievement by knowing that, potentially, innumerable people (sometimes worldwide) will read and hopefully enjoy my work.
The greatest pleasure I ever had was when my daughter (who was a ‘librarian’ at her school) told me that she had received a copy of my first novel into the Library for ‘classifying’ and was able to proudly show it to all of her friends. I felt ten feet tall, that day !
–How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?
Apart from general observations of people (previously referred to) many of my characters can be directly or indirectly based upon real persons I have known – or, in some cases a character might be an amalgam of a few people’s ‘characteristics’ combined into one !
–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes I do have an e-reader. I was opposed to the idea at first but when my novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI…’ was also produced as an ebook I needed to purchase a ‘Kindle’. I find it invaluable for travelling, holidaying and reading in bed – whereby turning to pages of printed books, especially ‘large’ ones can (permit the ‘pun’) be a ‘nightmare’ ! I have previously split heavy books open and, therefore, the e-reader makes this so much easier – especially if you wish to turn pages back to reread them.
--How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I am essentially a writer of fiction with the paranormal/supernatural genre being present in most of my work which ranges from short ‘ghost’ stories to full length novels. My novel ‘CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ crosses two genres as a ‘Supernatural Crime Thriller’. It is described below :
‘Cry of the Machi A Suffolk Murder Mystery’ by Alan S. BloodPublished by THE BOOK GUILDLike all English villages, the quiet and charming Thorpe Amberley in the heart of the Suffolk countryside has its secrets, its mysteries and its legends. It also has its traditions, such as the Tamberley Morris Men, a dysfunctional band of ‘blow-ins’, mainly professionals, who rehearse every Thursday and drink in the local pub. Nothing much has served to disturb the tranquillity of Thorpe Amberley for centuries. Until now. A stunningly beautiful American woman comes to the village to teach at a nearby school, and her arrival coincides with the resurrection of deadly seeds of jealousy, evil and murder. When the village is rocked by a series of gruesome and apparently ritualistic killings, it soon becomes clear that the local police are up against dark forces which they are wholly unequipped to deal with. Unlikely help comes from the shamanistic connection with a Patagonian ‘Machi’ through the Morris Men’s ‘Squire’ and the unexpected assistance of an ex-NYPD policeman. A hunt for not one, but two serial killers, is on, and Thorpe Amberley will never be the same again.
Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I am a founder member of a small, democratically run Mid-Wales writers’ group that meets sporadically when we feel the need – contacting each other beforehand by email/phone. We take it in turns to get together in each other’s houses – one of which is an Elizabethan mansion !
The group is both mutually supportive and intimate where we talk about issues concerning writing and becoming published et cetera. In this, we also consider aspects/excerpts of everybody’s current work – which I have found extremely useful towards publishing my novels.
As well as myself and other Authors, the group includes two very successful poets.
HERE ARE LINKS TO MY SOCIAL NET WORKS ET AL :
I am also linked to the online literary magazine ‘Readers’ Shadow’
ALAN S. BLOOD
Thanks for joining us today, Alan, and best wishes for continued success in your writing.