The lovely Michelle interviewed me, a little while ago, for her series on writers who’ve given up their day jobs. To see what I had to say for myself click here.
Well, it’s December next week, and that makes me happy. And no, it has absolutely nothing to do with christmas or anything like that (though I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to christmas day because Doctor Who’s on). It makes me happy because it means that this year’s almost over.
I wasn’t going to blog today because I didn’t really have anything to say – I’ve been editing, I’ve been writing and that’s about it. But I wanted to share this with you. Isn’t it good? Especially Animal’s bit.
Welcome to the blog Faye, it’s a real pleasure to have you here. Can you tell us a little about Roast Books? Who are you? What do you do?
Hello Nik, thanks for having me on. Well Roast Books is an unusual little publishing house which produces literary titles with an emphasis on quality of presentation and design. We like our books to look good as well as being delicious to read. It’s a tiny organisation and so far we’ve produce about 4 books a year.
How and why did it get started?
I was interested in the idea of literature that was suited to the modern lifestyle, reading for on the spot entertainment, so I decided to produce some contemporary novellas. There is a dearth of interestingly presented book. Not enough new authors are given the opportunity to publish their work. So Roast Books began as a remedy to these things. An A-Z of Possible Worlds [see my interview with its author here - Nik.] was a really exciting project, because the short stories can be read individually, at the readers’ convenience, but are packaged as a complete work. …….
What do Roast Books do best?
Take chances! I am proud of the care and attention that goes into each title, and I think in the case of ‘An A-Z of Possible Worlds’ the packaging really suits the work, we haven’t compromised on that just to make it easier to distribute.
Who’s the ideal reader of a Roast Books title?
Five foot four, brown hair, glasses, with a healthy amount of facial expression. Oh and book lovers.
What sets you apart from other independent publishers?
We are more independent. No, um..I’m not sure really. I have a huge amount of respect for what other indies are up to, and I learn a lot from watching how other indies function. But I hope that our niche will be the aesthetic pleasure of the books, as well as the emphasis on short fiction.
Is there a particular sort of fiction you have a soft spot for?
Writing that lends itself to interactivity and unusual presentation.
Why the focus on shorter works?
With our ever busier lifestyles, I think there’s a real place for shorter works which people can enjoy in a shorter time, on the go, and carry around in compact form.
Can you tell us a little about Great Little Reads?
That series was a collection of 6 books, 5 novellas and a book of short stories. The idea was that in the collection there was something for every taste, a broad range of literature, each with a ‘list of ingredients’ on the back to help you select which one was right for you.
The Profit was an interesting title for last year, since it was very timely for the recession. It was inspired by Gibran’s the Prophet, and it replaced the protagonist with a city tycoon who spouts forth wisdom from love to mobile phones. Selling Light is a lovely little seaside novella with a real feel good factor. And of course Lizard, which was also personal favourite of mine. I think the author, Leonore Schick is going to be producing some pretty interesting stuff in the future.
What ingredients does every great story have?
Sometimes it’s combinations that you would never expect to work that make for something really interesting, where the list of ingredients has been thrown out the window and its all about instinct and inspiration, (sorry if that’s taking the metaphor too far!)
And every Roast Book?
Our submission guidelines are deliberately sketchy, since originality, not only of writing, but potential in the way a book can be presented are really important.
What’s been the highlight of your time with Roast Books?
The highlight is probably seeing a finished product, being able to touch and hold something which has been months in preparation (and breathing a sigh of relief when you’ve checked it over for problems).
What kind of feedback have you had so far?
Well if it wasn’t for the encouragement and support of readers who appreciate our titles things would be a lot tougher. It’s not an easy industry, and one that seems to have a lot of problems at the moment, so Roast Books is just trying to find its little place within all the madness.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
In addition to continuing the search for outstanding new writing, and packaging it with an emphasis on design, I’m working on developing a medium in which more authors can show case their work through Roast Books, and get exposure. This weekend I’m going to the sea-side, but I guess that’s not really relevant.
Anything you’d like to add?
Nope, just thanks for having me here and for taking an interest in what Roast Books is doing!
Something a little different on the blog today. I’ve been listening to The
Indelicates rather a lot of late (check them out folks, they’re worth it)
so it’s with a huge amount of pleasure that I’m able to welcome half of
their writing team, Julia, to the blog. Julia has, with Simon (the other
half of the song writing team), just released a collection of poetry,
called Words (which is really rather good).
So, welcome Julia. It’s a real pleasure to have you here. Can you tell us
about the book? How did it come about?
Simon and I had been thinking of fun ways to pass the time while
leaving our label, and making the second album, forming our own company,
and the abundant other projects we’ve been working on in the last few
months. We’d met a few years back at a poetry slam of the old kind, where
people would shout and heckle and so on, and so the fact that we’d been
writing for a while had always been a part of our brand when we started
the band. So Simon collected together some of the most recent poetry for a
book, as well as a collection of some of the lyrics we are most proud of,
including some from the new album.
How does it feel being multi-talented?
Terrible. You get bored very easily, and never have any money. On the up
side, you get to have people call you multi-talented
What sort of audience would you hope the book appealed to?
I’m pretty sure the book appeals to Indelicates fans as an insight into
what we used to do, and while poetry is a sort of dead art, some of the
poems there are really very beautiful (Simon’s. Mine are just one-liners
really ). The Manhattan Project is a poem that has been on my wall for
a few years now, and is what I turn to when I feel like I am losing touch
with the things I make and do.
How long did the book take to write? How old’s the oldest poem in there?
Simon’s long Quicksilver poem was written towards the end of our poetry
writing days, and most of the later poems in my section were written as
part of a collection called Shepherd. Some of them were written this year.
So they are a selection from the last 5 years I’d say.
From listening to the words in your songs it’s pretty clear that you think
words are important. With that in mind, what do you think lyrics should
do? Do you, as a band, have a message?
I find myself enjoying the extreme ends of the spectrum. I prefer dance
music and classical music to most pop, but if I am going to listen to
songwriting it generally only interests me if there is some content in the
writing. I don’t think I always thought this way, but I certainly do now.
That said, I think that most political songwriting of the last ten years
is godawful shit. I think If I were to have a message, I’d feel a bit
embarrassed about it… But generally: leave the internet alone, stop being
stupid, pay attention, practice empathy with the people around you, and
don’t be a cunt. Other than that, I find that as I am utterly incapable of
writing stories, songwriting is a good way of telling them at least.
In the book yours and Simon’s poems are divided into two sections. Is that
a reflection of the writing process? And how does that (poetry) writing
process differ from that of writing songs?
Poetry, if you are into form, structure, and perfect verse, is MUCH much
harder than writing songs. If you are most contemporary poets it is quite
easy. I was more into Imagist poetry than anything else, I like the idea
of stripping out unnecessary words, and I enjoy preciseness in language.
Simon is similar, but can write in any style effectively, and was always
much better at performance poetry than me. We split the book into sections
as, while we have similar themes, we write quite differently. I think in
songs you can keep lots of words in, so there’s less editing to do
Who, or what, influences you?
For me, musically probably Mozart, Lots of dance music, Carter USM, Dylan,
Peaches, quiet a lot of lesbian electro stuff, and proper, old style,
nasty Cabaret. At the moment, and for the last six months, I’ve been
listening to the Threepenny Opera over and over, as it’s just amazing. And
is probably influencing me I really like Alan Moore, Terry Pratchett,
Neil Gaiman, and Malcolm Gladwell (see him talk, he’s WONDERFUL). Oh, and
I only recently realised how much of what I think is influenced by
W.B.Yeats. Weird. Simon and I influence each other quite a bit too.
This one, really for Simon (if he’s there): Why should we distrust language?
He’s not. Er, because it’s a lie? But all we’ve got?
How about you tell us a little about the band?
Er, you can probably fill this in. Suffice to say, we’re called The
Indelicates, we are about to release our second album (Feb 2010), and we
do a whole bunch of other things like Punk Rock schools workshops,
Storyteller recordings, The Book Of Job: The Musical! my solo stuff,
simon’s solo stuff, a concept album David Koresh Superstar, and have just
Are there going to be any readings from the book anywhere? Would you treat
gig goers to a couple of your poems?
The poems wouldn’t go down to well at gigs. We had a launch though, which
was great fun
Tell us a secret.
Julia Indelicate is going to be entered into the OED and you can write its
definition. What does it say?
Oh balls. hmmm… ‘Famously sought asylum from the UK, in the USA’
What’s next for you?
Anything you’d like to add?
Keep on keepin’ on, as Keith Totp would say.
And here are the Indelicates performing (my favourite song of theirs) We Hate the Kids.
And here’s the rather brilliant video of America.
Here’s what you do: Write a story where the first letters of each word are in alphabetical order.