Tuesday, 25 October 2011
An Interview - Nigel Bird
46 years. It's been a long journey. I've been a primary school teacher for almost half of them, moving from mainstream to exceptional needs to additional support needs. I'm most happy with and most proud of my own family. Second to them comes my involvement in writing and peripheral projects. I co-edited the Rue Bella magazine for 5 years or so and am mighty proud of that too. Recently I've been more involved with writing my own pieces. I've been lucky enough to find spaces for some of my work and I'm hoping that one day I'll write a novel that's worthy of publication. I've given up gambling, alcohol, smoking and any kind of unnatural highs over the past few years and am looking for a new compulsion - maybe I've found it in Twitter. Yep, 45 years. I haven't always known it, but I've been a very lucky man.
What are you writing at the minute?
Very unusually, I’m on a break. Really.
It’s the first time in at least seven years that I haven’t had something on the go. My novel is out with readers gathering helpful tips (feedback so far, so good) and as soon as my novella SMOKE was finished it was put out by Trestle Press.
When I realised I had no new ideas or work on the plate, I decided I’d take a month just to chill. A week in and my empty head is filling with thoughts I’d rather not be having, like metal weights collecting there and telling me to go for a swim (come on in the water’s fine), so I’ve come to conclusion that breaks are for bones and for poorly-matched couples.
Can you give us an idea of Nigel Bird’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?
I get up around 6:45 and check in with sales and emails. ‘Dirty Old Town’ continues to clock up a handful of sales a day, so it’s not quite as crazy as it seems. Lately I’ve been following ‘Into Thin Air’ in the Waterstone’s top 10 short story chart (it’s currently at number 7).
Work and family will keep me very busy from then until about 8pm.
Tea cleared away, packed lunches made for the next day, a token effort at housework done, I set to writing. I’ll be knackered and way past my best, but I force myself (starting’s the hard part, the rest falls into place).
An hour later, I stop and move on to the writing-related aspect of things – emails, blogs, Tweets, interviews, Sea Minor, cover-design, editing, Face-booking and the like. If I’m lucky, I’ll have something really exciting to work on such as Pulp Ink – that was a real buzz.
I might have time for a bit of TV then, but I’m a real believer in the importance of reading, so I try and read something (anything) before getting back on to the computer to much around (much the same as I did earlier) and then it will be time for bed.
Somewhere in that time, my wife and I say hello. At least I think we do.
Basically, writing has all my spare time and steals a little more of the rest than it should.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
As my life concentrates upon offering my children rich experiences of the world, that’s what I spend most of my time doing, mainly in the role of facilitator it has to be said. A big part of that is the experience of nature (sounds really naff) whether by the sea or on walks or making dens and pretending to cook things that are really leaves and berries and twigs.
I also spend a lot of time coming up with clever tricks which will allow me to sneak onto the computer (on far too regular a basis).
Solitude, reading and nature are important to me. Damn.
Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the genre fiction scene?
If you want to write genre fiction, make sure you enjoy the genre. Read lots of the best available within that genre and plenty of work of the people who are freshening things up. Connect with people who write and read similar things and keep in touch. Above all, write to the best of your ability and then raise your ability.
Which writers have impressed you this year?
For the purposes of this question, I’m sticking to work I’ve read this year which is also pretty new.
Heath Lowrance did a fantastic job with ‘The Bastard Hand’ and ‘Dig Ten Graves’; Simon Logan produced ‘Katja From The Punk Band’ and it left me breathless; Eric Beetner and JB Kohl wrote something very special indeed in their collaboration, ‘One Too Many Blows To The Head’. Paul D Brazill and Darren Sant are Trojans at Trestle; Josh Stallings sets the page on fire and ‘The Adventures Of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles’ by David Cranmer is very special indeed.
Each and every one of the contributors to Pulp Ink, the collection I edited with Chris ‘Death By Killing’ Rhatigan (a writer whose work I also love) gave me a buzz. Each and every contributor in there is a hot potato with salt and butter.
One writer in there who always excites me, whether it be poetry, micro, flash or short fiction is Bill (AJ) Hayes. The guy is ripe for the picking and I hope some publisher out there gets a sniff of him before I force him to act himself.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished ‘Bucket Nut’ by Liza Cody. It’s a remarkable book in so many ways and I can’t believe I haven’t come to it earlier – it was released in 1994 (I think) and if I’d read it then, I think it would have changed my direction to crime fiction much earlier.
The amazing thing is that I felt I was reading something that had influenced my own work. I guess it must be that she had a big impact on other writers whom I love to read and I’ve benefited second or third-hand.
Plans for the future?
Plans and dreams are things I easily confuse.
My pleams are that I’ll be able to give up a day or two more of my teaching time in order to be able to work on my writing during the day. Being fresh and alert must improve output, and I really want to do little else but improve as a writer and to expand my readership as I do so.
With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?
I don’t think I could have, no.
Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?
It’s not a zap-pow moment or anything.
My worst writing experience is the novel ‘Orinoco Pony and his Dandelion Adventures’.
It’s a novel you won’t know because it will never make it. It will never make it because to do so, I’d have to change so much it would be a different story.
It soaked up all the emotional and physical reserves I had for over a year and the fact that some of my best friends were never to breathe life was devastating.
On the plus side, it did interest one of my favourite authors, Allan Guthrie, and without writing it that would never have happened.
Things were slightly better with my second attempt at a novel. I managed to salvage the novella ‘Smoke’ from it and managed to keep a little more of a distance between me and it as I set about it.
Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?
What am I most excited about? No question – Blasted Heath’s launch in November. It’s going to be my favourite publisher, I just know it. And I can hardly wait.
Thank you, Nigel Bird!