Interview With clive
Smashwords Interview (Nov 2019)
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not quite the first story. I remember finishing my first full length book and running down stairs to tell my mother, but sadly I don't remember what it was about. The first stories that really stuck were Shardik by Richard Adams, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. By then the door was fully open. Interestingly I've just re-read Shardik after forty odd years and fallen in love with the story and the storytelling all over again.
When did you first start writing?
Telling stories has just been one of those things that I do. I can still remember clearly a number of those primary school essays that we had to write on a Monday in English classes - 'What I did on the weekend...' - mine were usually full of submarines and Vikings and tigers - pure Walter Mitty escapades. Fiction was just always there. I sort of lost the plot a bit during my teenage years, apart from a bit of dodgy poetry writing, but the habitual fantasising turned into something more concrete once I found my adult feet.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first proper piece of fiction that I wrote was around 1997 and was called Bears. The story was based on the premise that childhood teddies are brought to life by the unconditional love of their human playmates. There was a but, of course. Those same teddy bears, given the harsh experience they shared at the unwitting hands of their childhood playmates, dare not show the world that they are alive - I'm pretty sure the story predated the film Ted, but may well be a mash-up of themes picked up in other fantasies and films like Toy Story.
The story was set when a now grown up child announces to her partner that she is pregnant and is overheard by one of her fondly kept bedroom bears. Those bears still in one piece decide that they have to leave and the story follows their adventures as they try to make their way to a fabled teddy bear museum, which they believe must be a sort of stuffed animal heaven. As a first attempt at a long piece of fiction goes... it was awful, but I learned a lot.
What are you working on next?
There is a sequel to A Solitude of Stars. The Apparat / Dirigiste stories are largely done, and I intend to expand on the Arkland themes, but I'm not likely to finish for a while. Fireside Tales are progressing and I do expect to see a few more editions coming to light there. And then there's a fantasy piece that's been bubbling for quite a while, and... and... and... oh, there's the day job too...
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sounds a bit cliched, but it's the fact that every day is different and a chance to learn something new. I've always been generally positive, but I think that a series of long discussions with my late wife about how fragile life is and the basic obligation that we have to ourselves and to our family and friends to live this life well - I think that has played a big part in my outlook these last ten years or so. I try to stay as true as I can to that shared way of looking at each day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working - the day job is pretty involved and I travel a lot (and write on longer journeys). Aside from that we are doing up yet another old wreck of a house, this time a keeper, though. Gardening has become a thing, and this new old house is basically a blank slate as far as the outside world is concerned. Good food & restaurants when we get the chance. Love a night out at the cinema. Getting into 'twitching' with my partner as well, so we spend a bit of time down at our local wetlands at Slimbridge. Life is too short to ever be unintentionally bored...
How do you approach cover design?
More carefully these days than perhaps I once did - and some of the covers here on Smashwords are in need of improvement. I've recently invested in some proper design tools and I'm getting to grips with Adobe Creative Cloud. Love the process but am definitely an amateur when it comes to graphics.
What are your five favourite books, and why?
Just the five? Oh well, here goes...
Shardik - mentioned previously - loved this first time around and it still moves me. Great writing.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - how can you not love Thomas Hardy. He speaks to my soul and I can lose myself in his storytelling so easily
Cry the Beloved Country - a book that opened my teenage eyes to a world so far beyond anything I had ever imagined. It stays with me to this day.
Norske folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folktales) - I've read and studied so many collections of folklore and fairy tales, and this one stands out for me - I just love the stories and the world they create in my head. So many favourites but Asbjørnsen and Moe definitely cut the mustard.
Das Boot - Moved me to tears and inspired my own work. Transcript, the opener in A Solitude of Stars, is, for example, a personal tribute to Lothar-Günther Buchheim.
What do you read for pleasure?
Simple. Anything good... I love discovering new stuff in any genre. Great writing is great writing, full stop.