Some of you will remember how I enthused over author Iain Broome’s wonderful début novel; A is for Angelica, back in sunny May. Well, the man himself kindly agreed to answer a few questions so we can all get to know him a bit better. My interview skills are limited folks so bear with me and hopefully this will be illuminating!!
Hi Iain. First of all, thanks ever so much for agreeing to answer a few questions without knowing how probing they might be! A is for Angelica was a real treat and, as a début novel, I couldn’t help wondering how the book came to life.
Thank you! I started writing A is for Angelica when I was on Sheffield Hallam University’s MA Writing course. I had a few snappy sentences and this first person narrator who I thought was interesting. It took a while for the story itself to come to life, but I think that’s quite common. I was probably 10,000 words in before I really knew what the book was going to be.
Have you always had designs on being a writer? What process do you go through when you sit down, pen in hand?
Yes, I have, and a lot of my important life decisions have been taken with the notion of being a published author in mind. Instead of going travelling, for example, I applied for the MA course when I left university. It was something I always wanted to do, but I knew that there would be sacrifices along the way. No one falls into it, I don’t think.
As for my writing process, it’s fairly changeable. I used to do this thing which I later referred to as ‘chunking’, where I’d write solidly for a short period, take a quick break, then get back on it. When I’m really into it, I have no idea what else is going on, but it’s not sustainable so the breaks are really important.
Gordon Kingdom’s life veers from complete tragedy to that of a relatively ordinary Englishman. Does any of his tale stem from personal experience?
The core story – a man caring for his stroke-stricken wife – is entirely invented, as is the setting and all of the characters. But the tone of the novel comes from growing up in a small town where everyone knows each other, and where people are far more interested in what’s going on across the road than they are anything else in the world.
Having moved to a small village myself, knowing everyone’s business is becoming a regular feature of life and was an aspect to the novel that I particularly enjoyed. Are the various protagonists who Gordon spies on particular archetypes you had in mind?
Not really, to be honest. I’m just fascinated by the way in which we think we know (and happily gossip about) our neighbours, when really we know so little. All we ever know about people, including colleagues, friends and even family to an extent, is the things they choose to share. We know fragments and snippets of people’s lives, and then we fill the gaps with hearsay and assumption. It’s what we don’t know that are usually the interesting bits.
Were the eccentricities of Gordon’s neighbours and, indeed, Gordon himself, inspired by people in your own life? (caaarreful now!)
Ha! No, I can honestly say that they weren’t. There are phrases and passages which some people in my life may recognise, but there’s nothing in the novel that’s based on any specific person or event.
What inspires you? Did you almost write a novel about something else entirely?
A is for Angelica was always going to be what it’s ended up being, although the story came about organically, as I said earlier. I’m not sure if there’s anything in particular that inspires me to write, but I can say that my new novel is directly inspired by an object I found when clearing my auntie’s house, and by a recent, high-profile news story!
Has your copywriting career prepared you for life as a published author? In what way?
Not for life as a published author, but when I first started copywriting it had a huge influence on my writing. More than anything else, copywriting taught me how to edit properly. For years, my job was to take 200 word articles and cut them down to 100 words, without losing their meaning. I was concerned that that would harm my creative writing, but the opposite was true. Where before my prose was perhaps a little laboured, I was now able to quickly spot and remove any inconsistencies or problems with rhythm.
Unlike some authors, you have a distinctive online presence with your blog/Twitter/podcasts. Do you enjoy it and does it enhance the experience of being a published author?
I love all that and I was doing it years before I was published. Essentially, I like making stuff, and it’s very easy to write a blog post, record a podcast or publish a video to YouTube. I think it enhances the experience because it’s put me in touch with so many other writers and, since A is for Angelica came out, readers. And hopefully, those readers and writers get something out of me sharing how I work and what I think. That’s the plan, anyway!
Do you find that the option to publish electronically as well as in print affords you more opportunities as a writer starting up? (I have Kindle-phobia but want to be persuaded otherwise)
Absolutely. In fact, despite being published ‘traditionally’, I know that I’ve sold more digital copies of A is for Angelica than, you know, actual copies. And as an author, I couldn’t care less how people read it, so long as they do.
Describe A is for Angelica in one word.
What has been the most influential book/who has been the most influential author in your life and why?
The most influential book is Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, which I read when I was in sixth form. I can barely remember why, but I know that from then on, all I wanted to do was be a published author. Other influences include Simon Crump, a fantastic author who also happened to be my tutor when I was just starting out with A is for Angelica. And Ray Carver, whose short stories are little short of perfection.
In having your book published you have achieved what most writers and students can only dream of. What would your words of wisdom be to the aspiring out there?
Put yourself in a writing environment, which could be a local writing group, MA course, or something similar. Then be prepared to work extremely hard for long periods of time, often on your own. That doesn’t sound like much fun, but it really is necessary. I would also encourage people to take their time and make sure they write the best possible novel/story/poem that they can write. These days, it’s easy to write and publish quickly. But that doesn’t mean you should. Be patient. Get feedback. Make it right.
Finally, what comes next for Iain Broome?
I’d like to do a number of things, but the priority at the moment is completing the first draft of my second novel.
To learn more about Iain Broome and his work visit his website here.
Image by Iain Broome via http://iainbroome.com/