"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
The Night Porter - In The Vatican (Photo: Justin Scholes)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Popular kidlit blogger, Nelson "Inkspokes" Suit is...Around The Cauldron!

Kidlit is as popular as it ever has been and this week, Nelson Suit, who is a big supporter and friend of the Cauldron joins me to discuss the state of Kidlit and also so his many readers learn a bit more about the man behind the 'spokes! A kidlit writer himself, I contacted him on the Wizphone as he scribbled away on his latest work - here's what he had to say.

Tell us a bit about you and Inkspokes, Nelson.

Thank you Mark for having Inkspokes and me at the Cauldron.  I’ve been a great admirer of your work here and so you can guess at my excitement for being invited in!

 Inkspokes is a website that showcases brilliant book illustrators, indie authors and creative folks in indie publishing. 

We have focused in particular on children’s literature, which may explain why there is such a big artistic presence (and a lot of cute, colourful and sometimes furry characters) at the site.

Corinna Holyoake

Oftentimes, children’s authors (and this can be from picture book authors to middle grade books) have a story idea but are not artists themselves. As an indie author, you cannot rely on a big publisher to source an illustrator for you. At the same time, there are a lot of very talented artists out there whose pure joy is to illustrate. So part of what we do at Inkspokes is to help build connections between indie authors and illustrators and provide a supportive place for that to happen.

Jill Cofsky

We also provide a forum for other indie publishing creatives – editors, book cover designers, voice actors (for your book trailer – check out Jill Cofsky who did a wonderful voiceover for the first chapter of one of my books!), crowdfunding folks – to make connections with authors as well – and a place to showcase quality indie work (in its own kidlit-centered way a bit like the Cauldron I suppose).

Right now we are having our Holiday Fair at Inkspokes – if you visit it, I think you will get a good glimpse of what Inkspokes is about. (Plus there is a weekly raffle drawing through December – to enter, just place a comment on the Holiday Fair page.)

As for me, I am an editor at Inkspokes and the author of the Tilley Pond Mouse adventure series for middle grade readers (ages 9 to 12). The series currently comprises of three books: Els Oot and the MapmakerEls Oot and the Baby Dragon and recently released Els Oot and the Lost City (published under my own imprint and all available on Amazon).

The books chronicle the adventures of Els the mouse as he journeys into the wilderness beyond Tilley Pond and discovers some unlikely friendships, danger and, most of all, wonder. The stories are in the tradition of classic animal stories such as Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows or George Seldon’s The Cricket in Time Square. They revolve around imaginative play and the wonder of wild spaces.

Wind In The Willows

Whereabouts in the US are you from?

We are at bit north of Boston (in the part of the U.S. we call New England), which for your U.K. and non-U.S. readers is about I would say a 5-hours drive north from New York City. New England (especially a bit further north) is popular with leaf-peepers in the fall. 

Japanese Maple

The trees around here turn the most brilliant oranges and yellows and reds and purples. We have a Japanese maple in our yard that when the leaves fall sends off a pool of red, like blood.

Why did you start Inkspokes? What are the goals?

We started it mainly to make connections.

For one, writing is a lonely endeavour mostly, as you might know Mark, and it’s nice to know there are others out there doing what you are doing and to send a few messages back and forth between typing on the computer.

More though, I think indie publishing despite its name requires really a bit of a team effort. You get to choose the team but, to do it well, I think indie authors need to engage others who may have the expertise that they do not. So you might need an illustrator, an editor, a proofreader, someone to help you think about or trade tips with you on marketing and sales. So we wanted to create a supportive place where those connections can be built.

Is it just you or do you work in a team? Who are your main allies?

In terms of the back-office editorial and formatting work and communications, it’s mostly me. My wife who is a former grade-school teacher and has experience in web design/administration helps me sometimes and gives me tips (or I guess frankly tells me what I have done wrong).

But you will see most of the good content is actually supplied by the absolutely astounding artists and authors and indie publishing creatives who take time to contribute to the site.

Could I send a shout-out to our Artists in Residence at Inkspokes for the fall? Yvonne Gartside, Corrina Holyoake and Jamie Stevens?

K. Lamb, the author of the Dani P. Mystery series, has been an indie author who has been a great support to us. And I am also thankful to Robin Hardy, author of the Chataine’s Guardian (among a myriad of other books), who not only has been supportive of the artists and authors appearing on Inkspokes (especially from her Facebook blog) but has been ever so encouraging about my own Els Oot books. And then, of course, Mark,  I have greatly appreciated your support of our work as well!

You are always welcome, Nelson. Do you think, like many academics, that the fact that children are no longer reading in the numbers they used to, is a genuine problem? Or will kids simply improve their literacy reading blogs, sport reports, celebrity sites on the internet?

I agree with you on what you said in your recent interview on your Brilliant Books project. I think reading (unlike other forms of narrative) provides a special place where a reader can build a story world the way he or she imagines it. It’s also a very private and personal world. To do this though, there needs to be books that facilitate that imaginative leap. That I think is the place for fiction and the place for brilliant books and some of the other avenues you note may not necessarily provide that.

K. Lamb

Why should children read fiction?

There was a period of time when I was younger when I didn’t want to read fiction. I read histories and books with a lot of facts in it. For what use is fiction? That was when I was a young adult.

I had forgotten that a great deal of who I am came out of being an avid reader of stories – from having absorbed old Biblical tales in Catholic school to reading series after series of fantasy and science fiction books in elementary and middle school.  

Not only do I owe my fluency with English (English is not my mother tongue) from reading Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Stephen Donaldson and Anne McCaffrey, but they also imparted to me values that I carry with me to this day – including a love for the imaginative arc that a story takes you on.

"Reading fiction allows for those moments of joy that material life often does not provide".

Also as human beings, the practice of fiction, to be able to view the world from the perspective of someone else, to suspend disbelief, is also an exercise in empathy and understanding perspectives other than our own.

Finally, for those of us who pursue a spiritual path or come from faith traditions, fiction and imagination seem to me to also be crucial elements of that journey. Fiction teaches us this: that what we see is not real but what might be invisible is. Fiction takes us down that corridor.

What would you do to get kids reading if you were the Secretary of State for Children?

Mark, I’d probably do something akin to what you are doing in Brilliant Books. Send authors, artists ordinary folks excited about books out to schools and libraries and places where kids gather with books of all kinds and let these ambassadors give books to kids and read to them and talk to them about their own enthusiasm for books.

The other thing I would do might be to provide more resources for teachers, parents, caregivers so that they can find books and learn how to read to kids, approach kids on reading in a way that would make reading fun. The resources might also provide tips on how best to navigate between books and all the other media outlets surrounding our kids today.

Give me two books that inspired you as a child?

Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

What would a guest at the Suit household enjoy for dinner?

We would try to cater to the guest, of course, but if the guest came in unannounced you might get what the kids eat – Mac and Cheese!

Stuffed crust or Italian flat bread pizza?

Hah. I like both. Most days, I would choose flat bread but on occasion I don’t mind indulging in a stuffed crust pizza.

What do followers of Inkspokes have to look forward to in 2015?

We are hoping to have the chance to showcase more authors on the site, creating more of a balance between illustrators and authors. Right now, we have an Artist in Residence program where an artist posts updates about his or her work on a more or less regular basis. We are hoping to develop something similar for indie authors who want to post more regularly on our site – as contributing authors or writers in residence.

Also, discoverability, as you know Mark, is a critical thing to understand and manage for any indie author, whether it is kidlit or otherwise, and so we want to facilitate more discussion about how indies can make their books discoverable. I also want to see how we can help facilitate that discoverability.

Finally, we’d like to post some articles that may appeal to readers beyond authors and those within the indie publishing field (although as you know some of the most avid readers are also authors). This might take the form of posting book introductions or reviews on books fitting a certain theme (for example, in connection with a particular holiday or season).

In the midst of it all, readers hopefully will make connections with authors and artists new and old.

Wishing you and your readers a joyful holiday season and a bit of adventure, friendship and wonder for the New Year!

Nelson, its been an absolute pleasure having you around the Cauldron and I wish you and the gang every success in 2015. Merry Christmas!

Follow Nelson on Twitter



Green Wizard: Do Children NEED to read books?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Wise Woman meets the Green Wizard - Bodicia is...Around The Cauldron

This week, I meet Bodicia.

Bodicia runs the extremely popular A Woman's Wisdom website, where, like your second favourite Wizard, she interviews authors and people connected with Independent Publishing.  

Bodicia is a top notch and prolific reviewer. Don't take my word for it - have a look at her fast developing website.

One thing is for sure - she's funny, witty, surreal and a pleasure to get to know. Full of integrity too - I asked for my book Carla to appear on her legendary Indie Hall Of Fame, as loads of my mates are on there, and she said she would only put it on if she liked the book. Surreptitious offers of blocks and blocks of her beloved choc choc wouldn't change her mind. I love integrity like that! I caught up with Bodicia on the Wizphone as she studied in her sanctum scriptorum somewhere nameless in freezing November UK. 

Here's what she had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Bodicia

Well, I am old enough to have to dye my hair if I want to go out in public, wear a UK size 10 (note the ‘UK…no misunderstandings here!) and I have an unhealthy relationship with most types of chocolate,…ah, that isn’t what you meant, is it? Um...

I have a book blog called A Woman’s Wisdom where I post reviews of books I have really liked, author interviews, guest blogs and a few bits and pieces of my own including some writing and my (hopefully) humorous Tales Of The Manor series.

I also am in the middle of years of research on ancient civilisations (Ancient Egyptian, Eastern and Pre-Columbian). I am learning to write Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in case I meet an Ancient Egyptian and need to correspond with them…one never knows and I like to be prepared. 

I am also particularly interested in human origins, ancient myths, legends and culture and so I have a big stack of books and towers of scribbles which might one day be turned into something readable by others.

How do you describe yourself when someone asks you what you do? Are you a book blogger? Or is something more subtle than that?

I’m a lover of words, spoken and written, and the emotions they induce. I blog about books and the authors who write them so technically I fall into the book blogger category but I go my own way and perhaps do things a little differently than a typical book blogger.

How did A Woman’s Wisdom start?

One rainy night in 2013 my personal blog took on a life of its own and decided it was going to tell the world about fabulous storytellers who had mostly published their own work and needed the spotlight shone on them…what was I to do but allow it a length more on the leash? 

No, it is probably Terry Tyler’s fault, actually. I made a personal account on Twitter and she came under my radar when she followed me. I read one of her books and decided to write a book review for her and didn’t look back from there. At least that’s how I remember it. Blame Terry. Sounds reasonable. Love her! ;-)

Where do you find time to work on all this – AND read?

Meticulous organisation and meditation techniques for the stress! Ah, I’m not sure really. I have other responsibilities on a family level too, as matriarch of a huge extended family. 

Sometimes I sit surrounded by all my electronic devices bleeping and ringing longing for the days where I had to walk a mile to spend tuppence in the red telephone box. 

Nobody could reach me unless they knocked on the door and then I could pretend to be out. Now, there are delivery reports on texts so they know when it has been read too. They’ll miss me when I’m gone haha.

Have you placated your aunty about the time you spend doing this?

No, bless her. I think there are just some people these days who don’t understand why anybody would do anything for free. Everything has to make money. Like shredding loo paper? Turn it into a business by plugging your creations as art sculptures on Etsy. 

Ah, I’m not going to start preaching here about the evils of monetary currency but money isn’t everything and the world would be a better place if it was gotten rid of altogether, in my opinion. Live by the Star Trek axiom ‘We work to better ourselves and the future of mankind’. 

Share the resources, stop the greed and embrace kindness, compassion and respect. One day…maybe.

What is your favourite aspect of running A Woman’s Wisdom? And what is your least favourite?

My favour aspect is the discovery of genuinely good storytellers. Someone who can tell a story with emotion and description which lets me get a taste of the scene they are setting. I ‘meet’ people from all walks of life whom have something to say. They have sat down at a keyboard for hours and tapped away until they have it out of their heads and on to the screen. I respect that. 

Not every good storyteller studied English so a good editor and proof-reader is always a must (it’s been said many times) but I don’t get too picky with a few errors. It has to be readable though!

My least favourite are those with, what I like to call, AAC (Arrogant Author Complex). It’s a disease which fortunately is only found in around 3% of all known authors I have had contact with. 

More on that later haha.

Out of 100 books you receive, how many knock your socks off? And how many do the complete opposite? Have the books you receive improved, on the whole, since you started A Woman’s Wisdom?

If the subject or theme interests me then I will usually accept the book on to my submissions list. I don’t choose by reviews, whether good or bad as reading is subjective. I base the decision to review over whether I liked the book, not over how popular it is. I am a very fast reader and I read at least one book a day and only review about a tenth of what I read in a week. 

Some months I will have a spate of great books and others not so great. I read every book I receive to the sweet or bitter end, out of respect for the author who has sat down and poured their heart into it. I have lots of author friends now but I don’t automatically review all their new books or give out 5* ratings to people I know. 

It is important to me that the reviews are honest and that I conduct the blog with integrity.

I think it is still very much a mixed batch. Most self-published authors are tightening up with making sure their work is as error free as possible but, even when they pay out for an editor and proofreader, their work is still only done to the best of those people’s skills. My advice is to choose carefully and go by word of mouth.

Are you a critical critical reviewer or a fan?

I wouldn’t say I am a fan as that sort of thing doesn’t sit comfortably with me on the whole. I like to do things my own way. I know what I like but I am very open to the new and unusual too. 

My blog isn’t designed to criticise the contents of a book. If I can’t give it 4* or 5* then it doesn’t appear on my blog. I have written critical reviews in another lifetime but I think a straightforward review is sometimes better than a long-winded dissection of each sentence and whimsical phrase. I have seen some crackers on Amazon and they make me laugh rather than encourage me to buy the book. 

Sorry. I like to keep it simple – what it is about, how it made me feel, what I liked about it and where you can buy it to read it yourself.

Tell us about Tales From The Manor. It’s very funny.

Ah, good! Tales From The Manor is my self-penned humour series on my blog which gives the reader hyperbole (but not by much!) snapshots of my family and what the lovelies get up to. There are so many of us there is always something to report. Laughter is a very important part of our family life – with and at each other. It has set my children on a path of self-confidence, with the ability to produce quick witticisms and debating skills which their teachers say are second to none. So all this mickey taking has huge benefits - that’s my story and I am sticking by it ;-)

You hear stories about frustrated Indies harassing book bloggers and reviewers over their feedback. Have you been well received? Have writers been kind or are there demons hiding under the rocks?

I have had contact with a few AAC (see above) sufferers in my time. Those authors who get very cross if I don’t want to read their book or who get very angry at me via email if I say I am not going to write a review. I have been called a few choice names and had my intelligence questioned a few times which glacially thrills me, as you can imagine. But I shrug it off and, on the whole, ‘my’ authors are lovely and it is a pleasure to help them in any way I can.

Give our readers your three favourite books, two favourite CDs and a favourite DVD

Ah, a tricky set of choices.

I would have to say Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (one of the first classics I read when I was a child), 

anything by Bill Bryson...

or Tom Sharpe. 

It’s the best I can do for now; my head is buzzing with possibilities too numerous to whittle down for you!

Again a hard choice as I love my music. Graceland by Paul Simon and The Resistance by Muse are two I have been playing lately. My iPod is bursting. I like so many sorts of music from World Music to Rock to Folk. U2’s latest album Songs of Innocence is going to be a classic. 

It all depends on my mood – whether I am meditating to Tibetan pipes or dancing around the kitchen with the blinds down wiggling my behind and singing to something loudly and out of tune whilst I stir the dinner…

My absolutely favourite two DVD’s are Thelma and Louise 

and Eat, Pray, Love. 

These are for cold nights, tucked up with a large bar of chocolate and a shot of Jack Daniels. I’m also a lifelong Star Trek fan and have watched every episode and film countless times.

And what three interesting people would YOU invite to your ideal dinner party? And what could this triptych of interesting guests expect to eat should it be chez Bodicia?

I would invite Stephen Hawking because I need more explanation of several of his theories, 

David Attenborough because he is a star in my eyes and Bill Bryson because he probably has a lot to ask them too for his next book. 

Bill can amuse them whilst I compose myself and try to look intelligent. What would I cook? Hmm, probably one of my ‘All In’s’ which is a secret family recipe containing anything still edible in the fridge stirred together with various herbs and spices which Gordon Ramsay would turn puce to hear of my combining. 

Keep it simple, more time to natter!

Finally, now Christmas is fast approaching, what can Bodicia’s fans expect in 2015?

All three of them can expect a bigger waist line in my next profile picture if I keep eating all this chocolate…and a few surprises on the blog hopefully. 

I have something special for Christmas lined up on the blog…that’s a surprise too ;-)

Bodicia, thank you for coming out from behind your own interviewing desk and talking to the Wizardwatchers. It's been a pleasure and we wish you the best of luck in 2015.

Thank you, Wiz!


Website - including my interview with Bodicia


Follow Bodicia on Twitter


Bodicia is not on Facebook

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Rum and (Caustic) Soda: razor-sharp expat Indie writer, Phil Conquest is...Around The Cauldron!

Phil Conquest

This is a long interview.
Pour yourself a cuppa, unwrap a bar of chocolate and take fifteen minutes to read it. It covers a lot of angles you don't often get in Indie author interviews. Many of my regular readers may raise their eyebrows. Many will be glad to have met him. There's not much promo here - except of brilliant writing, something that has probably been neglected by Indie writers who seem obsessed with story, with sales as the only barometer of success or failure.

Phil is an English expat, whose debut novel, Rum Hijack, has been praised by readers, rejected by book bloggers, misunderstood, lauded, cast aside, raved about, shunned by Indies and embraced by an audience starved of original writing.

The dark tale of an angry, tortured, would-be writer with the unlikely name of Inkker Hauser, living in a shambolic, surreal, isolated world, imprisoned by his flat and tortured by writer's block, is eloquently written - majestic in parts - with shades of an Alan Bennett monologue mixed with the madness of Burroughs, the cynicism of Thompson and sprinkled with Kafkaesque nihilism. It's well worth the ridiculously low price he charges on Kindle.

I contacted him on the Wizphone as he shivered in his freezing basement flat somewhere in the snowy North Eastern US. This is the world of the writer, well away from the poodles, chaise longues and dictaphones of the perfumed market chasers, the smug edifices, restored cathedrals and pate de fois gras of the blockbuster merchants. Here's what he had to say.

Buy "Rum Hijack" by Inkker Hauser HERE

Whereabouts in the US do you live? And whereabouts in England did you emigrate from?
I’m currently based in south central Pennsylvania. This year has been a strange deck that’s dealt some weird hands. A jump of state is on the not-too-distant horizon, just working out which, but it will be one extreme or the other: East coast or West coast I don’t mind but preferably with basketball arena within reach. 

I was born in London and grew up just outside of it, in an area with a notorious history of witches and witch hunts.  Up the road from my mum’s house there is still a stake that a ‘witch’ was burnt at. I’ve got a nail I pulled from it, somewhere, one of the ones from the time, those old flat tack-like ones. The local council removed the historical sign from it a decade or so ago. It was so faded you could hardly see it anyway but now the stump just blends in even more. I knew people who grew up and lived in that area for over 30 years and had no clue it was there. I remember reading the small historical plate on it when I was younger and just took it for granted that everyone knew about it. That still amazes me, that something like that is there and people pass it every day and grow up by it none the wiser. A good example of being hidden in plain sight.

What are the big differences between living in the UK and in the US?
The pro’s and cons are equal generally speaking, I think. My main gripe with this country is the healthcare system which is more like organised genocide. Britain’s National Health Service may not be perfect - and I worked for it for 6 years and seen it up close - but people who complain about it don’t realise how lucky they are to have it. 


Alcohol laws are odd but then it varies between states and am used to that now. No prawn cocktail crisps, it seems. Pickled onions are rare.  But I’ll take a bar here, over a pub there, most days. 

Tell us about Inkker Hauser
As a character he’s already almost a decade old. There are several scenes in Rum Hijack which were written 9 years ago. Word for word they are now as they were then: 

the destruction of the computer:
the sawing of the bed: 
the one night stand:
the rant about the local book shop: 
imagining the police searching his flat. 

Originally, while in the grip of what one reviewer referred to as “extreme writers block”, the publishing establishment bore the brunt of his frustrated vitriol. Times have changed. I’ve just altered it so that now it’s aimed at the self-publishing barnyard instead.  

Regarding his actual character, Philip K. Dick used ‘the future’ as the canvas with which he could paint his philosophical and theological theories and ideas. He knew if he set them in a contemporary environment, they would be perhaps too far out for people to accept. 

By designing future-worlds, where things had changed and anything was potentially possible, he built a platform from which he could illustrate his thoughts with better examples and clarity using the environment he created for his thoughts to roam around in.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is the obvious example. 

In the world of that book, it was the norm to have synthetic, robot pets. Replicas of animals, due to the scarcity and cost of real animals, which in that world, then spread to experiments in replicating humans, cloning. With that as a device, Dick was then able to roll out his thoughts on what it is to be human, the complexities of human emotions and what is perceived as real and what is not – which were at the core of a lot of his writing. 

Phillip K Dick
The character of Inkker Hauser is like that, in that he gradually creates an environment  for himself – and an image of himself - within his flat, which he thinks will enable him to channel his writing and aid his spiritual evolution while he speculates on the reason for his existence.

For US readers, "flat" = apartment (Ed)

I decided to serialise it into four parts as that makes it more interesting from my own point of view regarding future promoting. It gets old banging the same drum. Four parts with four different titles opens things right up and allows for more mischief making, like the Hijack Girls, with Part One.

There is change also, a shift in mood, with each quarter, so that makes things more fun to play with as well, gives me plenty of angles.

Can you share an extract with us?

It was a humid summer when I moved in. When my moods were low, I would buy ready mixed Margarita and listen to instrumental ambient and angst laden electronic music from the 1980s, while sitting on the ledge of the bay window.  I would sit with my legs straight out, feeling the warm night breeze blowing on me, until I was sleepy enough to slump to the bed - though just as frequently I would pass out in the window, waking up several hours later, cold, legs numb and stiffened, sometimes with my trousers undone. 

I’d lived here less than two months when one morning I received a letter from the Residents Association - or Residents Militia as I’ve called them ever since. It informed me that though I may not be a tenant paying rent and therefore had no landlord to answer to (I sensed bitterness at this), the building did, in fact, have other people living in it.  

The writer of the letter (Head of the Militia) had received from other residents complaints about anti-social behaviours in (and around) flat number one.  Such behaviours included the playing of loud music, the slamming of doors late at night, hammering at three in the morning and yelling and shouting at all hours. He added that he himself had heard and been disturbed by music and shouting on several occasions, and ended by saying again that I should show them some respect, and that if the behaviour persisted there would be no alternative but to call the police.

No alternative, eh?

I’m not afraid of trouble per se; what I don’t want is interference. So I keep an eye on myself. What irritates me is that this has made them think they’ve won, put me in my place.  Thus:  “I don’t hear a sound from him anymore! Quiet as a mouse!  He’s thinking of us now he’s read that well-constructed letter, eh?”

The other residents are mostly aged around fifty and upwards.  I’m the youngest resident, no question, and I’m sure that’s another reason for them being wary of me. Most of the flats are rented, the rest mortgaged.  I’m alone in being having the roof over my head paid off in full, fuelling the animosity toward me. The flat came with a garage; mine is the first in the row, and kept within it is my faded 1974 VW Beetle. The Beetle is the only car I’ve owned and I’m so attached to it I can’t bring myself to get rid of it although the car of my dreams is a 1983 Audi Quattro.  

 Sentimentality aside, in private, though I could never admit it to Mother, I wondered whether or not the Audi would offer more power than I could handle. The aesthetics of the Quattro appeal to me considerably but whenever I think about it and imagine myself behind the wheel of such a beast, I conclude it’s probably best that I continue to trundle the streets in the Beetle

Is Inkker a figment of your imagination or a projection of your personality?

“Well, she’s very much like me but perhaps a bit more sassy! I’d bite my lip before saying some of the things she does! He-he! She’s strong and independent, something I got from my mother, we’re all strong women in my family (snort-snort!), and she’s a very positive person like me but she carries a lot of pain internally which she tries to hide from the world and  - yes - I can identify with that. Some things in life have hurt me and I need to try and be mysterious about it so that you might fall for the lie that my character has depth and that I am a tortured soul and people will find me quite fascinating and remarkable and  - ” so on. =D

Ha ha. You rascal...

Well, first off, I really don’t like rum. That’s my “I’m Walt Disney and I hate kids” ‘fun fact’. Elements of both really, I guess but I suppose Inkker is more projection than anything. I mean, it’s made up with some remote factual bases, like a sex-detail of the one night stand in Rum Hijack for example and the psalm book and lime with the barmaid, but there are some things he may rant about, which annoy me for real but he carries them up to the next rung. 

You know how people make a joke about something to dilute it, a situation, to make it not seem so bad or to put into perspective? If I’m the bad situation then I guess he’s the light. Inkker is a tool for blowing things up. 


"If writing is the fuse, then I’m the fertiliser and he’s the bomb." 

Does your writing have a genre and if it doesn’t, does it matter?
I don’t aim at any genre and don’t understand why so many people are so eager to be pigeon-holed. Why confine yourself and imprison everything you write from the first word? 

Obviously I understand someone wanting to write a story and being aware of where it may land on the shelf but that is different to my mind than putting a target on the book case and aiming for it. 

Warm Bodies. Visionary YA tale or cynical exercise in moneymaking using
genre analysis
 #zombies #zombieapocalypse #romance #YA
#happytears #truelove
If I was a genre hound and wanted to jump a wheel-less bandwagon at the side of the yellow brick road, I’d definitely write about a load of vampires running around with hard-ons. Then hashtag words like #vampire and #romance every other tweet, and excitedly hurl myself indistinguishably into the same #supernatural rabbit warren.

I don’t think it matters to not float toward the shore of a particular genre. Ultimately, someone else will decide what you are anyway even if you aren’t playing up desperately to a particular crowd.  “This belongs there.” and then they feel better because so many people like rules and things to stay inside them. 

If people think I’m wrong saying that, fine, go and ask the exciting #writetip mongers... 

I know you love the #writetip mongers :D

Absolutely love them. Anyway, I could probably tout myself as #mystery writer and no one would even question it anyway. Things just get seen and accepted through ignorance online. Remember those HIV/AIDS pamphlets in the 1980’s, “Don’t Die of Ignorance”?  

E-writing is a similar virus that should have come with a similar warning when it first started making headlines. 

Don’t die of #writetips either.

Are you a writer or an author?
Everyone has their opinion on this, don’t they, regarding themselves? I write in long hand. I write and have written letters to friends, with biros, permanent markers, eye-liner pencils, anything at hand. When have you ever had a short email from me? 

Er, never.

All this doesn’t make me an author. To some, that doesn’t make me a writer, either. I’d consider myself less of an author and more of a writer though, not because I think one tag out-ranks the other but purely on the basis of how I operate. And, going back to the previous question, the people who tout themselves as ‘authors’, it seems, tend to be the genre chasers. I’d rather chase the front end of an on-coming bus. 

Some people about now are probably hoping I do just that and that’s great. Get on that bus as quick as you got on your chosen bandwagon and I’ll run harder into it smiling with my finger up. 

Libertine, Arthur Rimbaud

You and I share a passion for the real writers, the outsiders, the ones who broke the rules and pushed writing to places it has never gone before? Where did this passion come from? 
Yes we do. I wish the answer was quick. I always liked books, from an early age, and English was the one thing at school I was always good at. I sucked at everything else. I’m not trying to say that as some sort of brag or muscle flex, it’s just a fact. I was horrible with a lot of subjects but never English and using language. When I was 7, I had a paperback confiscated from me by my teacher. It was a book for teenagers and I’d had the book for some time at home. To have it taken off me the first time I took it into school really shocked me. She gave it back to me at the end of the day but when she handed it over, she crouched down and got right in my face, eye to eye and with a fascistic snarl, said: “I don’t ever want to see that book in this school again.”  

It was “Grange Hill Goes Wild”. 

Hardly “120 Days in Sodom” is it? That old dog would have given Mr Bronson a run for his wig and money. That incident really got the coal in my mind burning: someone reacted like that over a book? And then there were other things over time too, at school. I had some book that said ‘fuck’ in it a lot. Showed some kid in my class and come break time, he had mouthed off about it and now everyone wanted to see this book I had because of the profanity in it. So, in my young mind, adults/authority disapproved and confiscated, my peers gathered round. This is still Junior school and though I couldn’t articulate the observation regarding the book reactions, I was acutely aware of the contrast and the effect words/book content could have on people. 

Then first year at Senior school, my English teacher see’s I’ve got Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ on me and she says, “Isn’t that a bit too grown up for someone your age?” (11). 

She looked disgusted and shook her head.  It was just a lot of little things really, how people reacted to books I read, coupled with being competent academically in English well beyond my actual years which was the one positive noted by a lot of my teachers. I was awful at everything else but good with words, as I said, and as one particular teacher found out. I used to get in trouble toward the end of my school years because my English teacher began marking me down as she didn’t believe I was doing my own work, thought I had adult help and so on, so I stopped going to classes altogether. What was the point going if I was being marked down for apparently being too good at the only thing I liked and only thing I happened to be any good at? So I would have detentions at the end of the day for being late or skipping a class. 

 It just built something up in me and once out of school at 16 I was soon done with King and that type of reading and discovered Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, South of No North by Charles Bukowski and Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky all around the same time. The internet wasn’t around then obviously, so it was a case of trawling stores and trying to find something that appealed – and it was those guys and guys like them, the outsiders and boundary pushers, like you said that kept my interest. The more real the subject matter, the more real the writing and the better it was for it. Real life, recorded as it was or fictionalised, written well…that stuff has life, real, vibrant energy and a rawness to it and sincerity that is missing from the more orthodox lines of fiction writing. 

Why hasn’t writing like this gained any foothold in Indie?
 There’s a huge lack of knowledge regarding literature amidst a massive number of ‘writers’ yapping on about books and writing, online. They know a few books that were #1 or so in WH Smiths in the 90’s or advertised in the Daily Mail but will post a Hemingway photo and a quote about writing – to add an illustration to the delusion  –  without having a clue what book the quote came from (or if it even is a quote of his at all) or know anything of his life or his catalogue of work. 


Hemingway is an example but you know there are others.  But it’s usually Hemingway, isn’t it? Or Mark Twain. It’s always the big hitters that even deaf and blind people have heard of and seen. You never see them quoting the equally revered Russians or Mishima. 


Even Orwell seems a rarity - and he wrote some brilliantly scathing comments in essays about writing and books. It’s ironic really that Hemingway is the go-to writing-quote guy for so many when his writing is so simplistic and easily readable. Difference is of course that he knew the simple words to use and what not to say.

In theory, this whole scene is, using older books written by heavyweights as example, where something like Orwell’s Down and Out in London and Paris or John Fante’s The Road to Los Angeles or Bukowski’s Post Office, should emerge.

Bukowski or Miller?
They’re both raconteurs in their own way. The heart of a lot of Miller’s writing is his vanity. The way he writes about his sexual prowess is quite laughable. The heart of Bukowski’s writing is pain. The way he writes about his non-existent, or alternatively, deranged sex life is hilarious. Bukowski had a great sense of humour that is missing from Miller. He was also punchy, to the point. 


Miller is as great but a different animal. More extravagant in his descriptions and laborious with them. As good as he is, you read him knowing he was most likely thinking about how he reads. Bukowski always comes across as if once the sentence was written there was no going back to it and he couldn’t care less (even if he did).  Also, Bukowski had to write, it was all he had for a lot of his life. Not so, with Miller. And that shows in the honesty of Bukowski’s work. So he wins out for me.


What are your three favourite books, two favourite CDs and favourite DVD?
‘Notes From Underground’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. FD is the man, the psychological penetrator. With ‘Notes…’ especially. You read it but it feels more like it is reading you.  

‘The Road to Los Angeles’ by John Fante. 


A book of his he couldn’t get published in his lifetime despite being a published writer putting books out, and it would have difficulty even now: contains two of the funniest black-humoured set-pieces I’ve ever read anywhere. 

(As an aside, ‘1933 Was a Bad Year’ by him is really short but really good – what he gets across in the first 17 or so pages of that some people couldn’t get across in 500 – or their lifetime). 

‘A Season in Hell’ by Arthur Rimbaud. This answer is a slight cheat I know. I have it as a singular edition but also in three ‘Complete Works’ as generally, all his stuff comes in one edition, doesn’t it? If I had said “Complete Works” it’s a bit like saying a Greatest Hits compilation is your favourite album. 

How cool is THIS, Phil? (Ed)

CDs: This isn’t easy at all… I’m having a Tom Waits vs Prince argument in my head…but okay…1. ’Purple Rain’ by Prince wins. 

DVD: Apocalypse Now is close but it would have to be Blade Runner. 

That’s my favourite film at the end of the day and has been since I was 15, even when it was the slightly nonsensical one due to the interference forced upon Ridley Scott by the suits. It’s gradually come out over the years to the eventual point of being restored to what Scott wanted in the first place.  The look, sound and mood of that whole film is just perfect. I’d live in that world in the blink of an eye if it were possible. And as a film, it is better, for once, than the source material, the aforementioned Philp K. Dick book. 

Are you ever coming home?
Permanently, I’m not planning on it but I hope to come back and visit at some point, see family and so on and maybe burn a witch. I prefer living over here. 

Aesthetically it appeals to me more than the UK but it feels as much like home to me as England though saying that I have that feeling of being lost wherever I am, but that’s probably why the transition was easy.  I’ve moved around a lot. Where ever I lay my hat and all that but it’s most likely going to remain on US soil. I do love London though.

And finally, what next for Phil Conquest and Inkker Hauser?

“Part 2: Literastein” was due to be out by now but death and other incidents side-tracked my life.  However, “Literastein” is impatiently tugging at the restraints and wanting to be a friend of the community… so, not long and I’ll cut the ties and let him out to have his way with the world.

He’s going to look in the mirror one night after a bottle of rum and see that his reflection has gone, then soon after, discover he has fangs and wants blood. 

And so begins a power struggle between clans. The establishment, the self-publishing scene and himself in the middle. A real #dark #urban #fantasy. Of course there will be a love interest and everyone is after her and her own literary power, wanting to combine forces and bone her. And then appears the evil establishment leader who is as old as time itself and with his own secret agenda involving the girl. 

But he hadn’t bargained on Inkker Hauser entering the fray.

For me…well, have had to re-adjust my IH plan somewhat, my living arrangements entirely and am about to take an extended stay in a motel which I’m quite looking forward to, for writing reasons and conjugal visits. 

As far as writing goes, I’ve still been planning “Christ Spokane” and am considering something about a small-time writer travelling around from one place to the next with the ashes of a dead and much missed pet in his holdall. 

Phil, it's been a pleasure to meet you around the Cauldron and I wish you every success in the future.

Thanks, Mark. You too.

Phil Conquest in NJ

"Buy Rum Hijack" by Inkker Hauser

Follow Phil on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Literastein

Superb blog - real writing in the style of the writers above.