Friday, 25 April 2014

Dead Men by Richard Pierce

Dead Men by Richard Pierce lured me in rather like when I first saw photos of the great expanse of ice that is Antarctica. Why was it that Scott, Bowers and Wilson stayed in their tent for ten days despite being eleven miles from safety? Having read Scott’s diaries I wondered what Richard would offer and his offering is a plausible explanation, for Antarctica does call.

Throughout Dead Men Richard skilfully weaves the tale of Scott and his men and their expedition to the South Pole, with a story of love between Birdie and Adam. Birdie is fascinated by Bowers, whom her parents named her after. As such she plans to find Scott and his body. Adam is drawn into her life, like a moth to a flame. Together they journey to Antarctica.

Birdie is a complex and real character, she is harsh especially in the beginning, but within her is a kind heart. She is driven by her passion to find out what happened to Scott and his companions in those fateful final days. Birdie reminds me of winter landscapes, beautiful at first sight, yet unforgiving if not treated with respect. This is my sense of what she asks from Adam, don’t just love me, but be alive with me.
“And don’t you think that to remember people who’ve died with courage and integrity might actually encourage those alive now to live with some respect, some dignity, some endeavour?”
For me the ice is the main character, it is unrelenting, it is what Scott and his men were up against and where Birdie and Adam find themselves. The ice is not only a physical challenge, but a mental one too, such an expanse, to think, to accept, to let go. It is as if the ice holds what is important, as when Birdie and Adam attempt to uncover what happened to Scott and his companions. That when it is embraced its beauty shows and it gives back.

Dead Men is as alive as I imagine the ice of Antarctica to be. It lured me in with the mystery of Scott and his men and left me with a renewed sense of wonder for nature; the beauty that comes from embracing life and the natural world.

Signed copies of Dead Men are available from Richard's website/blog, whilst unsigned copies are available from amazon.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Richard Pierce Dead Men Interview

Welcome Richard, to Decoding Static, and thank you for answering my questions about your novel Dead Men. This interview is one of the most enjoyable ones I have done, the detail and depth Richard offers about Dead Men and the process of writing provides a great insight. Dead Men is about Captain Scott's last ten days and is published by Duckworth, and through Overlook Press, New York. It was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in 2012. My review of Dead Men will follow soon; needless to say I enjoyed it immensely.

"An expertly-told story that captures the detail and spirit of Antarctic exploration, then and now. Not only a compelling novel, but an excellent tribute to Scott and his men." Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Where did the idea/concept for Dead Men come from?

I was lucky enough to be asked to go out to the Antarctic in 2007, as the charity I work for had decided to support the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust with a grant to preserve Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans. So I started doing lots of research on Scott and Amundsen and on the Antarctic, to be reasonable well-informed on the background. This rekindled a fascination with exploration of the Antarctic, and in particular Scott’s rise and fall, that I’d had when I was a kid living in Germany. When I flew to New Zealand in November 2007, I ended up staying in Christchurch for 10 days because the weather on the Antarctic was so bad that I couldn’t get there.

Because I still see myself first and foremost as a poet, I’d expected to write a lot of poems and started a journal. Then, when I was stuck in Christchurch, I discovered that there still was a mystery around Scott’s death – which is that he writes of being stuck in one place, 11 miles from safety, for 10 days because of a blizzard, stuck in the place where he and Wilson and Bowers died. What I discovered was that it’s scientifically impossible for Antarctic blizzards to last that long, that they last a max 3-4 days, and that if he had been stuck in a blizzard, the weather at Cape Evans would have been similarly fierce (and none of the Cape Evans diaries talk of a blizzard around that time). When I found this out, I decided there and then that there had to be a novel in it, not just a book of poems, that here was a story waiting to be told as fiction rather than as dry documentary.

Andy: Other than being jealous of Richard having visited and experienced Antarctica, I too am fascinated by why Scott, Wilson and Bowers decided to stay put and not make those 11 miles, however exhausted and bad the conditions, why did they not crawl themselves to safety? I have read that that year was particularly bad, but still. Richard’s recounting of events and the perspective he offers is fascinating.

What was it like being in Antarctica? How did your visit influence the plot of Dead Men?

To an extent, my visit is the framework of the plot. The viewing of archive material at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch is real, the looking through deep freezers for material discovered on the Ice also. Without wanting to write a spoiler for my own book, some of the stranger happenings at Cape Evans in the modern-day story are experiences that I went through.

Birdie, the main female character, however and unfortunately, is totally a figment of my imagination. I wanted to create a character who would revel in adversity, a character as real as the cold and danger still present out there, even now, and a character strong enough to bind together the present and history.

As to what it was like being out there – it is one of the best experiences of my life. To be dwarfed by your surroundings, to be suddenly aware of nature as it really is, and to finally comprehend the scale of nature and the scale of the damage humankind is inflicting upon it, was just breathtaking. And for only the second time in my life did I have the feeling of having come home.

Andy: That is some experience being dwarfed by nature. I feel something similar when I am up in the mountains, a sense of place and scale, but whilst enjoyable, it is fleeting. Yours, sound life changing.

For me, the ice is a main character, how do you view the wide expanse of ice? Did you feel the influence of Antarctica as you describe it in the book?

That’s a good question, because the Ice is a life form all of its own. Although I was really no more than a glorified tourist when I was there, I felt the personality of the Ice around me all the time. And it’s a shifting thing, this character. Sometimes it’s quiet and peaceful and benevolent, and very often it’s not like that at all, creaking, groaning, shifting, malevolent, protective of its continent.

Again, without giving too much away, I felt that the Ice is a repository, a sanctuary, for everything that has ever lived. Antarctica may appear to be a desolate place, but actually it’s a place full of soul, full of emotion and history beyond our understanding. And because it’s ice on top of rock, unlike the Arctic, it’s not a transitory history I’m talking about, but real, lasting history.

The Antarctic changed me totally and utterly. Since I came back in January 2008, I have, every night, pulled my duvet up over my head (like I did my sleeping bag there), and imagined being in my tent. I miss the place, its immenseness, its quietness, its soundscape, its dry cold, and always will.

And, yes, I felt it like I describe it in the book. I took what I felt, too, and combined it with what I read in the diaries of Scott and his men and of Amundsen and his men, and extrapolated it into the conversations those men may or may not have had when they were there over a hundred years ago.

The place is a cathedral.

Why did you decide to weave a story of love with exploration, for me, there is a sense of both being about seeking that ‘something’.

I often wonder if I could write a book without a love story in it, and have come to the conclusion that I couldn’t. For me, love is as much a part of life as continually striving for knowledge or continually striving to achieve better and greater things, is.

Having said that, it wasn’t really a conscious decision to turn it into a love story. I had written a lot of the historical parts of the book and was stuck as to how to progress it, and I was stuck for weeks. And then I was out running one day, and on the way back into the village, running past the hedgerows, this blonde girl suddenly popped into my head from nowhere and said My name is Birdie Bowers. Write my story. I got home and scribbled down her back story and her motivation as it had come to me on the final part of the run home. And a couple of days later I was in London, saw a really good-looking woman on the Tube reading a book (this one was brunette, by the way), and wondered what would happen if she fainted into my arms (or any man’s arms for that matter).

The point is that I needed something to connect past and present, that I wanted to give the story an additional dimension, didn’t just want it to be a piece of historical fiction that did nothing to put the present into its real context, and that did nothing to let the reader see how history really does influence us and everything around us.

Love and exploration and examining history are all about seeking that something. And I think every good novel, every good book of poetry is about exactly that. I’m glad to know you think I’ve achieved that with Dead Men.

Andy: Agree with you about love, for me it is at the centre of being alive, be it loving someone else, our self or what it is we do or not which, for me, is often where the pain and distress of living comes from. As such I don’t think I’ll ever write anything that doesn’t involve love in one of the shapes it is found in. As for running, it surprises me what pops up in between the pain! I am glad you went for that run as Birdie certainly brings life to the story.

A little bit about your other books/projects

Lordy, where should I start?

Because I got a bit irritated about 50 Shades, I decided to write an erotica novel, which turned into an erotic thriller. I wrote it in 7 weeks in November/December 2012, and decided to self-publish it. It’s not set the world on fire, but I’m really proud of it, and the few reviews I’ve had for it prove to me that it’s actually achieved what I wanted it to. It’s well-written, it has a strong, complex female character who isn’t one of these erotica stereotypes of either slut or girlie desperate to be dominated. I’m really pleased with The Failed Assassin as a piece of writing. And I worked on having 5 handbound copies created, because I wanted this to be a counter-intuitive work of art.

I finished A Fear of Heights before Dead Men even came out, I think. It’s about Mallory and Irvine reaching the top of Mount Everest in June 1924 and discovering that someone was there before them (and that’s all on the first page). Like Dead Men, it’s a dual time frame novel, tracing what happened to Mallory and Irvine, and following the relationship of a modern-day couple married for ten years, whose marriage is falling apart because the husband has developed a fear of climbing and flying since he nearly died on Everest, when he was rescued by the woman who is now his wife. I had a disagreement with my agent about the amount of spirituality in the novel, as a result of which we have parted company, and I’m now shopping the novel to agents and publishers. We will see.

The project I’m working on at the moment has the draft title of The Jewel That Was Mine and is all about one particular item (a watch carved from one emerald) of the Cheapside Hoard, which is currently on exhibition in London, and which was discovered under a house in Cheapside in London in about 1912. I had got to 23k words, but it wasn’t working, so I scrapped it all and started from scratch. I’m back at 6k words now, and I am determined to finish it sooner rather than later.

There are other books and characters roaming around my head at the moment, too, and I wish I had more time and opportunity to sit down and write them, but I need to pay the mortgage and can’t give up the day job yet.

Andy: Everest is another place of interest to me and I like the sound of A Fear of Heights, I hope you find a publisher. It feels as if only money didn’t hold such value and glamour over society, that elusive time we forever chase for the projects we are interested in would become much more available.

What is next for you?

The million dollar question.

I’d like to be able to give the endless marketing a rest and just concentrate on my writing, but that’s impossible nowadays, so I think I’d just wish for a better balance between my day job, my writing and my marketing.

As far as books are concerned, I’ll probably self-publish A Fear of Heights if I’ve not got another agent or publisher by the end of the year.

What I’d really like to focus on is returning to writing genuine 100% women’s fiction and getting that out there through the trad publishing route. I believe there is a huge audience for women’s fiction written by men who, whilst not entirely understanding women (because the sexes will never understand each other) wants to champion character-driven novels about relationships, and about the way that women work.

Andy: I expected the marketing part of that answer, a bane of being an ‘unknown’ writer, but not the final part of that answer, good luck with that and yes it does seem a genre lacking male authors.

Anything else you would like to say/share

Having Dead Men published has changed my life in many different ways. I know now that I am a very good writer. It has become clear to me that I have the knack of being able to speak well in public. I’d love to be invited to talk at literary festivals (and thanks to Dan Holloway for allowing me to open the 2013 Not The Oxford Literary Festival), but for new writers to get invited to mainstream literary festivals is almost impossible. If I could afford it, I’d hire a publicist, because, besides writing, there’s nothing I’d rather do than actually tour the world giving talks, because that and writing are the only two things I’m any good at.

Thank you again Richard. Signed copies of Dead Men are available from Richard's website/blog, whilst unsigned copies are available from amazon.

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960. He has lived in 21 different places since, including London, Cambridge, Germany and Norway. He still prefers moving around to staying still.

Educated in England and Germany, he speaks English, German, and Norwegian, which can be confusing for those around him, but helps with research for his writing. He administers 3 grant-making charities.

Richard has lived in Suffolk since 2006, and has no immediate plans to leave. He is married, has four children, a cat, a rusty 1966 Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books in boxes.

He also writes poetry and paints.


His debut novel, Dead Men, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award in 2012.

Links:

Richard Pierce website/blog

Richard Pierce twitter

Richard Pierce facebook

Richard Pierce youtube

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Beautiful Words by Nik Perring

Welcome Nik, to Decoding Static, on your blog tour for your new book, Beautiful Words.


Beautiful Words by Nik Perring is a simple, yet clever concept, an A-Z of words that Nik finds beautiful. Threading the words together is a tender love story between Alexander and Lucy. It is as if each letter offers a clue to their love story, which is not told in a linear fashion and so there is plenty of space for us readers to imagine their story and play with the words on offer. Miranda Sofroniou provides fitting illustrations for each word, which enhance the story.


My favorite letters are A, for mountains are a fascination of mine and a place of peace. Whilst F made me laugh as it reminded me of the first time I said I love you to my now wife whilst in a student club, the night ended up with a hula hoop on her finger and me on bended knee. But back to Alexander and Lucy’s story, I can imagine them both enjoying H and I do hope every reader tries and fit that word into a conversation, perhaps one that needs a little light. However G and P also suggest this love story contains a bump or two. I wonder how the story will continue and is pieced together in the next two books, Beautiful trees and Beautiful shapesBeautiful Words is a joy to read, I look forward to the next two instalments.

Nik has kindly answered some questions for me.

Any favourite words that you had to leave out due to the shape of the story?

Hi Andy. Thanks for having me here. Yes there were words I love that ended up not making the book and for that reason (well spotted!). I've always thought, and always said, that story needs to come first, even one as wonky as this. Before, and while, I was writing the book I had a little notebook that I'd jot down words that I enjoyed (up to a dozen per word) in. So when it came to writing the story I knew I'd only be able to pick one per letter so I was kind of prepared for leaving some good uns out. And having a little glance at said notebook, here are a handful: quiver, rump, knobble, imp, junco, astral, and lasque.

How did you and Miranda Sofroniou work together, did she work from your words only and/or did her illustrations influence your story?

Miranda (who is super talented - I'm thrilled with what she's done) worked from my story. I finished the words and then my publishers sent those words to her and we both trusted her to come up with something good. Which, clearly (in my obviously biased opinion) she has.

Can you give us any clues about the next two parts, Beautiful Trees and Beautiful Shapes?

Well, without wanting to reveal too much... They'll both be a continuation of Alexander, Lucy, and Lily's story, and that story will be told through trees and then through shapes - so similar to Beautiful Words but a little different too. And they'll be able to stand on their own too (I hope!) so people won't need to have them all or read them in order if they don't want to.

The plan is, when the third book's released, to release it with some sort of slipcase so, if you'd bought the previous two, you'd have a beautiful box set.

What is it about the form of short stories that you like?

I like that they start at the end, at the most exciting/dramatic moment. And that they're (usually) the story of a moment. And that they're bigger than their word count (not that novels aren't - it can be simply more obvious with something so small).

What is next for you after this series?

At the moment it's this series I'm focusing on, and that's going to take me to the end of the year, but there'll be more from me. I've a whole bunch of short stories and flash fictions that I've not done anything with for starters so you may see some of those at some point.

Anything else you like to say/share?

Just thanks so much for having me here. It's been a pleasure. And thanks to anyone who buys Beautiful Words; I hope they like it.

Bio

Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They've been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio.

Nik is the author of the children's book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS, 2006); the short story collection, Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010); and he's the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012).

His online home is www.nikperring.com and he's on Twitter as @nikperring.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

tearing at thoughts Sold Out

I am pleased to announce that the limited edition of tearing at thoughts has sold out!

A second edition will be available soon and if the formatting will play ball a kindle/ebook edition.

Thank you to all of those who brought it. I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, 7 March 2014

tearing at thoughts Review: richard pierce

"This is not so much a book as a work of art. ... The book is wonderfully presented, but what's really innovative is the content. ... It's a book to read by dipping into it, or by reading the chaos of emotion and living all in one go."

Thanks to Richard Pierce for the review of tearing at thoughts, which he posted on World Book Day, a real honour from a writer I respect. I am very happy with the Richard's view of it as art as that it what tearing at thoughts feels to me, a collection of work that is offered and interpreted by the reader as they wish. Which feels is as much a blessing as a curse. A further explanation of this thought may be offered soon under the title the smell of scorched earth after rain.

Read the rest of Richard's review at richard pierce.