Fiona McVie inverviews authors on her website. She does perhaps the most comprehensive interview out there. It was great fun to do. Have a look at my answers at this link.
Monthly Archives: May 2014
So Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson was in the news the other week – in hot water, again – for being Politically Incorrect. Being a wanker, is the term he’d understand. Being more than normally so, that is. We all know he likes to poke fun at Mexicans for being lazy. He apparently used the N word when saying the old rhyme to choose between two things.
This is Clarkson’s apology:
“Please be assured I did everything in my power to not use that word. And as I’m sitting here begging your forgiveness for the fact that obviously my efforts weren’t quite good enough.”
He actually said that.
What a wanker. If he knew enough to not say the word aloud, he knew enough to not actually say it at all, and to replace it with anything else. “Tiger” is the word I heard in Boston when I lived there. If he said it, he meant to say it. End of fucking story.
Reading another article about his apology, I saw Clarkson had plenty of fans and others supporting him. I was a little concerned at one quote saying he got away with such indiscretions because he was too powerful to get rid of – it reminded me of a certain ex DJ who was very popular and had the BBC fixed just the way he liked it: too scared to stop him doing his despicable things.
I was temped to comment on that, but I have decided that commenting on newspaper articles is like trying to have a rational discussion in the middle of a Jerry Springer show (or a Spanish chat show, on occasion): it’s fucking pointless, because nobody else is there for a rational discussion, just a shouting match.
Anyway, back to Clarkson. Aside from whether he is or isn’t a racist, and the notion that all such Englishmen who believe in the superiority of their former Empire being intrinsically racist, he thought he could get away with it, as a joke. While Jeremy might really believe it was only a joke and not meant to offend, I’d love to see him say the same thing where I used to work in the South End of Boston, or in the South Bronx of NY, or South Central LA. Anywhere outside the South Bank of the Thames.
And as for those people who claim we always said such things, well, yea, I remember saying it before I ever understood what the N word meant. But it ever entered my head to say it in company once I was an adult – even in the company of people of Jeremy’s generation and attitude.
What Jeremy and his ilk need to understand is that you can’t do or say certain things nowadays, despite the fact that you or me or everyone always used to. We just don’t do that shit any more.
As a kid I used to call people a faggot or a fairy with impunity. I didn’t know any better, but nobody would catch me saying it now – even those, like Jeremy, who might laugh as if it was funny. Fat people were an easy target to poke fun at, but that’s just not funny anymore.
It’s not so much setting an example, as adhering to a set of guidelines that I believe should apply to everyone, in a society I would like to see. Like not littering, even though I know I could get away with it; teaching my child not to litter, and having to explain to her that there are indeed people in the world who throw their cigarette butts on the ground, and having no answer to her question: “What we going to do?”
“We’re going to wait till such dickheads grow a brain, love,” is, unfortunately, the only answer.
Even dickheads like Jeremy Clarkson can grow a brain, I believe.
The world has changed; in many ways for the worst (and Jeremy no doubt has many opinions about this as he pisses around the countryside in fast cars – full discloser: I sometimes drive, and I sometimes enjoy it; I watched a few episodes of Top Gear and I did enjoy it, especially the actors doing laps. But do I give a fuck about the difference between a Lamborghini, a Maserati and a Ferrari? No. Do I care what size the engine is? No. Would I prefer to be able to either cycle or travel by jet pack? Yes.)
In many ways, though, society – even our shitty parasitic Western one – has changed for the better. We’re a lot more civilised in some respects, and humane.
Perhaps being civilised creates some minor inconveniences. Since smoking was banned in bars, we all like not smelling of smoke after a night out. Do I like having to go outside on the street to have a conversation with my smoking buddies? No. Do I disprove of my mates who throw their butts on the ground? Very much so. (And your time is ending, littering cigarette smokers, very fucking soon. Before my 3-year-old is allowed to read this blog, you won’t be flicking your butts with impunity – just like the shit-leaving dog walkers’ time ended [and I was one of them back in the day, we all were]). There are more rules to living in a globalized world with going on 8 billion people. Get used to it. More rules are coming.
Which brings me to farmers. The dumping of carcasses a few weeks back at the bottom of a scenic cliff in Ireland is a symptom of someone who doesn’t really care about animals, who views them as objects. While I am a hunter and have no problem killing animals, I am not callous about how they die, and I don’t condone the dumping of useful animal carcases. (It is a pity that there are few birds of prey that could have availed of the meat. Perhaps when the kind of farmers who say that his or her forbearers always shot and poisoned raptors just like they still do to foxes, have ceased to do such things, there will be.)
Perhaps the owner could not afford to feed the cattle and horses. It’s better to kill the horse if you can’t feed it than let it starve. Of course, a little bit of swallowing pride might let you spend your last dime on a fucking phone call to the ISPCA (shout out to all the good men and women there!). But even if you are going to kill it, a quick death, rather than pushing it off a cliff would be more humane. The removal of ear tags suggests that the animal was dead before going off the cliff, but the presence of a live horse on the top and absence of machinery tracks pushing the carcass off the cliff (nobody has the strength to do it by hand) shows the animals were probably alive, so the ears were cut off while they were alive. A horse trusts its owner, knows him or her, and damn well knows it’s about to be pushed to its certain death. It’s less humane than borrowing your neighbour’s shotgun, or bolt gun. (What farmer can’t afford a blot gun?)
The farmer who did this obviously sees nothing wrong with what he did. Like the people who still drown puppies and kittens rather than get their dogs and cats spayed (cheap in Ireland if you’re a pensioner).
But we just don’t fucking do that shit anymore.
We don’t allow people leave children unattended in their car, or anywhere else. Not even for two seconds while they run into a shop for a pint of milk. You can’t have your kids babysat by anyone under sixteen. We don’t have kids in cars without child seats and booster chairs, don’t drive ourselves without seatbelts, and certainly don’t drink and drive anymore. We don’t leave our dogs in the car in the sun, or chain them up in our garden. We don’t shoot them when they’re too old to be useful. You don’t leave sheep ignored for months on the hill, or have horses unshod because it’s expensive to shoe them.
Sure, there are some folks who still do all these things, including let their kids bounce around the back of the car (which some of us reminisce about, having 8 kids in the car: two in the front seat, one in the back window). There are people who ignore their dogs’ shit, who still dock their dogs’ tails and who get their ears pinned. In Spain there are yet many hunters who shoot their dogs at the end of the season rather than spend the money feeding them till next year – and fuck me blue but do those cunts (sorry Maia, a very bad word, but it was the only apt label) make me mad for giving other hunters a bad name.
The point is that though a few idiots linger in their insistence that they should be allowed to do what they’ve always done, nowadays the rest of us disdain those people.
The rest of society has shifted around such people. Just like it’s shifted around Clarkson and he’d better move soon, too, or his popularity will shift. Because if he doesn’t, then before my 3-year-old can read this blog, even if she were let, it will be politically uncorrect to like the clown (read wanker).
I wrote this poem ten years ago now. I didn’t think it was that long ago. But boy, has a lot happened in those ten years. Well, actually, no. Regarding the subject of the poem, sweet F A has happened. Except that the problem has gotten 10 years worse, and will take us longer than ten years more to fix-slash-reverse the effects of those ten years.
So why am I posting this now? Well, you’ve probably all heard about the new findings showing that the western Antarctic ice sheets are going to melt. Going to. No might, no perhaps, no could or even will, if we…. They are going to melt. And Meghna, the last stretch of the Ganges, will then become the shallow harbour of Bangladesh. And there will plenty of shallow harbours around the world, it seems. And also shallows where once there were islands. There are calls to action. But will we act?
The Shallow Harbour of Bangladesh
Standing upon the rise, beard growing icicles in the wind,
Eyes weeping from it and the fields falling frozen before him,
Drifts against dead hedges, reindeer shelter in lees,
Eking out the existence once thriving life with sheep,
When the warm rain came.
Crouching on dry gravel, shaking stones in fist,
Scatters, shaking head at emptiness,
Lizard skitters across pebbles, scavenging scarce parched seeds,
Sun beats upon neck back and all before, years,
Used to draw grains and vines once sustained by winter snow,
And spring showers that sprinkled flowers,
Now storms wash out ravines of dust and dried husks.
A man stands proud upon a prow, poling into treacherously turbid estuary
Drowned mangroves threaten to mire like the lost tiger,
Channel shallows past the Sundarbans, showing signs of past life,
Here and there stilts stick up that once held houses,
Where one would watch the Ganges disgorge slowly,
Switched around to see the sea swallow,
Several names of river back to the border,
Splitting into a harbour a hungry nation awaiting huddled upon the bank,
The man sailing over rice paddies,
Fishing upon his former fields.
Before telling you my writing process, let me quickly explain what #MyWritingProcess is about…
“We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…”
So I’d like to thank Mary T Bradford, a fellow author at Tirgearr Publishing, where my novel Leaving the Pack was just published last week, for asking me to add myself to the link in the chain of writers and authors contributing to this ‘My Writing Process’ blog tour.
You can find Mary’s own writing process thoughts and learn about her own new novel, soon to be published, on her blog: http://marytbradford-author.blogspot.ie/
1) What am I working on?
I am working on a few things, one of which is a sequel to my werewolf novel, Leaving the Pack. In this new book, Leading the Pack, the son of the hero and heroine has come of age and must now leave the protection of his parents country estate to roam the city alone, learn to control his urge for violence and eventually become the leader of a new generation of werewolves that will be unleashed upon the streets. Needless to say, it’s not going to be easy.
I am half-way through what I hope will be my first ever novel written in six months – from idea to final edit and submission. It is set in Scotland, but other than that, I can’t give details.
Once these two are done, I’ll get back to my pre-Columbian Caribbean novel which I have been working on for a few years now, off and on. I get distracted by shorter projects, but there’s no rush. I am about half way through and it’s at 130,000 words so far, so it won’t be getting published until my other shorter work has beaten me a path to publishers – or the other way around!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My imagination is not very extensive for a writer of paranormal and fantasy-type novels. I am a scientist by training, which does two things: it makes me loathe to write things that are way off the reservation regarding the laws of thermodynamics and evolution, and it makes me wonder, if the situation I am thinking of were to actually exist, what would that be like, in a real-world paradigm? My sensitive poets soul would like to believe in lots of things that logically I can’t say out loud. So putting that altogether, you have a guy who’s only describing the reality of phenomena that others have imagined. Werewolves? Well, of course they are real. Why would there be a legend unless there was a race of people we needed to demonise? They can’t physically change, but their lunar rhythms are bestial, with changes in adrenaline levels and other hormones that give them that mythical strength and tendency to violence. But why be strong and violent? Evolution answers that the only reason is to mate. If they have hormones that make them as primitive as other very sexually-dimorphic mammals, then why not also a pheromone to ensure their battles are worth it?
If ghosts exist, then what are they and how do they interact with the body? A YA paranormal adventure called “The Soul of Adam Short” explains. A boy who can see leprechauns? “Peter and the Little People” shows that it’s simply because leprechauns are real, and they are an undescribed species of mammal that would appear in our wildlife guides if only anyone was quick enough to photograph one – or they didn’t become dangerously indignant at the very suggestion (sorry Fionán!).
3) Why do I write what I do?
I have always been a slave to an idea. I believe myself blessed to have the little imagination I do, and if I get an idea, I always try to write something down to acknowledge it. At the same time, if I don’t, write something down, it stays in my head like a bee trapped behind a window. Sometimes it’s a poem, sometimes a story, and now and then the idea is extensive enough that it demands it’s own world to inhabit, and I end up having to describe a whole pile of things just to suit that original thought. I sometimes wish I didn’t have to write, that it would be much more pleasurable reading and enjoying the scenery. But I sit down and relax and read and ideas pop into my head. Every sunny day seems to merit its own few lines. And since I have an addiction to stationery, I love to fill up white pages…
4) How does my writing process work?
The short answer is erratically! I get the idea and I try to get it down as fast as possible. I have realised that handwriting (though I use the term pretty loosely considering my penmanship) is the fastest and it lets the ideas flow most freely. I usually don’t have the luxury of time to write as fast, or as much as I’d like. I write some straight into a word file and others in notebooks while I have a few minutes in a park or while out with the family. The ideas come all at together: bits of dialogue, plot points, structure, conflicts. I get it written down as it comes and later when they’ve dried up, I sit down, type up what is handwritten, and try to put it all together in some kind of coherent structure. Then comes the hard part of stitching together these pieces with new parts, connecting dialogue, using a chapter list or some other kind of outline, until there’s the guts of a novel. After that, it’s a simple matter of reading it many times and adding chapters and swapping parts around and then cutting little bits at a time over too many revisions to be very efficient until I’m left with something approaching readability.
Thanks again Mary for inviting me to contribute to this tour!
Next up on this blog tour is
Sean is a registered nurse living in Mobile, Alabama, USA. His lifelong dream has been to become a professional writer, but up until recently he hasn’t really known which direction to take. He recently started his blog to debut his writing to the world and is also working on what he hopes will be his first publication: a book of short stories.
You can read all about Sean’s writing process on his creative writing/ book blog called The Write Direction: www.thewrtdirection.com
He’ll be posting on May 26 so be sure to check his writing process out then.