Thursday, January 5, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR, ALAN S. BLOOD

NTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR 0F"ONCE UPON A CASTLE" & "CRY OF THE MACHI", ALAN S. BLOOD

[image]

Hello Alan, I just received your book recently and will be reading itsoon. Your first novel, "Once Upon A Castle" about a teenage ghost set during World War II, is it still available now and where can we find it?

'Once Upon A Castle' is not a novel about a teenage ghost but a ghost story (with illustrations) written for teenagers. A full synopsis of it, together with the colourful front cover, appears on my website. The book was marketed to schools as as a 'reader' and, as such, was very successful. I visited many schools throughout the UK to talk to pupils about it. The book was popular and I received some wonderful letters from the youngsters. It was never on sale in Bookshops and is now out of print.

"Cry of the Machi" is your recent book, what were some of your
inspirations behind this murder mystery?

The inspiration for 'Cry Of the Machi A Suffolk Murder Mystery' is
essentially threefold - my experiences as a 'Morris Dancer', previously living in 'Suffolk' (one of England's most rural counties) and traveling around Chile. The 'Writers' News' article gives the general background to the novel and puts these elements into the perspective of such. I believe I sent it to you previously - but I am attaching the article again

Added to this, I am attaching an extract from my blog (some of which also appears on Facebook) that gives further emphasis to the significance of Suffolk to the novel.

Tell us about your writing process and some of the things that inspire you.

I have always been inspired by the fascination (despite advances in
technology) of man's inability to control everything. This is especially
the case with the forces of nature, good and evil. Thus, we seem as
powerless to stop evil happening as we do to prevent an earthquake or a tsunami. Mankind is generally in denial of things which it does not understand and therefore, in its ignorance, dismisses the possibility of the existence and power of phenomena like supernatural forces - both on earth and throughout the cosmos. There are millions of people who feel that there is insufficient, conclusive proof of such and, thus, refuse point-blank to believe in ghosts or god or the devil or life on other planets . There is simply so much that we do not know, for sure - so how narrow and arrogant a view is this ?

A central theme of 'Cry Of The Machi' is how certain forces can both
challenge, triumph or destroy - in this case how the power of the 'Machi' (a simple witchdoctor of the Mapuche Indians of Chile) can provide a force of good to thwart a mighty force evil. However, the question remains - for how long ? Thus, the conclusion of the novel paves the way for a possible sequel.

In its humble way, I hope the book will make a small contribution to raising public awareness and make people think a little more philosophically about such issues which tend are be swept aside in today's ever increasing hi-tech world where old concepts and fears are replaced by the comforting reliance upon such as the 'protection' afforded by friendly mobile cell phones - which now seem to control everything ! Yet the 'unexpected and unexplained' can still occur- and we can never say 'never' !

I am also inspired by all forms of social injustice coupled with the
alarming growth of people's intolerance of other people. Again, I think Technology has a lot to answer for here. The natural process of direct human communication (person to person - face to face) is largely being taken over by the internet and all forms of 'social networking' (which is not all bad - as we have actually been put in 'communication' with each other through the latter : ie : Goodreads Technology should be a 'good servant' and 'not a bad master' ! As an ex-teacher, I am especially alarmed at today's young people's lack of 'direct' interpersonal skills with 'real' people - other than the click of a mouse or the press of a keyboard button !

Inspiration also comes from my love of (and deep concern for) all
ecological matters to do with conservation of the countryside/wildlife and the preservation of beautiful old buildings (* See further comment below - re 'historic films *) In many parts of the world we are destroying the irreplaceable places of historic value/interest and natural environment through commercial and financial greed by those who have no care for saving our planet but are only concerned in their vested interests of making themselves even richer ! (Further on, you will see reference to my International Award Winning Poem about 'Litter'.)

I read a large cross section of both quality and tabloid newspapers and watch a lot of current affairs/political/documentary programmes to keep abreast of worldwide developments - which frequently spawns ideas for writing - and I still, sometimes, engage in freelance journalism -writing press articles - as well as theatre reviews et al.

I do a substantial amount of writing in the morning - followed by either a walk or bicycle ride in the beautiful Welsh countryside where I live. (Very often with my bag of photographic equipment - always hoping to get an unusual shot of wildlife - such as otters). Then I usually have a late lunch before another spell of writing in the afternoon. I type straight on to my laptop - although my first novel was, initially, handwritten in pen and ink - and kept in a 'beat-up' spring-clip folder !

You also enjoy photographing wildlife, painting, and scraperboard
engraving. While a lot of us know what photography and painting are, tell us more about scraperboard engraving.

Scraperboard engraving is a relatively obscure art form which I first
became attracted to during an 'option' art course whilst at University.

Scraperboard or 'Scratchboard' is a technique where drawings are created using very sharp knives and tools for etching into a thin layer of white China clayboard that is coated with black India ink. The practice can be
quite dangerous and demands a lot of concentration - especially being mindful of avoiding 'slipping the tool' and cutting oneself !

The pressure exerted on the instruments used determines the outcome of the illustration - which can range from highly detailed, precise and even textured artwork to extremely simplistic drawings. I tend to prefer the latter which often results in an almost ethereal effect - and I attach a couple examples of of them. I have, in the past, sold my engravings - some even went to Canada !

I attach four very diverse examples of my work. The largest picture is of the world famous 'Iron Bridge' built by Abraham Darby III (from cast iron) across the River Severn Gorge at Ironbridge, Shropshire, England

You also write plays, screenplays, and poetry. What are some of your works in those areas we may be familiar with?

Over the years, I have also written short radio plays for the BBC
(British Broadcasting Corporation) - one of which is based upon the true 'battle' to save my village of Caersws from a dangerous 'Tetra Mast' which seriously threatened people's health -and even lives ! After a two year Protest Campaign (that included questions being raised in the 'House of Commons') - for which I was 'Press Officer - we managed to get the Mast removed - and appeared on Television as a result ! I have also written many short stories and could email you a sample one, as well as the script of this particular Radio Play (entitled 'The Intrusion') if you would like me to.

In 2003, I won the top award at the Hastings International Poetry Festival with my poem 'Contrite Can Cannot' (concerning the polluting effects of 'litter') - which was subsequently published in their Anthology/Magazine and this can be seen on the 'Publications' section of my website.

One of the most ambitious writing projects that I have ever undertaken was to produce a Screenplay (entitled 'Rogue And Royal') for a full length movie about the true story of the stealing of the Crown Jewels by Thomas Blood, a wild Irish ancestor of mine during the reign of King Charles 11. The MSS has been well received by a number of Film Agents and by the BBC - but a
major problem with all 'historical' films is that of production costs which can run into millions of pounds/dollars. In the case of the UK - extra costs are incurred as most of the filming needs to be done abroad - in such cities as 'Prague' where the historic buildings (unlike in Britain) have not been spoilt by plastic shop fronts etc (*hence my strong feelings about this - mentioned earlier *). I still have hopes for 'Rogue And Royal' to appear on the 'Big Screen' - and I have not yet tried America (Hollywood ?)

Tell us about some of the places you have traveled and some of the interesting things you have seen.

I have travelled very widely and had some wonderful, moving experiences. There are photographs of me in various locations around the world in the 'Gallery' section/pages of my website - which is still not fully complete. Probably the most memorable occasion was sailing around Cape Horn at daybreak with the added bonus of seeing the sunrise come up beside it - which my Jamaican cabin boy said was : "A rare occurrence, man !" (As he gave me a 'high five').

I went to China in below freezing winter 'minus temperatures', was
privileged to see the daily 'raising' of 'The People's Flag' in Tiananmen Square, participated in the famous 'Tea House Ceremony', had a meal in a Chinese family home - as well as climbing the Great Wall and many other activities such as meeting the stars of both the Beijing Opera and 'Kung Fu Show'. Seeing Pandas was sheer delight and, generally, the food was fabulous !

Another very pleasant trip was spending a week on the Greek island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea - the setting for 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' (by Louis de Bernie `eres) where the film of the book was also made - and seeing the locations for such.

I travelled extensively through Chile - also conducting research for 'Cry Of The Machi...' - especially in the territory of the Mapuche Indians - one of the most remote places in the world ! After Cape Horn (and 'skirting' around the Drake passage, near the Antarctic) I was fortunate to be able to land, by small boat, on the Falkland Islands (this is not always possible if the seas are too rough.) I visited the battlefields of the 'Falklands War' - where British armed forces recaptured the islands following the Argentinian invasion. Many troops died there and in particular, I went to 'Bluff Cove' - where 350 Welsh Guards were slaughtered and/or severely maimed. As I come from Wales, this was a very emotional, tearful experience. In my 'Gallery Pictures' - you can see the photo of me standing
by their memorial - which the 'Falklanders' always keep neat and tidy with flowers and wreaths.

All of South America, was simply fantastic. In Argentina, I visited Ushuaia - the most southerly city in the world and later travelled to the interior of the country to visit a Patagonian Welsh community - where I was able to speak to the them in Welsh ! I spent three days in Buenos Aires which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and really come s alive late at night where it is quite common to see the 'Tango' danced in the streets ! I visited Eva Peron's grave and also travelled by train to where I could embark on a motor boat 'voyage' through the myriad of waterways and swamps of the River Plate delta. Uruguay was a marvellous little country and in
the capital, Montevideo, I experienced the bonus of being there on a day when Uruguay were playing Paraguay in a world cup qualifying soccer match. The 'carnival like' atmosphere was electric with all of the razzmatazz of South American football ! I also paid a visit to the nautical museum where the guns and other relics of the German pocket battleship 'Graf Spee' (scuttled after the notorious WW11 'Battle of The River Plate - with the British Royal Navy) are on display.

I have seen much of your own wonderful USA - stemming from the time that I taught there on an 'Exchange Programme' in 1986. After a few days in New York City (which included going up the 'Empire State', at night), I worked in two different areas and schools, respectively. Firstly, I spent time at Queensbury High, Glens Falls on the upper Hudson River, New York State, before moving on to the High School in Winchester, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching English and answering the many questions that the American students asked about the UK and English Literature. At Winchester, I was also interviewed (and spoke) on their School Radio Station. In my 'free time', I visited Albany, the New York State Capital , climbed 'White Face Mountain' at Lake Placid - and took a trip to Niagra where I sailed underneath 'the Falls' on the 'Maid Of The Mist'. I also took a drive across the border for several miles into Canada ! From Boston, I visited Salem Massachusetts (infamous for the Puritan witch trials) and addressed the town meeting at 'Billerica' - named after my home town of 'Billericay', Essex, England. Similarly, I was guest
of honour at the Winchester Country Club - where met the US Astronaut 'Rick Hauk' (commander of the space mission : Challenger 7) - as well as Senators and other dignitaries. It was a fantastic year !

Subsequently, I toured the western side of the States - visiting the cities of L.A., San Diego, Phoenix, Flagstaff (near where I flew into the Grand Canyon in a 'chopper' - and took some amazing video footage). Then I moved on to see Las Vegas (what a place) and San Francisco (including a trip across to Alcatraz) and, eventually, back to L.A. (via Monterey, Santa Barbara and many other places on the Pacific 'Big Sur' coast. Ultimately, I went to Hollywood where (having written a Screenplay) I was thrilled to tour Universal Studios and, in particular, saw the 'Special Effects' department - where I spoke to some of the production people. Finally, I visited 'Disneyland' where I became the 'biggest kid on the block' - and even queued for an hour to meet 'Mickey Mouse' - see the picture on my 'Gallery' !

These are the highlights of my travels - there are many more - too numerous to mention - including 'hitch- hiking' around the whole of Europe and Ireland) - as a student (in the 60's).

What is your next planned novel or other endeavor?

I have actually written 6,000 words of a sequel to 'Cry Of The
Machi...' but I am not sure if I really want to finish it ! I am 66
years if age and, at my time of life, want to concentrate on many other
things - especially writing more short stories and controversial poetry. However, if 'Cry' becomes even more successful then the 'sequel' will become more probable. Many people have already expressed a wish to see/read one !

Since you like photography have you ever thought about or do you plan to do a book with your pictures in it someday?

I do not really envisage trying to publish a book of my pictures.
Photography will always be a hobby that, combined with my love of walking in the countryside, I very much find to be a 'therapeutic' diversion to sitting at this word processor ! I do, however, intend to enter some of my best photos for competitions - of which here are many.

Tell us about your teaching job with the University of Reading.

I did not teach at the University of Reading. This was where I
qualified as a Teacher ! (see the attached 'Biographical Details' - for
basic Career information).

Do you have any advice you'd like to share with other aspiring authors?

. I would advise other authors, firstly, to ask themselves if they have
confidence in the quality of their work and, if this is the case, persevere with a whole range of options to eventually achieve getting it published. In my experience, there is no simple or easy route to success (even if you are a good writer) and authors really have to work at it to become noticed and, ultimately, accepted. In this, it soon becomes advantageous to share experiences and problems with others and this can be done in a variety of ways. One of the best options is to join a writers group and, if this cannot be done 'physically', then the internet provides a whole range of opportunities for the interchange of ideas, support and solutions through
social interaction.

I have been fortunate in that, starting with the creation of a web 'Forum', by myself and some like - minded writing friends, this grew and subsequently led to the formation of an actual group which meets regularly, on rotation, in each other's houses and, as well as being a social occasion, is invaluable in offering both constructive criticism and support for each other's short stories, poems and embryonic novels ! We are now at the stage of planning a periodic publication of our literary efforts which we intend to sell and raise funds to visit Literary Festivals etc.

The overall advice, then, is that as writing (albeit a highly pleasurable
activity) can also be a lonely road ! Having the friendship and shared opinions/ideas of others is of immense value to speed one towards successful goals !

FINAL COMMENTS : (Extra Dimensions of my own) :

'CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery' will be available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle (so my Publishers tell me) at the end of this January - and will also still be sold in Hardcover.

Thank you for your time Alan, I hope to interview you again soon!

No comments:

Post a Comment