Today it's Redfern Jon Barrett. A new voice I've come across recently. I like his work, let's see what's behind it all.
You title is ‘The Giddy Death Of The Gays And The Strange Demise Of Straights’ So my first question is: Fiction? Non-Fiction?
This is a novel, loosely based in real events. It’s set in the Welsh city of Swansea, where I lived for eight years while doing my PhD. So fiction, but it’s also a comedy: humour being a way of coping in an otherwise hostile environment.
Swansea is a poor and socially conservative city, but even there I saw people living their lives in alternative ways: polyamorous people, queer people, people dressing in drag. A lot of it was underground, but it’s there and it’s thriving.
Sounds like the making of a great story. Since this is a blog for brand new writers, what made you want to take that material and write your book?
A compulsive need to show that weird people and strange situations exist. To display what’s hidden, and dig up what’s underground. I’m queer and polyamorous myself, and the only way to truly gain acceptance is if people relate to us.
Yes, seeing is in a sense, believing. And we need that exposure…
Right. Also to say, you know what? We don’t just exist in big liberal cities. We’re everywhere. To new writers I’d say, write what’s important to you. If you’re working on something close to your heart, you’ll never let it go.
Still, it’s a brave topic, in our times, so what was the hardest and easiest about writing this?
The easiest thing was motivation. There was never a day where I didn’t want to write more. What was most difficult was keeping it simple. There were so many personalities and events which I wanted to convey that I wound up with far too many characters and far too many plotlines. After redrafting several times I decided to take an axe to it, destroying as much as I possibly could.
Talk about cutting things and merging, I feel not enough new writers are willing, or even understand what goes into that aspect, to build a great story…
I rewrote the whole thing, planning a new version with half the cast. But it’s not as simple as cutting things out—some characters and events were merged to form new ones, and new personas mean unexpected actions: different characters won’t make the same decisions! The most important thing is to remain flexible. Allow yourself to be surprised.
Everyone's looking for that 'How-to' for being good at writing. Do you have “a process” when you think about your books?
I make notes all the time. If I have a notebook with me I’ll scribble them down there, but if not then I simply write them on my phone and email them to myself (most of my emails are from myself—I’m my own stalker).
How about when you’re down to the writing?
I never stop writing. When I go on vacation I take a notebook or my laptop with me: one of my worst fears is having a scene unfold in my head and not being able to get it down. Sometimes it’s led to me writing entire chapters on my tiny phone screen with my big clunky fingers. I keep two main documents: a ‘scraps’ file where I store scenes which aren’t ready to go in yet, and a main file which is ordered and ready to proof read.
And what about editing/revisions?
First of all, I print it out, or at least turn it into an e-book. I find it helps to read from something other than the screen I wrote it on: I need to be in the mindset of the reader, not the writer. I prefer paper because I scribble all over it, adding in scenes on the back of the page, or crossing them out when they don’t fit. I’m as harsh with myself as I can be.
Do you use Scrivener or something like that? A “writer’s tool” – why? Or, Why not?
I actually don’t—I prefer managing my own notes and having my own system. That’s entirely subjective, though. I don’t have a real reason for it.
Are you getting good press so far?
I’ve been getting press, though it’s not always good! I’m a campaigner for polyamory rights: I would like to see a day when the home I share with my two partners has the same rights and protections as every other household. Recently there’s been a lot of press about it, and I’ve been mentioned in several major newspapers. People fear what they don’t understand, so of course there’s been a lot of hostility, but there’s also been some amazing support.
Talk to us about the filming that’s going on. And how it informs the writing.
My partners and I are being filmed for a documentary about polyamorous relationships. Though having someone film our lives for a year is daunting, we’re very happy together, and it’s vital that poly relationships gain more visibility—which is exactly the reason I write about them. If I can make people laugh along the way, all the better. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, then what’s the point?
Great, thanks so much for the time you've given us.
For you readers, here's an International Amazon link for this title: http://authl.it/B00YBGVOJK?d
Here’s a Short Excerpt of Redfern’s work:
The Giddy Death of the Gays & the Strange Demise of Straights
Don’t avoid the other children. Don’t play with dolls. Don’t be so sensitive. Don’t be a wilting wallflower. Don’t doodle. Don’t dream. Don’t wrestle other boys. Don’t forget to shave. Don’t kiss male friends. Men don’t love men. You certainly can’t love more than one at once. The rules-to-a-happy-life are the same in south Wales as anywhere else.
Happiness is boring. At least I think so. Contentment makes for the worst stories. Contented people live and die as though they never were—there is no imprint to be left by the contented. Now discontent is worth something. When we live among masses of those with whom we disagree—those we find abhorrent— that is when we fight to leave a mark, that is when we have something worth conveying. That was my life in south Wales. So I avoided who I wanted, I played with what I wished, I was as sensitive as I needed to be, I wilted and doodled and dreamed, I wrestled whomever I felt like, I didn’t close-shave anywhere. But I hoped that people would kiss me and people would love me and that maybe there would be more than one at once. At some point.
I was twenty-five, and it was three nights after I had been evicted. I was standing outside a ratty café which was the meeting place of The Lesbians, watching passers-by trying not to slip or trip on the wet, cracked hazard of the pavement. I’d fallen over myself—twice in the past month, in fact. And I was smoking. Smoking is as much a cliché as pointing out that something is a cliché, and I don’t enjoy it. I smoke for something to do with my hands. It makes me feel terrible—the claggy sensation in my mouth, the fatigue from the nicotine. If I’m home I’ll have some fruit after each cigarette just to feel a little better again. Lemons work the best. I am not good at smoking. I smoke as though I’m imitating someone smoking.
Waiting for The Lesbians was like that: something to do. Steph was the one I was waiting for. In a few minutes zie would come out of the special summer solstice Women’s Meeting, looking for all the world like a pixie; small and lithe with turquoise hair.
There was a shriek of laughter somewhere inside—they would be finished soon.
The fag smoke choked my throat, the wet Welsh mist bouncing from my face. Now and again the cackle of laughter from the lesbians inside cut through the cold air, which was brightly-lit by neon signs. I actually liked the tacky glow of neon lighting, it did a lot to hide the crumbling faces of the buildings. I slumped against the wall and waited for the meeting to finish. No men allowed, not even queer men.
About The AuthorE.J. Runyon Author, Writing Coach at Bridge to Story at Bridge to Story http://www.bridgetostory.com/
I am a writer, coach, and the creator of BridgetoStory.com, a writing service providing instruction to novices and other writers online and off. I've coached writers as individuals and in small groups since 1997.