Saturday, 28 September 2013

Inspirational short story author, Andrew Campbell-Kearsey

On my blog today I am honoured to be hosting one of the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers’ short story competition finalists Andrew Campbell-Kearsey.

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for joining us on my blog, it’s great to meet you. First of all congratulations on your recent placement in the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers Short Story Competition. I understand you enter quite a few writing competitions. How long have you been writing?

Hi Judith,

I’ve been writing for about nine years. I signed up for an adult education writing evening class and was fortunate to have a great tutor. At first she set assignments that were about our memories or experiences before we branched off into fiction. I used to enjoy writing as an unreliable narrator. I didn’t even know the term before the tutor pointed it out. I’d been influenced I’m sure by Zoe Heller’s book ‘Notes On A Scandal’.
After a couple of years it dawned on me that subjectivity was at the heart of appreciation of any form of writing. I could appreciate many books but many of my reactions revolved around what I brought to the party.
What else inspires your stories? Do they just appear in your head fully formed or do they evolve slowly once you’ve put pen to paper?

I’ve written over two hundred stories and it’s a clichĂ© but you write what you know often so when my mother had a stroke and went into a nursing home, that setting featured in a few stories. I’m an incredibly lazy writer. I try and tell myself I should spend more time doing it but life gets in the way. I’m trying to be more disciplined. I get an idea from something I overhear or when I’m out walking the dogs. It may be a title or a first line and I just sit down and write. I’m rubbish at editing. I don’t like to change things once I’ve written them.

Ha ha, we all feel like that. I get someone to do that for me. Where do you write? Do you have a man cave, or do you balance your laptop on the arm of the chair while you watch tv?

Being a man, I can’t multi-task so no, I can’t work in front of the TV. No music or I’ll sing along, which trust me, isn’t a pretty sound.
I sit at our dining room table at my pc and type away. I get easily distracted by anybody passing by. It’s amazing sometimes how attractive the thought of cleaning the fridge out is at times when I’m not feeling the literary love.

A man who knows fridges have to be cleaned! I like the sound of that, ha ha. Most authors have someone who bears the brunt of all the creative dross – listens to us read, checks for typos, offers constructive criticism from behind the safety barrier of the sofa. Do you have someone like that? A partner? A dog? Your mum? (One writer I know has an iguana).

My partner Brian is in an impossible situation. If he says he likes something I dismiss this thinking he’s just saying that. If he criticises then I’ve been known to go around the block a couple of times on my huffy bike. So the poor love can’t win.
I am very lucky as I have a great friend, Steve, who reads everything I write. As well as teaching me about punctuation and grammar, he sometimes comes up with structural changes which we discuss. I’m very lucky that I have him to sound off to. 

I don’t know where we’d be without friends. Brian sounds much better than an iguana. When I joined the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers I’d barely let anyone read my work, let alone think of publishing, but thanks to their encouragement, I am about to release my seventh. I first became aware of your work when you entered the Cwrtnewydd Scribblers short story competition. Do you enter many competitions or was that a one off?

I enter literally hundreds of competitions. Sometimes the title or theme of a competition inspires me. I subscribe to for competition updates and I am extremely grateful for the free info, regularly updated, on Prize Magic.
I came third in a local competition in 2006 and the story was published. Brian took me out for a meal to celebrate. I was so delighted. In 2009 I won the Ilkley Literary Festival Competition and I attended the prize giving and read out part of my story to a packed theatre. It was the first time I felt like a proper writer. I’ve had fifty of my stories published now.

Wow, well done. I love the little twists and surprises you inject into your stories, it makes them stand out from the crowd. Is that an authorial device or is it how you think? In other words, are you as unique as your stories?

I wrote a story once, where nothing out of the ordinary happened and it was really boring. So if I am writing for a competition theme, my first instinct is to write something different from what may be expected or intended. It may be arrogant to call myself unique but I think I’m a little bit odd and my take on things is a bit off-beat.

Unique is just another way of saying 'odd' isn't it? All the best people fall into that category. Do you have a publisher, or are you self-published? Either way it is quite a journey how are you finding it?

I wrote a poem four years ago and it won a competition. The prize was the publication of an anthology of my poetry. Unfortunately it would have been a slim volume as that was my one and only poem. And it was short!
So, the publishers, Aquilrelle, published ‘Brighton Shorts’. It was my first proper book and it had a purple cover, my favourite colour. I was so proud of it. I bought two hundred copies and sent them to friends and family. I was very excited to have my first ISBN number.
Then the brilliant Five Stop Story website came out and I entered every month. Many of my stories were published on the app. I was the 2012 overall winner and became a judge for this year.

Last year I received an email from Spinetinglers. I used to enter their competitions every month. My first feeling was that they were going to ask me to stop entering or accuse me of plagiarism or stop wasting their time. Instead they offered me an e-publishing contract. The process has been great fun, selecting stories, approving the layout, fonts and cover. It was published last week. Hurrah!

It is a great feeling isn't it, but now the hard work begins. All authors know, or quickly discover that there is a fine line between promotion and spamming. How are you finding marketing your work and do you have any tips for other writers trying to make their mark?

Oh dear, that’s a tricky one. I’m new to this but I have realised that my book won’t go flying off the shelves unless I tell people it’s on sale. So I’ve posted a few things on Facebook and sent emails to friends directly. I’ve contacted websites of competitions where I have been placed or won this year and many have posted a link for me. It’s a little bit like asking people to sponsor you. Instead of the money going to charity it’s for me. So I find it a little embarrassing. I’m borderline obsessed with where my book is in the Amazon chart. It’s fun though.

I am sure the people reading this blog will get down right away to sharing information about you. We all love a good read and if we want to discover new talent we have to shout about it when we find it. Is writing your day job? If not what other hats do you wear?

I used to be a head teacher in London, then Brighton. I’m supposed to write full time but I write about fifteen hours a week. Too many other things distract me. If a friend phones up suggesting meeting up for a coffee, I’m there in a shot.

I expect I’d be like that too if I didn’t live in the middle of nowhere. I have to walk seven miles to the nearest shop! Are you working on a follow up and will it consist of more short stories or is there a novel in the pipeline?

I shall keep on writing short stories. Spinetinglers may publish more anthologies of mine if sales go well. I have written two novels. The second one was a NaNoWriMo one. I intend to write a third in November this year.

We shall look forward to it. In the meantime tell us a bit about your book Centurionman. What made you decide to write it? Where can we buy it?
 Centurionman was my user name when I entered Spinetinglers competitions online. I have no macho pretensions and if you met me you’d understand. I happen to live in Centurion Road, in Brighton. I sent forty stories to the publishers and they selected the twenty for the ebook. Because of the nature of their work, they tended to choose the darker ones. It is available as a download on Kindle and all apple devices such as iPads. Some of my godchildren have it on their iPhones. I am jealous of their eyesight.

I was approached by Thorny Devil Productions. They have selected three stories which they want to film. The first one, ‘Shrinking Violet’ was screened at Cannes and at the Hollyshorts, Film festival in Los Angeles this year. The second one stars Louise Jameson and Annette Badland. I am currently writing the script for the third ‘School’s Out’ which is about two men who attend a secondary school reunion in drag as Krystle and Alexis from Dynasty to settle a few scores.

I think I remember School’s Out, did you enter it in the Scribblers competition last year? It just goes to show if at first you don’t succeed …I am really pleased at your success. You are an inspiration. Many people think there isn’t a career to be made in writing short stories but I guess, like everything else, it just depends how good you are at them.
Thank you so much, Andrew, for joining me on my blog. I hope we have generated some more sales for you and inspired all those short story writers to start submitting their stuff right away. Good luck and come back and chat with us when your next book is ready.

Centurionman is a collection of twenty short stories by award winning author Andrew Campbell-Kearsey.
This debut collection features a wide range of intriguing characters, including a downtrodden charity shop worker with a secret, a high court judge on a moral mission to punish pretentious home-sellers, and a man with an unusual way to claim insurance money…

Andrew Campbell-Kearsey is a short story writer. Two of his stories have been adapted into films by Thorny Devil Productions and have been screened in Los Angeles and Cannes. He is currently writing the screenplay for his third film. He has had over fifty stories published in anthologies, magazines and journals. Andrew is currently a judge for the Five Stop Story short story competition.

UK readers can buy Andrew's book here:
US readers click here: 

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