Yet another author interview! Thanks to Mark Ramsden for the honest, frank and very interesting answers to my usual raft of questions. It never fails to surprise me how differently people interpret these questions, and every time I step away a little more inspired. Read the rest of the interviews here, and, if you want to answer my questions, please do email me.
What’s your track record – what have you written?
Four books for Serpent’s Tail, 1999 -2002. A trilogy comprising The Dark Magus and the Sacred Whore. The Dungeonmaster’s Apprentice. The Sacred Blood. Radical Desire (republished by Mandrake Press) non- fiction. Countless magazine articles. I was surprised and very grateful to have been given another lease of life by Fahrenheit13 press @F13Noir, the hardboiled imprint of Fahrenheit Press.
They’ve published Dread – The Art of Serial Killing in 2015, republished with a new cover this year. Chris Black, a really great editor, is currently shortening my next one which will be out soon.
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Why do you write?
I always read a lot, as a child. I never stopped. Unfortunately it’s more often fruitless bickering on the internet these days but I’m still looking to be enlightened and informed. Well, distraction will suffice. I thought, mistakenly, back then, that being in a pop group would be like being in the Beatles. And that being a Paperback Writer would somehow be glamorous. Harold Robbins sales proved elusive as did the lifestyle of the fab four.
What makes a successful days writing?
These days it can be any words at all. I take solace from someone who said that two minutes of writing could redeem any day. I think he was a poet so in the fortunate position of needing fewer words.
When do you feel most productive?
Late night, through dawn. We have great sunsets and sunrises here. Next to the sea. Proper professionals write in the morning before ‘keeping up with the news’, which will make you feel ill. Though I still do it.
Do you have a writing routine? What is it?
I wrote three novels in a house with my two small children, in the intervals between using large amounts of cannabis, MDMA, LSD etc which I thought I needed to ‘calm down’. There would have been more, better words consuming only green tea, as I do now.
I haven’t read Flaubert since I was a teenager, (when I didn’t fully understand him) but this is often quoted: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
These days, after various breakdowns and some homelessness, I’d settle for bourgeois, though it remains an aspiration.
What stops you from writing?
Being too critical to even start. As has often been said: write something, anything, then fix it later. I can lose months at a time trying to visualise an entire story rather than just actually just writing something, even a new three act plan. There won’t be a swoop by the Fiction Police demanding to see your unfinished work, or an arrest for a sub standard paragraph, just write.
Say you’ve hit a slump. What do you do to get going again?
Exercise, staying very healthy and then you become annoyingly energetic and communicative. Borrow and customise something, keep at it till it’s yours rather than the original. Despite being terrifyingly erudite and rational, Michael Crichton had tarot card and I Ching programmes on his computer. Try anything that unblocks the unconscious. Whatever works.
What advice would you give someone who can’t get their writing going?
Start another project. Switch from one genre to another or even start a screenplay which you can novelise later. That way you don’t have to worry about conjuring up somewhere interesting it could be Ext: Niagra Falls, Night.
The author of the Patrick Melrose novels, Edward St. Aubyn, a man who would never stand for a sentence as terrible as this, even he is wary of the more mundane aspects of story telling. “Part of me still longs for the purity of poetry. Without any narrative, and wretched settings.”
You don’t always have to dazzle. The Martin Amis approach can get on people’s nerves.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever had?
It’s not a ‘you’ problem, it’s a page problem. Fix what’s on the page. (Google couldn’t help me with whichever sage said this but it’s marvelous, especially if you’re too self-critical.)
Where can people find out more about you?
My blog is: markramsden13.wordpress.com Thanks for your questions! I’d better get to work now. Having claimed to know something about this…