Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interview: Graham Worthington, author of Wake of the Raven and Zorn.

(picture from Amazon.com Author Page)

"I was born in England. Not the England of bustling London, nor even the southern counties, but the North of great industrial towns, separated by vast expanses of hills and moors, the land of 'Wuthering Heights.'
I read a lot from childhood onwards, and attempted my first short story at age eleven. 'Would you like to be an author?' a girl asked me in my teens; 'there's no money in it,' I replied, not from desire for wealth, but from desire for life, and travel, which require a solid job to bring in the cash. So I worked, and travelled through life, though experience, through the world, yet always the dream of the novel drifted in the back of my mind.

Europe I saw, touched its worn stone and ancient Istanbul, and crazy Rio de Janeiro; and America too, from cold Toronto to sweltering Miami, touching its chill chrome, its smooth plastic.
Then the story entered my mind, lived there, grew, and kicked the sleeping dream awake, till at 8.30 pm on the thirty-first of December,1999, I paused as I left the shower. Soon, I thought, soon the century ends, mere hours, and the novels are still merely an idea. So I opened a Word file....

My first is Wake of the Raven, available on Amazon, the first of a series chronicling a disastrous love affair from the early fifties to the end of the century. I'm pleased with it, and the second in the series is partly written" (from Graham Worthington's Amazon.com author page).

Graham Worthington's newest novel, Zorn, is now available through Amazon.com and other online book retailers.

Here's the book description from Amazon.com:

"In the year 2035 it's cool to be bisexual - or at least pretend to be - and cool to be young, but to be both and on holiday in France is the coolest of all. Zorn and family are at The Anders Hotel, in the little port of Roknor, whose main attraction in daytime is its crowded beach, and in the evening its many clubs. Rejoicing in recently turning sixteen, Zorn has ten days to find Holiday Love, and isn't helped by the presence of Kevin, a coarse and violent homophobe. But despite their differences, neither can escape life's challenges, and find to their dismay that our joys and sorrows come mixed and inseparable. The mid twenty-first century is a time of looking back, a time laden with much nostalgia for the past, but little money. The Great World Depression of the 2020s has seen to that. It is a time of thumbing through the music, films and fashions of the last century, a time of imitating the lost Golden Age of the 1900s. It is also the era of core language, the final perfection of politically correct speech avoiding the use of such hideously offensive words as "he" and "she," with all their built-in stereotypes, all their dangerous assumptions about gender roles and sexuality. Yet it is a time when, though all has changed, nothing has changed. The sea still surges to the distant horizon, the waves still crash to the beach, and on these daily washed sands new people act out the ancient dramas afresh. Zorn is a story of romance, adventure and coming of age in this post-apocalyptic society."

Why did you choose to self publish Zorn?

This question gnaws at all little-known authors nowadays, because, for them, the traditional industry might as well not exist. In centuries past such talented authors as the Bronte sisters, or (Miss) George Eliot passed themselves off as men in order to penetrate the publishing industry’s prejudices, yet they as women attacking this male fortress had more chance of success than we do today. The industry goes with what is safe; they will not risk the cost of printing and shelf space in a world that is content to chew on the work of known names. When a writer self publishes he becomes an author, and with some effort can make some sales, and get customer feedback by reviews. He may even make a name, and so force the industry to pay attention.

Did you initially seek an agent? If so, how many rejection letters did you receive?

I did, but not for Zorn. When I’d finished my first, Wake of the Raven, I sent off massive amount of submission letters to agents, in whatever format they specified: approach letter only, or plus summary of 50 or 200 words, or plus first chapter, or plus first three chapters, or plus favorite chapter… whatever! I downloaded a list of 200 agents, and probably went through about half of them. A dozen or so replied with encouraging little format letters saying stuff like “interesting, but not for them,” or one line refusals. One only offered any useful advice. By the time I got the idea for Zorn, in early 2006, I had despaired of agents.

From what other authors have told me, and my own experience, I’d say that most agents are bullshit artists. Also, they are a dying breed, with too many bad manuscripts driving them nuts, and too few traditional publishers listening to them.

Timeline: start to finish. How long did it take between first draft and final publication?

With Wake of the Raven, I got an idea for a story, and chewed on it for about eight months. Then I made some notes, so I guess that was Day One. I finished the final Ms two years and six months later, in July 2002, at one hundred and thirty-four thousand words. Then it sat on the shelf for about four and a half years, while I got involved with heavy crap at work, and had this futile second business/hobby of sending submission letters and part-writing other novels. I chose a self-publishing company in October 2006, and had it on the market by January 2007.

Zorn I wrote as a longish short story in 2006, about thirty pages over a month or so. I came back to it in late 2008 and wrote another hundred and eighty pages over a couple of months, turning it into a complete novel. I wrote it in this two-stage way deliberately, as I wanted to try writing by a different method. I formatted to self-publish immediately, then all kinds of work commitments and my wife’s illness arrived at the same time, and I didn’t publish till January 2010.

How many revisions were required?

I don’t really work that way. I start re-writing very soon after I’ve done any original creative writing. By the time I finish what I could call the “first draft,” which means a coherent story with “The End” after the last line, I’ve done at least three-quarters of the re-writing and editing. This is good, as I hate editing.

I have a separate Word doc. for each chapter, and every time I open that doc. and add to that chapter or (re-write) I save as a new doc. So ch.1.A is abandoned for ch.1.B.doc, for ch1.C.doc, etc., even if I only alter or add a few words.  I usually have the rough first draft of a chapter by version C, but (depending on the difficulty of the chapter) the final version of every chapter can be anything from the eighth to the thirtieth, with each successive re-write becoming more minor. When I’m happy, I joint the whole lot together into one doc.

What is your writing process (outlines, notes, etc)?

I think I could best describe it as continuous growth towards a goal. Get an idea, chew on it mentally, and at some point say enough, and start. So far I’ve invariably started at what will be page one, but I aimed towards different goals. In Wake of the Raven it was the climatic event, after which I worked towards the final solution that ends the novel. In Zorn I wished to act out a complex dance of events that rise to a crescendo. I write outlines throughout the process in separate files. Notes I write in italics, directly onto the chapter, and delete them in later versions.

What challenges do creative writers face nowadays? What opportunities?

First they need to find out if they ARE creative, whether as a writer or anything else. This is a point on which I’m liable to get excited and bite people. I don’t think that this will be a popular view, but I don’t think writing is a “real job,” or a “real career.” By the way, is “creative writer” a good description? Aren’t fiction writers really investigators, whose musings on reality turn into a sort of vomiting-forth of speculations, as seen from an eagle’s eye viewpoint, with convenient condensation of timeline and highlighting of major high and low points? Then how can they report on reality if their working life is no more than that reporting? A mirror facing nothing more than a mirror?

Also, I don’t believe in Creative Writing Courses. Do you want to create? Then start, and learn how to do even as you do. The vision, the idea, the vague picture in your mind, the obsession in your heart: these make books, not writing classes. Taking a writing class is like a man taking lessons in bicycle riding with the idea that he may some day own a bike. Creative writing is an expression of what is learned in life, in fascination, joy, horror, pain and suchlike.

Re opportunity: become a doctor, or a plumber, or something else useful where the usefulness is real, and not dependent on someone’s “artistic” judgment. Making a living by writing is well nigh impossible. Do something else. Becoming a creative writer depends on your desire, and your ability. Making a living by it depends on a fickle world.

In reality, I know nothing about opportunity. I’m an engineer by profession. But if I could see a clear path to achieve effective marketing, I would write full time. I have ideas for several years of novel production.

How did you promote your Book? How did you network?

When it comes to promotion, having written something worth reading is a pre-condition, not a guarantee of success. Networking is a great thing, and easy, but the networks are choked with others who also found them easy to use. Xanga is the best blogging system I’ve ever used, but it’s overrated. The trick is to involve people who have a mouse in one hand and a credit card in the other. Listmania on Amazon is good for this, and I use it. On a larger scale, I feel it essential that indie authors band together to recapture the public’s eye, and this is something many of us are working on. Marketing is a vile, desperate business that has little to do with writing.

Is Zorn autobiographical in any way?

Not really. Both my novels are biographical of people who could exist, using characters who can exist, and probably somewhere do exist. But not necessarily me. Some incidents do exist.

Why did you feel it important that the story of Zorn be told?

I’m wary of claiming importance to either work. I would rather that others told me. Zorn is essentially a conflict between two viewpoints: that of an elderly, cautious, successful man, and that of a fiery teenager. Is it important that such stories be told? Perhaps it is. Perhaps that theme is important.

What writers inspire you?

Reading enjoyable writing inspires me, but not necessarily the writer who wrote it. Jack Kerouac inspires me to avoid the mistakes that ruined his work: self-indulgence and lack of rewriting. I’ve read so much different stuff that I wouldn’t know where to begin, so I’ll leave it at that for now. To me, the work remains, but the writer vanishes.

Any advice to creative writers?


Woking in short chapters is easier, but you may not want to publish in short chapters, in which case you combine them. I’ve found that a chapter length of about three thousand words is best to work with.
Don’t stare at a blank page wondering what to write on it. You had an idea, an interesting story of characters who do, say, leap, agonise, betray, laugh… but now you might find yourself stuck, unable to write story. Then, try writing about your idea instead of writing it. Write notes or speculations on what they may be like, or do and say. These notes may make the story obvious, or even suddenly transmute into part of the story.
Something I learned in England: if a writer’s group is formed, it should have a rule: support each other, and avoid bitching contests.

A novel is essentially a long letter written to one person. Even if a million read it, it is addressed to one person, the reader. Do your best to make him feel what you feel. Do not try to be all things to all readers. There is only one reader.

Get others to read your work. Listen to their comments, take them seriously, thank them, and then ignore 90% of them. People are very eager to leap about excitedly when asked for literary opinions, but nine times out of ten they talk rubbish..

Do you have any new projects in the works?

Most definitely. I have three novels and one factual work part written.

An excerpt from Zorn:

Fucking twat, thought Kevin, biting into his pizza savagely. We were supposed to be together, and he fucks off and leaves me.
Kevin had not had a good night. Here a week already, and not a sniff of a girl. Last night he and Michael had sworn not to drink too much, and that way they’d pick up a couple of girls while everyone else were falling down drunk. So he’d taken it steady, but Michael had gone and got pissed up at Ranchers as usual, and then got lucky at Silvers. They nearly couldn’t get in, and when they did Mike had got talking to some girl, and slutting about with her all over Silvers, and then they’d both vanished. So where was he this morning? Not in his room, and hadn’t shown up by 12 o clock, and so he, Kevin, was sitting at mid-day eating pizza on his own.
He’d banged on the door, but Michael never showed his face, so he never came back last night, unless he’d got so pissed he was still out cold. Did that red-haired slut have a room of her own? If it was her he’d left with, which wasn’t certain, ‘cause he hadn’t seen them leave.
Kevin chewed on his pizza uneasily, and pocked with a finger at the mushrooms, brooding on another possibility. That little slut with the purple eye liner vanished about the same time, that Zorn bitch with the smart mouth who’d been sniffing around Michael a couple of days ago. What if they’d left together? No. Michael hadn’t said anything, and in any case he liked things straight, none of these butch girls or fairy boys. So he’s been on top of that red-haired piece all night, and was probably on top of her now, and he’s said sod you and left me on my tod. Twat. Bitch. Of course I’d do the same, but so what? What’ll I do now on my own?
Kevin bit into the pizza and looked across the room glumly. An older guy a table or two away looked up at the same moment, and their glances met. Kevin wagged his slice in vague greeting, then looked moodily out of the window at the passing people. He remembered the dude from Silvers last night, and smelt the scent of a fellow sufferer, for he didn’t look too happy either.
Iril didn’t remember Kevin at all though. Lump, he thought, some straight dummy stuffing his face. Hit the gym would be a good idea.
The door swung open and a trio of birls came blasting in, noisy and giggling behind dark sunglasses, wet-patched Bermudas pulled hastily on over wet bikini bottoms, bare feet sandy from the beach from where they’d fled in hunger. “Iril,” cried their leader, and crashed down into the seat opposite his, hair dripping.
Iril winced at the spray of saltwater drops and spread his hands protectively over his plate. He liked Evren – she was always cheerful – but she couldn’t seem to get it through her head he was gay.
Lucky sod, thought Kevin, watching slyly through narrowed eyes while pretending to indifference. That’s a nice looking chick, and she’s too young for you. More my age. Lay off and send her over here mister. But the chick was all over the dude, standing and leaning over the table, smiling into his face with her big knockers nearly coming out of her top, almost dumping them on his plate. Mangoes! Rub them up against his nose, why don’t you, thought Kevin enviously. And the dude was talking to her so easily, not stuck for words.
I wish I could do that, thought Kevin. Now the girl was twisting round the table, half going to the service counter with her feet and half hanging in there with her elbows on the table, still talking to buddy, and now it was her bum wagging at him, Kevin, and she must have made a joke, ‘cuz the dude was laughing.
To Kevin it seemed – again – that there was a realer world than his, with realer people in it who were comfortable and knew the rules. Some people were shiny, somehow, and belonged, and people talked to them as if they were important. He felt greasy, and little.
Now the girl was scurrying away to join her friends at the counter, and the dude was looking after her with a funny smile, sort of tolerant, as if she was nothing else but amusing. He must have a bunch of girlfriends, thought Kevin, he doesn’t care about her much. He’s cool.
As he turned back the man glanced at Kevin, who gave him a smirk of complicity. The guy laughed a little in a self-conscious way, and dropped his attention back to his plate.
No sense hanging out here, thought Kevin, I’ll go to the beach and see if Michael’s there, the twat.

Kevin walked the promenade from one end to the other, and back again, but there was no sign of Michael. On the way back he saw someone familiar, standing pensive at the water’s edge, denim shorts and flowing black hair. Kevin stopped. That Zorn bitch again! But there was no sign of Michael, and the bitch was kicking the sand, sort of lost. Hate you all the same, thought Kevin, yet felt envy at the slim, athletic shape…

For more information on Graham Worthington, check out his Amazon.com Author's Page:

1 comment:

  1. Graham Worthington, author of Wake of the Raven and Zorn, is a known scammer, spammer and shillster. He has flooded Amazon with over 100 fraudulent Listmania lists purporting himself to be the recipient of numerous prestigious literary prizes, including Man Book, Pulitzer and Oprah's Book Club. Report Graham Worthington's deceitful shills to Amazon; let's keep the indie book scene honest!