Introducing Bill Kirton, a man with a huge writing C.V., is somewhat humbling to this modest scribbler from the Dutch Lowlands. In fact, I had the nerves to write him a while ago that I was going through a low point in my writing confidence and he, whom I imagined to bask in a constant warm embrace with the Muse, wrote back:
“I was sorry to read that you’re in a discouraged phase at present. I think we’ve all been there at various times and the ’What’s the point of doing this if no-one’s reading it?’ feeling is fairly common. On the other hand, we do it because we’re writers and not carrying on would deprive us of the pleasure of creating and would, frankly, be sort of unnatural. (…)
I don’t know if it’s any help but I’ve been working on my own WIP for nearly two years now. It’s a sequel to The Figurehead and I’ve been stuck at 30,000 words for months. I’ve no idea whether readers will want it but I want to finish it myself. In a way, I feel I owe it to the characters (which sounds stupid but makes a strange sort of sense to me). And, in the end, we write because we write. It’s who we are and what we do.”
I do hope Bill doesn’t mind my citing parts of our correspondence but I can tell you his words have helped me tremendously to understand the mechanisms behind the Critic-Worm-In-The-Brain-At-Work. All in all, I have a deep respect for this versatile writer, whom I lean against lightly for advice and guidance.
Welcome to my table, dear Scottish Bill, teacher and author!
Questions about Thorstruck:
When did you join Thorstruck Press and which book(s) of yours have they published so far?
June 2014 and, so far, The Sparrow Conundrum and Alternative Dimension have appeared as ebooks.
What do you like about your new publisher?
Speed of response and the way that contacts are between people, not with some nameless entity.
What’s the best thing that has happened to you since you joined TS?
The two books have got covers which reflect much better what’s inside them.
Which adjective describes you best? One adjective and I (Hannah) will guess why you chose that one.
That’s a safe adjective for a writer, innit? Without curiosity no creation. But I think there’s more to it where Bill is concerned. If you check out his vast curriculum vitae, you can only imagine with what zest for new ventures he gleefully rubbed his hands together and shouted ‘let’s do it!’ And heh-heh-heh if you see what out-of-his-league genre Bill chose to surprise us with, I must agree Bill is -above all – curious!
If you were transformed into an animal right now, which one would it be?
I’m a Leo so the choice has been made for me.
You are a time-traveller and have just boarded your comfortable flying limo that instantly takes you to 2114. From your distinct point in space you see the current human race struggle for survival. What change would you implement immediately?
This is going to be boring but I’d get rid of the limo and all the other symbols of excess, waste, uncaring power and inequality. We need to refocus our values, put people first, not things. It would need a global indoctrination programme that eliminated artificial social, political and religious hierarchies but indoctrination’s already endemic so by then it would definitely be an option.
In what other era would you like to have been born?
I think my generation’s been one of the luckiest in all sorts of ways but if you’re forcing me to give it up, I’ll take the 1830s in France.
What is your worst habit and why can’t you shake it off?
Oh dear, I suppose I sometimes sympathise with Gore Vidal’s quip: ‘It is not enough to succeed, others must fail’. I condemn myself for it and suppress it but if it keeps sneaking up, it must be coming from some psychic area over which I have no control.
Favourites (one word only)
- Colour? Black.
- Country? France.
- Veggie? Asparagus.
- Season? Spring
- Thorstruck author? Me.
- Clothing item? Shirt.
- Tree? Birch.
- Beverage? Hot chocolate.
- Time of day? Night.
- Author? David Mitchell.
- Family member? Me.
- Body part? Thumb.
Choose one of your favourites and seduce us into agreeing with you.
You gaze out over the sea, its dark blue slashes its horizon across the paler blue of the sky – gorgeous. But blue is the colour of conservative politicians. So you shift to red with its roses, poppies and … Labour politicians. So how about yellow? Nope, the Lib Dems have grabbed that one. Green? Well, at least the Green Party’s less toxic but it’s still turned the colour into something political. So, an absence of colour, a darkness, a place where seduction finds no distractions, where everythning’s possible. Yes, black.
Dislikes (one word only)
- Politician? Most.
- Genre? None.
- Food? Shellfish (some).
- Chore? All.
- Sport? Shooting.
- Author? Dan Brown etc.
- Group? Plutocrats.
- City? None.
- TV-programme? ‘Reality’ (All).
- Fashion style? Most.
- Job? Sewage disposal.
- Character trait? Competitiveness.
- Climate? Benign.
Choose one of your dislikes and in flaming words convince us of its horrors.
I despise those inadequates who insist that being first is all that matters. Stop handing out silver and bronze medals, they say, they’re for losers. Gold, winning, that’s all there is. An athlete trains for years to achieve the desired standard, she makes the final, but if she doesn’t come first, she’s nothing, useless. She’s wasted her time. Teams of all sorts work their way through competitions beating others at every step. Then they lose in the final, so they’re as worthless as the minnows they beat on the way. People who express such sentiments must have something seriously wrong with their psyche, a great gap which swallows up pleasure and allows only one tiny aspect of existence to survive. Being first is the sole satisfaction. How sad to live the life of a winner, surrounded by losers and emptiness, only to discover that there’s one race none of us can ever win, and it’s the only one that matters.
What was the best lesson you ever learnt?
If you want to get lucky, you have to take risks.
Choose what you like best. You must choose!
- City or countryside. Countryside.
- Car or train. Car.
- Man or woman. Woman.
- Night or day. Night.
- Ebook or pocket. Pocket.
- Main course or dessert. Dessert.
- Flower or beast. Flower.
- Sea or mountains. Sea.
- Sex or talk. Talk.
- Mud bath or ice bath. Ice.
- Online friends or neighbours. Online friends.
- Kids or old folk. Kids.
- Thinking or doing. Doing.
- Agreeing or disagreeing. Disagreeing.
To what extent do dreams play a part in your writing?
I don’t think they do, unless you mean that daydreaming state when you just relax and let your imagination go wherever it wants. If that counts as dreaming, it’s responsible for some of the best ideas I’ve had. But then developing and communicating the ideas calls for focus and work.
Which word encompasses your writing style best?
Describe your writing spot in three colourful sentences.
Two desks littered with photos, pens, objects, papers, bits and pieces of the most varied, irrelevant stuff imaginable are set at right angles to each other. Between them, there are boxes, files, a bin, a home-made portable sound studio and, on the wall, an enormous poster for the film Germinal. But, in amongst all the clutter, there’s this monitor, a glowing screen which is all clarity and which channels the galloping, confused thoughts I have into shapes which I can control – a hint of order in the chaos.
Writers tend to observe their fellow humans everywhere they go, always on the hunt for potential new characters. When did you first realize you were shamelessly staring at your own species?
There’s no shame in the staring – it’s what we do with the shapes we see that can be intrusive. We interpret people, turn them into things which they’re not. They give rise to other characters, ones which will never exist in ‘reality’ but which are nonetheless more real than the objects at which we stare. Anyway, I think we stare into rather than at things – and it’s something I’ve always done.
Who is your all-time favourite character. Your own or someone else’s.
I think I fell in love with Emma Bovary when I was about 18. Her choice in men was appalling and I knew I was the one she really wanted and needed. Since then I’ve re-read the book countless times, given lectures on it, realised what a masterpiece it is and how it’s about far more than her. But I still have a big soft spot for her.
If you have other obligations in life next to writing, how many percent of yourself is writer, you reckon?
Writing’s more than putting words on paper or on screen. It’s also how you present yourself to others and to the world through the words you choose and the selves you create. There’s also the fact that many of my ‘other obligations’ also involve writing of some sort, so the writer bit is probably well over 75%.
You are a successful genre writer but now your publisher has decided to push you out of your comfort zone by ordering you to write a book in a genre which is absolutely not your cup of tea. Like an actor, you will have to be able to fit the new role. Which genre would your publisher give you? Share the first paragraph of this novice work with us.
(First, I’d change my publisher.) I suspect they’d ask me to write erotica. In which case:
Dennis was baffled. When Genevieve had asked him to undress, he’d anticipated their usual quick grapple which would be over in minutes and give him plenty of time to tee off with Gerald at four. But then she’d wrapped her fur coat around his waist, made him sit in the chair, taken the laces out of his shoes, bound them tightly around his biceps and told him to go out to the shed and fetch that heavy antique sword which she’d found in Mrs Robinson’s junk shop on Acacia Avenue. It was difficult enough carrying the bloody thing without his shoes slopping loosely as he walked. Back in the kitchen she’d made him stick it hard into the overhead beam then superglued his hands to the hilt. Now, all he could do was stand there and listen to her singing that Country song she liked so much, the one about the blind orphan who’d been savaged by the stepfamily’s wolfhound. Where was the sweet, innocent young girl he’d married? She knew he was supposed to be meeting Gerald, so why was she just calmly chopping carrots on the kitchen table?
“Listen Bubbles, honey,” he said. “I really need to get my clubs organised. I’m supposed to be teeing off at 4.”
She looked up, her eyes cold, strange.
“There’s not going to be any golf,” she said. “I have other plans for the afternoon.”
“But, Gerald… I mean, he’ll be expecting me to…”
“Shut the fuck up,” she said. “If this knife slips and I cut my finger, the next target for it will be your genitals.”
That was scary. She never said ‘genitals’. Whenever she started using posh words he knew he was in trouble. It was that bloody 50 shades book again. When she started reading it, he’d thought it was about cats or knitting patterns for cardigans; that’s the sort of thing she usually read, but from the moment she’d…
His thoughts were interrupted as she approached him, still carrying the knife and two carrots.
“Bubbles, please,” he whined.
“Shut it,” she said. “All these years, all that boring missionary sex… Things are about to change. I want real sex. And it starts here.”
He tried to draw his head back as she pushed the points of the two carrots up his nostrils.
“Now,” she said. “Time for some immaculate fornication.”
(And that, Hannah, is why I don’t write erotica.)
Bill was born and brought up in Plymouth but has lived most of his life in Aberdeen, Scotland. He’s been a university lecturer, actor, director, television presenter and RLF Writing Fellow. He’s written plays, songs and sketches for radio and stage as well as several novels, two of them satirical, one historical, one for children and a series of five police procedurals. He’s won 4 awards and been long-listed for another. He’s also written five books for students on writing, study skills, and work skills.
His author pages are:
Website and Blog
Thank you so much for this interview, Bill! It’s been a great pleasure getting to know you better!