Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Vehemently Verbose Virginia Moffatt

I was not in a happy place.

A short carriage journey had taken me from the relative security of Holbrook Towers and down the valley into the village of Nether Stinkhole below.  Recently I had become more isolated, preferring to stay within the tall walls of The Castle of Despair; playing in the lab, frolicking through the dungeons, or just firing crossbow bolts at the villagers below.  I had begun to hate any journey further than the drawbridge, I was becoming a recluse.

Initially this didn't bother me, I reveled in my insecurity, felt happy within my misery, and had began to see the outside world as a place of danger and threat.  A place where I was not in control.  

As the weeks progressed however, a twinge of madness began to hit me.  Perhaps it was not good for one's sanity to isolate oneself so, where the only contact I had with anything near human was my butler Manson, and those that lived in the cells deep below the castle.

I needed to force myself to get out a bit more, to socialise perhaps, to meet new people and to try new things.  Not for the love of my common man, but more to prevent myself from drowning within my own mind.

(and of course, where were my next victims to come from?  I could not rely on Manson to bring in the quality of quarry that I desired).

And so I had come to the library.  It was a godforsaken place, full of smiling happy people, exchanging pleasantries, being content.  I felt sick to my stomach, a feeling made worse by the quality of the coffee.

I sat in the far corner, a book sat on my lap - the first one which had come to hand as I walked in.  Occasionally people said hello to me.  I suppressed the urge to physically assault them and smiled back, quivering with nausea, burning with raw bile surging upwards from my gut.  This place was not for me.  I had had enough and got up to leave.  Better to leave these places of happiness to normal people.

It was as I left that I saw a hand-written sign on the notice board.


"The Bastards!"  I exclaimed.  "So that's why I've been plagued by novelists.  I suppose they think this is some kind of joke."

I tore it down immediately and, turning to the library staff to say farewell, and making sure to sign out and borrow the copy of 'Needlework for Beginners', which I had been holding, I stormed out and went back to my castle.

That night, as I sat growling into my hearth, there was a knock at the door.  This was the final straw.

Manson the butler was incapacitated, due to the terrible beating I had delivered to him on my return from the library, and so I answered the door myself.

Who’s that rat-a-tatting on my door at this time of night?  What brings you to Holbrook Towers? Are you another one of those lost and wandering writers that seem to pitch up here on a regular basis?  Did you see the advert in the Library?
I was lured here by a will o’ the wisp, who promised he’d ask me interesting questions. They’d better be good or I’m off.

Come on then, tell me all about your books then.  Be be quick and short though, I'm not as young as I used to be.  Tell me in perhaps 31 words.

‘Rapture and what comes after’ (Gumbo Press) small, perfectly formed flash fiction on love & its (not alway happy) aftermath. ‘Echo Hall’ a novel 13 years in the making (more here).

(Round of applause please, that’s EXACTLY 31 if you put the link on ‘here’, and it only took a couple of attempts

I hear you're a twin, is it true what they say about telepathy, mutual emotional feeling and erm… secret plans for world domination?

Yup there are two of us and yup we’re very alike. (see pic) Hmm telepathy...Does arriving at a meeting point in similar dresses count? Or ringing family members within minutes of each other and having the same conversation?  The mutual emotional feeling thing is definitely true. Twins either fight or are intensely close, and I’m glad to say we’re in the latter category. As for world domination, hell, yeah. Julia and I are both writers, so bring it on. (You can throw in our sisters - Lucy, a translator, and Joanna, a poet - for good measure).

I bestow on you the power of invention.  Take yourself off to your potting shed at the end of the garden for a couple of years.  What fantastical invention, set to change the world, would you appear with?

How about a machine that eradicates the effects of the Daily Mail? As an added bonus it also reverses Brexit and educates voters as to why that was unwise, so they don’t do it again.

Which book would you like to rewrite and improve?

Oh my, that’s a bit arrogant... Could I be so arrogant?
How about Mein Kampf? That’s a book that shouldn’t have ever been published. How about I rewrite it, transforming it from a bastion of bigotry to a treatise on tolerance?

Can you name one point in history that you would like to change and what do you think would be the effect on our lives today, if any?

The Liberal Democrats choosing to go into the coalition with the Tories in 2010. Without them, David Cameron would have had a minority government and found it harder to implement austerity, welfare cuts, the NHS Bill etc. In that timeline, the Tories lose the 2015 election, there is no EU referendum and Theresa May would be signing on, rather than signing  Article 50. And everything in the garden would be very lovely indeed.

In your opinion, what will be the next stage of human evolution?

I’m an optimistic soul, so despite the doom and gloom of the times in which we live, I’m going to go with kindness. Future humans will look on our current age and shake their heads in puzzlement that we could be so stupid and selfish.

 If you could pull one literary character out of a book to have tea with, who would it be and what would you talk to them about?

Ooh, these are good questions, glad I followed that will o’ the wisp.  Elizabeth Bennett, I think. She’d be fun wouldn’t she? What would we talk about? Human folly I expect. I’d love to hear her take down of Nigel Farage, for instance. I expect she’d be warm, witty and wise

Which novel are you most glad you read and why? How many times have you read it?

Even though I don’t read much fantasy fiction, it’s got to be ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It’s such an epic novel, and always holds me in from the opening line to the last. I love the way Tolkien revisits and enlarges on the world of The Hobbit. There is humour, bravery, selfishness, doubt, despair, hope and a group of people striving to do right against massive odds. Apart from the awesome Eowyn, there aren’t enough women, but I forgive Tolkien because everything else is so brilliant. I love it so much, I’ve read it about thirty times and I am always bereft when I reach the end.

I wish to find you on the world wide interweb, where are you? Do you blog? Tweet? Insta?

I’m on the internet way too much...I blog at A Room of My Own  and you can always find me pontificating on twitter @aroomofmyown1 and Facebook Virginia Moffatt.

I sat and looked at her awhile, and was surprised to find that I had a smile on my face.  Perhaps being visited by wandering authors was not such a cruelty after all?  I decided to let her leave with her life.

As she left, trotting over the drawbridge, I decided that I would be a fool if I didn't pledge my support for her book.  You should too.  

If you have enjoyed reading this blog interview, please feel free to explore my interviews with other Unbound authors.

If you would like to pay a visit to The Castle of Despair for your very own author interview then please drop me a line at

I would also be incredibly grateful if you would consider giving my own attempt at literary glory a look. Pop over to my Unbound page  

Thank you

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Eloquently Effervescent Erinna Mettler

  Fame.  It's the greatest curse of the 21st century.

Lots of people want it, very few get it (despite the overwhelming explosion of realty television which seems to create a z list celebrity on a daily basis).

Would I want fame? Would I want the recognition and rewards that every desperate big brother contestant strives for?  I don't think so.

Give me infamy every time.

These were the thoughts that ran through my head as I stood at my work bench in the Carcass room, hastily deboning another victim to be added to my ever increasing patio.  The man on the slab was not anyone of note, I had, the night before, ordered a pizza from the newly oped fast food restaurant in nearby Nether Stinkhole.  When it arrived I noted that there were no olives.  I had specifically ordered olives.

I had invited the delivery boy in and bade him sit down whilst I rang the restaurant once more.  They were ever so apologetic and said that they would send another pizza straight away.  "Excellent."  I said.  "Please have your chef deliver it himself."  It would seem that my own fame had preceded me as they agreed without question.

When the chef arrived he could not be more sorry.  It would not do however and, as I sliced his throat with a pizza cutter, I congratulated the first delivery boy, who had sat most patiently waiting on the Chesterfield, on his promotion to new chef at Nether Stinkhole's finest pizzeria.

Chop, chop, chop went the cleaver, as I carried on my dark work. Infamy indeed.

 Perhaps there was another? I thought to myself as I scooped the remains into my biggest bucket and removed my leather apron.  Perhaps someone else has pondered on the trappings and evils of fame, perhaps even on the minor merits.  After washing myself down I headed to my study.

Twenty minutes later, as Manson the butler brought me a calming flask of cherry brandy, I decided to seek further enlightenment on the subject.  After visiting my most favourite publishers Unbound at their lovely website I came across the answer to my dark prayers.  I sought out the sage advice of someone 'in the know' and invited her to tea forthwith.

The following weekend a carriage arrived with my guest.  My discussion with her is recorded as follows:

  Hello, Erinna.  Do come in, please don’t trip on the bodies, I’ve had a busy week and it’s the maid’s day off.  To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, tell me a little about yourself?

    Hello, will there be tea? Milk no sugar. I’m from Yorkshire so I like it strong. I am a writer, mainly of short fiction, though I have been known to dabble in poetry. I started writing late in life (40!) I did a course in creative writing on a whim and was rather good at it so then I did an MA, wrote a novel, co-founded a spoken word company (Rattle Tales) and a short fiction prize (The Brighton Prize) as you do. I write every day now. My life is categorised as BW and AW (before and after writing.) I have just finished a short story collection and now I’m working on a ‘novel’.

    A writer, eh?  What’s your book about?  I’m afraid I am feeling quite dazed today so can you please sum it up in no more than 26 words?

    My book is called Fifteen Minutes and it is a short story collection about fame. Ordinary people interact with celebrities, not always in a good way.

    Would you be happy with fifteen minutes, or would you grip, white knuckled to the glory for as long as you could?  Or would it be a curse?

     There is good and bad fame in the book, sometimes the famous can be a positive influence, sometimes they alter reality for the worse. People are too obsessed with people who are famous for being famous, just for having lots of money and a big arse and talking out of it! I also think people who have it should maybe stop moaning about how awful it is. You don’t have to be a movie star, you could do theatre, no-one would care much about you then! Personally, I’d cling on with both hands so long as I had a Tuscan villa to retreat to. Luckily, writers don’t get hounded much by the paparazzi, not even really famous ones. I love the idea of lots of people reading my books, Hollywood adaptations I can live with.Of course with fame comes responsibility – that’s one of the themes of the book.

    I had a friend once who told me that anyone can write a book, all you need is the time to do it in.  With the glut of self-published books on the market now, do you think he was he telling the truth, and should this sort of thing be encouraged?

    Anyone can write one but it will probably be rubbish. I’ve been writing for a decade and I’m competent I’d say. The time you need is probably about twenty years. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write, every paragraph you finish makes you a better writer, even the crappy ones, failure is a means to success.
    Self-publishing is a different thing. A book needs to be edited. A book is a collaborative process. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone self-publish without an editor but at the same time mainstream publishing is SOOO boring these days, isn’t it? They just publish the same old same old – it’s time for a revolution. If something is good people will buy it, it doesn’t need to be approved by an agent or a big publishing house. So pay for a fantastic editor and publish away.

My mind is troubled.  Could you soothe it with a haiku that both calms my soul and sums up your outlook on life?
Of course I’m happy
for you, but when is it my 
    turn to be a star?

What would you say are the four laws of writing a really effective short story? And is the short story writing process more limiting than writing a novel?

Only four! I could write a book about it. One – pick a subject that no-one else has thought of, or a common situation seen from a different pov. Of my stories, the one’s I think are the best have been about very odd things; a jogger finding a severed foot on a beach, the last cow on earth, a tramp in New York the day John Lennon was killed. Those 3 all came from news stories. Pick out the obscure and focus on it. 

Two – write it in clearly defined scenes (like you would a novel) bang bang bang, 3-5 episodes, nothing wrong with flashbacks either. 

Three – edit it until your eyes bleed and you never want to read it again. Print it out and read it aloud, read it to friends, an audience, a workshop. Give it a close edit at least ten times, cut everything you don’t need, which is usually the first paragraph, then edit it again. 

Four – don’t just trail off… I read a lot of short stories for Rattle Tales and The Brighton Prize and endings are the place most people mess up. The end has to be as good as the beginning and if the end can refer to the beginning in some way so much the better. Like the beginning, make sure you absolutely need your last paragraph.

    Are they more limiting than writing a novel? Hmm, my novel was made up of interlinked short stories but then I think most novels are! I think you have to be economical and there is a definite art to that which has to be learned but then you should be economical in a novel too.

    I love using a good simile.  Could you invent one for me, which I can slip into everyday life?

No – I hate similes! I really do; they are almost as bad as semi-colons. This comes from judging a short story competition. A huge majority of our entries have far too many similes.I’ve had stories with fifteen or sixteen on a page, sometimes two or three in a sentence. It’s like being hit over the head with a nail-studded club. At first it’s diverting but pretty soon you’ve lost all consciousness. I do use them, but rarely, and usually from a character’pov. I offer up as evidence this quote from The Road (one of the best books ever written and the subject of my story The Typewriter in Fifteen Minutes),

Then they set out along the blacktop in the gun-metal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.’ 

The light is not ‘like’ gun metal it is gun-metal light, they don’t shuffle through ash ‘like’ dirty water or some such, it’s just ash, it is not ‘as if’ each is the other’s world entire, they just are. I rest my case.

The earth is dying.  The 100 most notable people on the planet (which obviously includes you) have been chosen to start a new world on the other side of the galaxy.  Your 300 year journey in suspended hibernation has just ended, you wake up 10 years early and you are feeling particularly mischievous.  Choose 2 people whose life support you will turn off for the good of mankind and 2 people you will wake up early to spend the last 10 years of the journey with.

Obviously Trump has to go but I also put forward Rupert Murdoch who I hold personally responsible for every bad thing to have happened to this country since he pledged support to Margaret Thatcher. These two bozzos would definitely be on the bloody spaceship because they’d buy a ticket with their pocket change. I don’t understand why in 2017 old rich white men still have so much power. Anyhow, ten years is a long time. I don’t need someone who’s done a lot on earth do I? (Though I suppose the Dalai Lama would help with the anxiety of being stuck in a metal box hurtling through space). But it’s a difficult question. There are all sorts of things to consider, like if they are old are they guaranteed to live the whole ten yearsIf you wake up David Attenborough would he die almost immediately – and can you then wake up someone else? I might wake up lots of interesting old people in that case. As I get older I realise that old people have a lot of knowledge to pass on and a lot of good stories to tell. Also are there unlimited supplies, like fresh foodBecause I’d quite like the world’s greatest chef to cook for me very day - and pass their skills onto me. The other one is Keanu Reeves – obviously.

    “Good things happen to good people in the end.  Bad people get what’s coming to them.”  Discuss.

    There is a wealth of evidence to suggest this isn’t the case! I’d like to think it does happen, that evil gits get found out and that even if they don’t they know they are tainted in some way. Good things happening to good people in the end – that unfortunately is not always true but at least if you are good you can say that you’ve lived your life well and not have any worries going into suspended hibernation.

    Where can I find you on the world wide interweb? Do you blog? Tweet? Facebook? Amazon?

    I blog quite a lot at and I spend a lot more time on Twitter and Facebook than I should. I particularly love Twitter @ErinnaMettler so please chat to me on Twitter. Instagram too. Linkedin and I have an author page on Amazon so just search on there.

I waved goodbye to my new friend, as she boarded the carriage home.  Almost immediately I returned to my studied, fired up my laptop and pledged my support for her very lovely collection.

You should support her too, or look out for it when it invades bookshops soon

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Divinely Decadent Derek Philpott

It was a cold day in hell.

The supposed heatwave, due to inflict the gentle valley that Holbrook Towers dominates, had not arrived. Instead it was a terrible July chill that sat unmoving throughout the castle and the village of Nether Stinkhole which sat at the valleys entrance.

Where was the blazing sun that had been promised? Where were the opportunities for swimming in the moat and engaging in terrifying bouts of naturism, that I usually enjoyed at this time of year?

Instead a numbing north wind blew through, carrying with it a rain so icy it threatened to strip the flesh from anyone daring to venture outside. I was not happy. I sat, huddled in the library, my Barney the Dinosaur onesie zipped up tight, and a thick woolen blanket around my shoulders. I had had enough and decided to complain to the authorities.

The quill trembled in my blue fingers as I scratched ink onto parchment, spitting my ire in black words upon the paper, sending verbal volleys to the cause of my hatred and anger.

I blamed God.

Now, those of you that know me and have read my scribbles may find it surprising that I believed in Him upstairs, but I do. That is not to say that I was a follower of him, no more than I am a follower of Genghis Khan just because I believed that he existed, or that I knew that there were stars in the sky, or that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. I trusted in his existence but that didn't mean that I was a fan. Especially not today.

I didn't know what I would do with the letter once written. Where does one send such a thing? But it was the process which was important, it was the process that brought some catharsis (however minimal). My therapist, shortly before he died, said that writing letters was an important part of the healing process, that if you could explain and express your feelings in the written word, you would be halfway there to getting any murderous and violent feelings off of your chest. (He also said that I should stay at least 200 metres away from his offices or he would call the authorities, but that is in the past. He is gone now. Although I still see his smiling face in one of the many formaldehyde filled jars on my mantlepiece).

I was struggling to write however. Why oh why couldn't I meet someone who was adept at letter writing to help me?

At that moment the doorbell rang, long doomy and metallic groans which resounded around the halls of the castle. My man, Manson, answered it.

When my visitor appeared, I felt that it was if my prayers had been answered. By who? I had no clue whatsoever.

Our conversation is recorded as follows:

Who the hell are you and what are you doing knocking at my door so late in the evening?

My name is Dave Dawson (pen name Dave Philpott). I bring Polish Beer and Curry...Not (Tim)

What's this book of yours all about?  Is it fiction, fact or somewhere in between?  Pitch it to me like your life depended on it!

A bit of both! My father and I pen demented letters to iconic pop and rockstars either picking them up on lyrical ambiguities:

''I'm sorry, Mr Difford, I hope you will forgive my sceptical bafflement, firstly concerning your claim to have to have taken her to an incubator at ten to five this morning where thirty minutes later she gave birth to a daughter. Although by no means experts in medical matters, Jean and I often watch Holby City when there is nothing else on and are quite confident that the aspirant mother would surely be ushered to the Maternity Ward upon her arrival at hospital. Said thermostat box would only be employed if complications arose after labour, and would house the infant and not the parent, who would in any case be too big to fit in it, irrespective of 'dress size'''

or deliberately getting the wrong end of the stick for comedic purposes:

''Dear Bruce Dickinson, I hear you are a keen fencer. Ours is leaning slightly to the left, hence I would be quite happy to consider any estimate for its straightening that you may care to draft up for me''

''Dear Mr. Joel, My friend Tony Beasley recently confided to a first date a nightmare he had had in which he was merely a head on a pole at a fairground and Kid Creole was throwing Peter Gabriel Toby Jugs at him in an attempt to win a singing can of tomato soup covered in crisps and wearing a blonde wig. Unsurprisingly the young lady left the restaurant before the mains arrived, causing him to question your advice that he tell her about it, tell her all his crazy dreams''

...for comedic purposes.. the artists then replies ''in character'' so to speak and we publish the 'duel' with their full consent. They are all in on the chaos before muskets are drawn. We are representing deranged members of the public, really.. Nearly ALL connections with these famous popstars, who are all great sports and get involved out of a love for the project, are procured via ''the back door of the industry'' on social media, via roadies, mutual fans, cousins of bass players, and even other famous participants telling the artists directly our pressing inquiries.

Just as often we think of a funny letter and can't connect with Iron Maiden or Billy Joel (see examples above), but we publish the jokes anyway, stand alone

You are onstage at Wembley, the crowd are going wild.  Suddenly, from stage right, a figure comes striding into view, microphone in hand ready to sing a duet with you.  Who are they and what song are you going to sing together?

It woudn't happen.. He'd  be like all famous duetters. I'd be singing the line ''The sun aint gonna shine anymore'' and he'll be ''ooh'' and ''ah-ing'' all over my vocal and shaking his head with his palm in the air and his eyes screwed up going ''oh that sun, that cruel cruel sun why don't you come out, come come come on we need you''.

I'm not having it Paul. He can sod off, whoever he is.

Get your own gig.

Your discontent with the world has reached an all time high.  You take to walking the streets carrying a placard, what does it say?

''This Is Not The Life I Ordered. Where Can I Get A Refund'' .. Not even with a question mark.. That'll screw them up

You have inherited a pub; you are now officially a pub landlord.  What is the name of your pub?  What type of establishment is it?  Describe a typical Friday night in the boozer of Derek Philpott.

I'd sell it.. I worked in pubs as professional singer for 20 years. I is done with them

Which pop/ rock star would be top of your list (alive or dead) to receive a reply letter from?

Scott Walker, Captain Beefheart, or Neil Innes, but we just scooped the latter. A Facebook friend recently said that she could perhaps get me a reply from The Shadows. I'll just leave that comment with you for a second.

You've been a very bad boy, Hell awaits.  What would your own personal living space in Hell would look like? Describe the ambiance, the music playing on the stereo, the food served to you daily, and the activity you would have to undergo for eternity.

It would be a Jam Night at a pub, forever, blues only. There is no stereo. Marrow stuffed with mince. I'd have to clap and demand ''Red House'' again. And again, and again and again

Poetry can be both an art form and a means of torture.  Which camp do you sit in? Hopefully the latter as I now demand a short rhyme.  It can be in any form but Today I am particularly fond of limericks.  Show me your skills.

I like good poetry yes. I like Blake and the Wordsworth one where he nicks the boat and the mountain makes him queasy.

There was a young lady called Barbie
A Big Fan of Trent D'Arby
She wrote to his website in search of some insight but was told that his name was now Sananda Da Maitreya and that Sananda no longer reads emails that address to him using his old artistic name.
Get over yourself Tel.

I bestow upon you the gift of shape changing. It only lasts a week though.  Whosoever would you lead for the week, and what foul shenanigans would you do in their name?

I would take on the form of Kanye West and not act act like a self-obsessed arse. That'll screw with their heads

Where else on that worldwide thing called the web can I find you?  Do you blog? Tweet? Insta? YouTube?  Where else can I find your lovely work?

Just Facebook and the Unbound page for our next book

 We sat for a while putting the finishing touches to my own letter.  Once complete, my new friend offered to post it when he next passed a church and bade me goodnight.

I sat back on my Chesterfield and wondered.  How fortuitous it was that my visitor arrived just when I needed him.  It's almost as if someone out there is listening in.  Weird.

Anywho, I decided to purchase of copy of his most excellent book when it becomes available.  You should too.


If you have enjoyed reading this blog interview, please feel free to explore my interviews with other Unbound authors.

If you yourself would like to pay a visit to The Castle of Despair for your very own author interview then please drop me a line at

I would also be incredibly grateful if you would consider giving my own attempt at literary glory a look. Pop over to my Unbound page

Thank you