My singer-songwriter friend, Jonathan Taylor, whom I interviewed on the blog a while back, is reviving the radio station he originally produced in England. While Radio GB is principally aimed at people from the UK now living in Bulgaria, there will certainly be plenty of good stuff on the show to appeal to a much wider audience.
You can catch the pilot episode on youtube right now, or just click on the play button on the embedded video.
My own blog has fallen by the wayside for the moment, it seems. In my defence, I am hard at work writing my new novel, teaching and doing blogs for other people. I thought it would be useful, therefore, to give you links to some of the work I’ve been doing for Adventures in SciFi Publishing and Amazing Stories Magazine. I was especially pleased that my post, Clinging to the Wreckage: How to Save Science Fiction, got more feedback than any in the podcast and website’s history.
Here are some recent postings, which I hope you will find interesting:
This River Awakens by Steven Erikson. The master fantasist’s first novel, which is not fantasy at all.
Tim Ward, host of the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast, kindly invited me to co-interview science fiction and fantasy writer, Kay Kenyon. Kay was a fascinating guest, and I am sure you will enjoy what she had to say, about her novel, A Thousand Perfect Things, and other topics which the book touches upon. You’ll also find my review of the novel on the podcast’s website.
In this latest interview for the blog, I talk to singer-songwriter, Jonathan Taylor. His music is very much about storytelling, dark, witty, melodic and beautifully performed (he’s got a truly fabulous voice). I’ve put some links you may find helpful when seeking out his music, and you’ll find out what the above video is about at the end of the interview.
Tell me a little about yourself, your background and life.
I was born in 1966 in Warwick, in the upstairs bedroom at home in a council house, adjacent to the racecourse. Dad was a sales rep and my mother a domestic worker. We moved regularly but eventually ended up in the Forest of Dean. Following my parents’ divorce when I was six, me and mum moved to Abergavenny, South Wales where she re-married – a farm labourer. Later, at 19, I moved to Yorkshire where I remained until I was 40. As a persistent school truant and somewhat off the rails, and brutally bullied at school, childhood was one of social workers and educational welfare officers. My childhood was deeply unhappy but in many ways I was extremely fortunate, especially growing up with the freedom on the farm where I worked while not at school. I was told that I “had never completed a full week of education,” though I would attend school on odd days, to avoid the threat of being taken into care if I didn’t do so. But, when I look back now I think I had the best education available — real life.
When did you first start playing guitar and, more importantly, how did the songwriting come about? I know it’s rare for you to perform cover versions, but I guess early on you would have done more – before you became a fully fledged songwriter.
I always remember desperately wanting a guitar long before I learned to play. My stepfather bought me an acoustic when I was, I guess, 13-ish but no one in the family could play or tune it for me and soon I got bored with it. I took it up again when I was 15. I bought a ‘Hondo Zenta’ electric and a second hand amplifier for 75 quid. I remember my mother always turning off the electricity at the meter so I couldn’t play — as she said, it was costing too much. She would say, “You don’t need to hear it to practice.” Fortunately we had a new local and rather trendy village vicar who was be a bit more supportive. He would tune it for me and encourage me, but then I discovered you could buy electric tuners, problem solved! It was the likes of AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Deep Purple that inspired me to play. I was a rocker at a point in time everybody else was Mod. Friends and I would sit up all night jamming and learning rock covers; yep, the first tune I ever mastered, Smoke on The Water, like so many other first timers. We formed our first band, The Magic Ace and had great fun, but no covers, since I was writing originals from the age of 16 upward. I hate playing covers, for the most part, and don’t see the point unless you make your version original, I guess.
Many of your songs are quite dark, some highly political, or at least controversial. Even your beautiful love songs have a tough edge alongside the tenderness (which is to say “real” love songs). What draws you to these kinds of songs?
It has to be personality, you are what you are and I guess, and I’m quite a lonely, sad, dark guy. My songs are about me, they come from me and it’s just the way I express myself. It’s almost like keeping an emotional diary of life, the universe and everything. When I’m down I cry and when I cry I need to write and cry completely, that’s just the way it is. I get challenged from time to time when people say, “Why don’t you play something happy?” I think, if you came here today to listen to Jonathan Taylor, then listen to Jonathan Taylor. Do you want the truth or something simply pretty? Though I don’t think most of my material is sad, it’s more reflective and thought provoking. My songs have to say something or what’s the point? The minute you write what people want you’re not being true to yourself, and writing purely from a commercial standpoint. You lose the artist inside. I don’t have any rules when writing, other than to be myself. I guess because I don’t have rules I just go for it, to see what happens. If it makes me cry, hopefully it’ll make the audience cry and then that’s a song worth writing. Music for me is about expressing emotion, nothing less. It comes from the heart. I’ve never written to be controversial, that’s just a by product of the process; it’s called real life. If a song has swearing in it or a controversial verse, it’s because it needs to be there I hate it when people just swear for effect – boring.
Some of your material is ballad like in nature while some has an almost punk or hard rock sensibility. Yet they work together as a unity, unmistakably Jonathan Taylor. So, what are your musical influences, and what inspires you?
A story, first and foremost, whether it’s victims of 9/11 or the Holocaust, it’s the story. If you have a story then you have a ballad. Everything starts with the story. I pick up the acoustic and it just flows. People find me hard to work with, not as a person but as a non-professionally trained one. Though I struggle with term “professionally trained,” as I don’t think I am skilled enough to own it. I prefer singer-songwriter. I’ve seen so many first class musicians play, and I’m not one of them. Every song I write stands alone at the very beginning, just the acoustic and vocal. If the song doesn’t work live naked and solo, then it’s not my song. Everything else gets put on top afterward, even the drums, usually last. Percussion is so beautiful when used as a complement, drums are an instrument in their own right and should be appreciated, not just the ‘thump thump’ of a strong rythmn in the background. The timing changes throughout, obviously, but the songs connect with my emotional delivery, as they should. I hate a fixed, constant beat. That’s not the way I work. I have never used a click track to maintain timing too when recording – yuk! But that’s just my opinion.
You involve musicians from different backgrounds when recording (and sometimes performing) – not only different musical backgrounds, but cultural ones as well. Recently you’ve worked with some amazing Bulgarian musicians, for example, Bulgaria being the country in which you now reside. What do other musical styles bring to your material and, does what you hear even drive you change what you’ve already written?
Well, yes Bulgaria was a turning point for me. It wasn’t until living here and being forty that I guess my songwriting blossomed. I’ve written my best, if I can say so without coming across as arrogant, while here. And all the interest of the Bulgarian press and TV only serves to encourage me. I’ve been knocked down so many times over the years, but here I feel sincerely appreciated and that makes me feel good about my work. I enjoyed much success in the UK and elsewhere, don’t get me wrong. Bu there’s such a hierarchy in the UK, and breaking through depends more on who you know rather than what you do. In the UK I was a blip on the radar, but here I am a definite clear blip! I’ve been blessed to work with so many top pro-musicians, both here in Bulgaria and the UK and I can’t name them all. You run the risk of being accused of name dropping and there’s also the danger of making one person more important than others and that’s certainly not the case. The greatest musicians I know are not the technically brilliant ones, they are the ones that hear the song and just do it. Add something that’s beautiful and it transforms my stuff into something else, takes it somewhere else. Even when it’s just a single note, well that’s what I call a musician. I’m working with a promoter now, Yordan Yordanov, and feel that the future is good. A sense that I’ve, after all these years, finally arrived at a creative stage I want to be at. It’s not about fame or money, though it does put a smirk on my face when I get recognised in the supermarkets, of course it does, but it’s about my music. People appreciating my songs for what they are, genuine. I’m working on new projects and cultural fusions and, for the first time in many, many years I’m keen to put a band together. My experience with previous bands has always been sadly one of a battle of egos and being quite a withdrawn, shy guy I always kept to the back. It’s my turn now, I’ve worked hard for it and I’m most certainly going to enjoy it. Without wanting to sound big headed about these things I just want to say, “Get out of the way and just let me through…’
I write to my surroundings and that is now Bulgaria, and the musicians here are so easy to work with. Inevitably they bring their own feel to the music. I guess my music is evolving into something akin to Baroque Balkan Folk/Rock, yeah, I like the sound of that.
In the craft of songwriting, I believe you work on melody first, then write lyrics to fit. But what comes before that? The inspirations for you songs are pretty varied, I understand.
Many songs are written in the time it takes to play them, you obviously craft them and change them later, but the song is there immediately. But some take years. For example one I have just finished for the new album ‘The Blacksail Studio Sessions’ took 22 years to finish. Many, many more just get binned. I keep only what I release – if it’s not good enough to put out there in the public arena then scrap it, move on. It’s hard to explain. Let’s take my latest song about a Bulgarian partisan. I have the tune, I have the melody but I just can’t find the lyrics. But as always I know that if it’s not to mind immediately it won’t come by forcing it. Writing lyrics for the sake of it doesn’t work, you don’t get the emotion. I know that one day I’ll just be strumming away and it will happen there and then when it is supposed to. I’ve got all the basics in place, now I just need the right moment.
Other songs the story is in my mind long before a tune or melody. I hear things, quotes, see or read something and just think, wow, there’s a song in there somewhere. I can have an idea in mind months before it gets put to a tune. To sum it up, though, the story and the tune first, the lyrics develop later, whether within minutes or years. I’m not a perfectionist, quite the opposite, and sometimes quite lazy. If it doesn’t need a chorus or a middle eight why spend hours just doing it for the sake of musical convention? The classic, the mid-way key change, same chords same melody but just shift it up a key, well if you need to do that there’s something wrong somewhere, isn’t there?
You’ve released a number of albums independently. What are the pros and cons of that? I mean, for instance, that sales of CDs, even in the big stores, are dropping (in much the same way that ebooks are taking over from print), and file sharing means that artists’ works are effectively being stolen.
Yeah, tell me about it. I can upload a new track and within days it is available free and everywhere so what is the point at all? Well, accept it and don’t do it for the money, there isn’t any. Just appreciate the fact that it’s worth stealing, I guess. The digital age is brilliant for independents, you can now do it all, the whole process, beginning to end from a bedroom and be all over the world without actually spending any money. But this also means everybody can do it and the competion is fierce. Without the backing of a major label promoting you, you become just lost in space. The money is in performing and gig merchandise sales and that’s how it will remain for the foreseable future. When was the last time I myself bought a CD? I can’t remember, to be honest. So why spend a fortune making them? Stick with digital uploads, as that’s how I and everybody else enjoys listening to it, and how we all buy music these days. And that’s where you build an appreciative fan base, online. All the mainstream music retailers have gone, that’s reality. So adapt and use the new technology to your advantage. Consider it as free promotion and fingers crossed, one day in the right place someone will find you. Sponsorship deals, advertising and marketing (think Jeans ads) or film/movie soundtracks, that’s how indies break through these days and that’s when the majors will pick up on you.
Let’s face it, I’m an indie with my own label, Brittunculi, but that hasn’t stopped me. The new age has allowed me to get TV, radio and press airplay all over the world. Twenty years ago I would have had to rely on somebody else to do it all for me. Believe in yourself, be honest with yourself and don’t heed the advice of others too much. Take it on board but take it on the chin. I used to listen to too much advice from other songwriters, then you reach a point where you become more assertive and confident and just say no, I don’t agree. It’s my song and I’m doing it my way. And that’s when I started to get noticed!
What are you ambitions? I believe you have some potentially interesting stuff in the pipeline, but I wondered how you see yourself in the coming years — with a band, an orchestra, doing very different kinds of stuff? Or (don’t laugh!) going pop?
Pop? Ummmmhh, it all depends what that means. If it’s popular then what’s wrong with that? We all want to be popular, don’t we? But if it means commercial, well that’s different. It goes back to doing something safe because you know that’s where the money is, but really? Pop is here today and gone tomorrow. I’d rather be seasoned and timeless and an unpopular artist if that’s the case. I mean, what is selling out? For me that’s when you do something just for the money, but selling out is definitely not the inevitable musically evolutionary path that all writers take. So if you are popular for something and you don’t evolve because that’s what people expect of your music, then that’s selling out, isn’it? Take Dylan, he didn’t sell out he just continued to develop.
So I am just doing what I want to and enjoy the process, and if people come along with me that’s great. You embrace the reality of the situation. In Bulgaria they expect covers so, in spite of my feelings about them, I always do some. Just a handful, as that’s the culture here. But it doesn’t detract from my own music, it brings a new culture to them and they listen. In all my years I’ve never been boo-ed or heckled, I’m proud of that fact, but it was also here in Bulgaria that I was asked to stop playing at a gig, the first time ever. The manager loved it but the audience, well, there was a grumble that they didn’t know the songs and one rather drunken lady demanded the DJ be brought back. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it hurt. I said I’d never play there again (lol). Which doesn’t really matter, because the venue has now closed down. Probably because inevitably people get sick of the same old thing all the time. I’m putting the band together because I want to move away from the solo acoustic stuff and develop a more rock sound. There’s no other reason. It won’t change my song writing at all, just change the sound of it. The reality is that means more people to pay and thus less work, but I want to do it, that’s it.
There’s other stuff in the pipeline and, yes, an orchestra is part of it. We’ll say more about that when it happens, but can you imagine…? An orchestra. That’d be something great. Unimaginable, but amazing. Fingers crossed. The new album is finished, completely different from stuff I’ve done before, and I am just waiting on one change before I formally release it. Dimi, a superb violinist with the Russe and Dublin Philharmonics will come back into the studio for the track, but she’s busy just now. But I’ll wait – she’s worth waiting for! And Valdy Totev, to add some more piano, too. And next month, I’m very excited to be working with the hugely popular Bulgarian band, Kottarashky, on a joint project, a song I wrote about, well, drinking rakia! It’s got a very strong Balkan Roma feel to it, again something completely different.
Crossing over into my area, of fiction writing, you drew my attention to a book called Meat – Memoirs of a Psychopath. Very disturbing it is, too, sick puppy that you are. More disturbing, however, is that the serial killer is a fan of your music, and yourrsong, Big Jesus, is a soundtrack for at least one of his murder sprees. Fact masquerading as fiction or fiction masquerading as fact….how do you feel about being a vicious killer’s favourite songwriter?
OK, so there’s a psycho out there who likes my music. It feels a bit like being Wagner in Nazi Gemany and your biggest fan is Adolph Hitler. Not a moment in time to be proud of. Apparently this killer has made a “Holy decree” that I am “an untouchable.” Evidently, as a fan of my music he has secured my personal safety. Meat – Memoirs of a Psychopath is by all accounts his life story and there is some reference to one of my songs, ‘Big Jesus’ that I released years ago. To think that he has killed people whilst listening to the song turns my stomach, but the song was written and released long before he corrupted it. I’ve had many journalist probe me about this story (there will be an audio version, too, which I recorded myself – talk about revenge being sweet), but I’m telling you first because I believe that you, as a writer of crime and horror, will understand my dilemma and that your readers will see the bigger picture.
Well, so long as Gabriel 13 is true to his word, and you’re safe. Finally, is there anything more you’d like to say about yourself and your music?
Just that music is my life, John. I can’t imagine a world without music and song. It would be like someone teaching you to sing and then striking you mute. Music is everything to me. Care for it and respect musicians and artists for their hard work. If it’s worth listening to, it’s worth paying for. Don’t steal it! And if I could achieve just one thing, it would be to record a track with my second cousin, Bob Johnson, of the legendary folk-rock band Steeleye Span. That’d be something very special. Thank you, John, it’s been a pleasure to talk with you and I wish you too every success with your writing. I am a real fan of yours and absolutely adored Bone Machines. Maybe there’s a song in there somewhere too…
UPDATE 6 February 2012: We have just heard the sad news that a fellow musician and producer of the Priest – The Blacksail Studio Sessions 2013 album album, Jonny Afterwish, died suddenly on Monday evening, at the age of 47. Says Jonathan: “I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear this news, a friend, a broither sadly missed. baba Marta vidoe will be dedicated to him.”
British actor, Robin Sachs has narrated the audiobook versions of my Glasgow-based crime novels, Bone Machines and Kali’s Kiss, published by Blackstone Audio, Inc. The books were released as audio exclusives by Blackstone Audio, Inc in August and September 2012 respectively. Robin generously agreed to an interview for my blog. For the Kendrick Chronicles series (the collective name for my books featuring DI Tom Kendrick), I can’t imagine a better voice actor. Robin has that combination of sexy and sinister that is, I feel, the perfect tone for the novels.
First, some brief biographical stuff. Robin was born in London, the son of Leonard and Eleanor Sachs. His onscreen acting credits include roles such as Adam Carrington in Dynasty: Reunion (we all watched Dynasty, didn’t we?), several characters in Babylon 5, Ethan Rayne in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and General Valen in Star Trek: Voyager. He’s also appeared in major movies including Galaxy Quest, and Lost World: Jurassic Park. Not only that but he’s even voice acted characters in video games – in particular my Xbox favourite, Mass Effect (2 and 3). Recently he has also made an appearance in the British scifi series, Torchwood (the Miracle Day episode).
AudioFile magazine listed Robin as the best voice of 2011 in the Mystery and Suspense category for audiobooks.
First of all, Robin, congratulations on the AudioFile plaudit. Which makes it a double honour for me that you’ve narrated my novels – brilliantly, I should add. Can we start with the basics? How did you first get started in acting and what do you consider your first big career break?
Many thanks for the “brilliantly”, John. It’s always a huge compliment when an author tells you he/she enjoyed your reading of his or her book – after all, as the guy who created the characters and brought them to life so vividly (and quite excellently, may I add), there’s always a fair chance my intepretion of your creation may not be exactly what you had in mind. So, again, thank you!
As to how I started out in acting – well, my parents were both well-known actors in England – my father was a very prolific character actor, but was probably best known for his 32 years as chairman of the BBC’s The Good Old Days and my mother, Eleanor Summerfield, was mostly recognised for her wonderful comedy performances – she was at one time dubbed “the British Lucille Ball”. With that background, it was highly unlikely I’d turn out to be a brain sugeon or a merchant banker.
So, having spent most of my school life studying French, Latin and English and playing Rugby, Athletics and boxing (only one term of that as too many noses got broken) – actually, most of my school time was dedicated to trying to get as many of the girls at the Corona Acting School into bed as I could – they were just across the road from my school, Latymer Upper – I realised the thing I really wanted to do was act.
So, having told my parents my intentions and waited a bit while they pulled the (figurative) arrows out of their hearts, I followed their extremely sage advice and auditioned for RADA. While I was waiting to hear whether I’d got in or not, I spent 3 months as an assistant stage-manager at Windsor Repertory and then went on to RADA. The rest is history – or my career, anyhow!
Stage acting versus TV and film. Do you prefer one over the other (I noticed that you’ve been doing Shakespeare recently)? And if you have a preference, tell us why.
Always a tough question, John, but since I’m now based in Los Angeles, I guess you could say I’ve made the choice through location. I have always loved the immediacy of theatre and the joy and thrill of being in front of a live audience, but I also delight in the intimacy of acting in front of the camera – that ability to fine down the performance to it’s subtlest tonalities.
For one reason or another you’ve done more than your fair share of science fiction and fantasy in TV and film. As it happens, I am a huge sci fi, fantasy and horror fan, so now it’s triple-cool that you’ve narrated my books. How did that trajectory come about?
Well, my first movie and actually my second gig out of RADA (after a couple of months at Harrogate Repertory), was a Hammer Horror vampire flick which, I believe, has become a bit of a cult classic, called Vampire Circus, which was great fun to do, so I never had that disdain for “genre” movies which was so rife back then. Now, of course, everyone wants to do ‘em as they’re frequently seem to be among the top grossers at the box-office! Also, some of the best screenwriters – and authors – around write them, so there’s absolutely no reason not to want to be in them!!
In terms of voice acting (we’ll get to audiobooks later), you’ve done animation like Square Bob and Sponge Pants and, as I mentioned before, the Mass Effect console game. Can you say something about these experiences, what the challenges are for an actor, and so on?
Basically, the main challenge is the fact that you have to get everything done, in terms of character, solely with your voice. So any physical attributes and abilities are of absolutely no use whatsoever in front of the mic, other than being able to stand there for up to eight hours at a stretch and do the lines over for multiple takes – so, I guess a good set of pipes and breath control comes in handy! Also, for some reason, I seem to get to die, or at least be horribly wounded, in practically every DVD-ROM game I’ve done and for that you really need to be able to yell, scream and make generally very loud noises indicating that you are being/have been/are about to be killed in as many and various ways as the director/writers/producers can think up for what always seems to be an inordinate length of time. That, I must admit, can be a touch wearing on the larynx!
You’ve been narrating audiobooks for a while now, notably, though not exclusively, mysteries and suspense. How did that come about, and what is it that appeals to you about narration?
I’ve actually only been narrating books for a couple of years, but was fortunate enough to be picked up right at the start by two of the biggest production houses in the business – the huge and extremely loyal Random House Audio and the wonderful and prolific independent, Blackstone Audio.
Two very dear friends introduced me to them: Ros Landor (this year’s audie winner for Solo Female narration) introduced me to Dan Musselman and Janet Stark at Books On Tape (Random House’s Los Angeles production studios) and they have both, along with the New York based producers, Dan Zitt, Orli, Aaron and Kelly, been very kind and loyal in their continual use of my narrating abilities. I was first introduced to Blackstone by a wonderful audio director and close friend, Yuri Rasovsky –sadly, recently deceased and a huge loss to the world of audio – for whom I was playing Norfolk in his adaptation of Shaw’s Saint Joan for Blackstone Audio. Yuri then told the much-venerated narrator Grover Gardner, who does a great deal of the narration casting and production origination for Blackstone, that he should use me. Grover and I got on extremely well, so we tried a couple of books and, happily, he and Blackstone keep asking me to do more!
What appeals to me about narration work is that not only do you get to play more characters in the space of a dozen hours than most actors do in a decade of work, but you also get to read out loud – and get paid for it! – some of the most wonderful books around, both new and, occasionally, old. If your voice can hold up for eight or so hours per day of continual use, what could be better. And narration doesn’t exclude you from the more traditional acting gigs – in fact, producers rather like it if you’re appearing on TV and film too – raises the visibility quotient and helps sell books!
In terms of the Kendrick Chronicles books, I realise as the fine actor you are that you could probably do any accent under the sun. Somehow, though, you’ve captured the flavour of the Glaswegian dialect perfectly. And, having lived in that city for over 25 years, I know that Glaswegians would claim it’s a language unto itself, and not a mere dialect. How did you go about pinning it down?
Aah, a subject and a city I’m very fond of, John. I’ve actually spent quite a lot of time in Scotland, filming and touring stage plays and I was lucky enough to spend four months in Glasgow, playing Frank Osbaldistone in the BBC serialisation of “Rob Roy” back in the days when BBC Scotland was tucked under that little bridge Clydeside. I got to work with some wonderful Scots actors, including Ricki Fulton and the late great Fulton Mackay. I had the best time in Glasgow – this was before the Gorbals was “renovated” – and have an abiding fondness for the Glaswegians and their ability to be hugely welcoming and funny and extremely quarrelsome all at the same time. I’d love to spend more time there at some point.
Tell us about your current and forthcoming projects.
A: Well, there’s one very exciting TV drama project with a long-time producer friend, which I really can’t say anything about as it’s in the middle of rather delicate negotiations with one of the networks!
Narration-wise, I’ve just finished four books at the Books on Tape L.A. studios for Random House – the new Jo Nesbø, The Phantom; Peter Mayle’s wonderful Marseille Caper; a lovely, elegiac yet extremely witty novel by John Banville, Ancient Light; and Andy McDermott’s action-packed new novel in the Nina Wilde-Eddie Chase series Return to Atlantis – and one for Blackstone – The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane, which is a beautifully written book about walking the ancient paths of Britain, Spain, Tibet and Israel and the amazing people he meets along the way. Macfarlane’s written it much more in the style of a novel than one’s come to expect from this type of book and it was one of those projects, as a narrator, you really never want to end!
Right now, I’m working in my home studio on a Moriarty novel – I set the studio up because I was being asked to do more and more projects for independent publishers and producers who don’t have a base in Los Angeles. In fact, Bone Machines and Kali’s Kiss were both recorded in my home set-up, as are most of the projects I do for Blackstone. The Moriarty book I’m working on is for AudioGo (latterly B.B.C. Audiobooks) and is called The Revenge of Moriarty by John Gardiner and is the second in his Moriarty series after The Return of Moriarty, which released in June this year. Gardiner wrote these back in the 1980’s and is widely regarded as the best of the many novelists who did follow-ups to the Sherlock Holmes books and I’m really enjoying narrating this new one as there is no pretense to being Conan Doyle, while at the same time keeping the tenor of the times and characterisations that Doyle wrote about so wonderfully in the originals.
Finally, Robin, is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t asked?
Only that I really enjoyed reading (both aloud and to myself) Bone Machines and Kali’s Kiss and look forward to both reading and, hopefully, narrating any new Kendrick Chronicles you may come up with in the future – or anything else you may have up your sleeve!! Take care, John, and keep on writing!!!
Please check out Robin’s own website for all the latest news on Robin and his work.
Interview with Edward Stanton, Just Imagine It Ink
In my second interview this month, I caught up with Edward (or Charlie, depending on which hat he’s wearing) Stanton, head honcho of Just Imagine It Ink. Ebook publisher, podcaster and arts enthusiast, Edward’s love of what he does leaks through his very pores. It was Edward who heard the podcast version of my crime novel, Bone Machines, and through his good offices I got a two book audiobook deal from Blackstone Audio. Plus Just Imagine It Ink has published the ebook version. So, to say I am grateful for his support, enthusiasm for my work and all the hard work he does behind the scenes would be a major understatement. If you are an aspiring writer and don’t know how to get yourself out there, I strongly recommend getting in touch with Edward. And check out the podcast, Get Behind Me, Now Stay There, which I load weekly onto my ipod – required listening to all you podcast junkies out there. What I failed to ask Edward was where the podcast title came from…it’s open to various interpretations, I guess. So, here’s an offer…post a reply to the interview, and include an amusing interpretation of what “Get Behind Me, Now Stay There” means and I will give four entrants (make me smile) a free copy of my ebook anthology, Dr. North’s Wound and Other Stories. So, on to the questions, big guy…
Hi, Edward. Can I begin by asking you to tell us something about yourself?
I am currently working with many creative people on ebooks, radio music and so on. I have always been into the arts and even as a child read every chance I got. Adventure, science fiction and the like. Having traveled all over this wonderful planet of ours I found that we are all telling a tale of some sort and that people, no mater where they may be, are so fascinating. I began developing a career around this, telling of tales. And all of my five children have gotten into the arts as well so that’s what we do.
How did Just Imagine It Ink come about?
Just Imagine It Ink was started with the idea of bringing a web presence to all artists, film makers, audio book production, authors, poets, and musicians. We are looking for fun, entertaining artists, serious artists, informative artists; we try to give everyone a voice. So, with this in mind we started selling books and then publishing ourselves and eventually went into broadcasting with our radio show and podcast.
Tell us what your mission statement is and how you differentiate yourselves from other ebook publishers.
Well to be honest we do what a million others do: we publish and market your ebook. The only difference is we believe in whom we publish and are willing to drive into the deep end of the pool with our clients.
You seem to take a particular interest in helping new talents develop. I notice the same on your podcast, Get Behind Me, Now Stay There, on which you interview lesser known or developing creative people as well as speaking to better known people. Is this an extension of your Just Imagine It philosophy, or does the impulse come from somewhere else?
Alright, this is an excellent question. When we started the podcast and radio show we were looking to have something different than “Hey I’m famous, listen to me”. What we were shooting for and I think achieved was a format of interesting, fun people who had a story to tell. If you were famous, cool; if not, that was fine as well. Hence our motto: “artists,poets,writers,musicians or maybe just the guy down the street.”
While you do charge for what you offer, you’re not a vanity publisher in the traditional sense, in that you provide a full service for authors, covering everything from distribution to marketing. Can you say a little bit more about that and the benefits to writers?
Well if you’re a writer and we publish you, we will not only do a fine job on your book formatting, proofing, marketing etc. We will also help you get to the next level of mainstream publishing as we work with some of the largest publishers not only in US but Europe as well.
What do you regard as your greatest successes, or most satisfying, projects to date?
My greatest success has yet to come. the most satisfying has been be able to work with very talented people and have a whale of a time doing it , the icing on the cake has been that 80 thousand people a week around the world seem to enjoy being along for the ride. Have to love the web John !
Interview with Tony C. Smith of the
In the first of what I hope will be a regular series of interviews with some of my favourite people, I caught up with Tony C. Smith, host and all round good guy captain of the StarshipSofa podcast. The Sofa runs previously-published science fiction stories, recorded by a range of volunteer narrators (some of them, the authors themselves). Much like Analog and Asimov’s magazines, it also runs a great selection of non fiction. Amy H. Sturges’ superb history of science fiction series, and Jim Campanella’s highly accessible science fact articles, for example (Jim, I really was amazed at what the male mating duck was capable of…seriously!). Tony ran my short story Dr. North’s Wound on one episode, and has accepted one of my horror shorts for the sister podcast, Tales to Terrify. Which has nothing to do with why I wanted this interview, honest! Though I will say I am extremely proud to be among the ranks of some very fine writers on these podcasts. I want to say also that I love listening to Tony’s voice…had I not been born a Scotsman, my second choice would have been to grow up with a Geordie accent.
Tony, can I begin by asking you to tell us something about yourself (interests, work, family, etc).
I’m coming up to 46, married a girl of my dreams who is simply amazing and with two equally amazing kids. I work (the day job) for Northumbrian Water as a Network Controller (I’m like the person on the other end of the phone if you were to phone 999 emergency services but for water). My desk keeps growing computer screens…there’s now six. Every time they bring a new software package out another screen comes along. We have two Doberman dogs who look as mean as hell, all teeth and drool – but we love ’em.
How did you first become interested in science fiction, and which writers cemented your love for the genre?
I never picked up a book until I was twenty-two. School and I were not compatible. I was too interested in being a naughty boy. I look back to what I did as a kid and wonder how the hell I got away with it. I don’t tell my kids what I got up to – they would never let me forget it. Then for some strange reason I just began reading. My first book was C S Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. Then the walls came tumbling down. And with the passing of the great man, Ray Bradbury, I remember Dandelion Wine had such an impact on me. There are two books I feel everyone should read: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, both truly great works of the sf genre.
How did StarShipSofa come about?
Like most from the early days who took to podcasting, I got an iPod. I soon discovered other podcasts (Escape Pod) and the realisation that anyone could produce a podcast. I need to take time out here to mention Steve Eley, founder of Escape Pod. He was such an influence on StarShipSofa. Steve’s moved on now, but you can’t talk about genre fiction podcasts without acknowledging what he did for us all. I will always be grateful.
Unlike some science fiction podcasts, you’ve chosen to focus on previously-published material. Why did you go down that route?
Its quite simple really. If it’s good enough for Asimov’s and Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, well, hell – its good enough for StarShipSofa. I’m not an editor in that sense and have never claimed to be. I take my hat off to anyone who has to read piles and piles of slush to find the hidden gems – I simply could not do that job. Yes, I could get an editor in but I’m not looking for brand spanking new stories. StarShipSofa’s aim is to breathe a little life into a forgotten story.
The Sofa has won a Hugo Award and has been nominated several more times. Have you noticed big changes as a result, like bigger audiences, writers and artists knocking on your door, and so on?
All of the above I guess, to some extent or other, and if it helps us keep putting the show out for free then that’s a good thing. Winning the award was amazing. We were the first podcast to do this – that is equally special.
You recently launched a sister podcast focusing on horror, Tales to Terrify. Why horror, rather than the genre that more typically goes hand-in-hand with scifi, that of fantasy? Are you a big horror fan as well?
Let me start by saying, I f@<$king hate zombies. Really. To the point of phobia. I hate hate, hate them. There…feel better after that. Horror is strange for me. When the floodgates opened with books, I gobbled up Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, Damnation Game and Weaveworld in days. These were simply stunning works, but then he came out with Coldheart Canyon and I have never been back to Barker. I should. I would love to be allowed to play one of his short stories on Tales To Terrify. Getting back to the question though, why horror? It was the challenge to see if I could recreate SSS with a horror podcast. I knew I was not up to being the host. I wanted to put a host in TtT and there was only one person for the job – Larry Santoro. If Larry had said no (he nearly did, too, on several occasions) there would have been no TtT. It had to be Larry. I urge you all to listen to TtT – just to see and listen to how good Larry is at presenting. I could not have dreamed it would work as good as it has. Logistics are a nightmare but we are getting there. We have learned to introduce things to Larry very slowly. We recently moved to a new online storage package. Getting us all working from this new package…has been, well…Lets just say…we’ve had to take it slow – real slow.
You’ve put out some print and ebook collections of stuff that has appeared in the Sofa. What’s next on the horizon – or do you prefer to play that close to your chest for now?
What’s next? Ha! It never stops. There is always something to do at Sofa HQ. We are weeks away from launching two new podcasts, Crime City Central and Protecting Project Pulp. Both will be like SSS and TtT but will have their own independence. They will be a new host on each show. Jack Calvery will host CCC and Dave Robison with host PPP. We are slowly gathering stories at the moment. These four podcasts will then come under the banner of District of Wonders. This will be a central hub and from there you’ll be able to wander down any one of the four shows. Now…if you back up to Larry and the trouble we had with getting Larry synched up to our online storage – have a think what I’m going through with fifteen people! This is how many are now working on these projects. Try getting fifteen all singing from the same hymn sheet. My day job is where I unwind!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us that I haven’t asked?
I think I’ll have a cup of tea please and a nice slice of cake. I do like cake – Cherry Bakewell.