Today, I would like to welcome Jamie Brindle, the author of All Quiet in the Western Fold [Storystream Book 0], A Treatise on Blood and Iron [Storystream Book 1], and Tales From the Storystream.
As an author, I love to pick the brains of other authors to find out more about their writing process, what inspires them, and why they are driven to write stories. After reading All Quiet in the Western Fold, I sought an interview with Jamie Brindle, because this story is so unique and interesting, I wanted to know what prompted the ideas behind the characters and their world. This tale is well worth your time to read. Jamie hails us from the UK.
All Quiet in the Western Fold synopsis: “The stories are far too happy. It’s uncanny. For Indigo Shuttlecock – Sheriff of the Western Fold, a backwater district of clichéd mysteries and old science fiction tales – the fact that her charges have lost their conflict isn’t a good thing. It’s a problem.
Fresh out of the Academy, Indigo thought being given the Western Fold to protect was a punishment, a humiliating first posting with no chance of promotion.
But when her stories start to succumb to a strange sickening that leaves them devoid of antagonism and interest, can Indigo uncover the secret rot haunting the past of the Western Fold?”
All Quiet In The Western Fold is the first novella set in the vast, interlocking Universe of the Storystream. It is the prequel to, ‘A Treatise On Blood And Iron.’
Thanks, Jamie, for taking the time for an interview.
Hi there! Thanks for inviting me to take part in an interview. I must say, this is quite exciting. 😉
Just recently, I happened upon All Quiet in the Western Fold and was immediately struck by the uniqueness and originality of your story, which is something quite rare to find these days. This is a witty, well-written story with excellent plays on words that readers and other writers readily identify with. How did the idea for this story and universe unfold?
Thank you, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. That is a slightly difficult question to answer, because it touches on the much bigger and more complex question of where any story comes from, in the first place. I suppose to talk about the origin of a story that is all about stories and their origins is sort of difficult squared! Or perhaps I’m just being pretentious 😉
What I mean is, there were several different reasons, I think, that this story came into being.
One straightforward answer – I saw an open call for stories with the remit, “Ghosts On Drugs”. Now, All Quiet…might not seem at first glance to be about this – and when I was coming up with the idea, I wanted to see if I could do something quite sort of odd and metaphorical with the remit – but that starting point is where the seeds of the plot and set up came from. I don’t want to belabour how this story fits that remit, but I think having read it, you can probably see that the villain kind of somewhat fits that description.
Then, I knew I wanted to write a story in the Storystream. I had already written the first draft of A Treatise On Blood And Iron, and I knew that was like a lovely playground, with lots of room for different bits and pieces going on within it. And I really liked the idea of there being guardians of Story, sort of. That there was an order that were sworn to protect stories. And then I started wondering about what it would be like if you personified stories, if you could zoom inside one story from another story, what different aspects they would be composed of, and how an unbalanced story might look or feel. In fact, I had already written three shorts playing with this idea (The Distinguished Diner At The Hungry Narrative – which you can read for free at www.eastoftheweb.com – Just Another Story – which is in my collection Tales From The Storystream – and Once Upon A Time And Other Bourgeois Propaganda, which you can find on my website: www.jamiebrindle.com). Part of it for me also was the language – I had an enormous amount of fun writing this story, because it was lovely playing around with words and metaphors and writing conventions. It felt delicious to give Grok a ‘pair of metaphors that hung like ammo belts’ (to be so crass as to quote myself) or to have him ride up to save the day on a massive Deus Ex Machina…they are just such silly ideas, but they really tickle me. So writing a story overtly set within stories gave me the chance to do things like that.
And the other thing I should say is that, more broadly, I wanted this story to be fairly fast-paced, but without sacrificing nice language. I wanted to use pretty words and phrases; I think that’s really important when describing somewhere so strange and otherworldly and meta-real as the Storystream – lots of shimmering and strange, hallucinogenic things, almost. I wanted it to feel hyper-real, in some ways, like walking into a dream. And I think the lovely thing about language is, you can use it to infuse a world or a situation that on some level is quite familiar with a strangeness and – hopefully – a beauty that makes the whole experience a bit, well, psychedelic.
Finally, there was the idea of a sort of wild west-isa setting. Now, honestly, I don’t know why that happened or where it really came from. The name came after the story was finished. I just started writing, and suddenly I had these characters walking about talking in a sort of cowboyish way, with various trappings redolent of that. I really don’t know why it happened that way, but it just seemed to work, somehow.
Please tell us more about the Storystream universe:
The Storystream is a Multiverse of linked stories. Every story that has ever, will ever – maybe even can ever – be told…well, it’s there somewhere. But it’s a bit more than that, because it’s also recursive. Stories are nested within other stories, which then exist within other stories…but which, perhaps, live inside the original story. Or link to it, or another version of it. The multiplicity of viewpoints and perspectives is implicit, it’s built in, and it’s something that some of the denizens of the Storystream are aware of.
There are characters that are just that – the hero of Blood&Iron, for instance, is a two-dimensional character from a third-rate fairy tale…but he gets drawn into the meta-narrative conflicts of the larger Storystream.
There are the Sheriffs, of course, who are stories themselves – or came from their own stories, rather, though that is something I’m writing about at the moment, in an as-yet unfinished book. They guard areas of the Storystream called Folds. The Storystream is vast and rather wild. The deep Storystream can be a dangerous place for a little story, unguarded. Stories are cannibalistic, of course: they all eat one another, there’s nothing new under the sun. But the Folds are safe places, protected places of Order – Order is something else I have sketched out in the existing books, but which hasn’t really been explicitly explored. I’m doing that at the moment. Order and Chaos – and how that relates to stories, and where stories come from – too ordered, and a story is stilted, over-planned, no spontaneity, no light. Too much chaos, on the other hand, and it rips itself apart. So stories (it seems to me, and in the Storystream Universe) exist in the warm spot between order and chaos. Which has echoes of various mythologies, of course, but transplanted into a world of explicit storytelling.
Then there are the Epitaphs – vast, hungry things that lurk at the end of every story, waiting to scoop it up and digest it when it is all done and told – and the Place Below Stories (and its guardian, Rosewater) and the Land Before Life (with Quince, salesman of fine lives new and used) and…well, lots of other places. An infinity of them.
It’s a sandbox, really, and a lot of fun to play with. In conceiving of it, I guess I was inspired by all those people who make wonderful secondary worlds – most notably Tolkien, of course – but it seemed to me there are so very many of these now that are about elves and dwarves and the enchanted mountains and magic forests and so on, and I just couldn’t do one that could compete with those wonderful places. I couldn’t even compete with the mediocre ones. I’m just not sure that’s something I’m good at. But I thought – what I can do is make a sort luminescent, strange, amorphous, language-driven secondary world of linked ideas. The discworld was a big inspiration, also, because that threw out a lot of the conventions and turned them on their head. I love the way Pratchett made all these different areas to talk about different things, and then they gradually evolved and melded together. I thought I could have fun with these ideas, and do something in a similar but fresh way to all those sword-and-sorcery secondary worlds. And the other inspiration, in a weird way, was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, in the sense that there are characters in the Storystream that form a sort of dynasty of weird persons that are almost roles – and that, I think, is very much inspired by the Endless.
The main character, Indigo Shuttlecock, captured my immediate attention. She’s a strong character who is slightly shadowed by self-doubt in the beginning, but her role as ‘Sheriff’ gives her this muse-like quality in ‘pulling stories together.’ She’s the overseer of an anthology. What prompted her development and do you find that her personality has some resemblance with your own?
Indigo was one of those odd ones that seem to walk into the story very much formed and aware of what they want. I didn’t think, “Hmm, what I need here is a strong female character”…but I did know certain things about the sort of shape she might have. I thought she would be someone scrappy, maybe someone who had had to fight to get noticed, to push her point of view across. Not shy on the outside, but yes – as you mentioned – a certain untried something, a slight doubt in herself, something she’s had to push down if she was going to get anywhere because people always doubted her. I knew she was very moral and centered and hard working, that she was quite fresh-faced and generally did things by the book; and I had a sense that there was something in her past that might make her a little damaged. But I kind of felt these things instinctively; I didn’t sit down and sketch them out, not really.
I generally find that on the occasions I have sat down and tried to sort of construct characters in a deliberate, conscious way that…well, they don’t seem really alive. I’m just not very good at doing that. I can’t breath life into them that way. The way that works for me is to just kind of throw them on the page and see what they do, let them breath, let them show me what they are about. Now, that does sound maybe a bit pretentious – and I’m sure that I do it this way because I don’t know how to do it any other way – but it feels very true to me. When I’m writing someone like Indigo – when I’m writing any character that seems to take off – there’s an element to it which is almost like running a simulation. I suppose that is what I’m doing – I’m segmenting a part of myself off, wrapping it up into a ghost-form, an impression and a mind-within-a-mind that I’m trying to let imagine itself into existence.
Now, all that said, there were certain things in her development that I had to come back to and layer on, so to speak. Most notably, I was about two thirds of the way through the story when I realised that there needed to be more of an internal weakness, a shift in values, a realisation of who she is and what she wants and what she can do. But it was more a case of a growing, nagging feeling that something wasn’t right, that something wasn’t quite true. I had a vague notion of the way the plot was supposed to be going…but it kept feeling flat in that direction, like it didn’t want to be told that way. And it wasn’t until I considered this aspect of her character in relation to the story as a whole that it suddenly snapped into focus.
Of course. Pride. She’s new. She has this pride, she wants to prove herself, and she wants a good posting. She’s young. She’s ambitious. She has to learn that she’s a part of the Fold, she has to choose the Fold, and the Fold has to choose her.
So in that sense there was some layering in how I understood her; which is perhaps – to link in with the other part of your question – another way of coming to understand a part of yourself.
Looking at her now, I see that there are certainly things we have in common, probably more than I quite realised at the time. I’m a doctor, and I’ve just finished my training to be a GP. So that idea of being a freshly qualified professional, eager to prove yourself, maybe not fully appreciating the burden and how it relates to the privilege of the position. I definitely have struggled with self doubt – more so at the time of writing this story – and I like to think I am morally centered like her, but also fierce (to some extent!) if I need to be to protect people under my care.
But this comes back to the idea that every character is a piece of the author, an aspect or version of them, with the various personality-dials turned to different settings. I suppose there are similarities to acting, where someone might play their version of a character. Writing enables you to imagine up these different versions of yourself and to consecrate them in paper and sparkling webs of causality and narrative and potential. Which isn’t so different from what all of us do all the time, making sense of the people around us, their actions and words, modelling what it must be like inside their heads – the basis for empathy – for none of us can actually see what it’s like inside someone else’s black box, can we? So on some level, all of us imagine up characters – the characters of strangers and friends, lovers, and family members – and we think the version that we imagine of them are the real versions, the ultimate versions. But there is always an act of imagination involved, always something unknowable – and thank goodness, for without that, we really would be alone, and life would be so boring!
What is your day job?
As I mentioned above, I am a doctor. I’ve had a bit of a strange path to get here, though. I was home-educated, and only started formal education when I was about 14. Then I studied biochemistry, only to realise after graduating that I really didn’t like being in a lab. I worked in a school for deaf children for a few years – which I loved – and then went to medical school. Along the way I have been a tractor driver, a hedge-maze attendant, and a boomerang salesman. But now I am a doctor.
Tell us more about your writing process: (How much time do you write per day? Where do you write? Editing/revision process? etc.)
Well, in terms of where I sit on the planner/pantser thing, I’m probably more of a pantser, but with a bit of planning. Honestly, I’m still working out what sort a writer I am (maybe a lot of us are!). The conclusion I think I’m moving towards is that I have to sit in a place between these two ends of the spectrum: if I don’t plan anything, everything collapses into chaos and there is no coherence or structure or direction, no momentum, nothing to keep the story going. On the other hand, if I plan too much, I lose all joy and spontaneity, and there is no energy to keep the story going. So for me at least, stories exist in a place of balance between those poles. I have an outline, a starting point, a sense of what I want to achieve. And then I run the story, like running a simulation, and I let it unfold, let it speak to me.
Sometimes – actually not that often anymore – I realise there has been a false step, that something is giving a bad resonance, that I have to backtrack to work its out. But that seems to happen less now than it used to. Part of it, I think, is knowing when not to force it, and when to take a break from one project and go to something else for a while. And what I put that down to is giving the subconscious time to catch up. I can see the logic behind planning; when I hear people say things like, ‘Oh, if you don’t plan out your story, you’re still planning, but you’re doing that in first draft rather than as a plan, and that’s much more time consuming’, I think that might be true for some people, but to me that misses the point. To me, the point about writing is forming a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious; I feel like I’m dragging things out of the darkness, and I can’t know about them beforehand, not consciously, because the process of discovery is what creates vibrant art. I also think – planning something out beat for beat before hand is a really wonderful way to design a story using only 10% of your brain. The rest is the iceberg, it’s below the surface. If you want to get to the roots of the story, you have to accept that a huge proportion of what is happening is going on beneath the surface, in the part of your mind that is unconscious. Of course, that’s just what’s true for me, I can’t speak for others. But no one can speak for me, either! And for me, that’s what feels true.
So, assuming I’ve got a project running and I’m fairly happy with roughly what I will be writing – i.e., where the scene starts, who is initially to be involved, what I might like to achieve – when I sit down to write, my aim is to get between 2500 and 3500 words. Anything in that neck of the woods is a good day. And that might take a couple of hours, maybe three if I’m lucky enough to have three hours to play with, which isn’t often the case. Usually, after a stint of this length, I’m more or less done for the main burst of creative output for the day. If I got for much more than this, most of the time it begins to feel a bit stale, like I’m overheating or something. The exception to this is if I’m getting right towards the end, the climax, and if things are going well and slotting into place, sometimes then I might get up to 10k words. But that’s not that common.
Sometimes I get less than this. If it’s not time that’s holding me back, it’s usually because there’s still something that’s slotting into place, clinking away, some motivation or such I’m still uncovering.
In terms of the planning I do, I use mind-mapping software for that, something called Simplemind. It’s great, you can draw bubbles in different colours, and brainstorm links and associations. I haven’t come across many people who do it exactly like this, but I guess some people do similar things. I might start off with something like, ‘story about a gut who makes a machine who can travel between stories’. Then I’ll link questions off it as they occur, things like, “Why did he make it?” Or “What does it run on?” Or “What if it went wrong?” Things like that, just with an open mind, letting the questions drift in, and not getting hung up yet on if I can answer them. If I think of more than one different answer, I write them all down and pick the best one later. These mind maps then often work as the starting point when I sit down to write. But of course, as the story evolves – as it ‘changes under my hand’, to paraphrase Jennette Winterson – it departs to some extent from this initial idea. Sometimes it is still quite similar, sometimes it changes completely.
I tend to start off every writing session by doing a brief read-through and edit of the previous session. I find that’s a good way to work up enthusiasm for the next session, to read what I did yesterday…even if I start off not in the mood to write, by doing this I find myself going, ‘Oh, that word’s not right, I’ll just change that…” and then before I know it, nine times out of ten I’m in the swing, and when I get to the end of what I wrote yesterday, I’m like, ‘oh no! It can’t finish there! What happens next?” And of course I have to write it to find out…
The other thing to say is – and this is something I’ve only really twigged in the last few months, and I feel really liberated by it – when I am doing my block of writing, I don’t edit at all. Not at all. I don’t stop, I don’t go back, I don’t change spellings or think of different word combos or ever second guess myself. That gets me into the flow and means I stop having that crushing, horrible feeling of inadequacy and conscious despair at my writing skills. I write because I want to feel free – that’s one of the many reasons, at least – and how can I feel free if I live in fear of a misplaced apostrophe? So I go back to it later and tidy it up, and the knowledge that I am going to make that space later to make it tidy gives me the courage to tap, tap away quick quick quick and get things flowing nicely…
Incidentally, that’s something that I learnt from my work as a doctor as much as from any writing book! I was finding, at work, that as the day went on, as I saw more and more patients, my head was filling up with more and more questions about the people I had already seen. “What if the diagnosis is wrong?” “Why didn’t I ask that?” “I must remember to chase the bloods tomorrow and call them back if there’s a problem.” It was paralysing. It stopped me being in the moment with the next patient, stopped me giving them the full attention they deserve. And what I learnt from my tutors and from books on consulting technique and models of the consultation, was the importance of housekeeping things at the end of the consult, moving them out of your immediate head-space by ensuring there is a space dedicated to picking them up later. And as soon as I did that, I was enormously liberated. I could move on to the next patient, secure in the knowledge that I had already made a note of not just what I needed to chase, but also – crucially – that I would have a set-aside time to do this. And the way I write now has been influenced by this approach.
Getting back to writing, I tend to do one more full read through when the whole work is done, and then send it to my editor. I’ve got a great relationship with my editor. She’s really helped me out with a lot of stuff. Sometimes I don’t agree with her suggestions, and that’s fine; and sometimes she comes up with really good ideas, and sparks me off in a new direction. We do between one and three cycles of editing, then when I’m happy, we are ready to go.
And I just wanted to say one more thing about revision – I think it’s important to be able to let go. Especially nowadays, it’s possible to go back endlessly, to correct things, change things, make them ‘better’…but there’s a problem with thinking like that, because we aren’t static beings, we are changing all the time, our taste, our perceptions…and so what is ‘better’ at any one point to us is changing, it’s dynamic. If I’m not careful, I will find myself going back and ‘correcting’ work ten years later. And I shouldn’t do that, I should move forward and write something new.
It’s important to abandon works of art before they crush you, before they bend you out of shape, and stop you becoming someone new. In fact, every book I’ve written has changed me in some way, changed me from someone who could have written that book into someone who can write the next one. And nothing will ever be perfect because of this – it’s about becoming and changing, not getting to a point of perfection, because that doesn’t exist, either for us or for our art.
Honestly, I don’t really have time for many anymore! I mean, when I talk to people about myself, I list writing as my main hobby, because at the point, I just can’t call it a job – not really – not honestly. Jobs are things that make you money…and righty now I’m losing money on writing! ;-). And that, I think, kind of makes it a hobby, at least for now.
My work takes up a lot of time, spending time with my wife and son, it takes up most of my time.
I try to do a little exercise – I cycle when I get the chance, and do yoga. I used to be quite into music, for a little while, when I was in my late teens and early twenties. But after a while, I realised that – while I liked music, while I respond to it, while I even played guitar a little – it will never be at the heart of who I am. I’m just not in synch with it enough. And what I loved more than the music was the identity, which was all bound up in the excitement of being young and being out in the world for the first time, and having a group of friends all bound and bonded by it.
I used to be into games when I was a kid – Warhammer when I was pretty young, Magic: The Gathering when I was a bit older. Actually, I still think there are echoes of these things in my work! I even got a couple of story titles from magic cards – just because they were concepts and phrases that I heard for the first time in that context.
Which authors have influenced you the most?
As per my answer to the question below, Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett have all been massive influences. But there are loads of others. I find, sometimes, that techniques or manners of speech or any aspect, really, will sometimes seep into my work after I’ve read and admired something. Which I’m sure is nothing especially new – I guess we all do that. I think part of how we develop our own voice is by reading lots of other people, and kind of mixing them up in our head, different amounts, different aspects depending on what we respond to – and when we get a sufficiently complex mixture of that, combined with our own developing personalities – bam, that’s voice.
Some of the other people I have really admired and who I am sure have been refracted into my writing are: Terry Jones, Iain M Banks, Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, E M Forster, Rudyard Kipling, Gabriel Garcia Marques, Philip Jose Farmer, Philip K Dick, Dorris Lessing, Ian McEwen, Douglas Adams, Richmal Crompton, Ursula K Le Guin, Patrick Ness, John Irving, Roald Dahl…I’m sure there’s more, loads more, but those are the first that spring to mind.
Oh, that’s a tough one. I love so many books, there’s so many that have kept me going over the years. For most of my life, I would have been fairly cliched and said The Lord Of The Rings without a moment’s hesitation. I still love it. It is the book that got me into reading and into writing, there’s so much wonderful about it, so much to admire. But is it my favourite any more? I just don’t know. I’m not really sure I can say I have just one favourite.
But for that title, I guess not many other things seriously spring to mind. Sandman by Neil Gaiman is just superb. I absolutely adore it, and there’s so much in there, so funny and scary and inventive. It’s definitely been a big influence. And Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (which obviously are a series, not just one book, but still…) – I’ve read all of them, most of them several times, just hilarious, but also so wise and humane. So I guess those two I might call the only real competition for Tolkien in my mind…if you let me have them!;-)
How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
I guess one key is to get interested again, and have fun. I often find I get blocked when I plan too much, when I lose the joy of discovery and spontaneity. That’s part of how I’m wired as a writer, I think. If I plan too much and feel trapped – which I have a tendency to do sometimes without even realise I’m doing it – I find I’m having to drag myself to the keyboard, that I resent the time, that it doesn’t feel fun or playful or alive.
Sometimes I can fix that by going back a little bit and taking the story in another direction, breaking up the enclosing ice of those plans a little. Sometimes I don’t even have to go back – I can just let the characters do something strange or unexpected and that’s enough to get me interested again.
Sometimes I get blocked simply because another idea has come along, and I’m really more eager to work with that right now – and that’s fine. I try to listen to my inner voice when it tells me stuff like that. Because the other side of that is – sometimes the block means I haven’t finished processing things subconsciously, that I’m not ready to finish the story yet. I might have an idea in my head, the arcs worked out, the motivations and so on (not that this is especially normal for me, but it does sometimes happen) and yet I know somewhere deep down that I haven’t done mulling on it, that there is some shift or conclusion or something that still needs to bubble up. And as other people have said, the answer, the flushing, the unblocking, often comes after sleep. All those neurons firing away while the conscious part of you is visiting somewhere deep and dark; your three pounds of grey matter coming up with the solution for you and handing it to you on a plate with your breakfast – if you’re open to it.
But when these things fail…sometimes self-doubt can freeze me. I start worrying about everything I’ve ever written, that it’s all crap, and it’s never going to be worth a damn. If I’ve never written anything worthwhile, maybe I never will. And even if I were writing something that might be called good, what’s the point anyway? Maybe I’ve got a handful of people who like my stuff, maybe there will be a few more before I die. But is it worth pouring so much energy into? I am often in conflict with my wife over the time I spend writing. I miss seeing friends. I miss other opportunities, and I work less at my day job and have less money. Is it worth it?
When thoughts on that spectrum come into play…well, one thing is to just forget about assessing or judging your work, just to type it out, and not get hung up on it. Then I might think about complements I’ve got, nice emails or reviews. I’m starting to have people say lovely things occasionally, that my stories speak to them, that they have helped them, even, sometimes. And that makes it feel worthwhile, that gives me confidence.
And then – in answer to the deeper, darker questions of if it actually matters – if anyone will read the stories in the future – even if they get stored and remembered for ten years, or fifty, or two hundred – well, they will fade and be lost eventually, right? But in answer to that I think: yes, but that’s true of everything. Even the Mona Lisa will be forgotten one day; eventually the sun will die, and the last human will die; eventually the last living thing in the Universe will be spent. So what is the point of bemoaning how long you will be remembered for, or how long your work will last? Because nothing will, nothing at all. So the point is about making a connection to anyone, at any time; being read by anyone; being appreciated by anyone, one person or a thousand, now or tomorrow or a hundred years after I die – it doesn’t matter.
That is sometimes enough to get me going again, to make me feel its worthwhile.
And if all that fails…I take a break from writing, and I read. And sooner or later, I will find myself reading something so good that it excites me – it prompts me – it inspires me to try again, to make something special, something beautiful.
It can be wider than that, too – finding something to inspire me, that can come from lots of different directions: beautiful music, beautiful paintings, going walking in a beautiful landscape. All of these things have helped me get going again, at one time or another.
And then I can work again.
What is your music preference while writing, or do you prefer no music at all?
I do like listening to music, music is one of the ways I try to get through writer’s block (see above!). I find some music very inspiring, partly because I know I will never be able to create beautiful things in the world of music. It is just not something I can do. But because I do feel my emotions deeply stirred by some music, it can fill me with this overwhelming sadness and – in a strangely ugly way – jealousy. Jealousy that I can never make something beautiful like that, and sadness that I just don’t have that power, that skill. But the thing is, that then motivates me to try and make something beautiful in the way I think I can: in stories, with words.
I am fairly selective with the albums that I will play, that I find inspiring and beautiful. It’s quite eclectic. I’ve been given some great mix CD’s of folk music, mainly British stuff that a friend did for me a while back, and I seem to have been listening to that on repeat for the last five or six years when I’ve been writing! Then there’s one book I’ve been writing, I’ve got this best of Johnny Cash 4-CD set that I’ve had on repeat, that’s helped a lot. This musician from Seattle, Barton Carrol, has an album, Avery County I’m Bound To You, a friend who went on tour with him gave me a copy, and I’ve just been listing to that over and over again while writing, too. I absolutely love it, love the music, the lyrics, [because it’s] so sad and beautiful and funny. And the friend who gave me that, his band, Wolf People – actually, I’ve got a couple of old friends in that band, and the whole lot of them are great – they make some of the most beautiful music, alive and passionate and wild and hypnotic and sad…I listen to their albums again and again, and not just out of loyalty! Well worth checking out…:-)
Why do you write?
This is a really big question, and there are lots of possible answers, all of which would be true but none of which would be the whole truth. I think I have probably given some sort of sideways answers to this already, in answering some of the other questions. But to have another go at it…
I write to find bits of myself I didn’t know I had. I write to draw the dots between parts of my personality, to express things I can’t otherwise express, and wouldn’t know existed to be expressed, anyway. I write because my head sometimes fills up with strange or funny or upsetting or just plain weird things, and I have to get them out to make being inside my head more tolerable. I write because it’s fun, and because I think – sometimes, at least – that I am good at it. I write because I can’t make art satisfactorily in any other way, and yet at times I feel a great yearning to create something. I write for the lovely way ideas and constellations spring sometimes suddenly, unexpectedly from the page, forming up in a process of emergence, like fractal pictures swimming up out of a dry series of potential numbers and starting points and principles. I write because it is a way of giving voice to different parts of me. I write because of my pride. I write because it helps keep me sane. I write because, if I didn’t write, my life would be much less fulfilling and I would be much less happy.
Where can readers find your books?
Most of my books are in Amazon KDP Select at the moment, so mostly they are only available on Kindle (which of course includes Kindle apps, which you can get on basically any smartphone or tablet or computer). I’m in the process of getting print books out for some of my stuff, so you can find that on Amazon, of course, and maybe other online shops. And you can always go to my website www.jamiebrindle.com – I always have five or six tiny stories actually on the site to read, and links to a load of other shorts hosted on other sites. And you can always sign up to my mail-list here, to get sent a series of tiny stories on an auto-responder, and then new stories as I write them. If you do this, I’ll also auto-send you a free copy of All Quiet In The Western Fold as a getting-to-know-you present 😉
Future projects in the works?
There’s several things I’m working on at the moment. Because of the way I work, focusing on one thing until it stalls, and then on something else while the first thing clicks into place, I never know what will be out next. But a few of the possibilities are:
Indigo’s Version – this is a Storystream novel, about Indigo and her past; it’s also about the ideas I touched on above, to do with stories existing in the tender region between order and chaos.
Magic Be With You – this is a spoof, a deliberately poorly-written fantasy novel written by a fictional author and ‘edited’ by me. It’s a lot of fun to write, though not especially deep or layered.
I’m also working on a Storystream novel that’s nearly finished – I’m at about 70k words and I’m right at the major climax – though I haven’t got a title for it yet. It’s about some space-pirates who make their living jumping between stories and plundering them, using a special star drive. It started off being a wedding present for some friends who got married a couple of years ago. It was only meant to be a short story, but it grew totally out of control, and now it’s something much bigger and more silly. It’s kind of a space opera but set in the Storystream. It’s meant to be funny and a bit of an adventure; if there’s a deeper aspect to it, it’s about how we hold different versions of ourselves inside all the time…and a few other things, of course. I think/hope this will be next, though I’m not sure.
And then there’s various other collections of short stories – mostly stuff I wrote over the last ten years and haven’t worked out how to put together into mini anthologies – they should be trickling out over the next couple of years, too.
Social media links:
Twitter is @mazeman11
Facebook is jamiebrindleauthor
Instagram is jamiebrindleauthor
Jamie, thank you for taking the time for this interview. It has indeed been a pleasure having you as a guest.