From Ten Down to Three author George Roberts: Interview

George Roberts’ semi-autobiographical work of fiction, From Ten Down to Three, features a teen protagonist who faces a tumour on his brain and is forced to evaluate life early on. The true-to-life humorous tale about overcoming struggle is available at Amazon.

George: Can I ask how your brain tumour impacted on your life? Did you begin to plan for the future in ways that you hadn't previously?
The brain tumour affected my life in a very positive way. I had been having the headaches for years. I was told my doctors that there was nothing wrong for all those years too. I went through my early life knowing that something wasn't quite right but put trust in the professionals, I just dealt with the headaches and they became the norm. It wasn't until I banged my head that things were investigated, by sheer luck and whilst looking for a possible blood clot the tumour was found. This made me feel very lucky. I quickly realised that life was very precious and at times full of chance. I matured very quickly and started to think more about other people. My dad said that he thought that this sort of thing only happens to other people and then he said that we are other people. There was a good understanding, more than we had before about how sensitive life actually is. It is something that I have never forgotten and the feelings that went with it. I realised how tough life is for many people all over the world. It also led me to start asking from very serious questions about life, is fate real, why do children have to go through this kind of thing?
Right. How people process their struggles in light of the struggles of others.
I have a twin brother, Chris. He found the whole time when I was poorly very tough. He went for a long time not being able to talk to me whilst I was in hospital. All this is explained in the book. There is a very tender moment and an exchange between us. He could not come to terms with what was going on.
And is there a real Collette, the sister in the story? Tell me a little about her. Your main character pranks her at one point early on, and he gets in trouble. Do you have a sister too?
Collette is my actual sister, that's her real name. Still have a great relationship. We are a very close family, always have been and always will be. We got through everything because we are so close and caring to each other.
And the love interest?
Jennie is my wife, her name is different in real life, I dedicated the book to her. She is the best person I know, honestly, she is amazing. We have been through some really hard times, no money, had children very young and everything that goes with that. We stuck with it and here we are today. Life is good but I also know how quickly things can change.
How autobiographical is the story?
A lot of the story is true. The tumour, obviously and the feelings and questions that went along with it. There are elements that I have added, this is to examine the possibility of fate, I leave the reader to decide for themselves. There are parts that I found emotional to write because they were so true, each word led to a memory that I'd thought I had forgotten.
Your bio suggests you started a family early - was part of this a fear of mortality, and living life to the fullest?
Starting a family young? This, I don't think was because I was thinking ahead and living life to the fullest. I have thought many times however that this could have actually been the case. I don't know what the future holds, nobody does. Is this fate again stepping in? Maybe I had children young for a reason? I have now been married for 22 years and have a 22 year old and a 21 year old. Life, for me has taught me so much, this is something that I have been able to pass on to my children. I consider myself extremely lucky, for many, many reasons.
How has your experience with autism affected your own perspectives on life?
Again, working with people who have autism came to me by accident. I lost a business, a shop, due to bad floods which led to my friend asking if I wanted to help her out in the care industry. Life really throws up some things that you never thought of. Working with adults with autism is very challenging, again though you can see a different side to life that many other people don't. It has made me more understanding and has taught me that everything is not just black and white. The autism spectrum is so large and the smallest thing can also be the biggest thing. I do see the work that we do as very positive and I really enjoy what I do. Like I said, it's hard work and challenging but amazing and rewarding.
And can I ask you about some of these guys, the characters in the novel who get everything brand new? Are you highlighting class there at all, spoilt kids? Were there kids better off than your main characters? If you were an American, would these guys be your high school jock bullies, the prom kings?
These guys would never have been prom kings or bullies, I don't think. They were just who they were. Some people are very selfish at times, this was something that myself and Chris didn't understand as we had been taught differently.
My parents believed that if you bought for one then you bought for all three, that would also be for the same amount. Kevin and his brother had to share too, for example. I don't know what their money situation was, could have been better than ours but we weren't into material things. We understood the value of money.
We never did without anything. We had the best upbringing that we could have asked for.
Why is Pigeon Eyes in the novel [a peer of the main character who has an accident early on, clowning around]? Have you considered asking that question? Is he there to show that you shouldn't take silly risks? That Chris and James don't take these risks and yet they are afflicted by near-tragedy?
Wow, in a word yes. To highlight how quickly things can happen, how a silly decision can have a big impact and then how an accident can save you. You’re the first person to pick up on that.
It actually seems quite rounded and the main characters seem to be able to dish out as much as take the flak from the other boys. Can we talk about that dynamic too?
The characters in the book come and go. I felt that this was like life. How many people, if you think back have you met and you have liked them, then they go out of your life, things move on. Like school really, you have good friends at school and then you leave, you may never see them again. Life treats us to little gifts like this but things don't always stay the same.

George's novel Ten Down to Three is at Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Amie African Adventure: A Plot Heavy Review

Amie African Adventure by Lucinda E. Clarke, available at Amazon, is a genre-defying thriller with a prologue that really draws the reader in before settling back to introduce its characters and set the scene. With some keen cultural observations, it's got some great twists, upping the pace until its denouement which is both satisfying, and establishes the background for the sequel in the series.
Amie is in part a primer in corrupt non-western countries, written with a flair for documentary as well as action. Jonathon and Amie are a couple on-the-up in England. Although Amie’s career in media production is stagnating ever-so-slightly, working as she does as a receptionist at a production house, she is eager to progress and knows how to hold a video camera.

Jonathon is in Facilities and Engineering, and he gets an offer from his employer to travel overseas and establish a water desalination plant in the country of Togodo, in Africa. His wife is reluctant to travel; the project is long-term, but both her family and Jonathon’s are keen to see them go.
A glimmer of the peril the couple later encounters with their arrival at the airport, their luggage  unceremoniously rifled through, and Amie’s headache tablets confiscated, is significant. 
Later, Amie has similar difficulties getting through the unofficial red tape involved in sending packages home. It seems everyone requires a bribe in Togodo for anything to happen. Jonathon comes to similar conclusions in efforts to establish offices for his firm in Apatu.

In this capital of Togodo, the construction of modern buildings and wide, highway-like thoroughfares is de rigeur. Meanwhile development monies or the building of high-rises never seem to find their way to the less developed communities, which are out of favour due to tribalism.

Amie settles down to the role of housewife, learning the quirks of maintaining a household while leaving the housework to maids and gardeners. She's a member of a collective of colonial housewives who take safari trips and play tennis, sometimes with their husbands and sometimes without. The novel simmers through the descriptions of Amie's lifestyle, but even trivial elements play into overall cultural description, and the micro-details of engaging with the housemaid feed into explaining the macro levels of government activity.

There are tribal tensions here too, we discover. We learn details of the culture through Amie’s eyes, via mouthpieces such as expats Diana and Richard Carstens, older than the new arrivals by a decade but experienced in the Togodian way of life. Although the conversations are not stilted, much explanation is delivered to the reader by Amie learning from others. Through contact with a Colonel Mbanzi who has learned of her camera-working skill, Amie finds herself inadvertently becoming the Leni Riefenstahl of this corrupt republic. Although this smooths things for Jonathon’s work, it complicates the couple’s involvement in the country’s affairs.

The pace picks up as the country's ruling class's political situation becomes problematic while the tribal tensions increase. Amie is forced to flee, and she discovers the true beauty of Africa.
The novel subverts what we typically expect while sustaining both tension and maintaining interest: the heroine effects the rescue, but she is led rather than followed (her objectives frequently immediate, and related to survival, rather than having an endgoal). We are often as unenlightened as she is throughout, and we learn as she does.
A great introduction into how Eurocentric or western bureaucracy can be delegitimised or poorly translated by former colonies, Amie: African Adventure is the first in a series.
You can find Lucinda's first Amie book at this link from a number of shops and sources.
Lucinda E Clarke is on Amazon and Twitter.

Amie, Africa and Lucinda E. Clarke: An Interview with the Author



Lucinda E Clarke is the author of a series of novels set in Africa featuring her heroine Amie Fish (née
Reynolds). The original book of the series serves (perhaps) as a primer for those unfamiliar with African culture and issues related to endemic corruption (in countries like Zimbabwe) or the simplicity and beauty of bush life among such ethnic groups as the pygmies and Maasai.
She opened our email chat as I read the first novel, over the course of a number of weeks, with thoughts about starting the series with Amie: African Adventure and what she’s learned since.

I wish I could re-write Amie 1 as I've learned so much about novel-writing since then. I spend far too much time setting the scene, although as a series it does put things in perspective.

Perhaps this opening is a little chick-litty in a (good) way, in the sense of a dinner conversation where emotions are fraught, for instance. Lots of drama with the move overseas. But you've established the biographical elements beautifully - very clever to show it all through the prism of ambitions, settling down, etc.

Hang in there it's not girly chick-lit (which I hate) it does speed up. All my later books start fast and keep it up to the end. But it wouldn't make sense now to re-write it and maybe lose the awards and reviews.

Yes, you can see how action-packed it will get just reading the prologue.
A few details I’ve noted to raise: I don't know if they would still be using tape in a production house or tv studio in the age of Facebook. Same goes for an assumption that a camera wouldn't be digital (as the parents gift Amie the camera at the airport). Are these anachronisms?

The camera equipment is correct, I was a video producer and had my own video company in a former life.
Memory cards wouldn't hold enough data. I suspect they may use them now, but I last filmed in 2008 - when I started we had massive tapes, larger than the old beta tapes and a separate monitor we had to plug into the camera - then we went betacam and then digital - the camera
Photographic evidence of photographic technology,
courtesy of the author.
was so much smaller that people found it hard to believe it was broadcast quality. When I left they were checking out the prices of HD High Definition and I think the format has moved on again to MXF. 

Well, you have me learned!
The family are keen to see Amie off, even if she’s reluctant to travel. There’s a sense that Amie’s vindicated after what happens in Togodo, your imagined country that seems a little like Zimbabwe or perhaps the Congo.

Amie's mother is at that age when she might look back and wish she'd been more adventurous and Sam's marriage is on the rocks (comes up later) and she's tied to a house with two small children!
Your novel shows ludicrous levels of corruption from the hotel bookings onwards. Was Kenya, or were other countries, like that? (again, not ludicrous in a bad way! I am not incredulous.) It really starts off when on arrival at the airport, Amie’s painkiller medications are confiscated.

I remember my own anger when they took something off me at customs at Nairobi, despite the guns.

If you've not lived in Africa (and I think this applies to India too) you would be amazed at the levels of blatant corruption. As Diana explains it's not seen as anything out of the ordinary, but expected. They have a whole different mind-set we find hard to grasp, and this is one reason I got a bit carried away setting the parameters.

Africans are truly fatalistic and accept that those with any sort of power will take every advantage they can. They are after all supporting dozens of relatives and expected to share what they earn. Few will even complain that they work and yet give to the family members who sit around all day drinking and playing cards. Yet so many of them are so lovable, innocent and naive and I have Amie fall in love with Africa and her people as I did.

And what of Amie and her husband? There are elements of familiarity there, like the romantic behaviour, but they also seem quite polite with each other at times. I appreciate Jonathon is
overworked and he returns home stressed now and then too, and comes off as a little abrasive. But there's a formality there as well.
 
I never thought of making them too cozy as a couple, remember she does not see a lot of him as often happens in ex-pat families. The guys work very long hours and expect their wives to be very self-sufficient. I recall being amazed when I learned that one wife would drive from Francistown to Gaborone 400 kms each way on her own - in the days before cell phones and there was not one petrol station on the way.

What do you say to people who suggest your highlighting of all this corruption is racist?

Racism? Well frankly I told it like it is. You have only to read the stories in the African newspapers to see I was not exaggerating. And you might also notice that a few of the reviewers have said 'it is like this'. Not convinced? Then try The State of Africa' by Martin Meredith, it will blow your mind.
Personally, I'm fed up with this racism nonsense. One reviewer told me I had no idea what I was talking about and then mentioned she'd never been to Africa but had seen it all on the telly. It is NOT a matter of skin colour but mindset and I hoped I'd made that clear in the book. 

In contrast with the urban corruption, you have depictions of a very rural village, barely touched by civilization, that show the hospitality and kindness of the people. And it turns out to be a really riveting read, explosive and violent, with any number of twists and turns.
Thanks so much for your time, Lucinda.
You can find Lucinda's first Amie book at this link from a number of shops and sources.
Lucinda E Clarke is on Amazon and Twitter.

Fade to Black: A Short Fiction Collection

My collection of short fiction, Fade to Black, has been some time coming into existence. 
Many of the stories - some of them shortlisted for contests and prizes or previously published or broadcast on radio - are over ten years old. You can buy the book at Amazon
Some excerpts are below.


From "Checkers"
 From Il Miglior Fabbro
 
From The Road Movie
 
 




Smiley Faces

When you do a smiley face, it sometimes has a little label that appears when you hover over it. Some of them say ::slightly smiling face:: or something similar
More often than not, the correspondent has not chosen an emoji based on that option. 
They may just have typed it,
: - )
 like that, or similar. I have questioned such smiley faces in the past.
All I'm saying is, there's often no need for people to question why other people are just SLIGHTLY smiling.

A chat with poet and writer Kristin Garth



US writer Kristin Garth has a Medium site where she hosts a number of impressive poems that focus on gender dynamics, misogyny, romance, psychopathy, BDSM and more. A chapbook of some of her poetry, Pink Plastic House, will be published by Maverick Duck Press in 2018.

How are things? What are you up to?
I'm doing pretty good. I’ve had some work solicited so I have been doing that, and my Medium work. How about you?
Good thanks. Is it always poetry? Have you tried writing fiction or memoir?
I have written an unfinished BDSM romance and a weird novel about a young teenage (18) year old stripper.
Your work strikes me as being a little Lady Gaga, based on what I know of her iconography at her gigs etc, inasmuch as it seems to feature lots of sex and death! Your poetry occasionally deals in both – your talk of the body etc, and you don’t shy away from misogyny and abuse. 
I’m doing an Amazon Kindle short fiction collection at the moment. You ought to put a Kindle book of poetry together at the very least!
I am so afraid of Amazon just because I'm very tech averse -- a tech dummy. I'm on Medium, and it's very very easy there. Good for a person like me who wants to create and publish but doesn't know how to do computer stuff very well at all. I make audios and stuff too and that was tricky at first but I really like it. And I love Lady Gaga. That is such a flattering comparison.
There’s a fear of loss of control on some platforms, alright. Are you submitting elsewhere?
I am not really able to send anything until after Christmas anyway because this other editor has been tapping me out -- I've sent him something almost every day and posted a poem on Medium every day. And trying to get ready for Christmas.  So I will be happy to wait until I can catch my breath a little.  I thought the lit world would slow down at Christmas but I've had two editors ask me for last-minute work. It's a good problem to have.
Yes, I am the same with my blog being easy. Any random thoughts, I will just put them on here. And yeh, it would be a good problem to have, being in demand. I love that, when people are pressing you for work. Although I hate deadlines because I send something off and often - even a week later, it's like after a dinner party where you're saying "This is what I should have said to that guy!"
Oh yes. I agree. It’s the first time someone really solicited me for work -- like as much as I could send in ten days. :-) So it felt like an honor and also very stressful. I don't want to let anyone down.
I am in the middle of reading two books from colleagues - one of them is JD Estrada’s, the other Lucinda E Clarke’s. I am such a slow reader. Never any pressure from them, but still.
I have a chapbook coming out in February.
Ahhh. Brill.
Yeah. Print. Microchapbook only 24 pages, poems. But I want to do another that is all about BDSM. This one is about a lot of things. It's called Pink Plastic House.
I had followed quite stringent formatting guidelines for my novel, but I’ve learned you don't have to really worry about it for Kindle formatting. But back to you and my original point. See? See with the BDSM? Sex and death in your marvellous work.
Yeah. I'm with you. Totally. And true crime. But yeah. Most of my stuff has been online so I'm not sure if Amazon would be the right way to do it and the literary magazine/chapbook people don't care about that. And I like having paper books. But I may do one some day on Amazon, but if they don't let me use work that I've already had published I would have to devote a lot of time to making a book length amount of new material.
I see you’ve published a poem here that isn’t quite as dark as some of the other stuff.
My most innocent poem ever on Medium. About the Wizard of Oz. I have a few sweet ones.
That's great that the imprint doesn't care if your work’s been previously published. Broadly, many of them do, right? It's unfair. You can enter as many films as you like in as many festivals as there are, for example. The same is probably true of song contests. They don't really have to be previously unpublished, or for their eyes only - but short stories and poetry, publishers and contests usually demand first-publication exclusivity.
Ha.  :-) Yeah, it’s a weird world, and all the different lit mags even have different rules. So you never know for example who accepts Medium work until you ask, et cetera.
You have elements of sexual abuse in your work too. I am sorry if those aspects of your work are personal in nature, but it's an incredibly brave act to articulate it through writing.
Thank you for saying that about the sexual abuse. It's something I am pretty comfortable talking about after many years away from it you know...and therapy. But it fucks me up still all the time in a lot of ways and I get angry. Writing helps me a lot.
I’d like to think that I can understand at least in some respects. I think too that I don’t have the bravery to write about such trauma - I'd have to couch it in some other form, like having a concentration camp survivor character, or something like that, when it’s in my writing, if at all. Sometimes trying to emotionally resonate through fiction is a challenge. Unrelated to all that, I’ve been told I struggle with voice. But I don’t necessarily agree with that. Lots of writers retain the same style, others do different styles. I think your own work can be very stark and raw, and it’s a surprise to be shocked, as a reader, maybe even a little offended, in a good way.
I’m way too literal. :-) I think that you just have a different style than a lot of people do. I have had people hate on me for what I write too. My BDSM stuff is usually positive. I have some dark ones — I mean they are dark but they are therapeutic mostly I think. But I have some villainous dom ones. One here on Medium is very sweet. With whips.
I see! You've got a sense of ownership, an awareness of the male gaze which you can sort of subvert – not to a female gaze, but I mean taking control of that male gaze. I very occasionally read work by women and no man could write it. I don't think that's true of any other dynamic or POV when it comes to writing - I could pretend to be whatever, regardless of appropriation. But it's difficult for me to write from a woman's perspective about certain things, and that's not from lack of imagination. It’s sort of mind-blowing, and I see it in your stuff.
Oh my God. You are flattering me so much. I was a stripper so I lived off the male gaze for five years.
I will say it happens rarely, where I feel I couldn’t write something coz I’m not a woman. Bianca Bowers, Louise Beech and yourself are writers with whom I experience it to varying degrees. They're three, offhand, I can think of. The thriller writer Val McDermid is a fave of mine and I don't really get it with her but she can write some real psychos and crime fiction doesn’t really count. And Ming Holden is an unbelievable writer, and I don’t think I’ve experienced it with her stuff yet, although she's certainly moved me to tears, and I’m sure she could do so more than easily.
My first-glance analysis of this piece of yours suggests that the man appears to be in control but then the reader ought to ask "But who the hell's writing the thing?" For me, the voice is female.
I’m so glad you like it. :) I loved writing that one. It was a romance. Those poems are very light and fun to me. The man character was a man I knew. And there is a power exchange in these situations. Things evolve, or can evolve, like any romance.
You're another writer whose work could be actually studied in the universities. Did you take literature in college?

I dropped out of grad school to strip. Creative writing MA — but I never finished it. My BA was in English! And thank you.
I think there's a strong implication of the casual there though, speaking of the romance element. It doesn't read like conventional romance. You’ve a subtle and discreet profundity in a lot of your work.
Wow. Discreet profundity that is quite a phrase. I would not be able to come up with that.
Haha. People say "Will you be my agent?" I am all "Excuse me, I'm a writer too you know," batting my eyelashes.
Ha. :) An agent? Wow. Well you are obviously a writer. And such an encourager too.
It's good writing though, Kristin. I think sometimes I am an asshole about criticism. And I do need to work on that.
You’re not an asshole. But sometimes people don’t ask for a critique. Because I am submissive, people tell me to do things — some are good, so I do them. Next they start telling me write a poem about this. Write like this. Maybe not a sonnet. And I draw the line and it makes them angry.
This happens. I agree, and if it ain’t broke. And your work ain’t broke.
Well thank you. I try to just do it and hope for the best. I’ve had some detractors on forums where I used to critique stuff and post stuff, but mostly fans.
I do think again that the most critical thing I could say of your stuff is that some of it could be read as submissive. But, again, you get into the whole area of "Well, who the heck is the writer? She's the one whose poem we're reading. So to an extent, she's controlling things. She's asking things of the reader, she's making us think."
I’m totally submissive. :-)
Yes. But you’re extremely articulate for a shy scribe and I'm not saying that to butter you up.
Ha. :-) Well typing is easy. You know? But I know who I am.
I think even shy Americans have a confidence that us off-worlders wouldn't have, to be very catty about your eloquence! They can tell us how submissive they are in great detail. 😀 That's a joke. I am delighted you can message like this.
Where are you?
I am in Ireland.
Ireland cool. I mean I am not so shy on the computer ... much more so in real life. Writing, I am bold. :) As you can see in the poetry.
Your Twitter handle is @lolaandjolieLolaAndJolie  - what's the handle about?
Jolie was my stripper name. Lola was my cat at that time who passed away. She had feline leukemia. I need to write a sonnet about that. Because everyone asks about the Twitter handle.
I am sorry.
And I kept it like a tribute.
Why a sonnet?
All I write are sonnets. They’re all Shakespearean sonnets. Well I have written a couple of villanelles when I guess I was a rebel. It’s my medium I work in.
Rebel scum! :-) Jeez. I didn't even notice.
I just feel totally comfortable there with the form and then it makes me feel safe to talk about complex things. Bad dark things in my safe space. My chapbook is actually called Pink Plastic House:  Three Stories of Sonnets. And they are organized in rooms. Like a dollhouse.
And the sonnets? All your poems are sonnets? I didn't spot that.
Well I use a lot of enjambment and try to make them sound fresh. You aren’t the first person to say that. I have done that, and done some less traditional line breaks. But a lot of them have enjambment or short sentences to break them up do you don’t realize it is a sonnet.
I don't even know what enjambment is, Kristin. I've heard of it but I forget. I don't write poetry.
Most sonnets end a line like a sentence. Not a rule but just the way it is.
Yes. I looked it up - kind of like run-on lines.
Enjambment is when you go onto the next line. It makes it sort of break the rhyme a bit and sound a bit more free verse. Modern but it still works as far as the rules of the sonnet go.
Yes, it's great. I'm now of the view that the reader probably takes far more from your work than you appreciate. You have poems about rape that you describe as being about sex addiction, for example. And your choker poem was less than romance, and all the more powerful for it.
I hope they do take more from it. I’m glad you see them like that. And I agree. A woman can put herself in a bad position because of addiction — she has been raped yes. But she knows she will put herself in another bad position.
So you're adopting a position of defence for this woman? You're not justifying rape when you say it's about sex addiction to any extent. I actually would try to justify some of the actions of my psychopaths in short stories. So I get all that. But you aren't like that in real life?
Kristin on Medium
Yeah. I’m not— I have written from the points of view of psychopaths before. I just did a true crime one that is very dark, from the POV of a serial rapist murderer. People advise me not to explain my work, to let it speak for itself, and here I am explaining my poetry.
Yes but you are eloquent in your explanations. There was a playwright in Ireland who was asked "So what's your play about?" on its opening night and he replied "I don't know. I haven't read the reviews yet."
Ha. I think that is a valid point. You so learn things about the work from other people for sure. Maybe things that are unconsciously there. And I like that.
You're probably right. But there are plenty of artists who are not analytical too, right?
Oh sure. Most people are not self-aware.
But you know what you're writing. You're not some outsider artist or even Banksy – you do have the innate talent, but you know what you're doing and you can stand back from it and discuss it.
Gosh. I didn’t really think about it like that. But I love psychology. I have another friend who was abused as a child and has been through therapy and is a writer too and he is the same way. I think it goes with that territory. Like you get an honorary psychology degree.
Follow Kristin Garth on Twitter.
Visit her Medium site today.