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Article #1
The section below is a collection of author interviews undertaken in December 2012 as part of thi wurd issue 1 and website launch. We asked all writers from our debut the same 6 questions, and their answers are below. Click on each bar for the individual author content.




James Connarty
1. Your story Recognition appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
Looking back in my writing notebook to January when I wrote this story, I have a half-finished draft written longhand during one of my writing classes. It was written after reading Soderberg's The History Teacher and follows the structure of that story - a framed narrative with the narrator in the present seeing someone from their past, causing them to reflect on an incident which occurred between them. The draft is almost identical to the opening of my story as it appears in issue one of thi wurd. I can remember finishing the first draft of this really quickly, in just over an hour. I tend to write first drafts quickly anyway, but this one was particularly fast. The reason it came so quickly was probably because I had Soderberg's structure to work with and I had thought about writing a piece something like this a while ago and never gotten round to it, but the idea was somewhere in the back of my mind. (I've got another note in the back of another notebook, dated February 2010 which just says 'Recognition story'). I don't like losing ideas, so even if I never do anything with them I write them down, just as a short phrase or note to myself. In this case the idea of recognising someone from your past just gelled with the Soderberg structure. Sadly this story is influenced by my entire teenage experience of girls. I was hopeless with girls in high school. It was like Gregory's Girl revisited. The narrator of the story isn't based on any one girl in particular, but the man she recognises and the boy she subsequently remembers is probably close to an imagined version of myself. I was never beaten up for asking another guy's girlfriend out, but I came close on a few occasions. I chose the woman as the narrator to put a bit of distance between myself and the experience related. Hopefully it works.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I wouldn't say I have a set approach as such to writing. Sometimes I start from something I've written longhand in a notebook, maybe as a writing exercise or automatic writing. I'll usually then type that up and maybe rework it a bit and then use that as the way in to a first draft of a short story. The opening I used to start the piece may end up being cut, but my first drafts are usually not too different from the finished pieces. I tend to write in the evenings, just because I work during the day and spending time with family and friends occupies most weekends. I prefer to write at my desktop PC, rather than longhand in a notebook or on my laptop. Partly this is just for the convenience of keeping drafts all in the one place and being comfortable while I write, but it also places me in a room without distractions, at the back of my house. I can just write and not bother about anything else that's happening outside or what time it is or anything like that. In terms of actual process, I don't really plan out a story. I might have thought about it a bit before I sit down to write it, but this will be while I'm driving or washing the dishes or doing something else that leaves you free to think. I don't write anything down, except maybe an initial phrase or an image I want to use to start a story. Mostly I'll have an idea of a character, maybe the narrator or at least a character the story will focus on. I might have thought of a relationship I want him or her to have, or a place I want to set part of the story. That's as much as I have when I sit down to write the story usually, although sometimes I've started with less than that. I'll start writing and let the narrator's voice develop and get to know the character and just try to have them make the choices I feel like I'd make if I was that person. I think it's a bit like an actor improvising or a musician jamming. I just try and do what feels right for the characters and hopefully there's some truth in that.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
I grew up reading just about anything I could get my hands on. I wore out library cards. I liked really sensational stuff as a kid. I remember terrifying myself with Dracula when I was about nine. I was always reading short stories by writers like Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick in high school. I've read comics for as long as I can remember - the American ones from DC and Marvel, rather than our homegrown efforts (although most of our writers have taken the top spots overseas now). All those early influences really steeped me in a love of pop culture that I've never really lost. When I went on to study literature at uni I became aware of Scottish writers like Irvine Welsh and James Kelman - mostly through reading their short stories. Seeing writers who came from the place I did and were actually telling their stories and being published; that was inspiring to me. It made me think seriously about writing for the first time probably, although I did very little writing in my twenties. I figured, what did I know? What did I have to say to anyone about life? I was probably right, but I wish now I'd done more writing back then to develop the skills. What can you do though? When I started making a real effort with my writing I was in my mid-thirties and going crazy - just really frustrated because I had no real creative outlet. I'd poured all that into my day job for years while I was learning to actually be any good at it, but now I felt I needed to do something for myself and for my own sanity. I joined a writing class and that exposed me to writers I'd never read before - Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Richard Ford. I went back and read more Kelman and other contemporary Scottish writers, like Ali Smith and Jackie Kay. I just think there's so many good writers out there and I'd be letting myself down if I didn't make the effort to do something more with my own writing. My other influence is probably films. I like really offbeat, left-field stuff like the Coen brothers films, David Lynch's earlier stuff or just about anything by Quentin Tarantino. I like to see characters under pressure making bad choices and trying to talk, shoot or fuck their way out of an impossible situation. I'd like my writing to be more like that at times.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
I wouldn't say I have a particular type of writing that I'm dead-set against. I think you can have good and bad examples of writing in any particular genre. For me it is about finding the good writing. I don't like writing that doesn't seem true to the characters, or gets too hung-up on description or convoluted plotting. I think a story of whatever length or type is about the people who are central to it. If I don't feel like the writer is as invested in the characters as I am, as the reader, then I'll probably give up on his or her book. I don't read any non-fiction really. I probably should.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
I've read a lot of things I've liked recently. I'm still working my way through Carver's individual collections of short stories and enjoying them. Loved is a strong word though. I'd have to say Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle. It's rare that I will like every story in a short story collection, but I did in that one, particularly the title story moved me. I've read a lot of his novels and I think he's a superb writer. There are few writers I'd say are as honest as Roddy Doyle. I'd like my characters' voices to be as strong as his.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
At the moment I'm doing a lot of prevaricating. I've spent time revising drafts of stories I've written over the past few months, which is useful, but even in that I can see that I'm really using it as an excuse not to write. I think the next thing I want to work on is a series of stories that focus on the same character. I've kind of got him in my head and when I'm out and about doing things I find myself thinking what he would do in my situation. I would use the n-word, except that scares me because I see myself as a writer of short stories, so I'm telling myself that I'm going to write some linked stories, episodes in this guy's life. I might hate him after the first one. We'll see what happens.
Ciara MacLaverty
1. Your story Not Phyically, Anyway appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
I wish I could say I crafted my stories by making great imaginative leaps into other lives, but mostly it's the opposite. I tend to fictionalize the stuff that happens to me. Not Physically, Anyway was an approximate account of the time my younger (nine year old?) brother drove our family car through the neighbour's fence. There was a huge amount of sibling rivalry between us, so when my brother scored an own goal like that, my teenage character hoped she could just sit back and gloat, but, of course, the parents in the story weren't quite as condemning as she hoped they'd be. It's as if I'm trying to make up for being an uncharitable sister in real life with my attempts at 'unreliable narrator' in the story.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
All writing processes are redundant to me when I fail to achieve the primary process of just sitting down and bloody doing it! I have two small kids and I tell myself I will write when they go to school. In the meantime, I want to read prose, poetry and journalism that inspires me and swiftly put down anything that doesn't.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
Probably everything I've ever read has influenced me at some level (even my childhood love of urgent Enid Blyton mysteries?). I love clear, easy prose. Strong voices. Anything unfussy. Raymond Carver, Jackie Kay, Janice Galloway, Laura Hird, Jim Kelman.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
I can't stand genre stuff that is secretly chuffed with itself. I'm in a book group and our current pick is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The others are raving about it, but five chapters in, I'm still uncomfortable and wondering whether to bail out.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
A recent book group choice was Night Waking by Sarah Moss. It's about a mother who has suspended her academic life to live on an uninhabited Scottish island with her puffin-studying husband and two boys. It's a first person narrative and you really get inside her head at this unsettled time in her life. It was enjoyable without being patronising. Other than that, I'm in awe of The Road by Cormac McCarthy and This Much I know Is True by Wally Lamb.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
After a twelve to fourteen hour day with two toddlers, I'm too tired to write. I'm hoping I can join a writing class again in Autumn - they're good for a kick start. I keep trying to convince myself that I'll get stuck in to writing, anything as long as it's words, when both kids get into free nursery and school. Perhaps there's a vanity to writing too. I can leave it for months, years, and then, I meet someone who tells me they liked a poem or story I wrote ages ago, and suddenly I want to do it again.
Brian Hamill
1. Your story Fighting appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
Fighting is partially based on real events, the first two parts are fictionalized accounts of things that actually did happen to me. I grew up in Airdrie in the 1990s, a Catholic living next door to a Protestant high school, so going to and from school was often a case of running the gauntlet. I think the area was a pretty violent place at that time, but I was never really physically cut out for fighting. I was not bad at running though. The third section of the story I just made up - fortunately I have never brutally assaulted anyone. I thought it was an interesting idea though; that being the force in a fight that produces the violence and pain could be more disturbing and traumatic than being the one who sustains it. And I wanted to write something short because I'd written a few longer pieces, and felt I needed a bit of variation. This story is best told with brevity anyway.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I don't really believe in completely rewriting something or doing multiple different drafts. I like the story to stay true to the flow and feeling of my original writing of it. If I don't think it stands up after my editing process, I ditch it and move on to something else.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
The Outsider by Camus is the best book I've read, but I'm not sure if I've been 'influenced'. In terms of style, I suppose I've picked up things from the people I read often. James Kelman, Duncan McLean, Denis Johnson, Tobias Wolff in terms of prose. I read a lot of short fiction, writers such as Flannery O'Connor and John Cheever, but I don't feel as though I'm being directly influenced by them. Maybe inspired.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
I don't like writing that I consider contrived. Many times I see stories/books lauded in the media as being subtle or skilful, but you can detect where the writer is being a bit inauthentic: trying to be profound or impressive or deft, rather than it just happening through the voice and/or interactions. That's the thing that puts me off most. When I read a great story by say Wolff or by Jackie Kay or any other writer I like, I don't get the impression that the writer is trying to impress me or trying to be very arch, despite the pieces being complex and funny and beautiful. There's no pretence with stories like those. Too often I read a story and the (intended) effectiveness or the (intended) meaning is too telegraphed; even though it's constructed to be quite the opposite. Also, I really like the statement made by James Kelman in an interview in 1973: 'A story can only be real if written through your own experience'. I like real stories, not fake ones.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
Matters Of Life And Death by Bernard MacLaverty.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I have been putting together my own collection for quite a while now, slowly but surely. In the near future, I hope to finish this and be happy with it. I've written a novella called The Revellers, and am working on another one called Lifeguard.
Clare Collins
1. Your story Stockholm appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
I was feeling restless and ended up going to see a matinee of Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami. It was shot on location in Tuscany and there was just something about my frame of mind that day and the atmosphere of the film that left me feeling strange. There was this one shot where Juliet Binoche was stood looking out of a window. She was back-lit and the camera lingered for what felt like ages, the whole film was beautifully shot but this one scene in particular stood out as stunning. I often think that film can capture in one sweep of the camera what writing would take a whole paragraph or more to try and describe, and decided I wanted to try and write that shot. That's how the story began but then it just went off its own way. It pretty much came out fully formed. I probably spent about an hour writing it and then did a bit of tweaking here and there. I was very aware of the musical quality of the language, and the editing was really just listening out for any wrong notes. It's probably the quickest and easiest story I've ever written, it sounds strange but I hardly had to do anything. It was like watching a slowed-down film in my head and I just wrote what I saw. I don't know why I changed the location from Tuscany to Stockholm, I guess I thought it would just say something a little different about the characters.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I think it's really important to write every day, although I'm not anywhere near that yet. Maybe one in every ten pieces I write is decent and the rest are rubbish, so if I write every day then I'll get three good pieces a month. I generally find that if I have an idea, or have to stop and think while I'm writing then the results won't be too good. But if I sit down to write and it flows it usually turns out fine. I used to write first thing in the morning before I did anything else, just any old stuff, and I think that was useful, I never got a good story from that writing but I think it kept me ticking over so when I did have something I could sit and write it much more easily.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
It's really difficult to know which if any of the things you absorb influence you, or whether they all do. For pure beauty of writing, I'd have to choose Samuel Beckett. Waiting for Godot was the first play I ever directed, working with the text day in and day out you get to know it well. It's just the best writing. You could be listening to a foreign language, only hearing the music of the words without needing to understand the meaning. Lyricism in writing is hard to achieve but if you can manage it then you're more than half way there. And in all his writing you're left with a feeling of what it's like to be human, with all the complications and uncertainties. I also find humour everywhere in his writing. I loved The Lagoon And Other Stories by the New Zealand writer Janet Frame. I discovered her through the film An Angel at my Table by Jane Campion. On the surface her stories are very simple, but they're teeming with life and feeling without clubbing you over the head with it. She has a great eye for detail and manages to never cross that line into over-description. I think of this book as full of wee gems. Her autobiographies are great too. In many ways I'm as influenced by film as I am by writing. I love French cinema, it's never afraid of emotions in the way some other cinema can be. And it's nearly always beautiful to look at. Writing can achieve visual beauty too, and with more freedom as to how it will be seen because it isn't as completely directed. That's something I'd love to be able to achieve, to create a beautiful picture through words. Paul Auster's City of Glass is a book that when I read it I thought, I wish I'd written that. It's such a clever complex book. There's so much to say about it, the writing is brilliant, it's structurally intriguing, you're pulled along by the action, it's one of the most dynamic books I've ever read. I'd never normally use the word 'sassy', but I'm thinking about it. As a whole it's a little uneven, but that doesn't seem to matter because when it's good, it's so good. Gilead by Marilynn Robinson is an amazing book. She has the ability to make you care about characters within a few pages, without it feeling like she is manipulating your emotions. The way she creates atmosphere and the character of a particular landscape are exceptional. You get totally absorbed into a world that feels real and unreal, so it's an unsettling feeling. I like reading philosophical novels like Nausea by Sartre. If you want to think about their ideas you can read their academic works but if you want to feel them then the novels can't be beaten. One of the current writers I'm most interesting in and excited by is Ali Smith. She is socially and politically charged, she casts a very individual eye over the world and she is technically amazing in terms of her skill with narrative techniques. You may not like everything she writes but you'll never be bored by her. I'm also a huge fan of Agatha Christie's novels. The other area that fascinates me is women in art. It's such a different story, just because it's less common. I probably read more biographies of intriguing women than anything else. The art and life of Tamara de Lempicka, of writers like Edna St Vincent Millay and Elinor Wylie, Anais Nin and Colette, actors Louise Brook, Vivienne Leigh, Ava Gardner. In photography I love Diane Arbus and Lee Miller. The list could go on forever. Great art is great art, but there can be something a little special when it's woman to woman.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
My background is theatre and the most important thing in that world is suspension of disbelief. You have to be willing to believe that what you are seeing is real. If at any point you can see the actor behind the character then it ruins it for the audience. I remember going to see Othello and a lit candle fell over on the stairs. Every single actor laboriously stepped over it, you could see them thinking, shit, shit, what do I do, oh I'll just pretend it hasn't happened. Whereas their character would surely have thought, oh, that candle's fallen over, I should pick it up before it burns something. I could see the actor instead of the character, my brain was being dragged back into the real world behind the created one and it becomes a contradiction. It's the same in fiction. I really don't like stories where the author keeps becoming visible instead of the character or narrator. It jars you out of your imagined world and it becomes tiring to have to keep forcing yourself back into believing. There are examples of writers showing themselves successfully (see Paul Auster below) but most of the time it is unintentional. The real skill for an author is in hiding. I also really dislike badly written prose. I'll read the first page of any book and if it's over-written, with too many flowery descriptions and pointless details or clunky sentences I can't bear to read on. I know it will only make me angry. A good story's fine, interesting characters are great, but if the writing they're presented with is horrible then I'm not willing to read it. I also want to be an active reader, to be able to work things out for myself and if the writer tells me everything then I just feel, what's the point? Fiction is a shared experience between the work and the reader, and if it's too one-sided then you end up feeling deprived or worse patronised - I don't want to be told everything. The only time for me that I don't get frustrated when I see the author's hand is when it's because an amazing sentence has stopped me in my tracks. I have to absorb it and almost just stand and stare. So it kind of halts the progress of the story but I don't care because it's such a stunning sentence or observation that it requires you to stop. A detail in a cathedral could have the same effect without ruining the experience of viewing it as a whole and it's the same with fiction. The first writer whoever did this to me was Nabokov when I was a teenager.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
The last book I read and loved was B S Johnson's The Unfortunates. It's a phenomenal book. You can almost touch its muscles and veins, it's so alive. The thing I love about Johnson is that he manages to be experimental and real at the same time. There aren't too many writers who could play around with form so much and still be utterly readable. And you never feel he's doing it for the sake of it, he does it because it was the only way that particular story could be told. He's fascinating. The Unfortunates is one of the most human books I've ever read. I think I just sat in awed silence for an hour after I'd finished it. I love his film Fat Man On A Beach too - it's hugely flawed and fails in lots of ways but I think that's why I like it.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I'm still learning about writing and have got a long way to go. At the minute I'm writing short short stories and also lots of fragments. Maybe they'll develop at a later date, maybe not. I have a couple of ideas for novels too, one of them set in a theatre in Glasgow that doesn't exist anymore, using the world of theatre opens up so many possibilities. At the minute it's still bubbling away under the surface. It needs a certain narrative structure and I'm not sure what that will be yet, but it'll come out when it's ready.
Frankie Gault
1. Your story The Angina, appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
If I may be conceited, when I began writing the piece I thought that it might work as a stage play, four beds in a hospital ward and on stage a light would illuminate each speaker leaving the other three in darkness. I thought about four men with totally different life experiences, each telling his own story in a way which would, perhaps, paint a picture of contemporary Scotland. It wasn't too long though, before I realized that I was confusing ambition with talent, and decided to take Carver's advice and get out at the nearest available exit. I wrote the piece in a day, and I didn't think there was anything else to say after Christine spoke.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
If I'm working on an ongoing project then I've usually got a fair idea where things are going, though things can and do change quickly. Sometimes though, an idea shows up and I give it some thought before forgetting about it. If, after some time, the idea comes back and seems to show promise I'll say 'Hmm, you've got an itch here Frankie, maybe you better scratch it'. Of course, it doesn't mean to say the piece will be any good, but it makes me wonder about instinct, and if maybe it's worth following.

3. What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
Sometimes it isn't artistic people who inspire me. Sometimes it's the art of the ordinary. Whenever I am in Glasgow I try to look at as many faces as I can. The busier the streets, the better it feels. I know it sounds corny, but every face is a story. I also feel that I haven't written enough material to sit back and say, well, this reads like so and so. Also, I think that if I name a well-known writer, then I may subconsciously try to write like them, impersonate them if you like. If people read my work and put someone's name to it, then that's up to them, but don't ask me to. In fact, if people simply read my work, then that's fine. If I had to name someone, then I am drawn to a quote from Steinbeck when asked how he managed to write such wonderful stories. Steinbeck modestly replied that 'I just open the pages, and the stories crawl in by themselves.'

4. What type(s) of writing don't you like?
My own, mostly. If I may use a swimming pool analogy, then as far as writing is concerned I am tip-toeing gingerly in to the shallow end. In fact, scratch that, I am still in the changing rooms, or even out on the street, nose pressed against the glass.

5. What was the last book you read and loved?
Since I am hoping to write short stories that focus not so much about what people do, rather why they do it, I will kick off with compilations by Kelman, Carver and Annie Proulx. And I have always loved how Steinbeck managed to arouse compassion in the reader without the writing verging on the sentimental. The ordinary people masterpieces.

6. What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
My main project is a coming-of-age story called The Snowdroppers. I have written five chapters, each spanning about eighteen months in the young life of only child Hughie Irvine. When we first meet him he is fourteen years old, his Mother has left home, his Father struggles to cope and their electricity has been cut off. 'Snowdropping' was the name given to stealing clothes from washing lines. It was a fad among the youth in the mid-1970s. In this story it is a rite of passage for Hughie to make it into the upper echelons of a street gang. The opening chapter is called The Blackhill Illuminations. This is where we first meet Hughie, and find out how he is filled with insecurities regarding his peers. We also see how he copes with an errant Father, a Mother who has disappeared, and how they use their imagination in order to light and heat their home. Another project is The Parkhill Hunger Ballads. These stories are about my childhood, growing up in Port Glasgow a small shipyard town on the lower reaches of the River Clyde. I thought back as far as I could, tried to remember the people I came into contact with, and thought about their lives. Then it occurred to me that there was a theme connecting everyone. They were all hungry. But their hunger was for different things. The opening story tells of John, a young lad whose hunger for knowledge and desire for further education is thwarted by being the eldest in a large family. His dreams are crushed in the sights, sounds and smells of the shipyards. When you are a novice writer, you are always told to write about what you know. For me, this means many, many years of alcohol abuse and many years spent behind bars. From the age of seventeen until twenty-nine I served time in various Young Offenders Institutions, borstal, and finally adult prison, in England as well as Scotland. While I'm not proud of my behaviour, I'm philosophical enough to recognize I deserved my many sentences. There were some hard luck stories, and some of the arrests (especially those by local police officers in the 70s) were shameful. I have to say though, that a lot of the newspaper reports about me were just about on the money. I'm not sure if I'm ready to write about those years yet. Not because I'm ashamed, I am, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it (there were always people available to do that on behalf of society) but it's because I want to be a better writer by then. I have always said that my stories are great, but they are often let down by my writing. I know that I can never air-brush my history, and to be honest, I don't see the need. If I write about my jail years then I have a working title, something along the lines of 'Thug 18-30'. When I started drinking at the age of fourteen, I thought it was the best thing I had ever done in my life. When I stopped drinking at the age of forty-eight I also thought it was the best thing I had ever done in my life. The only time I never laughed while I was drinking, was the last three or four years before I stopped. I was blessed with my Mother's sense of humour; something which I am dearly fond of. Since I stopped drinking it has returned and my focus has sharpened, so I guess it's all good. I have a million stories about drink and drinkers, some funny and some tragic, but as long as I can be as honest as I can, then it won't matter if the only person who reads them is me.
Joe Murphy
1. Your story Nail appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
We were on a job through in Edinburgh and the guy I work with hurt his hand, although not as badly as in the story. I thought the incident could be a good starting point for something, so I wrote down a couple of opening lines and put them aside. I think I went back to it a few weeks later and just started writing off those sentences. No plan or anything, just the incident and a vague notion that the character was probably a younger guy. I would have finished a rough, long-hand draft to get the overall shape then typed it up, editing as I went. That draft sat untouched on my computer for months, because although there were things I liked about it, the ending didn't work. I don't think it actually had an ending. But I decided to show it to some people just to see what they thought, and before I handed it over I went through it again to try and fix some of the weaker bits and the most important thing I was able to do was write a decent ending. I was much happier with the piece after that because I felt it made sense and worked as a complete story, rather than an almost-story, which is what it had been up to that point.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I find it almost impossible to have any sort of sustained thought about writing while I'm working nine to five. The only time I think properly about it is when I'm actually writing. That works well for me though, because whenever my brain starts trying to sketch things out too far ahead the results are usually pretty bad. I'm not into planning. It makes everything feel constrained and predictable. I need small unexpected things to happen because these are the moments that make me start to believe in a story as an entity, something that exists independently of me. These things happen less when I plan. One thing I can do when I'm working is come up with decent opening sentences. I'll put these all down in a notebook so that next time I'm starting something new I can flick through and find something I like. I suppose then I just wait and see what suggests itself and try to keep the pen moving. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but with all those opening lines at least I've always got a way of getting started. I write the first draft out long-hand, as fast as I can manage, to try and sustain the feel and to get the overall shape. Then I'll type it up and edit as I go, try to tighten it all up a bit. Then it's just re-drafts and getting opinions (and full edits if I'm lucky) from people I trust.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
When I was younger I read loads of Hemingway short stories. I was initially attracted to their (perceived) exoticism, but after a while I started to really appreciate his style, the precision of it, the total mastery and control of language, and how important the unspoken is to his work. It makes sense that now, years later I love guys like Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff because they are, to some extent, a continuation of that tradition. It's all about character and voice, rather than anything plotted or 'tricksy.' Henry Miller made a big impact for different reasons, mainly because of the attitudes toward work and life I found in the Tropics and the Rosy Crucifixion books, and the great heroic pulse that runs through them all. I can't remember who it was who said good writing needs a pulse, but for me that's absolutely true. I don't really have one major influence. People come in or move out at different times. What I've read of Coetzee has been great, especially Disgrace, Junot Diaz' Drown was a revelation, Kelman is always there, as is Chekhov, Flannery O'Conner. I like loads of writers but it's hard to say how many are actually 'an influence.' For instance I love some of Kerouac's books and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I would never try to write like them.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
I don't really read genre fiction. I used to when I was a kid but I think I grew out of it. I can't get past the structure, the level of artifice it requires in terms of plot. I'm not into books that are driven by 'story' in that way. I view that stuff as escapism I suppose, a sort of leisure pursuit or a hobby. I'm not against those sorts of books, they just don't hold much interest for me. I don't read fiction to escape from anything. In fact I'd say the opposite is true; I think important writing is about confronting things, and to do that seriously I don't think you can be working within the constraints of genre. I think finding the most effective way to tell a particular story is something to strive for, and by that I mean allowing the characters as much power as possible. I hate writing that seems to exist only to allow an author to express his own views on certain things. For me, that's not imaginative exploration, it's something closer in spirit to propaganda. I also don't care for writing which functions as some kind of stylistic exercise, a way for the author to showcase his vocabulary or mastery of grammar or keen eye for detail. For me, that stuff lacks heart. If you can't edit your own ego out of something after a certain age, then as far as I'm concerned you may as well pack it in. I don't like writing that over-explains everything, or provides too much unnecessary detail. There has to be space for the reader. For me, good writing becomes an original creation in the head of the reader - the reader is creatively engaged by the marks on the page. How are you supposed be creatively engaged in this way if you are being provided with every detail about every character? That's something that recurs a lot in genre writing, the endless backstory and explanation of motives. I think it's generally good practice to assume that your reader is not an idiot. I think that's probably a good starting point.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
Someone recommended the Junot Diaz collection Drown to me and I loved that right away. It's just a brilliant example of all the things I like about writing; there's a music to the prose that has nothing to do with high-register language, a naturalness and compactness achieved through spoken rather than written word. It doesn't try to over-explain anything or manoeuvre the reader into any particular position. The characters are deeply real and human and to me it just feels very carefully written and honest. I think that's a hard combination to beat.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I'm working on various short stories at the moment and trying to get up the nerve to return to a longer piece I had started writing, but which stalled for reasons I won't bore you with.
Lynnda Wardle
1. Your story Meatloaf appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
The 1970s and 80s in South Africa were a strange time to be growing up. White kids were insulated from what was going on in the rest of the world and most of all from what was happening in their own country. The media was controlled and censored and the SABC filtered all our information. We believed we were special and chosen. We believed the threat of communism and terrorism to be utterly real. We were under siege. I never had much contact with black people in any meaningful way other than as people who cleaned houses and offices and tidied gardens. In Meatloaf I was trying to capture some of the atmosphere through the eyes of a teenager caught in this historic limbo, waiting for a revolution that she could not yet imagine. This story is true and also complete fiction; like anything we ever write about ourselves. Nothing in this story could have happened in exactly this way. I was not after an autobiographical truth but rather a feeling of the time seen through a particular character's eyes.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
If there is a conscious process it is about something that draws me in. In the case of this story it was the first sentence which was in my head and sounded good and solid enough to open a story. Sometimes it is a word, sometimes a phrase or sometimes the way someone else tells a story that hooks me in. At any rate, I think we seem unduly interested in the way authors write. I find it interesting and then sometimes very dull, this fascination I have with the writing process of authors I admire. It is like those pictures that The Guardian used to have of writers' studies, as though by pouring over these images we could learn something about the writing process itself. Writing about how one writes is another story about ourselves and shouldn't be relied on as a truthful account of anything.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
I like to read and re-read the short stories of John McGahern, William Trevor, Anne Enright, Hemingway, Tolstoy and Kafka. I think McGahern's story Sierra Leone is the story I would love to write if I was ever able to. The authors I most admire for technical brilliance are Camus, Kelman and JM Coetzee. I love the work of Richard Ford and essays of Jonathan Raban for capturing the feeling of America in the 21st century.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
Any writing that glamourizes the excesses of capitalism in a non-ironic way. Most popular fiction does this by namedropping, product labelling and glorifying consumption. Related to this would be fiction that accepts cultural stereotypes at face value (Scottish fiction that embraces the couthy and tartan kitsch, African fiction that insists on purpling sunsets across hibiscus skies with the smell of jasmine and plantains). I dislike any writing that pretends that language is some kind of invisible cling-wrap for a 'good story.' I think this is deceitful and usually very boring to read.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
I have just finished reading A Chancer by James Kelman. I love the way that he never judges his characters and is uninterested in a character's motivation. I found that very intriguing. However the last book I read that I really loved was All Made Up by Janice Galloway, the follow-up to This Is Not About Me.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
At the moment I am writing a longer piece set in South Africa in the 1960s and 70s. It is similar to Meatloaf in that it uses some autobiographical detail but in a fictional way.
Maurice O'Brien
1. Your story The Funeral Tip appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
It's based on a particular memory I have from my days as an altar boy serving at funerals, which is still very clear. Perhaps even more so now, given how rarely I go inside a church. I didn't really make that much up. Going to strangers' funerals once a fortnight could be quite a heavy experience to deal with when you're only nine or ten. It forces you to confront death quite early on. But at that age you're just as concerned with trying to somehow make it fun in your own way. As usual the rough form of it came spilling out in a few goes, just slapping words and thoughts on the page in my scrawled long-hand. The actual process of cutting it down, weighing each word, took much longer. It's probably one of the first pieces I've written which I'm fairly happy with, and it really showed me the value of chipping away at a story. It's amazing how taking out a word here and there can really strengthen the foundations. The piece was originally submitted to my most trusted audience - the regular Tuesday night writing class I attend at Glasgow Uni. In fact, to date they've been pretty much my only audience. I finally decided I had tinkered enough with commas and sent it off. 'The Master' really does exist and is still teaching students today, though I would wager with not quite as much violence. Despite his faults he was one of the best teachers I ever had.

2.Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I would love to be a daily writer, someone with the discipline to hit a certain amount of words each day, day after day. And sometimes I do. But most of the time other parts of life take over. At the moment I barely have time to keep my journal up to date, which I promise to myself is essential so that I can go back and mine it for future stories. I tend to write in splurges; guilty and desperate to catch up. I try and take notes and jot down ideas as much as possible, on a scrap of paper or as a draft text message. These are often overheard snippets of conversation or little character sketches of people that catch my eye. I still believe everything that happens, however small, might someday, somehow, end up getting used in a story. It's the one source of hope when I'm waiting at a bus stop getting drenched in the rain. Having deadlines, and people to show my work to, is key. Otherwise I would just stockpile loads of disconnected nuggets which I love passionately for a day but then re-read and decide they're shite and not worth bothering with. That's why finding the Tuesday night class was a real breakthrough. It forces you to produce work and lose the fear of actually showing it to people while it's still under construction.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
Too many to mention. I consciously try to read widely to avoid any one writer having too much of an influence. But of course certain people just seep into your brain. Being a former journalist, the gonzo style of Lester Bangs and Hunter S Thompson really appealed to me when I was younger. But so did the sheer 'matter of factness' of Orwell. I love the spareness of Carver as well as the stream of consciousness of Joyce. The raw energy of Kerouac, as well as the everyday poetry of the likes of John McGahern and Patrick Kavanagh; the amount of emotion these men could infuse in the details of Irish rural life. Another personal favourite is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as Indian writers like Rohinton Mistry whose focus on detail makes me despair of my own ability at times.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
Even shit writers can teach you things. But basically anything that doesn't make you think or feel is a bit pointless. There is plenty of rubbish on TV if you just want to zone your brain out. I want something more from a book.
5.What was the last book you read and loved?
I'm terrible for having five or six books on the go at any one time, starting one and then flitting on to something else I wasn't able to resist in a bookshop. One book I'm reading at the moment is Londoners, a series of tightly sketched monologues drawn by Craig Taylor formed from real people describing their lives in the city. It's oral history really, but with a brilliant ear for dialogue and the most spare character description imaginable. He gives a real sense of people through their small tics. Unsurprisingly he's also a playwright. The other is Hilary Mantel's Bring up the Bodies. It's a real blockbuster of a historical novel, entertaining but incredibly clever. As a character study it's phenomenal.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
At the moment I'm merely practising survival writing - getting down a few paragraphs here and there when I can. I console myself by reading as much as possible though it often makes me feel worse for not doing more of my own. But I have rough drafts for a few short stories, which might become a book, which might just become a trilogy. Though right now I'd be more than happy with just a single story, or even an almost perfect paragraph.
Alan McMunnigall
1.Your story Gravedigger appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
On a bus many years ago I overheard two people discussing how unionised the profession of gravedigging was. I had a notepad and jotted down a few details they mentioned. When I got home I wrote a draft of the story very quickly. It's loosely based on The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson. I have always appreciated the direct prose of that story and the movements it contains. For example, there is incredible power in sentences such as 'They began digging up the grave. After only twenty minutes they reached the coffin'. Originally my story was much longer and had a different title. At the time Tom Leonard was editing some of my work and he suggested the long opening which established the concept could be cut, with the title 'Gravedigger' doing the job instead. Likewise there was a lengthy conclusion to the story that focused on the main character years later. This ending was cut completely and the decision made to end the story at a more dramatic point without any overt resolution. As a footnote, at the time of writing, I was listening to the song Fisherman by The Congos and so the band made their way into the story.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I try not to plan anything, but instead follow the characters and see what they do. So it's an act of watching and listening rather than imposing anything on the characters or the story.

3. What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
My favourite writers are James Joyce and Bob Dylan. I discovered Joyce's work when I was sixteen and for me no other prose writer comes close to his artistry. Dylan is a musical genius. I listen to his work every day. I'm also influenced by (amongst many others) Franz Kafka, Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Derek Jarman, Raymond Carver, James Kelman, Hank Williams, Alasdair Gray, Jerry Dammers, Junichiro Tanizaki, Tom Leonard, Sam Selvon, Thomas Healy, Shelagh Delaney, Bernard MacLaverty, Morrissey, Alice Munro, Amy Hempel, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Tobais Wolff, Emmett Grogan, Jens Lekman, Laura Hird, Jean-Luc Godard, Margaret Atwood, Jorge Luis Borges, Junot Diaz, Grace Paley, Gustave Flaubert, Charlotte Bronte, David Gedge, Jose Saramago, Albert Camus, Ingmar Bergman, J.M. Coetzee, Stephin Merritt, John-Paul Sartre, Mark E. Smith, Noam Chomsky, Sorley MacLean, Alan Clarke, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Scott Walker, Norman MacCaig, Miles Davis, Charles Bukowski, Francois Truffaut, David Bowie, Bill Forsyth, John McGahern, Katherine Mansfield, W.B. Yeats, J Mascis, Annie Proulx, Nicolai Gogol, Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Smith, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Agnes Owens, Tim Hardin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Duncan McLean, Thomas Hardy, William Blake, Charles Dickens, Flannery O'Connor, Anton Chekhov, Jean Rhys, Patti Smith, Haruki Murakami, Sherwood Anderson, Edith Wharton, Emile Zola, Tom Waits, William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, Guy De Maupassant, Allen Ginsberg, Hjalmar Soderberg, Lu Hsun, Edward Said, John Coltrane, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bill Douglas. The series One Summer shown on Channel 4 in the 1980s is a formative, major and enduring influence on me.

4. What type(s) of writing don't you like?
Writing that leaves no room for the reader, or writing that patronises the reader. I dislike exposition and over-writing. And I hate writing that reinforces hierarchy or the class system. A lot of bland writing gets promoted in bookshops, newspapers and reviews simply because (knowingly or unknowingly) the writer implicitly supports inequality and the continuation of the status quo. I'm adverse to writing that doesn't sound good in terms of music or voice. For me, sound is the single most important element of writing.

5. What was the last book you read and loved?
Still on the Road: Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2008 by Clinton Heylin. While Heylin has his flaws as a writer he is still the most passionate and readable critic on the art of Bob Dylan.

6. What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I'm currently writing a screenplay and plan to write more short stories.
Lewis Gordon
1. Your story Gargoyles appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
I had been struggling to write anything whatsoever and had just read Raymond Carver's story Cathedral for the first time, seeking inspiration. For some reason I was struck by the image of a gargoyle, despite it playing no real significance in Carver's story. I've re-read it and notice the word is given its own sentence. 'Gargoyles.' Subconsciously, it may be something to do with that. This led me to scribble out the opening scene and my story took off from there. For a while I wrestled with the ending and how to explain the two characters' relationship and backstory, but then I realised the story was stronger if I didn't bother. I edited it, stripping out many details and some scenes. I still wasn't quite convinced. Originally the female character was written in third person. When I tried shifting into the second person it all seemed to fall into place. I wanted to make the passive-aggressive nature of the narrator very clear. As I explained to my wife the first time she read it, this story was not based on actual events.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I just try to get it done. Sometimes I have to go off elsewhere with a notepad, other times it works better if I just bash it straight into the computer. The most difficult part for me is getting started on an interesting idea that I can sustain for a whole story. Once I finish something I'm constantly frightened that another one won't come along. I try to be disciplined with myself, but then often find I get on better with a more haphazard approach.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
I really admire Kurt Vonnegut, although I wouldn't know how to begin writing the way he does. I've only recently been introduced to Raymond Carver and have found him very influential. In many ways I wish I'd discovered him earlier in life. No one taught me you could write like that at school. I am also a big fan of Bill Drummond's books and find the way he goes about his work with such determination and independence very inspiring.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
At the moment I am desperately trying to get out of the habit of writing in an 'over-authorly' style. I have become very conscious of it in other work.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
Disgrace by J.M Coetzee

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I have been working on a couple of stories to accompany Gargoyles. I didn't go about this intentionally, but after writing them they seem to fit together well. I would like to do something with the three stories but am currently not sure what this is. I am also working on developing longer stories, as I've recently felt stranded at a certain word count.
Michael Gribbin
1. Your story Ye Think So appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
Ye Think So was pretty much an actual event that happened to me in my teenage years, but there are parts of the story that didn't happen. The reason behind me writing it was purely as an exercise as I hadn't been writing so much. It only took me a couple of hours to write but it took a while to edit.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I prefer to just start with an idea, maybe a setting or a character then I just type away. As I'm writing the story I also feel like a reader as each line goes by I don't really know what's coming next.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
I would have to say Irvine Welsh has influenced me the most. The way he constructs his short stories, and the movement within them is something I often try to emulate. Laura Hird is another influence.

4.What type(s) of writing don't you like?
I'm not a fan of long paragraphs, or overly descriptive writing. Some writers try to be too poetic in their stories, whereas I like to keep it simple.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
The last book I read and loved was The Acid House by Irvine Welsh.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
I'm not really working on anything at the moment, I have a few ideas flying around though. I'm just hoping that I can keep on writing no matter what type of stories they may be.
Stuart Blackwood
1. Your story Pauvre Maman appears in issue one of thi wurd. Can you tell us about this particular piece?
I'd been trying to work on a longer piece but it was such a complete slog that I decided to write a short story. I've written a lot of stories like that. I don't remember how long it took to write, but it would have been over a day or two. Thinking about the characters and rearranging the words. I've certainly been in that doctor's waiting room a few times, but like anything else it's just a reflection of how I was feeling at the time. I'd like to be able to do something more 'planned' but it isn't happening just now. I suspect the characters are just expressing my frustration at all the nonsense in the news at the moment.

2. Can you tell us anything about your process in terms of writing fiction?
I just write until I've got a bit of a flow and then go with it, then edit it down. As soon as I get an idea I start scene setting and it's awful. For a long time I wrote at least five hundred words a day, just anything. I stopped during a bout of tinnitus and haven't managed to start again. I keep a pile of books next to me when I'm writing and open them at random pages when the panic sets in. Raymond Carver is handy because he's so calm.

3.What writers and artists do you feel have influenced your work?
George Orwell was the only person I read as a child who seemed to be writing about his experience of the world truthfully, putting aside the politics. So I used to read a lot of crime autobiographies. And Philip K Dick, because you could identify with him. John Fante I read all the time, over and over. Pete Shelley, Morrissey, the Motown writers, Neil Young, The Outsider, some American 20th century things. Brighton Rock. Billy Bragg was fantastic to me. Hysteria, I suppose. Charles Bukowski, although I avoided him for years when I was drinking. Most books I try to read and give up, to be honest. I love British sitcoms and stuff like Alan Bleasdale. John Sullivan at his best was incredible.

4.What type(s) of writing don?t you like?
I hate Martin Amis, Will Self, all that stuff. Lionel Shriver, I just don't understand it. Bono - big issue thematic pomp.

5.What was the last book you read and loved?
Brotherhood of the Grape. I've read it so many times. And Journey to the End of the Night, which I finally got around to. I don't know how he managed it. Amazing.

6.What are you working on at the moment? And what are you hoping to write in the near future?
Short stories. I'm working on some longer pieces, but I know I have a long way to go. I'm happy with that.











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