Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[Featured Author] Azam Gill

The Warrior Bard
By Alexander James

Azam Gill is a writer and a warrior. And his thrillers are based on first-hand experience of front line fighting, covert commando operations, under-cover intelligence work … and on a seemingly incongruous lifetime’s love-story with literature, study and teaching.

Now a French citizen, Gill was born in Pakistan, the son of a renowned jurist father and a talented playwright mother. He is fluent in several languages, but it is in English that he writes his novels. He was educated in English schools and colleges run by British and Americans and he gained his BA from Forman Christian College of the Punjab University in English literature and Political Science.

Accepted as a ‘gentleman cadet’ at the Pakistan Military Academy, he passed out among the top 10% of his graduation year and was commissioned to a light infantry battalion of the Punjab Regiment in Kashmir. He also won his paratrooper’s wings.

In Kashmir, one of the world’s flash-points, Gill and his troops lived in underground earthen bunkers, crossing snake- and rain-filled crawl trenches and minefields as part of daily routine. The Kashmir border is known for a war of attrition involving intensive patrolling, fire fights, artillery duels ... and a chilling casualty rate.

He served as Intelligence Officer, Company Commander and Regimental Adjutant and was also in charge of the crossing of spies through his sector.
It was all vital experience for the kind of novels I wanted to produce. I earned the right to become a thriller writer the hard way … I suppose you could say I wouldn’t ask my lead character do anything I couldn’t do myself.
Gill received a Master’s in English Language and Literature from the Punjab University and published a pamphlet, Jail Reforms, and a book, Army Reforms. Although Jail Reforms was on the syllabus of the Prisons Training Academy, both books were seized and burnt by the authorities.

He said:
I was angered by what I saw around me and the best weapon available to me was the pen. The trouble was, the enemy was more heavily armed.
One of his former instructors was the late President Zia ul Haq’s private secretary. He called Gill to Islamabad and warned him that he should immediately leave the country before his imminent arrest for angering the authorities by his writing.

Harassed, seeking protection and a new life, Gill decided to take the advice – he followed in the footsteps of beggars and princes who have served in the ranks of the tough French Foreign Légion.

After basic training, he was posted to the 1er Régiment Etranger de Cavalérie and became the first Légionnaire to gain a PhD, which he received from Grenoble University.

At the end of his Légion contract, which added a wealth of experience to his writer’s arsenal, Gill worked as a language teacher and became a lecturer at Grenoble University’s Polytechnic. He was then seconded to the French Navy, where he taught English.

He never laid down the pen during this busy period and wrote a monthly column on Geopolitics for The National Educator, a Californian monthly paper. His political articles were published in non-fiction book form under the title Winds of Change: Geopolitics and the World Order (IUniverse, 2001).

Gill explained:
I needed to express myself to a wider readership than I could reach with my more academic work, so I turned my hand to fiction … and it worked!

Rather than stating hard facts and opinions, I learned to make them apply to characters that came to life on the page.

Readers could relate to the people I created and hear what I had to say by following them through gripping stories of love and hate and triumph and disaster.

Fiction is a wonderful medium.
His first novel, Blood Money, was published by UK-based BeWrite Books and was closely followed by Flight to Pakistan, also by BeWrite Books.

He said:
I was motivated by the horror of Islamic terrorism and its covert funding in the west. All I needed was a hero and a gripping plot, so I created a character who was a battle-hardened Foreign Legionnaire and drew on a lifetime of experience to bring the scenes to life.

Some of the seemingly wildest people, places and situations in my books are 100 percent real. I’ve met them, I’ve been there and I’ve done it!

I wanted the book to be absolutely realistic, so I also put in a lot of extra research – and it turned up other facts much stranger than fiction.

I was working full time when I wrote the novels, but I set myself word-targets to meet and the pages seemed to fill themselves.

BeWrite Books saw potential in the first manuscript, Blood Money, and I worked closely with one of their editors, Neil Marr, for three or four months, pruning, rewriting and even adding passages until the book was ready to go.

My second BeWrite Books novel, Flight to Pakistan, came more easily because I’d by then had a grounding in fiction. Again, though, there was the guidance of another seasoned BB editor, Hugh McCracken, to see the work through to publication.

Much of the editing process involves curbing my enthusiasm for providing lavish detail. It’s the teacher in me.

The editing process itself is an experience no writer should miss. The BeWrite Books team is pretty spread out with its professional editors and admin and technical staff in France, Germany, Canada and the US, so everything was handled by email and telephone. It’s a tremendously streamlined and efficient way to work.

When I took my family to meet some of them at a get-together in the French Alps – it was between the two books – I found that they were just as passionate about my work as I am myself. Neil Marr was there, Cait Myers, the publisher, and Neil’s son, Alex, who handles the technical side of things. We talked books, politics, religion, French cheeses and what have you until the sun came up again.
Gill now has two other novels in the pipeline and has no plans to ever stop writing in spite of a heavy day job schedule and hobbies that include cooking, swimming and French Savate Boxing.

In his 40s, he lives in France with his wife and three young children.

He said:
We have a lively family life, but the children are wonderful – they know when I’m at work writing and leave me in peace.
Gill – informally, he prefers his French-sounding surname to his first name, Azam – is one of several new names in fiction to find the answer to the closed-door policy of major publishing houses in a handful of editorially driven independent small publishing houses whose main sales outlet is the Internet.

He said:
Even the small presses are swamped with submissions. But at least they’re open to as proposal from an author who isn’t exactly a household name. And the entire process is thoroughly professional.
This interview first appeared in Twisted Tongue Magazine

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

[Interview] Eric S. Brown

North Carolina resident, Eric S. Brown writes horror short stories and novels.

His work has been featured in a number of anthologies, among them, Dead Worlds I, II, III, and V; The Blackest Death I and II; The Undead I and II; Dead History (Permuted Press, 2007) as well as Zombology I and II.

His books include Space Stations and Graveyards (Double Dragon, 2003); Madmen’s Dreams (Permuted Press, 2005); Zombies: Inhuman (Naked Snake Books, 2007) and Tandem of Terror (Library of Horror, 2010).

Brown is also part of the collaborative zombie novel effort from Pill Hill Press, Undead, Kansas and contributes an ongoing column on the world of comic books for Abandoned Towers magazine.

In this interview, Eric S. Brown talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I was just a little kid. Even when I was tiny, I loved horror. The first thing I remember doing is a rewrite of Halloween 3 because I couldn't live with the fact that it had no Mike Myers.

I decided I want to be a writer in second grade but didn't start trying to get published until I was 26. I started out like most folks I would think. I bought a copy of the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market guide and went about sending out tales.

How would you describe your writing?

My writing is pretty much the love of a fan of horror, science fiction and comic books trying to give back to those genres and write the stuff folks want to see.

I am known for zombies and have written a lot in that genre from Season of Rot (Permuted Press, nominated for a Dead Letter Award) to War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies (picked up by Simon and Schuster and set for a new release later this year).

But I write a lot of other stuff too ... from things like Bigfoot War (which plays off my own childhood fears of Bigfoot) to How the West Went to Hell (which is a demon-plague end-of-the-world story set in the Old West).

My target audience is anyone who loves horror, zombies and such and is looking for a fun and good read.

Like I said, I think of myself as a fan more than a writer and am just trying to write the things I think fans want to see that I know I do.

Which authors influenced you most?

Jon Maberry (Doomwar from Marvel Comics) is a hero of mine and has helped me a lot. David Dunwoody (Empire) is a dear friend as well.

I would say my influences though are H. P. Lovecraft, George Romero, and David Drake.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concern is that my work is entertaining and fun to read.

I don't try to be all literary and highbrow. I just want my readers to enjoy a good story and hopefully be scared by it.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I did a book called World War of the Dead (Coscom Entertainment) that is a Christian zombie novel because I myself am a Christian and Bigfoot War is literally the Bigfoot movie I also wanted to see as a fan.

As a writer, what are the biggest challenges that you face?

I tend to take on too many projects.

I had eight books published last year, will have nine this year, and already have a new one (The Brethren of the Dead) from Sonar 4 Publications due out in 2011.

In addition to this, I do numerous tales for anthologies and such as well as juggle columns, a four-year-old son, and real world life.

I am still learning to juggle everything as I go.

How many books have you written so far?

I will not be listing anything written by my pen names but Eric S. Brown has written the books that include:


I also edited the anthology The Wolves of War for Library of Horror Press in 2009.

My pending titles include:

  • Kinberra Down (Pill Hill Press),
  • Undead Down Under (Pill Hill Press),
  • Anti-Heroes (Library of the Living Dead Press's SF imprint),
  • War of the Worlds Plus Blood Guts and Zombies- the mass market edition (Simon and Schuster),
  • The Weaponer (Coscom),
  • The Human Experiment (Sonar 4 Publications), and
  • Brethren of the Dead (Sonar 4 Publications).

And in the very beginning of my career I had eight small press chapbooks published including titles Zombies: The War Stories, Flashes of Death, Blood Rain, Still Dead, etc.

Do you write everyday?

I do write everyday. I have so many deadlines I have to. It's all pretty much random. I always do at least 1,000 words a day.

How long did you choose a publisher for Bigfoot War?

My last book to be released was Bigfoot War. I already had a multi-book deal in place with Coscom and they agreed to let me bring my vision of Sasquatch terror to print.

The book I am currently working on is The Brethren of the Dead for Sonar 4 Publications and is a direct sequel to my tale, "The Queen" which was reprinted in Season of Rot.

Which aspects of this work do you enjoy most?

I love being a writer because it's been a lifelong dream of mine. It's awesome to make up tales of the end of the world and get paid for it.

What will your next book be about?

My next book that I am writing, The Brethren of the Dead, is a mix of pirates and zombies on the waves of the ocean dueling it out in a post apocalyptic world.

This world was established in my novella "The Queen" from Season of Rot and is a fan favorite among my work. I am excited about revisiting this world and playing up the pirate element that fits so naturally into it.

Sonar 4 Publications is also releasing my superhero novel, The Human Experiment which is the origin story of my character Agent Death who is also featured in the book Anti-Heroes both due out later this year.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Just being a writer.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

[Interview] Danie Nel

South African commercial photographer and a writer, Danie Nel has some poems that have been featured in the poetry anthology, The Colors of Life (Watermark Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on Notsoreallifestory, a blog novel he describes as "a take on the alter ego interaction storyline, but with a different slant and angle on it."

In this interview, Danie Nel talks about his writing:

When did you start writing?

I realized I enjoy writing in primary school as part of our creative writing assignments and, having been an avid reader since I could read, I suppose that has always fuelled the fires of creativity for me.

I’ve been writing songs, and lyrics, since I was 18, and have penned a few poems. However, working as a professional photographer has put me in contact with writers, journalists and novelists, and their enthusiasm for their craft has rubbed off on me.

Only my poems have been published in a collection of works called The Colors of Life, and was included after I entered a competition.

As for my creative writing, I only recently really started writing again, and decided that the blog-model works for me, and I’d rather earn my money through advertising programs, and focus on writing what I want, how I want to, and when I want to, without publisher’s demands. I also use the comments section to get readers to interact with me, and rather have the end-user influence my writing, and not the money man!

How would you describe your writing?

Free, quirky, strong storyline, suspense and humour is a must. It would probably fall into the category of humorous drama.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone with a sense of irony, who loves reading easily and loves to chuckle at life. I’m like that.

Which authors influenced you most?

Stephen King’s humour and limitless imagination. Also, he has amazing flow.

Michael Cunningham is just poetic and has the most beautiful writing style.

Bryce Courtenay for sheer story. Koos A Kombuis for his humour, descriptive ability and flow. Bill Bryson, for knowing how to communicate the oddities that we all notice, just don’t seem to remember.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing in any way?

Probably. We can only put out versions of information we ourselves have gathered and processed.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

That I will bore the reader with obvious plots, obvious humour and no surprises. I try and surprise myself.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

Time to write.

Do you write everyday?

I write weekly. I normally write late at night, after the family’s gone to bed. It ends when I fall asleep!

How many books have you written so far?

None.

I’m writing a story called Notsoreallifestory, in the blog format. It’s about a man who wakes up to a voice in his head one day. It’s a take on the alter ego interaction storyline, but with a different slant and angle on it.

Which aspects of the work do you find most difficult?

Dialogue.

Dialogue is a spontaneous process, and recreating proper and good dialogue is difficult.

I repeat the dialogue aloud to myself, and if it seems fake, or makes me cringe, I change it.

Which do you enjoy most?

Reading my story.

When writing flows, and I re-read my efforts, it’s amazing to see that I’ve opened up doors in my imagination that I haven’t noticed before. Or I realize I think differently about things than I thought I do.

What sets Notsoreallifestory apart from other things you've written?

I’ve never attempted a series blog before, and all my pieces have been short, concise and normally limited to a couple of pages.

In what way is Notsoreallifestory similar to the other things you've written?

My sense of irony is deeply embedded in how I communicate, also, I veer from cliché’s.

What will your next piece of writing be about?

Probably a musician. Not sure what he’s going to do yet. I just love music and would like to explore that possibility.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

[Interview] Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor has written and published eight poetry collections, among them, Turn For Home (The Brodie Press, 2003); Temporary Residence (erbacce Press, 2007) and The Sound of Light Aircraft (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010).

He has a PhD in Poetry and Poetics and is a founder member of the Edge Hill University Poetry and Poetics Research Group. In addition to that, Taylor also co-edits erbacce and erbacce-press.

In this interview, Andrew Taylor talks about his writing:

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

Poetry.

Some have describe it as innovative, some realist, some post-realist.

I think it’s for others to describe it though rather than me.

Who is your target audience?

Whoever is publishing the poems I guess.

I never have thought of a target audience really. I just hope that those who buy the books do so for the purposes of enjoying the poems and in supporting the small presses who kindly publish the work.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

That’s an interesting question.

I often think that the personal can distract from the writing process. However, that said, others often say that my greatest work to-date is the collection Poetry and Skin Cream which stemmed from a personal experience that I’d rather not go into as it involved someone’s death and was incredibly upsetting for me.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I’m not sure that I have concerns as such.

Of course, there are personal concerns and concerns for the wider world, such as the environment and that stupid war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But seldom do these things get into the poetry.

What are the biggest challenges that you face?

I guess the challenges I face are the opportunities to write and to make the most of them mixed with my editorial roles at erbacce and erbacce-press, which takes a lot of time.

Do you write everyday?

I try.

My most recent project has been utilizing photographs so this has been a starting point.

I sometimes write into a notebook at home, then type the notes up at the office the following day. That’s quite productive! End points usually stem from when work calls …

How many books have you written so far?

Six, one has been published twice.
  • Turn For Home, The Brodie Press, August 2003. Debut collection that appeared from a press that originated from Liverpool University. Poems in this collection came from a residency at Liverpool Architecture and Design Trust (LADT) that ran 2000-2003.
  • Poetry & Skin Cream, erbacce Press, December 2004. This collection was written after the death of a friend and is extremely personal in content. A hard collection to read from my perspective!
  • Cathedral Poems, Paula Brown Publishing, August 2005. Collection of fourteen poems written during a residency at Liverpool Cathedral. Contains a piece of poetics that appeared in my Doctoral thesis.
  • Poetry & Skin Cream [2nd Edition] erbacce Press, October 2007 Republished as the original edition sold out.
  • Temporary Residence, erbacce Press, October 2007 Written during a residency at Liverpool Art project called the Loft Space which was an artist led project.
  • And the Weary Are at Rest, Sunnyoutside Press, June 2008. Collection submitted to one of my favourite presses. Extremely proud to have worked with David at Sunnyoutside. He’s a talented guy.
  • Make Some Noise, Original Press, August 2009 A manuscript of poems written during Doctoral research in Woking, Surrey, that was rejected by one press as being too oblique. Sent it to Sam at Original Plus, who kindly understood what I was trying to do.
  • The Metaphysics of a Vegetarian Supper, Differentia Press, December 2009. A collection of recent work that Felino was kind enough to accept having published me in his Counterexample Poetics site.
Which authors influenced you most?

Firstly, the Liverpool Poets: Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough. I came to these after secondary education and studying the likes of Keats. They were a breath of fresh air. This ignited my interest in poetry.

During university I became aware of the work of Tom Raworth, Lee Harwood, Robert Sheppard (who became my PhD supervisor) and Scott Thurston. These writers showed me the more experimental side of things that occasionally sneaks into my work. The range I think is what influenced me most.

Also, I have to mention Bukowski who was there from early doors. Of course, Ginsberg and Kerouac, (in the case of Kerouac whose poetry is to many, unknown, is a delight).

Recently, I have returned to some of the masters – Wordsworth, Keats and Rimbaud. I always return to Henri though. He was one of the subjects in my PhD thesis and I can dip into the collected poems at any time and get something new every time. Brilliant and under-rated poet.

How did you chose a publisher for The Metaphysics of a Vegetarian Supper?

I sent Felino Soriano the manuscript of recent work that I had gathered together to see if it worked as a complete text.

I felt that the collection worked and was keen for a publisher/editor I admire, to clarify. Thankfully, Felino did and he has been a fantastic editor to work with. There have been no disadvantages at all. Well, perhaps the fact that Felino lives so far away and I would like to meet him and buy him a drink!

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?

Perhaps the most difficult aspect was the belief in oneself in that I gathered the collection together myself and then passed it on. So perhaps the confidence in one’s own ability was the most difficult thing. I dealt with it by sending it to Felino!

I think the aspect I enjoyed the most was the fact that this collection didn’t stem from a residency, was a collection fully formed and presented to a publisher pretty intact

What sets The Metaphysics of a Vegetarian Supper apart from other things you've written?

I think it is different in that it was a more uncontained collection stemming from my own ideas of a collection.

Also, it is the first e-book that I have been involved in!

It is similar to the others in that it has poems about loss, love and cities in it.

What will your next book be about?

My next book is almost complete. I have yet to approach publishers. It is similar to The Metaphysics of a Vegetarian Supper in the process of writing and the voice that I have tried to achieve. It is a collection of 36 or 37 poems inspired by photographs.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

To be published. Full stop.

For other editors to print and publish the poems is a massive achievement I feel. I am humbled every time my work appears somewhere.

When did you start writing?

I was in a band in Liverpool in the 1980s and by default became the band’s lyricist. From then, whilst studying for my undergraduate degree, I started writing short stories, which in turn led to a Masters degree in writing. The difference though by now was that I started writing poetry.

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