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Tag: passion

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Q&A on storytelling and tradition...and The Tale of the Sands

30maro_slide05You are creating wonderful stories about what our heart is telling us, but today more than ever we fail to reconcile our heart and our mind. Why are they tugging us in different directions? What do you do when your mind shouts louder than your heart?

As you say, I am telling and creating stories, and that’s what’s so central here. Storytelling appeals to the default setting of mankind, the core programming that’s in-built within us. We don’t really know why, but culture is arranged around storytelling – revealing information, ideas, and entertainment through stories. We can’t help but retell experiences in this way because we are programmed to do it. And, bizarrely, most people have forgotten that humanity operates with stories as their language. I sometimes find myself wondering whether other animals, or even insects, do the same and tell stories as a matrix like we do.

At the same time as live to tell stories, we reside in a world that’s so incredibly at odds with the realm our ancestors knew. Yet, in this mad frenetic, frenzied stew of life, it’s the stories and the storytelling that present themselves as a recognizable thread – a kind of communal backbone to humanity. We grasp hold of stories whether they be in the form of a book, a Tweet, a blog entry, a TV commercial selling soap, a movie, or even in the guise of a video game.

You mention your father very often in your works. Would you say that your story is a sequel to his? To what extent are our hearts beating together with those of our ancestors’? Does our storytelling begin where theirs has stopped? Read more

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Q&A on Writing and Travel

TS101. The explorations and adventures in most of your work are set in exotic places that are shrouded in mystery and rich in history and tradition, and it seems as though you have traveled just about everywhere. Do you happen to have any connection with a small and relatively mainstream place like Belgium?

When I was a child, I was sent to stay with friends at Ypres. I was eleven years old, and I remember the visit vividly. Of course I have returned to Belgium time and again since then, but it was that winter journey that is so burned in my memory. My sisters and I were taken to the Great War cemeteries there. I can see the headstones now – all lined up perfectly, glinting white in the flat winter sun. I remember reading the names and ages of those men. They were so young – their lives having hardly begun. A day doesn’t go by on which I don’t think of them. And it is for them that I remind my children daily: Carpe diem! Seize the day!

2. I recently heard you tell a student group that they could and should be explorers. As far as I know, there are no significant mysteries here in Belgium, though there is a great deal of history. What sorts of explorations do you think have yet to be pursued here? What do you think is the best way for parents to make explorers of their children?

Read more

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Q&A on The Caliph's House

2012-07-26 10.48.43I am occasionally interviewed via email or invited to participate in a Q&A for a course that is reading one of my books. I thought I’d share this one with you, which discuses The Caliph’s House:

1. Why did you choose to express your feelings through imagery, rather than express them directly? 

That’s a good question and one I have never been asked before. I wrote The Caliph’s House not long after 9/11, and I had that atrocity in my mind all the way through. It was really important to me to try and show Morocco from the inside out, and in a way that American people especially could receive. I wanted to show the kingdom in ways that were not merely descriptive, but touched the senses, as well as reaching an audience through anecdotes. It was difficult to do, but I am always so happy when people write to me saying that the book changed the way they regarded Morocco — ie as not “just another” Arab country.

2. Did you realise that the Arabic meaning of the characters’ names in the book correlate to their personalities, or is this coincidental?

Read more

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Upcoming Projects for 2013

I’ve been posting on my Facebook page about upcoming projects for the first half of 2013, without sharing too much detail. I’d like to include a quick overview of things to come:

Newsweek

I’ll have an article coming out in Newsweek (now online only), in the next couple of months. I’ll post on Facebook as soon as it’s online.

Backlist ebooks

I’ll be releasing ebooks from my backlist starting very soon. We’re still working on the cover art, but they’ll be coming out one by one in the next couple of months.

Lithuania

I’ll be speaking at the literary festival there, so if you’re based in or near Lithuania, I’d love to see you.

Scorpion Soup limited edition hardcover

This is now available for pre-order over at the Scorpion Soup website, and books will be shipping out in late March. There are purchase options for both the US and the UK, which is where the books will be warehoused. If you’re in another country and would like a copy, please contact me and I’ll let you know what the extra shipping fees are. I’m trying to keep the cost down on this book by offering it only on my website.

You can also enter one of two contests on Goodreads for a chance to win a copy of the limited edition hardcover. There is a contest for US readers and one for UK readers.

Scorpion Soup en español

We’re also working on a Spanish translation of my recent release, Scorpion Soup. It’s over half-way finished, and then will go into editing before its release. It should be out fairly soon, and I’ll be sure to post on my Facebook page when it’s available.

Casablanca Blues

This is one of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’ve completed the first draft, and it’s being edited now.

Blaine Williams is a thirty-something New Yorker with an mid-life crisis and an obsession of the movie Casablanca. His world collapsing around him, he flees to the one place he thinks he knows and understands. A fragment of security in his troubled imagination, Casablanca the genuine article reveals itself as a roller coaster ride of danger, intrigue, and true love — a realm where nothing is what it seems.

Eye Spy

This is another of my upcoming releases for 2013. I’m half-way through the first draft on this.

While in Central Asia saving the sight of a debauched dictator, Dr. Robert Kaine, the greatest eye surgeon of his generation, unwittingly tastes a pie filled with cooked human eyes. Rather than being revolted by the dish, he adores it, and finds that it has an astonishing and ameliorating effect on the psyche. As the craving sets in, he will stop at nothing to get more of the illicit food.

Against a backdrop of an epidemic eye disorder called Occulosis, that threatens making everyone alive blind, Kaine is the one man who can save human sight… while robbing anyone he can of their eyes.

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Timbuctoo Holiday Sales

Timbuctoo book cover straight on 600pxSeveral people have emailed me lately requesting bulk pricing for Timbuctoo so they can purchase multiple copies for the holidays. I’ve spoken with my warehouse people, and they said that orders need to be in by tomorrow, 18th of December at the latest in order to reach you by the holidays. Because we’ll be selling these directly, we can offer a huge discount on the books.

Regular UK pricing of Timbuctoo is £29.99, currently available on Amazon at a discount of £25.49. We can offer you the bulk price of £20 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

Regular USA pricing of Timbuctoo is $49.99, currently available on Amazon at the same price. We can offer you the bulk price of $33 for 5, 10, or more books (in multiples of 5).

If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the UK, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 5 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




If you’re in the USA, and would like to order 10 books to be delivered to one address, please order here:




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Wisdom of Wigtown

The people at Wigtown are generating a book of the wisdom of Wigtown during this year’s Wigtown Book Festival, and they asked the following questions:

1. Is there something that someone told you early in life that proved to be useful?

Yes: My father told me never ever ever listen to anyone who tried to hold me back, and to think for myself.

2. What do you wish you knew when you were 18?

I wish I had known how important it is to be original and not try to ape others.

3. What word do you repeat to yourself when the going gets tough? Or what word sums you up?

The word I repeat to myself over is over is: FORWARD!

4. How would you finish the sentence “It’s never too late to…”‘

“…write a book that will change the world.”

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The Way of Things to Come

I was recently asked for an interview, ‘Can you comment on the future of technology, and the way it’s effecting the book business?’

My response:

We live in a fascinating time. Technology is changing our lives, and will continue to do so more and more. That’s a certainty. And, elements of culture that we have known and appreciated over centuries will change, or even disappear. That’s the story of human culture.

I think it’s GREAT that the world of books is going through a radical change. The book business has been very restricted for too long: controlled by too few people in publishing firms. For the first time it’s easily possible for anyone to publish a book — either as a Print on Demand (e.g. using Lulu), and/or as an eBook. People can write blogs as well, which I think are a fantastic way of communicating thoughts and ideas.

And, eBooks are going to take a larger and larger share of the market. I think eBooks are a very good way to get people reading. And they make work accessible, instantly.

That can only be a good thing.

I have been extremely critical in recent months about the low quality of production of paperbacks and even in standard hardback books — and I think the typical low quality pulp paperbacks will be replaced by eBooks in coming years.

And, thank god for that.

I chose to publish TIMBUCTOO myself because I hated the idea of a publisher reducing it to just another pathetic junk paperback format. I believe in beautiful books, as objects of inspiration and beauty in their own right… and I am certain that we will be left with high quality books and with eBooks. The paperbacks with smeary type, which fall to pieces in your hands, will be resigned to the dustbin of culture — where they belong.

It’s true that a lot of authors are panicking because they think they will be out of work — fearing the end of books. I think that’s nonsense because authors are storytellers and human society needs storytellers — whether it is to develop material for a video game or for a movie, or a novel. These are exciting times, and are times to be embraced — not feared.

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Experience

I like watching myself doing things now, and imagining how I did them years or even decades ago; perceiving the effect of gradual experience. The best way to see how far you’ve come is by looking at a child’s progression. Although, as I wrote yesterday, children have something far more precious than we do… the default setting of humanity. As I write this, my little son Timur is sitting beside me. He’s copying words out of his big gruesome book on Mummies. Each word takes him a while, as he does it with attention, and care, forming the letters, and making sure he is getting the spellings right. From time to time, Ariane comes in and laughs at him for doing work that she thinks is easy. She’s only two years older, but in that time she’s grasped it, and has become quite experienced. The same is true with writing, especially journalism. I remember when I wrote my first articles, I didn’t know where to start. I did masses and masses of research, most of which was never needed. I followed leads that were dead ends, and was like Timur writing his words out. I meant very well and was driven by the same enthusiasm as him… but my vision was clouded by a kind of veil. Work at something, really work at it, and the veil lifts. And what’s so wonderful is that you never realise it’s lifting until it’s no longer there. Watch yourself from a distance as you progress, as you become adept, and marvel at it all. Again, I see that with Ariane and Timur, and remind them as often as I can how far they’ve come, and how fast the journey’s been.



TS
 
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Magic Dust

When I was at school, I remember my teachers always harping on about how wise they were and how young and foolish we were.  I would always roll my eyes and think how dead they had become, trading natural innovation for a learned system. I still believe this, and think we are all born with an amazing ability to think. It’s something that can be re-learned and used in writing, and just about anything. Look at children and you see it right away. They solve problems and use their minds in the most innovative and creative ways. Yet most of the time adults — who have had this default setting knocked out of them — tend to deride it. They don’t understand it because it was removed early in the education system. I find myself wondering how the world would be if we thought as communities using this default setting. Imagine it. Yes, there’d be less of the technological breakthroughs we are used to, but there would a form of genius that we’ve lost. The greatest thing would be, of course, to have a blend of the two systems… using one to fuel advances in the other. This imagination is something that’s like magic dust, an element that, when sprinkled into a writer’s work (whether it’s in a book or magazine),  has the ability to touch a part of us that’s often not stimulated at all. Learn to sprinkle the dust, and you will succeed in the most original ways.



TS
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Pegs

I used to spend all my time dreaming up ideas for articles which I planned to sell. The ideas got better and better. Editors even told me they were great. But no one bought them. Why? Because there wasn’t a reason for publishing. Remember that most magazines and newspapers have limited space. For this reason, they need to be able to qualify why a certain story is going to run. The editor will often have to be ready to defend his choice to his own boss. So enter the idea of the ‘Peg’. It’s simple: If you write an article about London’s Tower Bridge, you may find it hard to sell. Editors will ask ‘Great, but, er, so what?’ But if you work out that it’s the 300th anniversary since the bridge was built and, better still, that there’s going to be an anniversary parade, you have a sure fire seller. Other pegs include political or military acts and anniversaries of any kind. You can get the Media Guide (in the UK) which gives details of up-coming anniversaries. But remember to pitch early. A magazine may work five months in advance, and a newspaper features’ section five or six weeks.



TS

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