I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Guy Blythman. Enjoy.
Hello Guy. Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Guy Blythman, aged 47, from Shepperton, Middlesex.
How long have you been writing?
Since primary school.
Do you attend a writing group?
I've attended Walton Wordsmiths, since summer 2002.
Why do you attend a writing group?
Companionship, plus pooling of ideas as to how to shatter the glass ceiling.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I do philosophy and theology, because I'm interested in the universe we live in and how it came to be, plus ethical and political issues. Traditional windmills, an esoteric interest I haven't been able to shake off. Political thrillers with, usually, a strong science fiction element in them. The latter because I think it's more interesting when something out of the ordinary is going on and the stakes are high, e.g. someone wanting to take over/destroy the world.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I would get bored simply writing about love and relationships, however well I thought I was doing it. Although I think such subjects should enter into a story as sub-plots for the sake of human interest. I would enjoy writing historical fiction except that I like my stories to have a message, however far-fetched they might seem to some, and that message is more effective if the setting is contemporary (or near-contemporary). So all I have done in this field is a lengthy prologue section in one novel which is a flashback to World War Two - easier because it is relatively recent history and some of the people who fought in it are still around.
What types of things do you write?
Complete novels, short stories, articles; I have also done a bibliography of traditional windmills in Britain, plus a register of known photographs of the same.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Boys' Own Paper type fiction from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, 20th century spy fiction including Ian Fleming, post-war sci-fi, such as Dr. Who and X-Files.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Usually the characters are based on people I've met in real life. To be honest, their names are fairly boring and are more or less plucked out of the air.
What is your writing routine?
When I'm not doing voluntary work I aim to write each day, from 9am, or perhaps earlier, to 5pm. I find I can't do it after then as I'm usually worn out.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I have to have a complete idea or I'd be sunk.
Do you have an editing process?
I find if you ask people to read your novel and comment on it, they won't have the time, as with a lot of things. I can read out extracts and short stories at Walton Wordsmiths and they will offer constructive criticism. Otherwise, having long ago absorbed all the best advice about how to write, I just do my best to get it right first time. That approach wouldn't work for everyone, of course. And I do, from time to time, revise my work.
Have you ever had anything published?
Watermills and Windmills of Middlesex, 1996. Berkshire Windmills, 2007 (self-published). British Windmills, a bibliography, 2008 (self-published). Lost Windmills of Sussex, 2008 (self-published), Eye of the Sun God, novel, Bright Pen 2010.
There's a lot of other stuff, including complete novels, books, short stories, and articles, which are either on my website (www.guyblythman.com) where they can be viewed in complete form, or are still in the making. I would certainly like to see all this material published in paper form but have had no luck so far with that endeavour, which is why it remains confined to cyberspace for now.
Would you ever consider e-publishing?
I prefer hard copy but will consider e-books where there is no other option. As I've already said, I have self-published before. I am considering setting up my own company for publication of my books.
Have you ever sent your work off to agents or publishers?
I have sent loads of stuff to agents AND publishers over the last 20 years and received nothing but rejections.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
I have entered but never won. I wouldn't say "don't do it", but for me personally, it isn't cost effective.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Very - that's the whole point of it.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I simply enjoy writing, as long as I'm sure in my own mind at least I'm making a good job of it. The only thing I hate, apart from something happening in real life which makes a story less topical, is the rejections.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
I've already written it - The Mills of God, an apology for Christian belief. I'd have to say that really; the other stuff comes quite close though.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
Ooh ... tricky one, as there are so many to choose from. I can only say which writers I like best. Dickens for his descriptive passages. C. S. Lewis because he puts forward Christian ideas coherently and readably. Michael Ridpath, Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Peter James (the Inspector Roy Grace novels), C. J. Sansom (Matthew Shardlake), M. C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin and Hamish McBeth).
Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I read 19th century novels, history books, modern (to present) political thrillers. My writing does reflect the latter to some extent.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Never write a sentence which doesn't either advance the story or tell the reader something about one of the characters.
What advice could you give a new writer?
This is going to seem somewhat radical, but I'd say don't go to agents or conventional publishers. You could do, but unless you're one of the lucky few you'll just go through years of frustration, depression and heartbreak. Self-publish instead. If we all made an agreement to do that, it might make publishers/agents think again.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Current affairs, philosophy, theology, industrial archaeology, classical music. I'm also an active member of my local church.
What are you working on at the moment?
I usually have about a dozen books on the go at any one time, and tend to shuffle between them until one gets finished. At the moment, my two main projects are a new Sussex windmill boook and a sci-fi/spy story called Polymer.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Just a few observations on one of the nicer - though not without its ups and downs - aspects of the human condition:
Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Well probably not, because the first thing you notice about someone is their physical appearance, and however good-looking they may be that’s not, on its own, a good basis for a relationship (to think that it is can lead to much happiness). What is certainly true is that provided there is long enough to show that a person is kind – a better criteria – love, or something which can develop into it, may blossom within the space of a few weeks, or even a few hours. I know this from my own experience. The physical attractiveness serves as the initial hook; this is probably its biological function. Then you need to establish that the other person is a decent sort – this can happen as soon as the opportunity arises for them to demonstrate their decency by some act of compassion or magnanimity. The two women I have seriously fancied in my time both had the sort of looks I found to my liking – very blonde - but were also genuinely kind. One, a work colleague, I developed an attraction for two or three weeks after first meeting her, because in the meantime she had shown by the general manner in which she spoke and behaved towards others what sort of person she was – a good one. The other was a lady who came to speak to my local Conservative Association one evening in the days when I still had some faith in politics as a means of changing the world for the better. As with the other girl, I’d already decided I liked the look of her. Then after the meeting she offered to drive me home, feeling I think a bit contrite because she believed (wrongly in fact) she’d been unkind to me over a question I’d asked her. You know people are alright when they do that, and something clicked inside me. In neither case was a relationship, in the romantic sense, established – I’m afraid love is often not reciprocated, even when there is no animosity. But the point is that in neither of these scenarios, despite the differences and similarities between them, did the “click” happen immediately.
It is possible, however, that love can bloom at second sight. Usually it is not apparent instantly whether someone is kind beyond the social decorum that is required as a matter of course. However with some people their compassion and goodness are particularly expressed in their features, because the face is a wonderfully expressive thing, and can serve as the window of the soul irrespective of its physical appeal - there is such a thing as a "kind" face, as a person may sometimes be spoken of as having - such that it may not be noticed on first sight, when all that is established is the basic physical appearance of a person, but might be on second. Kindness, especially when combined with beauty - if we do not admire the latter simply from carnal lust, whcih we won't if we are virtuous enough to appreciate the kindness - in a person can evoke feelings of warmth and tenderness towards them. Feelings of ... love.
© Guy Blythman
Thank you, Guy.