I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Antony N Britt. Enjoy.
Antony N Britt
Hello Antony. Can you introduce yourself?
I am Antony N Britt and I'm based in Walsall.
How long have you been writing?
I wrote a lot as a kid but stopped for near 20 years during a marriage, now put down to being a very bad dream. I started again in 2005 while in the full throws of a breakdown. I'm not sure if writing aided the recovery process but it makes sense of it now, looking back. I blogged online for a few years until trying to be a bit more serious and get stuff published about two years ago.
Writing is extremely cathartic, and a way of organising thoughts and feelings, as well as being an excellent form of escapism. What first got you interested in writing?
It was the love of writing my own comics and books as a kid then in recent years, the realisation that it was something I still enjoyed and could be quite good at.
Do you attend a writing group?
Every month I attend the Walsall Writers' Circle which I have been going to for about 18 months. I have also recently started taking part in another monthly local group – Walsall Adult Writers.
Why do you attend a writing group?
It was to network with other writers, originally, then I enjoyed the workshops, talks, etc. And they're also an awfully nice bunch, anyway.
Well that's always a bonus! What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
Networking, feedback and simply talking with like-minded folk. In fact, at the writing groups, there often isn't the time for socialising as you are often engaged in a talk or workshop. Therefore, it's nice to get together on a more casual basis and just talk writing or whatever else comes to mind without the fear you're boring the pants off somebody going on about plots all night.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I tend to go towards the dark. Not out-and-out horror but stuff that could happen to anybody. I much prefer to bring the terror to the living room as opposed to the stereotype image of dark forests and crumbling mansions. Having said that, I spend much time writing humour as I like the idea of the fine line between light and dark. I like to be scared but also enjoy a laugh.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
It's unlikely you'd see me shooting off into space in Science Fiction. Strange as my favourite TV show is Doctor Who and I like Star Trek, but it's not something I'm comfortable writing as even when I watch those genres, I tend to skip past the techobabble.
I'm with you on that one! What types of things do you write?
I've had most success with short stories though my articles are taking off. Less of them but higher success rate in a shorter space of time. I do have one fully finished novel about to pester agents and publishers with and a second ready to undergo its first edit. My poetry is a strange one. I don't get most poetry. In one ear and out the other. I like poetry with something to say and as in all the things I write, I try to make them accessible to all. One thing I hate is certain members of the writing community who try to make writing a minority interest – almost an exclusive clique with them all smug that they are in the know and nobody else is. It's not what it's about. It should be about entertaining the reader.
Have you ever had anything published?
I've had several pieces all within the past two years. A short story in an anthology, two in magazines and a further one in Writing Magazine when I won the monthly competition. I've also had articles published in anthologies and two in a current edition of a local magazine. I have had one poem published and was shortlisted in a prestigious competition recently.
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?
I sent my novel to six agents a year ago but in hindsight, the book wasn't good enough at the time. It is now after another two edits/rewrites with fresh eyes after a long gap. I send my short stories out all the time to magazines with some success.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I love the feel of a book. Cliché, I know, but I do. As for publishing via that medium, I am sticking with the plan of agents, publishers and see how I go. I don't think you can undersell yourself. I have to believe my book is good enough to be a best seller. Therefore, I shall start at the biggest publisher and work my way from there. If nobody wants it, then I can consider self-publishing or an e-book, but doing it the traditional route, at least I've tried and I know.
I feel the same. I'd like to exhaust all traditional channels first. You mentioned earlier that you won a competition in Writing Magazine. Have you entered any other writing competitions?
Yes, I won Writing Magazine's and have been shortlisted on another three occasions there. I have also been shortlisted in other fiction, poetry and non-fiction competitions. I also won the Walsall Writers' Circle Non-Fiction Competition, recently. And I've just received news that I won a major short story competition, and that will be published in the next edition of the magazine.
Congratulations. Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Former partner and author, Clare Hill got me writing again after my previous marriage hiatus and her honesty made me a better writer. I take a lot of inspiration from authors, Mark Billingham, Martyn Waites and Neil Cross and have always loved the dark of Stephen King, James Herbert and Richard Laymon. However, I get general inspiration from the weirdest things. A comment, somebody tripping up, an abandoned item in the road. All are beginnings and once you start on the trail, anything can happen.
Influences on the poetry front are without doubt, John Cooper Clarke and Attila the Stockbroker. Give me those two above one hundred stuffy playing the art game, poet bores, any day.
I really like John Cooper Clarke too. How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities/
Hard to answer that one, it just happens. I've never had to sit and agonise over names or personalities, they are just there. I get a basis of a character in my mind and once I start to write that character, they take on a life of their own.
What is your writing routine?
As I've spent the last 18 months as full-time carer to my son, I've had more time. I like to go to a nice little coffee bar and get away from the house. Generally, I write when I feel like it.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
A bit of both. It depends on the piece. Some, I've had the complete idea in my head, others were born from a single image and the story led to reaching that image. The second novel which I am about to start editing, I had planned out about two-thirds. I sort of knew the conclusion but that last third to get there, the story wrote itself.
Do you have an editing process?
I edit numerous times. It's the most important thing to do. I'll do a couple of edits until I'm happy then several more including reading out loud. I do like somebody else to read for things I have overlooked and errors I can't see.
It's always good to have a fresh eye look over our work. As writers, we are too close to what we write and we often miss things that other people will pick up. Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
I plan to. However as poetry is the medium I am least confident in, I've yet to do so. I did perform a piece at the Coventry Mysteries Festival and it went okay. Having said that, I did have to contend with a drumming band in the background. Poetry to music? I suppose it never did John Cooper Clarke any harm.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
I want to share it all. No point writing to hide it in a drawer. Whether in a group or online or finally, in print. Get it read and heard.
I'm sure there must be some things you've written that you want kept hidden in a drawer. I know I have. What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy the entire writing process but there is nothing like punching the air when you get an acceptance. The thing I like least is writing snobbery. Those who want to create an elite and think themselves as only they can write great poetry and prose when in fact, all they write at times is self-indulgent dirge. I attended an all night workshop a year ago in a museum. We were sent off to gain inspiration from a collection of over 100,000 artefacts and one guy returned with his piece on an empty cabinet, based on the potential of what it could have displayed. Everybody else in the group were fawning and clapping saying, 'how brilliant,' when all I wanted to scream was 'Get lost!'
Okay, it may have been another word for “get” and yet another for “lost,” but you get my despair.
Ha! That sounds like it could be a basis for one of your own humorous stories! Or maybe even something a bit darker! What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Get a writing buddy. Somebody to read your work and give feedback objectively. I can edit a dozen times and still miss the obvious. With your own work, you know how it's supposed to read, then don't always see when it doesn't.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
Edit, edit and edit again. Never think a piece is finished and can't be improved on. Your best piece of work is the last one you wrote. You improve with each new piece so there is always room to improve a piece of work. The only time I stop editing is when it's in print and I can say goodbye to it.
Even then it must be tempting to keep editing! Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I've never had time for hobbies as the writing takes up so much spare time. In addition, much of my recent years have been spent caring for my heavily autistic son who lived with me. I do have an interest in ghost hunting. I have had many experiences but remain a sceptical believer. I try to explain it all and am delighted when I can't.
What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I read a lot of crime fiction: Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Martyn Waites, Peter James. However, I like a bit of humour with authors like Mil Millington and Sophie Kinsella. I don't read as much dark stuff as I used to and maybe that's because I write more of it myself.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Some novels are almost poetry, and this is one. Life is a fairytale.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
From Hotel New Hampshire - “Keep passing the open windows.” Drove an ex-partner barmy for years, me keep saying it.
What are you working on at the moment?
Just finished the definite final edit on novel number one. Well, final edit until the next time unless it's published. I'm working on some short pieces then about to start the major first edit of novel number two.
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
Yes, I can be found at www.antonynbritt.com where I blog regularly and post the occasional poem and piece on autism. The regular thing I do is my Sunday Roast column. Once I week, I take a sideways swipe at life and things in the news. The intent is to make serious comment but honestly, it's a lot more fun when it degenerates into taking the pee with the thing full of nob jokes.
I am also on Twitter @nickb1963.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Yes. Any potential agents and publishers reading this, I'm awfully nice, can produce the goods and worth the investment.
Oi, get in line, behind me! Would you be able to provide a short piece of your writing?
Summer of '85.
A home meant for people in poor mental health.
I called it an institution.
Somewhere to put the unwanted.
Hide the embarrassment.
“There is no place in polite company
for people such as these.”
So spoke the message of the day.
spelled dead to society
along with unmarried mothers,
then shut away.
torn from the breast.
removed from circulation.
I remember one such a man,
Albert, we'll call him
because after all this time,
I'm not even sure of his name.
Incarcerated at twelve,
too difficult to handle.
a gentle old soul.
He spoke about cricket
and the big wartime bands.
Always a cheery smile,
a precursor to the request.
Could I check if there was a letter?
One from his mum and dad.
“It's been such a long time,” he sighed.
There was never any mail.
An uncaring world, back then;
maybe it is now.
I'm ashamed I do not remember his name
and I always wonder
if his family ever did?
© Antony N Britt
Thank you very much, Antony.