Friday 30 November 2012

Writer - Chris Stanley

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Chris Stanley.  Enjoy.

Chris Stanley

Hello Chris.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Chris Stanley from Bristol.
How long have you been writing?
I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing. My mum tells a story where she picked me up from school and the teacher was reading to all the other children apart from me. I was sitting in the corner of the room, scribbling furiously in my notebook. My mum asked why I was being punished and the teacher said I wasn’t being punished, I was just finishing a really long story.
Mostly I write songs. I started writing short stories seriously this year.
What first got you interested in writing?
I don’t remember back that far. I do remember that I wrote my first novel having been inspired by Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. His book was brilliant, mine was terrible.
Do you attend a writing group?
I joined the Bath Company of Writers in June 2012.
Why did you start going to a writing group?
Writing is a lonely (and quite bonkers) process and it’s good to know that there are other people like me out there. The Company of Writers is excellent: supportive and critical at the same time.
That's exactly what you need, otherwise you would go mad just staring at your computer screen!  What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
I’m not alone.
What genre(s) do you write?
I write adult literary fiction because it’s what I read. 
You mentioned earlier that you write short stories and songs.  Do you write anything else?
I've recently started a blog at called Diary of a Stay-at-Home Dad but it’s not strictly about writing—the clue is in the title.
Have you ever had anything published?
One day I hope to be published but it hasn’t happened yet.
There are many of us in that same boat.  Just don't give up.  Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I think e-publishing removes the challenge of getting published as well as several layers of quality control. It’s perfect in some situations and for some people, but it’s not for me.
I’ve read eBooks but I prefer to read hardbacks. 
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?
Yes (a long time ago) and yes. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
My ideas come from everywhere. It’s a question of observing the world around me and joining the dots. I tend to write stories where something extreme (car crash, flood, suicide) upsets an otherwise normal and balanced environment.
That sounds like my kind of story!  How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
For me, character is the most important part of a story. All of my characters start out as part me and part someone I know, and grow from there.
Do you have a writing routine?
I write when I feel like it but that tends to be every day. I’m at my most ambitious and creative first thing in the morning.
I wish I could be like that, but the most I can muster is actually getting out of bed first thing in the morning, and even then that's a struggle!  Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I used to do the latter but it always ended badly.
Do you have an editing process?
I love to edit. I love to surprise myself by coming up with passages and sentences that combine art and drama while remaining true to character and plot. I don’t have a process for editing other than to have fun while doing it.
I have others read my work as often as my writers’ circle will let me. I try not to involve family or non-writing friends because they struggle with objectivity.
I never read my work aloud to myself in front of the mirror. 
How important is it for you to share your writing?
It's why I write.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
When I started writing stories again this year I found that entering short story competitions was a way of creating a deadline to which to work. I have yet to be successful in any of these competitions (although I was shortlisted for the InkTears inaugural flash fiction competition) but I have been productive. 
That's a great piece of positive thinking.  Have you ever attended open mic events for spoken word performers?
No but I regularly attend open mic nights for sung word performances.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy the freedom and control. I don’t enjoy the constant, nagging self-doubt.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) says it well:
"The trick is to follow the rules of classic storytelling. Drama is basically about one thing: Somebody wants something, and something or someone is standing in the way of him getting it. What he wants—the money, the girl, the ticket to Philadelphia—doesn't really matter. But whatever it is, the audience has to want it for him." 
Brilliant!  What advice could you give to a new writer?
Join a writers’ circle before it’s too late.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I’m a performing singer/songwriter and a fairly keen photographer and cook. These days I’m mostly just a dad.
I bet you can get a lot of writing inspiration from being a dad!  What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I tend to read American literary and postmodern fiction by authors like Don Delillo, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, etc. And a lot of first time authors.
And yes.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
"Is Time’s cold scroll recoiling on itself until the dead years speak, or is it in the throb of now that the spectres wake and wander through the walls?" (Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast)

For some reason, whenever I read this, it’s always Patrick Stewart’s voice I hear in my head. 
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
President John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to go the Moon” speech. 

What are you working on at the moment?
These are things I’m currently writing:

  • A sitcom called A Stiff Drink (with Richard Nally).
  • New short stories called Perfect Cadence, Human Delicacy, and Little Horrors.
  • A re-write of a very old short story called Lost and Found.

In November, when I’ve finished my Diploma in Internal Communications, I shall start writing a novel and I’ll probably blog about the process. 
Good luck with that.  Novel writing is a tough but satisfying process.  And there's always lots of editing to do, so you'll enjoy that!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Earlier this year I went into the recording studio with five friends, none of whom had played together before and some of whom had never met, to record a song I’d written called Americana. They heard the song for the first time that morning and we had one day in which to record it. The final result can be heard here:

Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is the opening to a short story I’m currently writing called Perfect Cadence: 
This is not what the movie was supposed to be about. Not this. It was supposed to be a celebration of ten years’ hard work, a thank you to the fans, a rededication of the band and an opportunity to put a little money back in the bank. Instead, the photographers and runners, grips and gaffers were treated to a very different spectacle. They filmed the death of a dream. 
Malcolm Parry is the man at the centre of it all. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he’s a major chord in a dissonant world, shining just a little bit brighter than the people around him. But recently there has been a shift, a change in key that’s diminished his brilliance. For the first time in several weeks, he is alone. The audience has gone home, possibly forever, and his band, The Gators, has returned to the hotel. Will they split up? Malcolm wants to care but his mind is muddled and his face still hurts from the fight. The thing they don’t tell you about the limelight is that it can burn worse than the sun. He steps off the stage into the main arena of the Royal Albert Hall and tries to work out where it all went wrong. 
© Chris Stanley 
Thank you very much, Chris.


  1. Very enjoyable interview. Thanks Chris - and Rebeccah.