Tuesday 30 April 2013

One Man's Opinion: RUMBLE FISH by SE HINTON

Things in life don’t come with equal weight. The biggest and heaviest impacts are when an event or a moment grab a life that is completely and utterly ripe for something it didn’t know existed.

The film Rumble Fish was one of the big blows of my early adulthood. To me it was (and still is) mind-blowingly good. The cast, the themes, the black-and-white and The Motorcycle Boy, Tom Waits raising his middle finger and chewing gum and an ending capable of knocking out a cinema full in the one go.

What I didn’t realise at the time was how much it had stayed true to the book.

I honestly don’t know why I didn’t think of reading it earlier.  As with The Outsiders, I think it had something to do with the Young Adult tag; even though that’s what I was at the first viewing of each film (Rumblefish at the Scala cinema in London’s King’s Cross and The Outsiders on video in my family home).

Wasted years, I can tell you.

The first thing that struck me about Rumble Fish (the book) was the power of the opening chapter.  It’s nigh-on perfect I’d say. Sets the scene, hooks the reader, gives the voice and explodes into action in a way that’s laid back and almost lazy – I know that laid-back and explode contradict each other, but that’s how it feels – I guess that a slick car with great gears and engine might do this as it accelerates, fast as hell yet so smooth the motion is hardly felt.

After reading those first few pages, I had to pause for a couple of days just to think about it.

The next thing that hit was the way that the movie of the book had stuck so closely to the dialogue (it’s practically verbatim). I loved reading lines that I’ve been carrying around with me for years:

“Even the most primitive societies have an innate respect for the insane.”

“Loyalty is his only vice.”

“The Greeks got her.”

“California is like a beautiful wild kid on heroin, high as a kite and thinking she’s on top of the world, not knowing she’s dying, not believing it even if you show her the marks.”

Winners all.  And there are so many more.

The story itself is brilliant.  It’s everything I want from a book. The characters are so well drawn and the setting and the plot are great. It holds an incredible romance for me, a nostalgia for something I didn’t really experience, the kind of nostalgia I felt with books like The Great Gatsby and the like.

I love the idea of people being born in the wrong age (I swear I know a few of those) or in the wrong place (ditto).  The sense of heroes and idolisation reminds me of my own idols. The relationships are dysfunctional in a way that’s almost caricature but maintain love at their core. Time flies, life is short, people are different, we have dreams and nightmares, we’re all products of our genetic mix and our realities.

As far as I know, this book is studied still as a modern classic in the US.  I can see why that is – if I ever write anything as good, I’ll have achieved all I ever wanted to with my work. 

I can also see why this might attract the odd detractor. 
Too simple they might say. Too unreal.  Too pretentious. Too whatever they feel it’s too much of.  Whatever it is, they might be right, but then again, maybe they just didn’t read it at the right moment or in the right place.

To me, it’s just brilliant.

And I still want to be The Motorcycle Boy even though I get nervous as a passenger on a scooter as soon as it racks up 30 miles per.

Read this one I say.  Read and weep.  

Friday 26 April 2013

Dancing With Myself: KARIN COX interviews KARIN COX

"Are YOU talking to me?"

Q.1 So, what's up with the talking to yourself? I mean, we all do it a little bit, but to interview yourself ... got a few "personality" issues have you?

Me? Never! I'm a writer. I have way more than a few issues. To start with, there's this vampire-hunting
Cruxim who keeps rattling around inside my brain and falling for the wrong women, particularly those who are half lioness. And when he's not bugging me and convincing me to leave the house-cleaning and just finish one more chapter, there's a whole host of other fantasy characters falling in love, getting lost in museums, battling all manner of horrendous beasts, and sometimes learning something about themselves in the process. When they're done with me and I'm exhausted, a little snippet of poetry or the idea for a children's story might unexpectedly pop into my brain. And that's all while I'm awake. There is even more going on at bedtime, when I'm lying there trying to sleep. So you see, there's a lot happening up there. I almost have to talk to myself, or at least write it all down, just to stay sane.

Q.2 Sounds like it is never dull at your house. How do you find time to write?

With a toddler, finding the time to write is always a struggle. I snatch writing time while she naps, and I often stay up late to write in the middle of the night when everyone else is snoozing. I also use a program called Write or Die to make me focus and to just get the words on the page. If I don't meet my wordcount, it goes "Kamikaze" and starts to eats words before my eyes. It is a frightening but effective way to write.

Q.3 Tell me about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I always wear pants when I write, often pajama pants. Seriously, I am not a huge plotter. I find plotting everything out in rigid details makes me freeze. I prefer to know the beginning, the climax, and the end and then to work towards those three plot points, and if I take a slight detour at times and end up holding the map upside and wondering how the hell I got where I am, I just put it down to being adventurous and try to discover the breadcrumbs back to my original plot.

Q4. Are you telling me you actually turn maps around when you're navigating?

Um, yep. I have absolutely no spatial reasoning skills. I'm all imagination and very little practicality when it comes to shapes, numbers, and locations. My partner once called me, "The dumbest smart person he knows." (Me: And you won't ever let him forget that, will you? Me too: Not on your Nelly!) For a dumb smart person who struggles to navigate my way out of the house, I do have an exceptional memory — just not for directions.

Q.5. I hear you're from Down Under. No wonder you keep getting lost all the time, it's miles away! Tell me, have Aussies embraced the ebook revolution as much as Americans and Europeans have?

*Waving from the bottom of the globe* I don't think Australians have quite developed the taste for reading on ereaders yet, but I do think we're a growing market. With a good economy and a high dollar, I really think the next few years will see Aussie consumers exponentially leap on the ebook bandwagon. I hope so, at least. If not, I'll have to trade my car in for a kangaroo and start eating Koalas. (Readers *thinking*: Really? People ride kangaroos and eat Koalas in Australia? Me: No, don't be daft. Koalas are a protected species and taste like eucalyptus, and a kangaroo can kick a hole in your stomach. They may look cute and cuddly, like most Aussies, but don't be fooled. We're all hardcore down here. We have to be or the snakes would eat us).

Q.6. A little birdie (possibly a Kookaburra) also told me that you used to be an editor. Aren't editors just failed writers? What made you switch from editing to writing?

Actually, I've always written. I won my first award for writing poetry when I was just an ankle-biter. I got into editing some fifteen years ago, after studying English Literature & Communication Studies at university specifically because I wanted to work in an industry that would help with that dream. After editing for many different publishers in the UK and Australia, I took on a job as an inhouse author, writing natural history, Australiana, travel guides, social history, and children's fiction, but I always hoped that I might one day be able to make a go of writing fiction full-time. Mind you, the editor in me has often been responsible for making that dream difficult. I have enormous fear of failure lest I become that cliche: the failed writer. I still edit, but I'm just taking on fewer clients to try to focus on my own writing so that I don't let my own dreams pass me by while I'm helping other authors live their dreams.

Q.7 You write across so many genres, from non-fiction to Growth (poetry), Cage Life (short stories), and children's fiction Pancakes on Sunday and Hey, Little Sister, as well as Cruxim, which is gothic paranormal romance. Why not just stick to one thing?

Good question, and I've asked myself that a lot. (Me: Of course you have, you're me. Me too: Oh thanks, I forgot.) Basically, I just write whatever pleases me and takes hold of me at the time. I'm always beset by ideas, so when one burrows in and just won't let go, that is what I produce. I also have some more fantasy novels, a half-finished romance and a NA novel in the works. What can I say? I like variety.

Q.8. What advice would you give to authors who are just starting their self-publishing journey now?

Look and learn, and be professional. By that I mean pay for a great cover, an edit (at least one), and a formatter if you don't know the ropes or aren't willing to invest the time to learn. There is a lot of great information available in author forums and on blogs such as Dave Gaughran's or Barry Eisler's. You need to be your own marketer and publicist, too. Expect that, to begin with at least, you should pump any profits back into your business. And don't expect to be an overnight sensation: building a fanbase takes time and a little capital.

About the Author

Karin Cox edits and writes in her "spare time" while being a fulltime mum to a toddler and to a black cat with the improbable name of "Ping Pong."
She is the author of more than 30 trade-published natural history books, biographies, Australian social history books, children's picture storybooks, and travel guides, several of which have won awards. Karin has had poems and short stories published in anthologies worldwide and her ebooks CRUXIM, GROWTH, CAGE LIFE, HEY LITTLE SISTER and PANCAKES ON SUNDAY are available on Amazon. Thankfully, the busier she gets, the more creative she is (and the more likely to afford to hire a housekeeper). Karin and her partner live in sunny Queensland, Australia, where she writes from her back deck overlooking the pool, her study (overlooking her messy desk) or her couch (overlooking Dr Phil). You can follow her on twitter @Authorandeditor or visit her fanpage on Facebook www.facebook.com/KarinCox.Author or sign up for her mailing list http://eepurl.com/vk_bP Also, feel free to email her at cruxim@hotmail.com.

Friday 19 April 2013

Frack Off

The Rocks Below is free today and until 21st April.

The strongest words you'll find inside are 'Frack Off' and that's because I'm hoping it will prove to be accessible to older children and get them thinking about one or two things.

It's had some cracking reviews so far, so check them out.

You can get it from:

Amazon uk

Amazon us

Amazon ca

and I'd be grateful if you could spare the time.

Many thanks.

Wednesday 10 April 2013


The words of William Blake are quoted at the beginning of this novel:

‘Dear mother, Dear mother, the Church is cold, but the Alehouse is healthy, and pleasant, and warm.’

It doesn’t take long to work out that this opening is very apt.

Daniel Crabtree is a barfly of sorts – more of a pubfly really.  The pubs he frequents don’t have any of the dramatic or romantic connotations that one often finds in American fiction, rather they are down to earth places where men hide out and hang out and do little of interest other than drink.

Crabtree is a writer.  He’s written one story – a short story which isn’t good enough to get into his local rag.  Fortunately, he has only a loathing for those who can’t see his genius and is convinced of his abilities as an author and imagines his future to involve literary awards and high praise.

In order to help his prospects, he moves out of his family home to live a life where a living is barely scraped together.  Hunger, he thinks, will be the carriage of his muse.

The thing about Crabtree is that he has a point in regard to his own talents.  When telling his own life story or having to invent tales on the spot to get out of tight spots he has a real ability to entertain.  The detail into which he goes is often a little further than one might want him to , but he relates events with a curious and honest perception as well as with a wonderful sense of dry humour.

He is full of tales about his drinking, illnesses, his tricks for making sure his benefits aren’t stopped, his miserable living conditions, his encounters with women, fellow drinkers and his description of Salford and they are all superb.  Episodes with his dying uncle had me laughing out loud and drawing unwanted attention on the train and there were many instances where I couldn’t believe that the words used had actually been written down (these are brave words completely unshackled by Politically Correctness, words which sometimes seem chosen to stick up two fingers at aspects of modern Britain).

It strikes me as appropriate that this was the book I was reading at the time of Margaret Thatcher’s death given that the novel is set in a post-Thatcherite world where there was a lot of polarisation in many different ways.

There was a time when I thought I’d celebrate the Iron Lady’s passing.  Thought I’d put on Costello’s ‘TrampThe Dirt Down’ and dance on an imagined grave.  Having lost my own mother last year, I can’t find it in me to feel good about it – I guess I’m getting old – but there’s a little happy bubble inside that I’m suppressing just now and it’s an act of suppression that Crabteree  just wouldn’t understand.

The snapshot that Wallwork offers of an ‘it’s grim up north (and in lots of other places)’ Manchester pre-regeneration is clear and crisp.  It certainly took me back.  I’d like to think that one of Thatcher’s legacies was to set in motion voices of protest and a whole gang of reactionaries who turned to creative outlets and ended up presenting us with such fine works as this.

In ‘The Sound Of Loneliness’ we have a well-written novel that has many strands and many strengths.  It’s a book that tells an interesting and entertaining story and that kept me engaged throughout.  It follows a series of excellent works from Craig Wallwork and, as I’ve said before, he’s a man to whom admirers of a whole range of fiction should be paying attention. 
The Sound Of Loneliness should be bought and from the following outlets:
Paperback (with a really nice feel to the pages, kind of silky) - UK (and, because the Kindle version's rather expensive, I'd go for the paperback myself)