Today we sit down with author Landan England. He is going to share his interesting background, inspiration, and a bit about his work. Please enjoy this latest installment of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Well I’ve always known there is something wrong with me… I didn’t suspect it could be as simple as being an author so it was probably sometime in 2010/11 before I began to understand the full implications of what it means. I now get exactly what’s involved. I see myself as normal now which is worrying but I can’t change it so I’ve become resigned to doing whatever it takes to ‘succeed’. I’m still not entirely sure what ‘success’ might be though.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Usually three to four months if I’m left to concentrate. I once finished a first draft in 5 weeks (The Eelii) but I don’t push too hard. Some write themselves, others are… more challenging.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I like to start within an hour of getting up, make coffee, drink coffee, drink more, then I put earplugs in and begin writing. I refresh my coffee as regularly as required. I only write as much, or as little, as feels comfortable. It’s not meant to be a job, I don’t want it to be hard work.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Quirk? Er… needing to wear earplugs to block out distractions? Sometimes I deliberately leave ‘mistakes’ in. Something quirky I do do, (actually quite an irritation I end up correcting at the editing stage) is to confuse sentences by putting the words in not only the wrong order but the wrong in order, it’s almost exotic, almost eccentric but, unfortunately, just wrong.
Q5) How are your books published?
I did self-publish to begin with. I had 12 online but now I’ve signed to Wallace Publishing so, hopefully, there will be lots more available in the future. I’ll link my Amazon Author-page to my weblinky thing once the novel’s released. AuthorBrocSilva@twitter or my Facebook page always has updates although I do put pictures of kittens/polemic rants/tattoo pics up too… sorry about that.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The vast library of bizarre imagery hidden within the cobwebbed depository of my mind. It’s like an old underground treasure trove; endless steps worn smooth through constant use go down, down into the murk. Water drips somewhere, the air gradually grows colder until dank corridors open out to reveal innumerable ancient creaking priests’ cell doorways. The iron grills in their foot thick wooden facades reveal nothing but, open any and they lead into damp, drear storerooms yet always among the gloom, the rats, damp, and cobwebs… a glimmer, always something shimmers in the bleakness.
I almost never have a set idea of plot/character/narrative until I start. Usually I retrieve the vaguest idea of a beginning, sometimes my store offers me an ending or a middle but not always. I’ve tried mapping out everything in advance but it doesn’t inspire me – I prefer the start and see what happens method.
Q7) When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I tried writing a novel about the club scene in the mid-90s but got distracted by the relentless tedium of the work I was doing at that time. I was about 34 then. I got into the rave/dance/repetitive beats scene in the late 80s and wanted to describe what I’d witnessed but it got away from me. ‘They’ say write what you know; easily said… I did, but badly.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a failed musician but I keep a guitar, (Fender Stratocaster since you asked – the best – ask Jimi Hendrix) so, a little of that. I live on the Isle of Wight (recently heard American ‘comedian’ Rich Hall describe it as ‘the island fun forgot’, ha haaa.) so I love a beach, or a river, anything near the water but not in it, not in England anyway (Brrrr!). I also write poetry; read; watch T.V., etc. I’ve always been a little obsessed with music so I would probably travel the festivals in a camper van if I could afford to, writing and soliloquizing, maybe even a bit of dancing dressed as a unicorn!?!
I was also, once, a photographer…… I still try, always learning.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Wow! Just one? It could be Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. Something about the prose, the sense of melancholy, a vague sense of unease until the penny drops. The film captures the essence of the novel well too although there are a few differences, as always, but it definitely carries the mood of the original.
When that little blonde girl asks, “is it a bumper crop?” And the delivery man says, “yes darlin’, it’s a bumper crop alright.” His colleague’s face says it all really. A seriously affecting novel, brilliantly written and I just wonder; where did that come from? I hope my novels can affect people that much one day.
“We all complete.” Heartbreaking yet brilliant.
Q10) What do your friends/family think of your writing?
I’ve thought about this a lot and I actually believe most of them think I’m a total loser who will fail miserably. I wish they didn’t but then I did jump onto Amazon waaaaay too early. Anyone who read my early stuff would definitely have good reason to dismiss me as an incompetent. Luckily, I met a great editor, learned from my many, many mistakes (grammar, possessive apostrophes, terrible jumps between 1st person to 3rd and back, etc. etc.).
I now work to the highest professional standards, have all my novels professionally edited and work endlessly to produce the best work I can. Always learning…
Q11) What was one of the most surprising thing you learned in creating your books?
That I can finish things. I actually finish what I start then spend however long it takes to make sure my work is properly finished. It took me years to understand a manuscript is simply a starting point, the fine detail is in the editing, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit.
Q12) What do you most hate about the writing process?
Nothing – I love writing – I also love editing – I love that there’s all this mad stuff inside me. I love making up characters and telling stories – what could be better than living in a fantasy world? Okay, I spend a lot of time alone but I’m never actually alone or stuck in one place because I’ve got my characters to talk to. They take me places most people have to read about – I actually see what they see, say what they say, laugh at their poor jokes and cry when, occasionally, a favorite character has to die. It sounds pretentious but I live their stories.
Q13) How many books have you written – which is your favorite?
Seventeen novels so far and nearly 50,000 words of poetry. I’ve also done a few shorts for kids and two books of ridiculous satire which aren’t going anywhere.
I always thought my favorite was The Colour Thing (white boy meets black girl at Notting Hill Carnival/love at first sight, her racist family hate him, beat him up, you know the type of thing? Love in all its flavors, with a tiny bit of murder.) but it may have changed to TATTOO ME though that’s probably because it’s one of my most recent. It is awesome though! A proper, weird, what’s going on here, curio.
I’m lucky in that I love all my novels. They’re originals and a part of me. I could rave about all of them if there was enough space.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers; if so, what are they?
How about…write one line at a time? Don’t look too far ahead, don’t set ridiculous daily word targets and trust yourself to finish. A few lines is good if it moves the story forward. The editing is where the magic is anyway so ‘all’ you’ve got to do is get that first draft down… easy! Well; easier anyway. People take it all too seriously – just keep trying. Not everyone can finish but if you enjoy a sentence, a cliché, describing imagery, the odd metaphor, then you could be a writer.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers? How and what kinds of thing do they say?
Not much so far, although I did get some great reviews of my novel, If The Wings Fit?, which sold a few E-copies. I hope to put that one out again soon, all profits will always go to MIND charity for mental health.
The Colour Thing drew a few nice comments. Unfortunately, most people just say they liked it/loved it without going into details but I’ll take any compliments available. The most constructive feedback has come from my editor who I’ve managed to make cry on a number of occasions (through my writing, not just for fun). A skill in itself! And something difficult to achieve when you’re working with someone who’s read more novels than most of us can imagine. I hope to make many others cry/laugh/get angry/vengeful/frustrated, and more…
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
I definitely don’t have one – everyone is welcome though I’d hope some of my female heroine characters will attract ladies/girls/transvestites/gays/tractor drivers/the golfing fraternity, etc…
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
Not too sure… I tend to enjoy the reluctant hero scenario but anything original can become popular. I have different tastes to the popular market trends. I come from a hippy/punk/biker festivals and free-living type of background, so I like a bit of mysticism, the odd venture into Pagan imagery, a bit of Tolkien, a splash of Tolstoy/ Moorcock/ Ishiguro layered with a hefty dose of Hollywood/Hammer house of Horror imagery. So, it really could be almost anything.
TATTOO’s premise is of a tattoo opening up the mind of a misanthrope to his true identity/true vocation. Possibly I make good stories but is that too arrogant? I hope not, I just try to write good, imaginative literature.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
From the age of eight I was obsessed with guitars: it’s been an obsession ever since. I always thought I’d be a professional musician. I tried in a number of different bands, lots of gigs, loads of fun but no CDs, no mansion, no drug habit, no transatlantic travel, no unsavory sexual practices. Still playing though.
Q18) Where can we find your books?
TATTOO, my first proper release, became available on May 5th, 2016 in paperback and e-book through Wallace Publishing. Hopefully there will be many more to follow.
Q19) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
This is the beginning of TATTOO where Brock is about to discover the link between what he considers ‘just’ a simple tattoo and the vocation/other world/reality that’s waiting for him. Oh dear, has he got a huge learning curve coming up……
Brock watched, fascinated, as the tattoo gun pressed against his wrist and the needle cut into his skin, leaving its thin black line.
“Okay?” Phil, the tattoo artist, asked.
Amazed that the sharp needle had cut through his flesh and left its permanent mark without him feeling it, Brock smiled.
“Yes, go ahead, I’d expected it to be agony but I can’t feel it.”
“Really? The inside of the wrist is one of the more painful places for most people.”
“Yeah but I’m not most people, I’m really hard.”
“We’ll see.” Phil laughed.
He’d heard it all before. The number of people who went to him and managed to brazen out the first few lines but became increasingly uncomfortable part-way through was standard gossip amongst the tattoo fraternity. It was a rare customer who could make it all the way through without a sound. Not that it was a competition, it’s simply part of the process.
Brock had always said he would get a tattoo one day but it had to be something personal, different from everyone else’s. Now here he was, forty-eight, his recently shaved wrist covered in grease, watching a guy young enough to be his son carving into his skin as he carefully followed the shapes of the design provided.
Ever since Brock could remember, the symbol had been in his mind. He had no idea where it had come from, it had just always been there. Every time he was bored he would end up drawing it out, changing it slightly, but always based around the same basic sun-symbol idea. He’d finally reached an age where he knew it was time to get on with it, so, he sat down and sketched his initial sun design. He tried lots of different borders, but when he found the right one he knew it, ‘buzzing’ as it came together. Simple, tribal, almost Aztec/Mayan style; there was something that felt inextricably linked to an ancient culture as soon as it began to take shape on the paper. He knew, felt it straight away; beautiful; simple, powerful and just absolutely ‘right’. Right in that natural, intuitive way that most people take no notice of but that he had learnt to trust over the years. Brock believed there was a link through himself back through history to a time when humans were more in tune with their instincts, perceptions, even magic. He had long ago stopped mentioning his beliefs to anyone but he knew his tattoo was part of all that history. There was only one design available and now he had it. He knew it as surely as the difference between hot and cold, summer and winter.
Phil had lined up the stencil exactly where his customer had specified. Again, one look told him it was the only place it could be. Brock watched intently as something he had expected to be agonizing progressed painlessly. Because he sat so well Phil could concentrate and relax into his work, making it a pleasure for him. There’s nothing worse than a customer jerking or flinching. It makes it really hard work and invariably ruins the tattoo. To both their surprise the work went quickly and smoothly, producing sharp, rich lines. It was all outline and black fill-in but the design just worked that way – the only way. Even Phil, who was a bit unsure to start with, had to admit it was a classic design. It was just ‘right’.
“Wow! That is fantastic. Great work Phil – how cool is that?” said Brock, “I honestly hardly felt it, just a couple of sharp twitches but that was all. Excellent work!”
He twisted and turned his wrist in the mirror to admire the finished article.
“That’s an awesome design, Brock. I wasn’t too sure to start with but I really like it now.”
Another customer entered the shop. Phil went to talk with him while Brock continued admiring his tattoo. Holding his wrist out in front of him, he looked into the mirror again.
Thank you for letting me in, a voice spoke inside his head, clear and strong. A face, feint in the mirror, looked at him.
“What? Who are you? I didn’t let anyone in!”
About Landan England:
I am Broc Silva (aka Landan England), Hampshire-born, I grew up next to a forest thereby learning how important the natural world is from an early age. I had a pet rabbit, a dog, a cat, two brothers and a sister. My parents were actually married and all of us came from the same willie/womby bits!!! Imagine how weird that would be now! Of course they got divorced which was the beginning of my drifting into fantasy. I’ve always used music, art, photography, pot and alcohol, and now writing, to escape reality. Mental health issues have plagued me but then without those disabilities I definitely wouldn’t be the sensitive little flower I am now, so; it’s probably for the best or I might never have written a thing. This, naturally, depends on whether you consider me an author of note or not.
I’ve moved around a little, London, Amsterdam, Mallorca, but keep coming back to my beloved little Isle of Wight with its gorgeous countryside, wicked beaches, clean air, cute villages, rich history, ghosts, fairies, dragonflies, duck ponds, unicorns and dinosaurs. What more could anyone need?
Incidentally, some of these ‘facts’ may be fantasy and some fantasies: fact.