rusticwriter

scribbler extraordinaire

Interview: David Almond

I’m fortunate to have been published in print, and digitally during the past few years. As I don’t want to lose my work, I’m posting it here too. I’m particularly proud to say that I have interviewed David Almond, author of Skellig (among other works.)

David Almond

Master story-teller, Nottingham Trent lecturer and novelist David Almond has broadened the landscape of dreams with his latest book Mouse Bird Snake Wolf. And, as Emily Cooper found out, he’s not afraid to scare the kids.

What’s your writing routine?

Sitting down at my desk, that’s the thing. Routine is really important, so a lot of the things that I do seem very free and easy but actually are done within a very tight routine and hard work. I think writing is about long-term concentration so even when I appear not to be writing, I probably am. I think that’s the same for all writers. There’s always a part of your mind which is working.

Is writing a graphic novel different to fiction and children’s literature?

Not really. I think one of the great things about writing for young people has been the variety of forms that you can work in. Kids don’t make distinctions between different forms as adults do, so kids will very naturally spring from words on a page, to words in drama, to dance, to song. I think that’s what storytelling is, it’s all kinds of forms. If I think what I’m writing has to be illustrated then there is something going on in my mind, leaving space for the artist to come in with their own vision. It’s certainly been the case when I’ve been working with Dave McKean or Polly Dunbar or Oliver Jeffers. When I wrote Mouse Bird Snake Wolf I wrote it originally as a short story. I didn’t think about it as a graphic novel but I thought it would be illustrated, I just thought of it as a story that had to have enough space to allow Dave to bring in his own talent.

Before you worked with Dave McKean did you see any of his work?

Oh yes, I’d seen his work with Neil Gaiman, Wolves in the Walls. It was those kind of books which drew me towards Dave. I read Wolves not long before I began to write The Savage and thought what he was doing was fantastic. I had a sense while I was writing that we had similar imaginations, that we were alike: similar sources, similar roots. When we managed to get the manuscript to him I think he felt that we were colleagues of the imagination.

You’ve collaborated with Dave McKean several times. How does this work?

Generally it has been that I have written the stories and hope that Dave would like it enough to illustrate them. The first one we did was The Savage, and when I was writing the book to be illustrated, half way through it I knew that the perfect illustrator would be Dave McKean. So for the second part I was writing with the great hope that Dave might somehow be drawn into it. But I didn’t sit down and talk to him. The first time I met Dave was after he had done the illustrations at the launch of The Savage. It was the same with Polly Dunbar, when I did the novels with her I wrote them and then the illustrations came back and were perfect.

Neither you, Dave McKean or Neil Gaiman seem worried to have a children’s story that’s a little scary…

If you need to go to scary places, you have to go there. It’s not that you do it deliberately, or say “I really want to terrify these kids”. Kids imaginations deal with scary enough things all the time; monsters under the bed, noises at the window. It’s very natural but some of the best children’s stories are going to be scary. Good books reach down into those things inside ourselves and civilize them.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf – what’s it about?

It’s set in a world which is very like this world but hasn’t been finished yet. The gods have become lazy and they lie around on clouds, drinking tea and eating cakes, just admiring the lovely world beneath them. But there are still spaces in the world. The story starts when three children begin to wonder about this, “Why is the world not finished?” and they begin to create little animals for themselves. Because it’s a creation story based around children it was just fantastic to do, and I sent it to Dave to come back with a remarkable stream of images.

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I did some illustration too!

Lots of writers get asked where they get their ideas from – but how do you know an idea is worth pursuing?

It’s when a story comes with a kind of ‘fizz’ around it and it feels like it has the strength to be extended. When it connects with something within you, matching what’s on the page to a feeling. For years and years I didn’t quite know what to work with, which one to take forwards and be turned into something decent. The more you do it, the more you get a sense of the things that matter to you. Then you turn it into something the outside world might like or be interested in. So it’s a mix between messing with the ideas and finding the right one. Then committing to it.

You have been described as a “Master Storyteller”. How do you feel about that?

When I saw that written for the first time I was astonished. It’s very nice if people say that sort of thing. I think when someone says something like that you have to say, “That’s very nice, thank you very much”. Then you just have to crack on. The next story is always the hardest to write, so you think, “Well, if I’m a master then I can do this.”

How do you balance tutoring and writing?

You just have to keep things under control and find a balance. I enjoy teaching, sharing the ‘writing act’ and the process of creativity. But the central focus has to be on my own work. So you can’t allow work to invade.

What’s it like working with new writers at NTU?

This is one way of doing my job as a writer and keeping the literary culture alive – by sharing something about my skills and doing how I write. There are many things about writing that you can’t teach but you can share lots of things and give each other imaginative opportunities to develop your own talent. I do the exercises I set my students, not as deliberately, but they are distillations of how I do my writing.

What’s next on the list?

I’m finishing a new novel at the moment called The Tightrope Walkers which will come out in 2014. My first ever stories are being re-published this year by my first publisher, Iron Press. Then there’s a short novel I want to write – which is the next main thing I want to do. I can sense what it will be like, condensed, rhythmical.

What can we expect from your talk at the Festival of Words?

I’m talking about Billy Dean, Mouse Bird Snake Wolf and The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas. They all deal with similar themes, some of them quite scary. They’re all really about growing up and creating our own lives, and that’s what stories are – things that grow up. So writing for children is the perfect way of writing. Kids are growing up, like stories themselves. So I’ll be talking about those three books, how I made them, the power of illustrations and language. I’ll also be trying to inspire the audience to think of themselves as writers…

Book Review: Queen of All Albion

Over the past two years, I’ve written several book reviews for leftlion (Nottingham’s free culture magazine). To ensure that I keep copies of what I’ve written for them, I’m posting them here too. So, without further ado:

Queen of All Albion

Linda Hardy

£2.76

Trinity Revell is a remarkable girl, and very outspoken considering she lives in 1592. She accepts an arranged marriage with good cheer, until she finds out that her ‘husband’ is not her dashing cousin, Will, but his ageing stepfather. This is the start of a girl’s adventure story with runaway brides, sword fights and superstition. Our Notts-based author shows us a different side to the Midlands, one of a travelling band of jaggers and actors where Trinity must battle with possessive mothers, her own hormones and the Devil himself. The story has a slow start and a few archaic words put me off, but I kept reading and I’m glad I did. The pace picks up, galloping to the finish. Will Trinity regain her reputation? Will her cousin shake off the Devil’s Blessing? And what are those funny feelings Trinity has for one of the travellers? Enjoy.

Book Review: The Woman Under The Ground

Over the past two years, I’ve written several book reviews for leftlion (Nottingham’s free culture magazine). To ensure that I keep copies of what I’ve written for them, I’m posting them here too. So, without further ado:

The Woman Under The Ground

Megan Taylor

£7.99 (Weathervane Press)

We’ll start with Mrs Sawyer, a mother on a school run. What could be more ordinary? With Megan’s characters, each one has a particular brand of darkness within. In Mrs Sawyer’s case, it’s the voices. For Cara, she cannot resist the lure of the woods, and that place where all her secrets collide – where a woman made of earth and roots lies in the ground. Megan Taylor’s first short story collection is a beautiful but dark affair, exploring illness, guilt, trauma, absent mothers, ghosts as physical manifestations, imaginary siblings, broken relationships and insects preserved behind glass. But it’s offset by some beautiful Tim Burton-esque illustrations which accompany each story and distort the reader’s expectations. If you like short stories, you won’t want to rush with this book. Read it slowly. Treasure its characters – the wonderful, dangerous, honest creatures that they are.

Book Review: Tethers

Over the past two years, I’ve written several book reviews for leftlion (Nottingham’s free culture magazine). To ensure that I keep copies of what I’ve written for them, I’m posting them here too. So, without further ado:

Tethers

Jack Croxhall

£1.85 (Kindle), SP

Tethers has all the ingredients for a great children’s book. A hunt for a magical artefact, swash-bucking lessons and a mysterious diary. It’s practically a pirate story with all their travels through waterways and Jack Croxall gives his readers a book following Karl and Esther as they are pursued by a vicious set of twins and their henchmen. I desperately wanted the author to write a bumpier road- to really make me sit up and listen but I felt I was following rather than being a part of the action. In books, children sneak off and save the day, but here they follow orders from the adults. While the danger steadily grew, I still felt like I was in the back seat. I’d happily recommend it for a rainy afternoon.

What is Copywriting?

There are many writing professions. You’ve heard of the Poet, Novelist and Journalist. But what about the ‘Copywriter’? I’ve written this explanation for friends and family, to explain this interest of mine.

What is Copywriting?

Copywriting aims to sell. Discretely, or not. ‘Copy’ refers to the text. Which should always be original, and has nothing to do with being copied from elsewhere. In order to sell ideas, products and services, copywriters must use every ounce of flair and creative talent to turn a few facts into attractive copy that convinces you to part with your money.

It has nothing to do with copy-rite (c), which is the legal matter of placing claim to ideas and intellectual property. Unless a copywriter is selling products with the need for legal disclaimers, or has made outrageous claims, there is little need for a copywriter to cross paths with a lawyer.

An excellent book on copywriting by Mark Shaw. Who, incidentally, began a company called ‘Jupiter’ where I worked for a year. Mr Shaw was no longer there, as he is now pursuing a more active copywriting career.

Copywriting encompasses a wide range of projects. Anything from advertising slogans and product jingles, to product descriptions and the wording on a price tag in a shop. Leaflets, website ‘copy’, poster slogans, company branding, magazine articles… the list goes on. It can be very creative, and at the same time it’s non-fiction and there is a kind of ‘formula’ to this skill.

Who employs Copywriters?

Copywriters have two customers. First, the people who the products will be sold to. You or I. Secondly, their employers. The people who want the ‘copy’. These will be companies who want their products/services to look good, or design agencies. With so many people having a say in a copywriter’s ideas, copywriters sometimes have to sacrifice a strong idea because the ‘Big Boss’ doesn’t like it, even though everyone else may love it.

What makes good Copywriting?

Copywriting often involves storytelling to show the customer why a product or service will change their lives for the better. Copywriters shouldn’t try to be comedians, because the witty idea will stay in a customer’s mind, not the product.

As for knowing when your writing is good, that’s a skill all writers pick up. Knowing which ideas to chase, and which to send to recycling.

The Lady of Rivers Review

It’s like the Game of Thrones series, with royalty, pageantry and everybody dies – or, to be more precise, we know everyone will die, because this is historical fiction.

Background

The Lady of Rivers by Philippa Gregory is the first episode in a series of novels about the women in the Royal court during the Cousins War (now known as the War of the Roses.) In this book we cover the early adulthood of Jacquetta Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth Rivers who will later marry Henry of Lancaster and become Queen of England. Their marriage was a secret, and split the fragile peace that Henry and Richard Neville (Earl of Warwick and the Kingmaker) had fought to create.

It seems I have learnt quite a lot from reading Philippa’s books. No? I’m not sure if it’s Gregory’s writing which has brought the medieval times alive for me, or the TV series The White Queen based on her books. I’ve watched it numerous times. Either way, having watched the series first, it does help me put faces to names, and there are so very many names to remember.

Characters

While watching the series, I really enjoyed the character of Jacquetta. Gregory has written her as an infinately wise person, loving and fiercely loyal to family and friends, even when the two divide her. I never thought I’d say this, but Jacquetta is almost to good. She marries for love, despite her choice being many classes lower than herself. It’s a fairytale, but that part of her life is also true. I doubt that she never had an angry moment, or spoke poorly at an inopportune moment, or actually did go looking for her husband in the battle-ravaged streets of London.

I feel she’s been written too kindly. She had more children than she had fingers on her hands. How was she healthy? Or happy – when she was constantly pulled away from her life to be at the side of her Queen? Gregory gave me details of her clothing, an idea of her life, but the personality she gave Jacquetta made the character feel colourless. It is clear from what she does that she was fierce and passionate – but this was left out of her dialogue and her actions, the ones Philippa ‘wrote in’ at the moments when there are few facts, only results and actions to be decided.

Margaret of Anjou – now there’s a character! She’s much more three dimensional. She’s ambitious, cruel and grief stricken for the way her life is going. Philippa wrote Margaret  with real fire. It’s a shame she’s not the main character in this book, but I believe there’s a book focusing on her later in the series.

The Writing

I feel her books are good for evoking these women’s stories, but I cannot fall in love with these books entirely. Gregory’s writing style is very simple. For me, she is a historian first, and a writer second.

I’d recommend this series to viewers of The White Queen who want to delve deeper into the story, without other historians’ conflicting opinions about the times. For more academic reading, I’d have to suggest going elsewhere – these are books of fiction after all.

It’s been a while

Hello all,

How are you? Long time no see – my fault I’m afraid. To my dismay I haven’t felt much of a writing bug for a while, but have been feeling an itch growing lately. I do hope this is a positive sign. It was National Poetry day last week, and I wanted to share one of my favourite poems ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ by Keates. It might seem like an odd choice for a 22-year old, but there’s something about its sadness, the fantasy and the structure I find pleasing. I discovered it during my university course, and it reminds me of the good times spent on the Jubilee Campus.

I have more news. No longer will I be living and working out in the sticks of Nottingham. As of yesterday, I no longer work at True Story Design Ltd as a ‘Quality Assurance Assistant’, but will be beginning shortly at BYG Systems as a Scriptwriter, writing copy for their educational software. There’s elements of research and copywriting which appeal to me, and I have always wanted to be a writer. The wonderful staff at True Story have been very welcoming, and the year I spent with them has been a good one. Now it’s time to start a new chapter in my life, returning to the streets of Beeston, which I considered my home for two years during my degree.

I have a lot of writerly plans, such as a possible column about my copywriting experiences with NWS, and a publishing idea I’d like to see take flight. Right now a lot of my thoughts are spent on moving and getting better (as I seem to have poisoned myself last week, and am still recovering.) I would also like to partake in NaNoWriMo, as I haven’t ‘won’ since my first attempt at secondary school. Shocking.

Without further ado, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed – Ah! woe betide! –
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried – ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Nottingham Festival of Words Blog Hop

What’s your connection with Nottingham and its written and spoken words?

Nottingham became my home for three years, during my university degree ‘Creative and Professional Writing’. I didn’t get to see much of Nottingham, or its beautiful park campus on the day of my interview. I made up for that in September, and the red brick town building, the water-sculpture in the Victoria centre (which has since disappeared, where to, I do not know) and the bookshops. Now I live and work in Nottingham, but I spent most of my three years looking for creative opportunities.

I don’t mean for this blog to become a list or rant, but I have realised that I have met a great many people furthering creative interests in Nottingham, and with this opportunity, I’d like to thank and celebrate them. So, in no particular order:

 

Mouthy Poets

The brain-child of Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson, this is a spoken word poetry group I have been to twice and now follow their progress. They’re loud and they get results. Many of their members have now published poetry, and they are a jewel in the busy theaters, cafes and performance spaces.

Pewter Rose Press

Anne and her husband run a publishing company, which I was lucky enough to intern with for a short time in addition to my studies. Together, we edited, produced covers and typeset books. I’ve also been to Lowdam festival and enjoyed participating in a book reading.

Angry Robot

Another internship, with the Sci-fi and Fantasy centre of Nottingham’s publishers. I learnt a lot in the days I spent with them, writing blogs, posting books across the word and seeing what it’s really like to work in-house at a book publisher’s. I don’t want to scare anyone, but ‘I’ll be back’.

Left Lion

I have had the privilege of writing for Left Lion, a free culture magazine. Distributed in many coffee/book shops, it’s a lovely excuse to get a cup of tea and enjoy an hour in contented creative reflection. With LL, I’ve done several interviews in Waterstones. How else could I have interviewed David Almond (a hero of mine), and fantasy masters Rachael Caine and Peter V. Brett? Let me know when the next author comes to town! It turns out I seem to be rather good at interviews (if I say so myself.)

Alt Fiction

Who knew that just down the road in Leicester, there is an annual alternative fiction festival? I volunteered along with Elaine Aldred a while ago, and really must attend as a participant. That year was fantastic. Readings, radio sessions, free books, panels, question times… and did I mention a whole group of Dr Who writers?

The final part of this question bleeds into the next, so here it is – What do you love about Nottingham and its creative scene right now?

I’d been encouraged to join Nottingham Writer’s Studio for a while, but my first involvement was in the design of the first Festival of Words’ brochure. Pippa Hennessy and I worked to produce a black and white program with a colour cover. I put mock stitching and lace into the design, celebrating the history of Nottingham’s artisan history.

Then somehow it was suggested that I run a class. As I was already taking a ‘Writing in the Community’ class at university and creating a workshop, I had a whole room of guinea pigs at my disposal. ‘Writing Comics’ has now been taught in Nottingham University, the Festival (held in Nottingham Trent’s town campus) and New College Nottingham.

Now I am a full member of Nottingham Writer’s Studio. I’ve offered my help with this year’s festival, and haven’t (yet) been called upon… hint hint. It’s early days, and in the mean time, I’m going to social writer’s gatherings, and experimenting with my own writing.

How would you describe Nottingham to a visitor coming to the Festival of Words?

A maze. A labyrinthine tangle of tea shops and brilliant nights out. It helps to have a guide, as I did – or to plan out your outings with the help of leaflets and Writing East Midlands’ website, which seems to capture most (but not all, there’s just so much) of what’s going on.

There will be a smiling flood of volunteers (most of which are likely to be poets and writers) who can direct you all over town to the many events. Don’t be afraid to ask. Dive in.

 

Edit: My hint seems to have been noticed, and I’m in conversation with some of the lovely people organising the festival about this year’s program design. But what next? Here are two nominations for the blog hop to continue- Sue Barsby on http://thegeriatricmother.wordpress.com/ and Phil Lowe on http://philloweactor.blogspot.co.uk/ who are both involved in Notthingham’s creative scene (in different ways.) Perhaps this is the great thing about the festival of words, and indeed, this blog hop. The creative energy in Nottingham is not only strong, but varied. It proves to me that despite my involvement with NWS, there is much more to see.

Before you press ‘Print’

How to approach a printers and what you need to know

You’d like printed, physical copies of your book, leaflet, postcard or wedding invites… and you know you need to find a printer. But where do you start?

Who are you going to use?

I’d suggest searching for printers in your area. The closer they are to you, the quicker you’ll receive the product and the smaller the postage fee (hopefully.) A small local printer may offer to cast a glance over your work before pressing print. It’s an extra pair of eyes looking out for spelling and grammatical errors – it’s worth it.

Quote me

The next question is ‘how much is this going to cost me?’ and to work this out you need to tell the printers exactly what you want. Quotes are usually free and will be emailed to you. So shop around. Read it through, make sure it’s exactly what you want.

  • What size do you want? Double sided? How many pages? It’s not enough to say ‘A4’, ‘Postcard’ or even ‘standard business card size’ because in the UK, some printers use ‘international’ sizes, ‘UK’ sizes, or ‘American’ standard. Work out what you want to the millimetre, and it will save you disappointment later.
  • Do you want proofs? Proofs are a draft version of your project, made before saying ‘okay’ to 300 copies… and realising there’s a mistake. As this will be a one-off job, you will be charged for proofs. Looking at your project on paper rather than on a screen, feeling the weight of it – this is often an invaluable experience.
  • You will need to give the printers up-to-date contact details, often your phone number and an email address. They may also ask for an organisation name, in case you decide to continue using them. They’ll know they’ve worked for you before.
  • How many do you want? The more you order, the cheaper they will be per copy. For example 200 flyers might cost £150, but 400 may only be £200. In order to make the most out of their paper, printers sometimes only print in certain batches. For example, ‘We only print 40, 80, 100, 150 postcards.’ So if you wanted 85, you’ll need to decide between 80 (and deal with having 5 less) or 100 (and having 15 spare.)
  • What kind of paper do you want? Gloss? Matte? 150 gsm? ‘Gsm’ (grams per square metre) is a measurment of how thick the paper is. A ‘normal’ sheet of A4 printer paper is about 90gsm, card is 350gsm. You may also be offered a choice of recycled paper. Remember to ask what colour the recycled paper is. Cream? Brown? Textured? This will affect your design, especially the appearance of ‘white’ areas.
  • How many colours does your design have? Is it black and white? Full colour? One colour? Full colour involves a design with all of the four colours ‘CMYK’ (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key) or three colour ‘RGB’ (Red, Green and Blue) more than one colour, whereas ‘one colour/monochrome’ is similar to black and white, except that you may be using a series of reds, and ‘blank’ areas which are white. In some cases, your printing may be a little cheaper.
    • Make sure your images have a high pixel resolution known as ‘high res’. It is essential that your images have a high PPI (nothing to do with insurance, but pixels per inch.) It’s generally accepted that images of 300 ppi will print well, but below that, they may be pixelated when printed… ending up looking like this:

      You can see the tiny image of Shakespeare? That is because it is smaller. Images with less than 300 PPI may be okay to use, because they are small.

    • You’ll need to have a deadline in mind, at least two months early (in case they’re busy.) Projects will be booked in advance, even if the document to be printed isn’t finished yet. Book your spot and don’t take ‘It’s okay, June is a quiet month’ as an answer. Make sure you have a ‘print date’.
    • Do you have a design, or only the words you want to become a book/flyer/invitation? Ask your printer if they know any typesetters or graphic designers. Lots of printers have typesetting services, or could recommend someone.
  • Special effects, embossing, etc… There are hundreds of things you can do with printing. Each one will make your book more expensive.

A note on book binding

The two most common bindings are:

Perfect bound – The book is printed, folded and glued together at the spine. This is the cheapest option of binding, commonly known as ‘paperbacks’ as opposed to ‘Hardback’ thick cardboard covered books.

For perfect bound books, you will need a spine allowance for the cover. How deep your spine is depends on how many pages your book has, and which thickness of paper you choose. Often, typesetters and designers will put off designing a cover until they know this measurement, as it may mean fiddling around with their designs.

Spiral bound – A series of holes is punched into the inner margin of all printed pages and threaded together with a column of wire. It is particularly useful for working textbooks, as the covered can be folded back on themselves to allow the reader to hold to book with one hand.

Ready to phone up?

Remember, don’t be nervous. Printers do this all the time, and even if your job feels unique to you, chances are they’ve printed several like it in the past week.

No question is a stupid question. Queries will affect the final product, ask anything you like to make your they are finishing your product as you wanted.

What you need from them:

  • A name and contact details. Make sure you make a note of the name of the person who picks up the phone, and any details they give you. Email address etc. They will probably send you an email with the details of the conversation, just to make sure. Ask for a direct phone number – in case of emergencies.
  • A print deadline – when the product will ‘go to print’, when you need to send them the files and how long you have to introduce amendments. You may decide you want to change spellings or details of design before your project is printed, make sure you have a final deadline.
  • Portal details. The more detailed the design, the larger the file. Printers often have an online ‘portal’ where files can be uploaded, downloaded and edited. Comments and ideas can be exchanged between you and the printer. You may be given a set of personal log in details. Write them down.
  • What do you need to supply? Most printers (I’ve not met one that doesn’t) prefer a ‘print ready pdf’. If you don’t know how to turn image files into a pdf or have software that can do this, the printer may ask for a small fee to convert your files. What makes the pdf print ready, rather than a normal pdf? The pdf format allows images and designs to be printed exactly as they are intended to be. Print ready pdfs also have a ‘bleed’ – a white border around the edge of the design which allows excess ink to ‘bleed’ onto it, which will be removed later. Some printers like a 3mm bleed, others 5mm. Best to ask them what they would prefer.

So, I’ve rung them and asked for a quote, what can I expect to turn up in my inbox? Here’s an example of a quote for a book I had printed. Names and numbers have been removed (except the prices, correct as 2013).

Dear Ms. XXXX

Revised price

Referance number:1234

Anthology XXXX – 4pp+204pp text

We thank you for your enquiry for the above and have pleasure in submitting our quotation as follows:

From pdf supplied submit soft proof.
Print 4pp cover in 4 colour process to 1 side only.
Matt laminate outer cover.
Print 204pp text in 1 colour throughout.
Fold & gather text, draw on cover and perfect bind to finished size
230 x 155 mm.
Pack to suit and deliver to 1 UK address.

Material: Cover 300gsm Condat Digital Silk
Text 100gsm Premium Smooth Offset

300 – £2,120.00

Prices do not include VAT.

Authors corrections will be charged extra. Please note our terms and conditions which are available at: ….XXX…url.com
We hope you will find this quotation acceptable.

Yours sincerely

X Smith

I hope this article has explained this process in a way you can understand. If you still have questions, and you’d like to ask me, feel free to leave a comment in the box below, and I’ll get back to you.

Science Experiments

The Debate for our Future

Fantasy books explore the impossible. Different races, places and magic. Despite the literary worth, and my love of, such books as The Lord of the Rings, it’s science fiction I want to talk about. Sci-fi is the stage of what could be.

It is difficult to dispute that our future will be influenced (if not decided) by scientists. We don’t know what science is capable of. Its limits are only limited by our intelligence and research. There was a time when electricity was a myth. Now it is akin to a human right. Space elevators are no longer an idea, but has become a future building project. Time machines and transporters don’t seem far off, do they?

So, what is Sci-fi?

Sci-fi is not fantasy… but the line between fiction, fact and sci-fi can bend. After all, it’s possible that we just haven’t invented [insert mad computer thingamabob] yet.

Sci-fi offers a debating panel for writers and readers to discuss difficult situations or decisions.

  • What will happen when we run out of coal and oil?

  • What should we do if we do meet other life forms?

  • Without gravity, how would we grow food?

Being a similar genre to fantasy, we suspend our disbelief. I think this is why science fiction is so popular with scientists and academics. Not only because it’s about spaceships and alternative life-forms, but because they are theories, ideas. You have to put aside what your logical mind tells you ‘This is not, cannot be real’, because there is always the glimmer of hope that all this could be. And so, readers are happier to debate about the issues. The problems. The terrible things that can happen in these books without people being hurt, and go on to inform our lives.

When Utopias of the future are just a page-turn away, we dream. Often those utopias turn out to have a seedy underbelly, studded with scheming politicians – reflecting our own dissatisfaction with our representatives. Apocalypse, Dystopias and environmental wastelands are often the fallout of Global warming and how seriously our ancestors took the crisis. It’s a chance for us to consider what we are doing now.

The popularity of Sci-fi is linked to current issues

Different genres of Sci-fi rise and fall depending on what is happening to the reader. Stories set in possible futures are actually stories of today, but with added climates of conflict, different characters, with technology pushed a little further along.

This is the great difficulty with Sci-fi. Authors will find it hard to distance themselves from their present, because it is all they know. This could be dangerous for writers who live in countries where they are not free to write what they like. Sci-fi gives us an excuse for allegory, but how far can you separate yourself from your own memories and opinions?

England is blessed. We have a free press. Theoretically. Lawsuits and public opinion may restrict us… but with the new ‘market place of ideas’ that is the internet (my favourite sci-fi invention made real) countries can merge. But. Should the limits of our freedom be dictated by where we log on? Harder to police, there are plans to limit what we can access on the internet. I have no problem with the suggested search engine algorithms, but rather than stopping internet users from accessing data (which could instead be policed), I would prefer that people were re-directed to help or advice. It’s all a little 1984 for me. (You were expecting me to mention George Orwell, weren’t you? And yes, I’m going to continue.) Combining speculative fiction and horror, Orwell created ‘Govspeak’ which removes words from use, to breed out dangerous concepts and ideas from the population.

Can we breed out pedophilia from a population by removing it from the internet? What is to stop people going out and making more? Harming others? Will we be able understand and control the dark parts of ourselves without safe expression? Here is where sci-fi steps in. It can discuss difficult situations, but because it is not happening on earth, but a planet ‘far, far away’ we are able to have significant distance from it, to discuss it.

In Saga, a (very good, and I’d recommend) sci-fi comic, a freelance assassin visits a brothel planet, and is persuaded by a pimp to view a prostitute. When it turns out that this is a small girl, I was worried. What will he do? Spoiler alert. Disgusted, he tells the girl to close her eyes. He blows out the pimp’s brains. But what if he had slept with her? What if his morals were different? One of the questions I find myself asking when I read is ‘What are we capable of?’

Humans are capable of expressing emotions and using abstract concepts (such as justice) to govern their lives. They are part of society (another abstract concept.) We are taught these things, they are not innate. And stories, no matter what form, help us to express ourselves and learn.

What use is Sci-fi to me?

Are you feeling restricted? Read. Oppressed? Read. Weak? Unheroic? Read, or write, it sounds like you have a story you need to tell. And after that, talk. Acknowledge your fears and desires before we create a culture of shame. Don’t be in the dark.

Having taken a year in Political Philosophy, I cannot help but see the similarities between my coursebooks and sci-fi novels. Rights, racism, civil disobedience and violence were discussed, and the examples in my lessons were much less interesting and poorly written compared to the fiction I devoured later. Philosophy needs sci-fi. Would you stick around for this film?

‘Attack of Democracy over Dictatorship’

Politicians plot to take control in a squabble over shipping routes and taxation.

The monarchy work with a group of rebels, to bomb a trash shoot.

Sound familiar? I don’t think Star Wars could have survived all 6 parts without the added interest of the characters and their unfamiliar world.

Sci-fi means we do not have to talk about ourselves in terms of black and white, without absolutes. Even in racism. Think of Star Wars’ alien species existing together, preying on one another for resources, for political gain. Sci-fi teaches, and offers a bearable way to interest the young in politics, psychology and philosophy. Books aimed at teenage readers don’t just get people reading, they make them question their own lives. The Hunger Games is a sci-fi story of dystopia and rebellion – have you noticed that english speaking countries are dissatisfied with their governments lately? Could that possibly be a reason for its popularity?

Fiction encourages us to think, not mindlessly absorb. To ask questions, join forums. Read classics and new work. There is so much now available. You don’t have to read ‘heavy’ prose if you don’t want to. Sci-fi (or any genre really) is available for all reading strengths. Here’s a list of a few sci-fi novels I would recommend. Stretch your mind. Talk to your friends (and fellow readers) about how the characters react to situations. Question everything.

1984 by George Orwell

More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Time Machine by H G Wells

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

Wool by Hugh Howey

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