Lockdown Interviews: no29 Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier interviewed by David Mathews

Twenty-ninth  in a series of author-to-author interviews to distract them, and you, from lockdown torpor.

David Mathews interviews Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier (Noon, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book) about her writing, photography and book design work, which includes the cover for No Spider Harmed…

Preorder No Spider Harmed… – out 8th August for our eighth anniversary, when we will be launching online at 8pm BST, with readings from authors, including David.

See more of Karen’s photography and designs  on her website  and follow @KBG_Tweets

Once upon a quarantine

Arachne author Carolyn Eden‘s story Free White Towel from Liberty Tales

is up on Once upon a Quarantine

read by Heather Bleasdale

Lots of other stories by famous authors and read by famous actors. So that’s our Carrie famous too now!

Carolyn

The Spider has landed

box of spiders

Traditional box of books image: No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book has arrived.

We did think about delaying this book, what with the Covid situation, but thanks to the power of multiple authors, (Anthologies are so handy that way) we were able to garner enough pre-orders to pay up front for the printing, thus minimising the risk of the books sitting sadly at the distributor with nowhere to sell them.  And I have to say TJ International have done a brilliant job, and Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier‘s cover looks BEAUTIFUL.

It’s Independant Bookshop Week, this week by the way, and lots of bookshops have just reopened, in a careful socially distanced way, so you could order a copy through your local indie, or you can order from us.

There will be an online launch on 8th of August, when we will be celebrating our Eighth Anniversary. (Technically a few days before, but all those eights lined up and called to me.)

Bookshops, place your order with NBNI or via Inpress.

Those of you who have already ordered – there are a LOT of you, and we are prioritising the overseas orders to ensure everyone gets their books before publication day – and when I say ‘we’, I mean me and the cat, who lovely though he is, doesn’t help much in the way of posting stuff, and is more interested in sitting in the boxes when they are emptied, so please be patient, I know it’s exciting, I’m excited, but I can only get so many parcels to the post office at a time.

 

 

Spider has left the room

This is a tiny Zebra Jumping Spider, sunning itself on our water butt. This photo is about 4 times life size. There is a leaf green micro spider that drops onto me everytime I sit under our apple tree, but it moves too fast for me to take a picture, so i havent identified it yet.

Anyway this is a roundabout way of getting to the point:

No Spider Harmed in the Making of This Book is at the printers.

Laurie Penny snuck in with a cover quote just hours before I hit send.

Here’s the full cover.

Spider-Cover A1

Now to get the eBooks set up, line up some reviewers (if that’s you, get in touch!) and plan the online launch…

 

Who or What is WooA?

WooA… a recent member of this writing group asked me how the name came about:

WooA = Writers of OUR age. Apparently, when founding members were on an MA together, amongst much younger writers, they found themselves saying this on a regular basis and it stuck, sometimes the ‘our’ is not emphasised, and we refer to ourselves like this with muted irony.

WooA logo

WooA is where the second Arachne Press title, Stations originated – we used to meet in the Broca cafe just opposite Brockley Station, (I wrote such a lot of food-themed stories then!)

The Overground runs at the bottom of my garden. Before there was the Overground, there was only Southern, but trains went to London Bridge, Victoria and Charing Cross. With the advent of the Overground, the Charing Cross trains were lost, and with them, the possibility of an easy last train home from many favourite central London venues. There was lamenting, there were protests, there was a coffin carried on the very last train. It was epic.
Then there was the disruption: the endless sleepless nights while the track was relaid and the station lengthened and the trees on either side of the cutting massacred. (More protests).
There were the huffy, what use is it? conversations on rush-hour platforms, the disbelieving sneer when told the value of my home would increase, followed by the overcrowding, the noise
…and then there was the eating of words.
Because the Overground is wonderful. It cut ten minutes off my journey to work, it halved the time to get to all sorts of North London places I had given up going to: the King’s Head, the Union Chapel and the Estorick Collection. It made getting to the Geffrye Museum simple. It expanded my horizons. (I’m missing my horizons at the moment!)
I ate my words.

Mentioning this in passing at WooA as we settled for a twenty minute writing exercise, Rosalind said: we should write about the Overground. So we did.
From that twenty minutes blossomed the idea for an entire book, with a story for every station on our section of the line: Highbury & Islington to New Cross, Crystal Palace and West Croydon. So: thank you, Overground, and thank you, WooA.

Over the years, Arachne has published quite a few, although not all, of the shifting membership of WooA. And I continue to go to as many meetings as I can. At the moment these are online, and more frequent than normal, for the comfort of talking  – as much about not writing, at the moment, as anything anything else.

We have a few traditions, one of which is to hold a live lit event as part of Brockley Max, our local festival. Of course, that’s gone pfft, like a lot else, but a week ago(?) we got an email saying are you doing anything online that could be part of a virtual Brockley Max?

We weren’t – but – we don’t have a website/Facebook page, anything – well, we could – couldn’t we?
So we are.

open mind WooA

At the time and on the date that we would have been doing this live at the Talbot, Arachne Press is hosting WooA (including Arachne Authors, Bartle Sawbridge, Cherry Potts, Joan Taylor-Rowan, Carolyn Robertson and Neil Lawrence; plus Ruth Bradshaw and Innes Stanley) for Open Mind – an evening of  stories and poems.
So Friday 5th June at 7pm BST, join us on Facebook: Event / Actual video
or Youtube for Love, Loss, Lockdown, Protest, Playdates, Dancing and DINOSAURS.
*TRIGGER WARNING* reported violence between children about half way through (Neil Lawrence’s story).
Video will be available for a week thereafter on both platforms.

Spidery cover quote

We have our first cover quote!

Anna Dempsey (2019 Costa Short Story Award winner)

These stories left me feeling more connected to the eight-legged creature that has made a home in the corner of my room. I now co-exist with her in peace and find myself watching the other corners, waiting; that’s what these words did to me.

We are taking pre-orders for the book, which is going to the printers next Monday… preorders let us know how many we can print – we aren’t assuming there will be much in the way of sales through bookshops at least initially, so while we will order SOME books for trade, and of course the LAUNCH(!) we are relying on the pre-orders!

If you like the look of this book, to guarantee you get one, please order by midnight on Sunday 7th June.

 

 

Lockdown reading: The Cormorant by Clare Owen

Collateral damage from Covid-19 has been having to delay the publication of Zed and the Cormorants, by Clare Owen. It was a tough decision but, it turns out, the right one; and next year we will be able to put together a really strong campaign to support the book.

In the meantime, here is Clare reading her short story from An Outbreak of Peace, The Cormorant which was very much a calling card for Zed, sharing, as it does, a location and character names, although not characters, unless you count the cormorant!

 

 

IDAHOBIT 2020 Stories & Poems

Today is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

I’ve already drawn your attention to our marvellous LGBTQI writers of individual collections and novels, so I thought I’d hilight the LGBTQI short story and poetry gems nestling in our anthologies.

 

London Lies: Leaving, Cherry Potts

Stations: All Change at Canonbury, Paula Read

Lovers’ Lies: Tasting Flight, Catherine Sharpe; Mirror, Cherry Potts; Dara Jessica Lott

The Other Side of Sleep: Naming: AD 2006, Alwyn Marriage;The Other Side of Sleep, Kate Foley

Liberty Tales: Tabernacle Lane; Pearls over Shanghai; Flax, San Francisco; all by Jeremy Dixon

Solstice Shorts – Sixteen Stories about Time: Death and Other Rituals, Tannith Perry; Stars, Emma Timpany (not sure that’s what she intended, but I certainly read it that way).

Noon: Under the L, Liam Hogan

An Outbreak of Peace: Surplus Women, Rebecca Skipwith

We/She Desperately Seeking Hephaestion, Elizabeth Hopkinson; Cages, Joanne LM Williams

Departures: Alpaca Moonlight, VG Lee; Over, Joy Howard

You can buy all the books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.

Happy IDAHOBIT!

 

One Beautiful Day – Elizabeth Stott – In Lockdown

Author Elizabeth Stott reads her witty, lovely story of music and a tired marriage, One Beautiful Day, fromour Liars’ League anthology, We/She

You can buy We/She (or other books!) from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all our titles are available from your usual retailer, now VAT free! We recommend Hive for ePub.

Lockdown interviews: no19 C A Limina interviewed by Katy Darby

Author C. A. Limina (Story Cities) interviewed by Katy Darby (Five by Five, Stations, London Lies, An Outbreak of Peace, Shortest Day Longest Night, Liberty Tales,  We/She)

Katy:     You have a flash fiction, Starlight, in the Story Cities anthology. Was the story inspired by the Story Cities call out? If not, what inspired you to a) write it and b) send it to Story Cities? And P.S. I love all the space(ship) imagery in it – very apt.

CAL:    I wouldn’t say Starlight was inspired by Story Cities specifically, but while reading the callout I briefly flashed back to a time when I was younger. My father was renting out an apartment and needed to renovate it, so he brought me up there while he checked the progress. The arid smell of dry concrete and the night sky stayed with me for a reason I could never understand, but it was the view of the vast, spotted city lights and the hollow sky that overviewed it that stole my attention. I got two stories out of it–The Men Who Stole the Stars, the older version that got into The Jakarta Post a couple of years ago, and Starlight. Whereas the former spoke more of the bare concrete and lifeless growth that I remembered, I think I wanted Starlight to reflect more on the loneliness of the latter half of my life (I say that as if I’m sixty and about to die in a couple of months, but I think in these times, we are all spiritually tired, frail and constantly worried about death, so bear with me.) I think Starlight definitely fit more to the Story Cities call and I’ve always been glad that the editors picked it up, because I think a lot of people in the modern world have an experience or two when it comes to being awake and alone in a cold hotel, staring out into a desolate city or an unfamiliar space. Capturing that was a great deal of fun.

Katy:     What’s a (free to read, online) flash fiction or short story you think everybody should read, and why?

CAL:    I don’t know if it counts as flash fiction or not, but the-modern-typewriter on Tumblr makes hero vs villain pieces where they use archetypes in the place of the characters. Some of them used to be prompts but now the owner of the blog has shifted into making it their own pieces, and I think that’s great because a lot of the works are fantastic flashfics. However, a lot of them lean more to the modern styles of online fandom culture, so it’s still a matter of taste. I’ll link one of their classics here:

https://the-modern-typewriter.tumblr.com/post/159015287478/shh-its-alright-the-villain-said-youre

Katy:     Tell me about the first piece of fiction you ever had published.

CAL:    Oh boy. Informally plenty of my work has floated across the web in various forums, so I’d be hard pressed to say which of them were my first. Formally one of the first places that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being featured in was the Jakarta Post, from the same story I mentioned in earlier. That was published in December of 2018, but it’s been in my rework pile for what must be years, so I’m glad it finally got out of the old trunk. Other than that, I don’t think I have much else to say about it. The Men Who Stole the Stars was a byproduct of didactic phase in my portfolio, and it shows–lots of commentary on the hollowness of urban culture, some poetry and nice words to back it up, but not nearly as profound as my younger self thought it was. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart regardless, but one day I hope I’ll be in a position where I can look at it and wholeheartedly think “God, what was I thinking?”

Katy:     Tell me about your favourite story of your own which hasn’t found a home yet?

CAL:    Tough question! Some of my lecturers have compared writing a piece to having a baby, but if how I treat my writing is any bit analogous to how I may treat children, I should be forbidden to sire an offspring. In any case, I have a debilitating dislike for most of my “children,” not necessarily because of a lack of quality but more because I find too much of myself in them. I think, if I had any “favorite child,” it would have to be the journal entries of a robotics technician who works to repair/study the malfunctioning AI of an android modelled after her late abusive father that develops behaviors its inspiration never possessed. It’s probably never going to leave the trunk by virtue of my never having written sci-fi and barely ever reading the genre as well, but it’s a good feels trip to write regardless, and it made me happy so that’s all that matters.

Katy:     What’s your favourite story by someone else in Story Cities? Why?

CAL:    Coffee by Shamini Sriskandarajah. I interviewed the author a couple of weeks back and she was extremely nice, a very pleasant person all around. I’m just awed by its atmosphere, really, the tension summed in such few words. I think it exemplifies everything a good flashfic should be, a story plucked from the city–well, in Coffee‘s case, plucked from the terminus, but the end result is the same.

Katy:     What story are you working on (or thinking about) right now?

CAL:    I have an extremely early draft of a WIP written in pencil. Professionally, it’s a look into the life of a skilled interpreter who is hired to introduce an otherworldly tourist to the human world, learning the language of nature in the process. Unprofessionally, it’s a story of a polylinguist who has the hots for the sea.

Katy:     What’s one DO piece of advice you’d give to someone who writes or wants to?

CAL:    See the next question.

Katy:     And what’s a DON’T?

CAL:    Don’t listen to me, or anyone else when it comes to writing. That’s kind of paradoxical, but what I mean is automatically following advice when it comes to writing is like following advice on how to live a good life–very little of it pans out in the end because of sheer subjectivity, and advice that pans out for everyone end up being so common they might as well be truisms, like “show don’t tell.” I’m not saying everyone who’s ever given writing advice is wrong, not at all, but I am saying that the first thing you should probably do is figure out what you want to do with yourself. Do you want to entertain others? Do you want to express yourself? Every piece you write should have purpose, even if it’s as trifle as “I just wanted to have fun,” and once you discover that purpose, then you can begin to sift through the endless scroll of thought-pieces to understand how to achieve that purpose. Even then, my instructions might be making you red in the ears, which is entirely valid. The way I see it, there are only two things that truly matter in writing, and that’s how a) you feel about it and b) your audience will feel about it.

Well, I’ve already somewhat given a Do advice in my contradictory Don’t advice, so I might as well give one more. Read and listen. It’s truistic advice, but I know more than a handful of people who write more than they read (including me nowadays, oops), and that usually results in their repeating certain cliches within their mediums or making “amateur” mistakes or breaking vital conventions. The purpose of reading and listening is not to be instructed by others, but to find your own set of instructions, to understand what you like, dislike, want to see more of and want to see less of. This is how you know when certain advice is worthy enough to be listened to and when others aren’t going to fit your flow.

Katy:     What are the best and worst things about lockdown for you, as a person or a writer?

CAL:    Best thing is I get to be alone with my thoughts. Worst thing is I get to be alone with my thoughts.

Katy:     We all contain multitudes, and I notice that you have several names (Eli, Cal, C.A.) – do you use them for different purposes (e.g. a gender neutral writing name) or do they all feel like you/represent some different aspect of yourself?

CAL:    I’m pretty non-conforming when it comes to gender, especially in my home country, so neutrality always felt more fitting than anything else. Some of my names, like Eli, are a byproduct of when I was in high school and still figuring myself out. My email account has been around for a while and I never got to changing its title because I never wholly disagreed with the identity my high school self formed. Cal is my name in the present, and a syllabic version of my initials (C.A.L), and I was lucky enough to be in a supportive environment with companions who’d refer to me as that. I only started formally publishing works in my freshman year, so I never figured out a good pen name, but I did start to favour the Indonesian heritage associated with my last name, Limina. The era of President Soeharto forced Chinese Indonesians like my father to change their original names and do various other things in order to “assimilate” into the “culture,” erasing huge chunks of the secondary identity most Chinese Indonesians in Java had. I imagine the same thing is happening to a lot of cultures from developing nations in a globalist world, and something similar occurs to queer folks who are alienated by their “traditional” cultures. The core of it all is the birth of a new identity from the loss or rejection of an old one. I enjoy the metaphor my last name serves me, the idea that I was not born, but moulded by circumstance, the notion that I both did and did not choose who I became. It has no intrinsic meaning beyond that, though, so perhaps one day I’ll go by something else.

 

You can buy all the Arachne books mentioned from our webshop, we will post them out to you.

If you would prefer eBooks, all these books are available from your usual retailer. we recommend Hive for ePub.