One of the neatest things for me, as a writer, is working with other writers. I belong to an active writing group full of wonderful people, such as my friend Ali Abbas. Last June, I had the pleasure of beta reading one of Ali’s novellas, “Like Clockwork,” which Transmundane Press released in February, 2017. I hope you […]
Me, being interviewed!
Ali Abbas, the author of Like Clockwork was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. We hope you enjoy his interview; we did.
How much research did you do for Like Clockwork, and how much came from experience?
I worked for the Royal Navy for a while (in a civilian, non-sailing capacity). I picked up a lot about the culture and how deeply ingrained some standards and behaviours are from that time. Knowing my interest in these things, one of my colleagues loaned me a book of naval terms and history – there was nothing to do one an evening in Portsmouth but read it from cover to cover and back again.
In contrast, I knew next to nothing about clock making, the fashion of the time, and of course I had to double check some of the naval facts like cannon sizes and when certain ranks…
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“It’s quiet, I get to concentrate.” I feel the need to explain myself to the librarian, because no one comes here anymore. He answers me with a soft smile and returns to his seat to do, well, whatever it is that librarians do these days.
I have the wifi password on a slip of paper in one hand and my laptop in the other. I’ve come here to write. There is just too much stuff in my study, and too many people talking about the novels they are writing in the coffee bar. I just need to write, not be distracted, not talk about writing, but write.
The shelves are all scattered at odd angles, labelled with little laminated signs taped onto the melamine. I wonder through geology and ancient history looking for a desk. There are some visible through the gaps in the books, but when I turn corners there is nothing there but another row of shelves. Looking back I can’t see the librarian’s counter anymore, and when I turn again there is a single plastic seat and a small metre square desk in front of me.
The rows of books are clearly doing my head in, but since there is a power socket and a vending machine nearby I decide not to pass up the chance for some quiet writing time.
I haven’t been to the library for years. We used to hang out there all the time as kids, pretending to study, and spending time being young and carefree in the neighbouring graveyard. Then age happened, and the internet and ebooks. When the kids were born the shadowed coolness and silence of the library suddenly became very attractive.
I settle into the hard plastic, slipping a little until I learn the right way to place my feet on the parquet floor. This isn’t the welcoming cushion of my study chair, just the durable function of an L shape on legs.
Ten minutes later and I’ve been staring at the screen and not written a word. It is as though the silence has sucked language out of me, and there is nothing left to be said. The scrape of the chair as I stand echoes in the stillness.
My heels tap as I wander over to the vending machine. There are little cardboard squares in the spirals, with an alpha numeric code and a description. I have to read them twice over before I realise what they say.
I take a step back. In neat Times New Roman there is inscribed across the top “InspiroVend”, and what it seems to sell is inspiration. The little cards are labelled: “plot twists”, “character outlines”, “locations”, “tropes”, “haiku” and so on in a dizzying array.
I can’t resist, but there doesn’t seem to be a keypad to make a choice, or a coin slot to pay, just a slight depression the size of a bottle top. I push my thumb into it to see if there is a flip out panel, and then snatch it back. There is a small ball of blood on my thumb, and a needle sliding back into the machine. Instinctively I put my thumb in my mouth to stop the bleeding, and the machine grinds into life.
A card drops into the slot below the viewing pane. I pick it up with one hand and twist it open. There are a couple of lines from a poem inside:
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
I stare at it, smoothing back the thin card with both hands. A little smear of blood marks the stark white card.
I know this mood, I know this moment, I hold it very very gently. I’m back at the laptop and the keys begin to tap.
When I leave, that indeterminate amount of time later, when the words have finally run out, and the enervation of coming off a writing high kicks in, I pass the librarian at the counter still doing his unfathomable thing.
“I hope you found what you were looking for,” he says quietly.
Photo lifted from BrokenBarnet.Blogspot.com until I can get over there to shoot one of my own.
The full text of the gorgeous poem by Stacie Cassarino can be found here
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You’re at the airport, your flight is delayed for six more hours, and none of your electronic devices is working. How do you pass the time?
Some of us still travel with pen and paper.