Looking through the list of the questions it seems as if the intro might be the hardest to answer. I’m a run of the mill guy who enjoys fairly regular things. I was born in Northern Ireland and have spent most of my time here but I enjoy travelling a lot and can see me settling somewhere abroad. My year in Canada was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in life. I enjoy listening to a lot of music although I’m not musical in any way whatsoever. I’ve worked a lot of jobs but finally made the decision to leave it all behind in an attempt to work on the book ideas and some photography projects. I’ve always been one to take a risk with that sort of thing. I learned a long time ago there’s no point in having regrets, instead I look at them as opportunities to learn from poor decisions (of which there has been many). A couple of years ago I made the decision to embrace the vegetarian lifestyle and I have my friends and family to thank for their support with that. I don’t really know what I write about in all honesty. I don’t have a ‘thing’. I thought at one stage I wanted to be a travel writer but anything I tried to write felt so fake and clunky. I try and use real life experience in my stories or any observations I make when I’m out. It really just depends.
MM: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?
KC: I enjoy words and the expression that comes with it. It’s the text version of me talking out loud which is something I tend to do. I wish I was better with words, even though I’m attempting this whole novel writing thing I’ll never be as good with words as I’d like to be. I write for me and then I force it on everyone else or they feel obliged to read it because they’re my friend.
MM: So, what have you written?
KC: I have lots of half drafted ideas that haven’t really gone anywhere. The first ‘proper’ thing I remember writing was published in an online paper and it was about ride-sharing abroad. I did try my hand at poetry but I’m not entirely sure I understand exactly what poetry is, so I cobble together some words that seem stuck in my head. I finished the first draft for some kind of autobiographically thing but I’m not really sure how I feel about it and I like to enter the #200WT stories when I can. Other than that I’m working through a novel at the minute that seems to be going well. I’m about 35,000 words into the first draft and have a good friend keeping me right as we go along.
MM: When did you know writing was for you?
KC: It was only a few years ago that things kind of came together. Growing up I never thought, “Hey! I could write a book.” A couple of years ago I thought it would be nice to write something for fun and battled with myself as to whether there was actually any point in my doing it. I ended up enrolling in a Creative Writing class and while it didn’t really teach me much about the writing process, I made some new friends and had the freedom of really just making some stuff up and people responded well to it.
MM: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?
KC: Right now I’ve an untitled novel in the works. There are one or two ‘b-stories’ happening throughout but the premise is that the main character tries to use stand up comedy to deal a death in the family. It results in him getting involved with terminally ill people and telling funny eulogies. The story focuses around the protagonist and his life, how he deals with this new ‘career’ and his everyday life. The inspiration comes from my own experiences, the main character is closely based on me, to a degree and his partner in the novel is based around a good friend of mine. It’s helps for me to write something when I can draw on my own experiences and easily put myself in the shoes of the characters.
MM: What was the first story you ever remember writing, and what was it about? How does it compare to your writing now?
KC: There’s a lost story somewhere from the 90’s about a boy called Thomas Trainer and his dog that I started when I was in my early teens. I’m not sure that counts but I don’t really remember anything else until recently and I decided I’d try to write.
MM: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?
KC: A bit of both. I usually have an idea of where I want to go, but then it’ll change direction as the characters and the story grows. I try not to have restrict myself to writing a certain way so it allows me to do whatever I want really. There are times though I’ll set a goal or a place in the story for the characters to reach but often how they get there is up to them.
MM: What draws you to flash-fiction, to #FP? What do you love and hate about it?
KC: I struggle with #FP, mostly because I’m not good with one short pieces of text. I often find the things I come up with to be very predictable and quite mundane. I much prefer #200WT. The word limit suits me well because I can write short stories and it doesn’t matter if the idea doesn’t carry into a story. It allows me to find a home for ideas that burn out quickly.
MM: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?
KC: There are authors whose work I enjoy but few inspire me to write. The exception is probably Carlos Ruiz Zafon because his descriptive text is exceptional and the pace of his stories is so fluid. My biggest influences comes from musicians. People like Colin Meloy, John Darnielle, John K. Samson, they are so good with words and have introduced me to a whole new vocabulary. Plus, a lot of what they write seems honest but still very story like.
MM: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why? What about it really hits home?
KC: I’m not really sure I have one. I certainly can’t think of one anyway. I know a lot of people tend to come off with quotes from famous authors. If I had to pick something, I vaguely have memories of Neko Case saying that writing isn’t a talent, it’s a skill you develop like reading. Or something like that, I could be paraphrasing. I like the idea that anyone can do it. To me it means I’m a ‘writer’ in as much as I’m a ‘reader’, in that I have the ability to do it.
MM: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
KC: Convincing myself it’s worth it. I keep telling myself I’m writing for me but it’s hard to believe that’s entirely true if I’m writing a novel. Once I bring in the fact that other people will read it, I start to wonder why anyone would be interested in reading anything that I wrote.
MM: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?
KC: I tell myself its okay and then just get on with it. If it’s really not working I put it aside. I read an interview with John Darnielle and he said he doesn’t believe writer’s block exists so I try and have the same mentality. Even when I’m not writing I might be thinking of the book and to me that’s all part of the process. There’s no point in forcing it or putting myself under any pressure. The words will come when they’re ready.
MM: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?
KC: No secrets. I have to find an environment I’m comfortable with, which is usually somewhere away from the house and I write better listening to some music. It has to be an album I’m familar with though so as I’m not distracted by some new sounds.
MM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?
KC: I’m not entirely sure I’m in a position to give advice but if anyone asked me or said they wanted to write I’d tell them to just go ahead and do it. I’m fairly sure there will be someone out there who can relate to whatever you have to say, even if it’s one in ten, a hundred or a smaller fraction. It helped me having some friends who supported what I do. I have friends who are interested in my writing and say some really kind things, but I also have friends who don’t read what I right but they support and respect my efforts and that means a lot to. I’d like to think I offer the same to them.
MM: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?
KC: There’s not really genre I’m drawn to. If I like the sound of the book I’ll read it. When I’m in a book shop I never really know what I’m looking for but I know when I come across it. It’s probably more a case of what I don’t like. I’m not into fantasy or sci-fi so I tend to stay away from those kind of things, for the most part anyway but it’s not always the case.
MM: Sooo … reading anything good lately? Any recommendations?
KC: I’m reading The Master and Margarita now which I’m enjoying even if the text is a bit challenging sometimes. I’ve enjoyed anything I’ve read by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and there’s something I enjoy about Barbara Kingsolver’s style. My favourite book of all time is The Three Musketeers, the whole series is good but the first book really does it for me.
MM: Any last thoughts for our readers?
KC: Hopefully these won’t be my last thoughts and I still have a few more in my yet. Thanks for the chance to participate and for the work involved in keeping the magazine going. I’m purposely staying away from those terrible cliches about being anything you want to be.
MM: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
KC: If, on the off chance anyone wants to know more or keep up with what I’m doing you can visit my website, callowexplorer.com or say hello on Twitter @callow_explorer. You’ll see some of my photography there as well as some updates on writing projects that don’t really make it in the real world.
The Inexplicable Thoughts of a Near Death Experience
By Kieron Circuit
Seconds before I was hit by that car it wasn’t my life that flashed before my eyes. Instead I found myself wondering if I remembered to unplug the hair straighteners. No one yelled out but I thought I heard the buildings gasp and the road brace itself for the impact. The smell of burning rubber infiltrated the air as the brakes bit hard under the panicked press of the pedal. Through the windscreen I could see the fear in his eyes. Maybe in the past he had collided with a rabbit or a fox, but never a person. Automobile meets flesh and bone. There’s only one winner here. I’m on my back, not moving like I’ve been glued to the asphalt. I can’t even be certain if my eyes are open, darkness everywhere. I can hear screaming; people and sirens. Calls for a doctor or just someone to help. I start to come around, not because of any medical intervention but the smell of someone’s lunch. I can’t get up to vomit. I think about the indignity of being covered in, and choking on my own puke. My phone buzzes beside me but I can’t reach it. Someone else does and I can hear them say, “It’s not his day. That was his landlord saying his apartment caught fire. Someone left a pair of straighteners on.”
By Kieron Circuit
We’re similar you and I, it’s partly why we work so well, neither of us really one to make plans in advance.
The hotel staff insist that we take all of the literature they force upon us, proud of what their city has to offer, or highly enthusiastic about what they do. Concealed in our room, I watch with keen interest as you lay everything out on the bed; museums, tours, restaurants and other tourist attractions. Carefully you unfold the map and bring it to your face, inhaling its scent, that of previously unhandled paper being one of your favourites. Then, holding it between your delicate fingers you proceed to tear it into pieces with reckless abandon, tossing them into the air and watching as the floor becomes littered with fragments of a broken city.
You approach me with measured steps and in your eyes, I can see mischief tinged with excitement.
“I’ll get us lost if you can get us back again”, you offer, smiling at me as you slide your hands into my back pockets.
I can’t help smiling back, still trying to get my head around the fact that you’re here with me.
Ifor the Hamster Detective
By Kieron Circuit
A cigarette balanced between his lips, half ash and filter, ready to crumble at any given moment. He was staring at the typewriter with his hands posed over the keys. Any wrong key stroke would mean he’d have to start again. He was trying to find the perfect opening for his latest story about a hamster detective called Ifor. Words and ideas started to swim around his head, almost making him feel a bit nauseous. He was sure he fingers wouldn’t be able to keep up. Taking a breath he tossed the filter from his spent cigarette into the makeshift ashtray. An avalanche of ash had already assaulted his cardigan. A cardigan which showed evidence that this sort of thing had happened before. Still afraid to make a mistake he took a hit of his sugary drink. Underneath his glass the wet ring stain on the table displayed his total disrespect for wood. This story would be his big break, he’d said it before but he knew it this time. He said that before to. He watched as each key imprinted an inky letter on the crisp white paper. In this story the antagonist stole a precious stone, the jeweled eye of a beaver. He already had a title; “Ifor an Eye”.