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Friday, 26 April 2013


MY INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH DUCIE



My guest tonight is a Devon based writer of award winning short stories. She has also written textbooks, articles and management reports on the global pharmaceutical industry, as well as being editor of a technical journal. Her latest text-book was published as recently as July 2012 and it’s only in the past 6 years that she has turned to creative writing. Since then she hasn’t looked back. She moved with her husband to the south-west of England for its rich, green scenery, after many years in the arid south-east, and forgetting to ask why the countryside was so green, was a bit taken aback by how wet it is at times. She used to live a secret life as an international jet-setter, but has recently given that 
up to write full-time. When she grows up, she wants to be a best-selling novelist and live in a cottage with roses around the door. To date, she's got as far as the roses.
Although we know her as Elizabeth Ducie, her friends call her by her real name of Kate McCormick.


Kate, if I may use your real name, thank you for joining us this evening. I’ve interviewed a pharmaceutical representative who became a writer (Sarah England), but never someone who actually wrote text books about it. Was the move into creative writing linked with your move to the West Country?

Well, Richard, the two things happened around the same time, but were probably both factors of where we were in our lives rather than cause and effect. We wanted a quieter, less busy, lifestyle leading up to retirement, hence the move to the south west in 2007. I’d started the creative writing by then and gradually it became more important to me, until I knew I had to ‘give up the day job’ to concentrate on the writing.


The move sounds idylic and for the right reasons. I understand you’re taking a degree in creative Writing as a mature (I hope you don’t mind me saying that!) student. How are you finding it and is it helpful in your transition towards being a fiction writer?

I’ve actually finished the course (an MA at Exeter University) and graduated in January (hence the cap and gown picture on Facebook, which I must get around to changing). It was a weird experience being back on campus after nearly 40 years. As a scientist, I found the switch to an Arts subject difficult at times, and I found I was lacking some of the basics that the English graduates took for granted. My original reason for taking the MA was to provide the discipline and structure needed to finish my first novel (which I had started in 2006); in the event, I finished it just after I graduated. I certainly believe the MA gave me many benefits including improving my writing technique; making me a much better reader; and it was a wonderful networking opportunity. There is a group of us who continue to meet up once a month and many more that keep in contact by Facebook. 


I agree with you there, that socialising is most important. Did you find your background in text books gave you discipline in proofing and editing?

Absolutely. I find the process of editing very satisfying. I guess it’s the scientific way we excise unnecessary words and find better ways of expressing a thought. I’ve also always been good at grammar and am one of those nerdy people who shout at the TV when a presenter gets it wrong. (My husband says I’m just too picky!). Having said that, I believe it’s always necessary to get someone else to proof-read your work. The eyes tend to see what the brain tells them to see, rather than what’s on the page.


It's amazing what people miss of their own work, that an editor will pick up so easily. You co-edit your local community magazine. How did you get involved and how has it evolved?

phoenix_banner.jpgBack in 2009, when we first met, Sharon spotted an advert in the Chudleigh Phoenix, which was a bimonthly hard copy, distributed by hand. The guy who set it up had too much going on and was looking for someone to take it over. We saw it as a vehicle for getting our writing and our names known (we were both relatively new to the town) but we had no funding for a hard copy format and were about to turn the idea down when I suggested turning it into an electronic newsletter instead. We started with just four pages of A4 but it has snowballed since then. We now publish ten pages of A4 every month; it goes to more than 400 email addresses and the Town Hall prints off 100 plus copies each month for people who are not online. Feedback has been great and we are always stuffed with articles, reports and pictures, mostly provided by the townspeople. Since we started publishing our own books in 2011, we also use it as an advertising base.


That's extremely enterprising. You’re in the final editing stages of your first novel, which I believe is based in Russia. Can you tell us about the plot?
It is the story of Gorgito Tabatadze, a businessman in post-Soviet Russia, who battles bureaucracy, corruption and the hostile climate to build an ice-rink so his friend’s daughter, a talented skater, will return from USA to train in Russia. His real motivation is his failure to fulfil a promise to his mother, to bring home his sister, Maria, who disappeared in the Gulag many years before. Interwoven with the main action is the story of what really happened to Maria.



It sounds great and a real page-turner! Tell me, where do you get the ideas for your plots? Do they tend to come from personal experience, or from your imagination?

I often use personal experience as a trigger for a story, whether it’s an incident I’ve witnessed, a person I’ve met or a place I’ve visited. That’s why so many of my stories are set outside the UK. However, the plot will usually spiral off in a totally different direction. These days, I’m finding living in a small town and being involved in the community provides all sorts of triggers. I always say I will write about this town and its characters one of these days — but I’ll probably have to move first.


Trifles_Jacket_front.jpgYou wrote two collections of short stories with Sharon Cook, Life Is Not A Trifling Affair and Life Is Not A Bed Of Roses. They’re very entertaining, with a twinkle of humour and the odd tear-jerker. Did you and Sharon write alternate stories, or do you collaborate?
Roses_jacket.jpg
We write the stories individually, and then swap for review and editing. With ‘Trifles’ there was one of Sharon’s that I didn’t like and one of mine that she wasn’t happy with. So we found alternatives. We have to be happy with all the stories if we are going to publish them together.


I have a feeling you self-published your short story collections. How did you go about that?

Yes, we published them under our own imprint, Chudleigh Phoenix Publications. In our annual writing goals for 2011, we both had ‘get some short stories published’. We knew publishers were unlikely to accept an anthology of short stories, especially from two relatively unknown writers. Neither of us writes traditional ‘womag’ stories. So we decided to get on and do it ourselves. It meant learning about all the different aspects of the industry: formatting, printing, ISBNs, marketing and sales. We quickly found that writing is possibly the easiest part of the whole process.


Will you self-publish your new novel, or go the traditional route?

I have very mixed feelings about this. Our industry is changing massively and rapidly. Self-publishing is no longer a guilty secret and I now have the knowledge and skills to get a book produced, both electronically and physically. My understanding is that even authors with traditional publishing deals have to put a lot of time and effort into marketing their books. However, when it comes to upfront investment in printing, raising public awareness, commissioning reviews, distribution and getting books placed in retail outlets, the traditional route is still the preferable one.
I am currently looking for an agent to represent me in approaching traditional publishers and would be delighted if I was able to secure a publishing contract. However, it’s a real buyers’ market out there and not every writer who deserves a contract will get one. As you pointed out, I am a bit of a late starter to all this, so I’ve given myself a deadline to work to. If I’ve not got an agent by the time that deadline approaches, I will go down the self-publishing route again.


What are you working on at present?
ParcelsCover.jpgI’ve just brought out an ebook called Parcels in the Rain and Other Writing. It’s a mix of thirty one short stories, flash fiction, travel writing and memoirs written over the course of seven years, but finalised and published over the course of one month as a way of breaking down the brick wall I found waiting for me when the novel was finished. I’m now writing short stories again and entering competitions, but the next novel is already knocking to get out of my head, so I guess I’ll be starting some character studies soon.


It's good to hear that your Russia based novel won't be a one-off! Did any particular author inspire you and help mould the way you write? 

I’m not sure I can pick just one. I’ve always been an avid reader, from the days as a child when my parents would put the latest Enid Blyton in my Christmas stocking every year. I have very broad tastes but am drawn to story-driven books with plots that races along, whether it’s Tolkien’s fantasy; crime writers like James Patterson and Kathy Reichs; or family sagas. I struggled with some of the literary fiction at college, especially the character-driven books where very little happens.  So I guess this is why I find writing the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of a story much easier than the ‘why’. 


What one thing would you most like to achieve over the next five years, Kate?
I would like to become the best-selling novelist you referred to at the beginning of this interview (although then I would have to accept that I was finally grown-up!)


It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Kate. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and good luck with your forthcoming books..


As Elizabeth Ducie, Kate has her author website at
http://www.elizabethducie.co.uk/


Life is Not a Bed of Roses is available on Amazon at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Not-Bed-Roses-ebook/dp/B00A5TT4J4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366796944&sr=8-1&keywords=life+is+not+a+bed+of+roses

Life is Not a Trifling Affair is available on Amazon at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Not-Trifling-Affair-ebook/dp/B007JXMQYE/ref=pd_sim_kinc_5

Parcels in The Rain is available on Amazon at
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Parcels-Rain-Other-Writing-ebook/dp/B00C9D34LS/ref=pd_sim_kinc_3

The Chudleigh Phoenix can be found at
http://www.chudleighphoenix.co.uk/

Friday, 19 April 2013


MY INTERVIEW WITH ROXANNE BARKER (Update)

 
Weekly coaching group with Roxanne Barker Emotional Health Expert.
Want support? Feeling ‘stuck’ ?

Contact: roxanne@roxannebarker.com

 

 
 
My guest tonight  is a friend of many years who has accomplished more than most people could dream about in a lifetime and I’m still learning about her many accomplishments. She has run charity fashion shows for Monsoon and Top Shop, worked with Catherine Walker and “Kanga”, been trained to performance level as a ballet dancer, run her own Life Coaching and relationship building company with celebrities among her clients, and become a fully qualified Fearless Living Coach and EFT Practitioner. That’s a very long sentence... but then she has a very long CV.
Oh… and she has written a book!

Roxanne, many thanks for agreeing to tell us something about yourself and what has driven you to accomplish so much. I have to admit from the background research I’ve done, I really knew so little about you. I know you were born in South Africa , so when did you come to the UK ?
I came to England with my family at age 12. My father wanted to return home; he was born in north London . My grandparents left London just after  WW2 to find work. Many people around that time left for Canada , Australia or South Africa .  They sailed by ship from Southampton to Cape Town .  
So you've lived most of your life in the UK. You started learning ballet when you were very young and to a very high standard. Did you ever think of taking it up professionally?
Yes, I did think of taking it up professionally by auditioning for the Royal Ballet and was also offered a place at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. Alas, neither came to fruition. The Royal Ballet’s final comment was that my knees didn’t close firmly enough, there was a gap! My hopes were crushed when my parents decided they would rather send me to a standard school in Richmond , Surrey instead.  EFT and Fearless Living Coaching helped me release the disappointment I had held onto for many years. It is incredible how these emotions hang on in there.  

After school you went into recruitment. Was this your first job?
No, recruitment was my second career which came about because I wanted to leave the world of fashion and work in PR. So in order to find work in PR I had to traipse around London to all the recruitment agencies. I soon discovered that having a fast typing was a pre-requisite to get into PR. When I left school we had two choices, become a secretary or a wife. I refused to learn to speed-type, so I went on to do Art. There you have it - my recruitment job came about because I could not get a PR role without a secretarial background.    


Was that basis in PR how you get involved in charity Fashion Shows?

My Top Shop Manager encouraged us to dance/model in our own in-house shows. We would rehearse in all sorts of places dotted about in Kingston-upon-Thames until midnight most weeks. It was a stepping stone for me to go on to run my own Fashion Shows for the next few years raising money for a number of charities. Lady Dale Tryon ‘Kanga’ was my guest of honour at one of them.


I know you became involved with both the BBC and radio and even did voice-overs for adverts. How did that come about?

I was listening to the radio in Marbella; I was there for a year so needed to find work. I tuned-in and found an English speaking station so I called them up and asked for any part-time sales work. The Sales Manager and I immediately hit it off; she said I reminded her of a friend of hers in Australia . She taught me how to do voice-over work. The BBC has been a WWF Charity Fashion show, a show where the children chose a partner for their divorced parent and a number of small participating audience shows. Guest speaker on a number of shows including:- 
THE HANNAH MURRAY SHOW
ENJOY A LIFE WITH NO FEAR article Richmond and Twickenham Times
Guest speaker Spiritual Awakening Radio 4 WEEKS every Friday at
6:00pm UK time, discussing Fearless Living Coaching
WWW.HEALTHYLIFE.NET
'In The Know' magazine
REM.FM Radio in Marbella Guest Speaker
BBC 1 'Love Me Love My Kids' TV Show
Life Coach Seminar for Channel 5 'Help me Rhonda.’
Radio voice-over work REM.FM 
Fashion Show BBC1 'Save the Rain Forest' in aid of World Wide Fund for
Nature.


Much of what you’ve done culminated in your company Zone 8. Was this intentional?

Yes all my skills under one umbrella, yet what I discovered was offering too many services had a downside. I have found the balance now. When first setting up in business I had no idea all the avenues one has to know beforehand. We have to wear many, many hats, having no work colleagues was an eye opener. My purpose is to help people find relief and balance with their emotional health.  



I know you’re an EFT coach. What exactly does that mean and how does that help your clients?

As an Emotional Health Expert I am well-informed now of how our emotional fear language talks to us. I help my clients recognise how mind/fear holds them to ransom without letting the Divine have a chance to show itself. We tap into the creative and spiritual places, letting go physical and emotional pain. Better decisions are made, clearer insight, observation skills are developed and for themselves an improved way of being. I try to make a valuable difference for people whose lives have been touched by a long-term health condition such as IBS, ME/CFS, anxiety, depression, trauma or feeling ‘stuck’ in their lives.

That sounds wonderful. Tell me about the retreat you want to establish? 


I want to establish a complimentary/alternative emotional health business. A place where we continue to learn about our inner world/neuroscience and emotions. A large seminar hall along with therapy and meeting rooms and a fabulous natural food restaurant plus resources to grow food. To teach people how to understand their emotional fears and how to live in society, teach people about their own finances, basic law, business, parenting, marriage and health. Subjects 
that are missing from our general education. The aim to break the emotional turmoil patterns we carry around with us in day-to-day living causing stress related illnesses.   


You’ve represented some very celebrated people. Without naming names can you tell us how you helped them?

It really is about them being open and willing to ‘see’ themselves no matter who their ego thinks they are!  In reality I help them to help themselves.

I know you’re writing a book at the moment. What’s it about?

My first book is completed. I am now working on the illustrations. It is dedicated to both my aunt and uncle who died from cancer. Before my uncle died he read part of my book I was half-heartedly writing. He inspired me and said “I am impressed. This is a wonderful story.  the first half is perfect, just a matter of finishing it off.” He and my aunt are now magical characters in this book which is all about a young girl with a shyness problem using EFT. Many children including myself as a child, find being shy is very uncomfortable so the story is based on me as a 12 year old girl going through this fantasy adventure. It all started when I visited my cousin in German a few years ago. It was such an unusual place in the middle of the forest, her cats were bigger than normal cats, there was a lovely petite caravan tucked under this huge wooden shelter with a witches broom outside, large bird stands it was so enchanting I thought I would love to write something magical about this place. So with the help of my cousin the book evolved. I am enjoying illustrating the book too.
My priority at the moment though is my Work In Progress, an Emotional Health book.The book is something we can all relate to about our emotions. For instance, what our emotions are, why we behave in certin ways, say things we didn't mean and feel things in the way we do. It explains about emotional fear adding a light sense of humour. Once that is complete and published, I'll concentrate in the Magic Cats story!      


Sounds interesting and I wish you every success in getting it published. Tell me, of all the people you have met and worked with, who has inspired you the most?

Ordinary people who sense there is something more to this in life – so every person I work with inspires me. To walk alongside someone else’s emotional pain teaches me more than I could ever imagine. 

What one single goal would you like to achieve within the next 5 years?

To have a ripple effect working with other holistic practitioners Have a message to help those who feel there is no hope either through books, or a short film, workshops etc…It certainly takes patience, love and understanding at a deep and profound level.


Roxanne, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and learning so much more about you.



Roxanne's website can be found at http://www.roxannebarker.com/




Thursday, 11 April 2013


MY INTERVIEW WITH GINA DICKERSON






High heels  - womens-shoes iconWhen I heard that my guest tonight has a collection of over 300 shoes, my first thought was of Imelda Marcos, but when I heard she has a Siberian husky, lives in Kent and has film star looks I knew it could only be Gina Dickerson.

What can you say about Gina? She writes novels and short stories. She lives by the lovely Thanet coast with her family and the terribly spoilt Siberian husky. As well as writing, she loves shopping for vintage fashion, de-fluffing her dog, and adding to her shoe collection. She even has a blog dedicated to shoes, so this is no passing fad!

Gina has had poetry and short stories published, although Lies Love Tells  is her first novel and  Underleaf is her first collection of short stories. Her second novel Exposing You is due out later this year.

             


Gina, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I mostly know you from your Facebook photos and your excellent books, but tonight I want to find out something about the woman behind the shoe collection and the photo on the book jacket. A love of very stylish shoes and a dog that needs lots of long walks… do they really go together?

Hi Richard, thanks for inviting me to your blog! Sadly the shoes and the dog do not mix well. Four inch heels and an overexcited Siberian husky. Luckily I have a (small) selection of flats and trainers for dog-walking-duties but even running with him in trainers he once pulled me over, *splat* on the pavement. Extremely elegant.

Not a mental picture to dwell on so let's find out about the real you. Tell me, how long have you been writing and did you always want to be a novelist?

I’ve always written, even as a young child. I’m a bit of hoarder and still have a book I wrote and illustrated while in primary school. It was about a rabbit that went to a ball and needed a prom style dress! Writing is something I love wholeheartedly and through my love of reading, grew a desire to write novels.

The rabbit story might be worth resurrecting at some point! When you start writing a new project how do you approach it from the point of view of plot, storyline and characters?

Each story is different. Sometimes ideas of plot or character pop up and I’ll make notes until the story feels ready to write, sometimes I like to sit with a blank screen and just start writing. The second way is more of a challenge and most often how I approach short stories. For novels, I draft out a rough plot and a few main characters but the story often changes from that first, simple, plot as the characters grow!


How do you think of the plots for your stories? Does personal and past experience play a part, because if that’s the case then you’ve certainly had an interesting life?

Some of the short stories are fragments of dreams - I know, I must have really weird dreams! When I first started writing Lies Love Tells it didn’t have any of the serial murder or madness, that came later as the characters evolved in the second draft, so no, that one was not influenced by personal or past experiences! My current Work In Progress is definitely not based on experience either; I’ve never seen a Draugr or ventured into another realm! I love creating stories and most of my plots have a dark twist or undertone and my imagination is always yelling at me to write it down!


Who, as a writer, has influenced you most, Gina?

I’ve read a lot of books over the years in all different genres so it’s pretty tough to pick just one writer. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre was one of my favourite reads when I was a teenager, I fell in love with the brooding Mr. Rochester and the simmering undercurrents.

You’ve had a number of poems and short stories published and now, of course your first novel, Lies Love Tells, is out as a paperback. Which gives you the most pleasure, books, or stories, both to write and to publish?

I enjoy writing short stories but novels give me the most pleasure. I really like being able to immerse myself in them.


Is your next Work In Progress a book and can you give us some plot hints?

My next Work In Progress is completely different to my debut novel, or any of the short stories inmy collection Underleaf. It’s a fantasy adventure romance about a young woman called Kaelia who discovers she’s not as normal as she thought. When all of the people she loves are taken, she has a battle on her hands. Others want to harness Kaelia’s powers for their own purposes and she doesn’t know who - or what - to trust. Facing forces of evil, magic, and myth, Kaelia has no choice but to follow the path of her destiny even if it’s written there is one whose destiny is entwined with hers. The problem is she doesn’t know who that person is, well...not yet. She’s tough and is a fighter and there are mythical creatures and other realms so it’s quite fun to write. It has a working title of Kaelia although this may change to Mortiswood as a lot is set in magical woods.


Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?

I have a desk in the back of the lounge which looks through the conservatory and into the back garden so I can keep an eye on the dog! The desk is really boring and I’m collecting pictures so I can decoupage it this year. Most writing days start normally - preparing my teen son for school, walking the dog etc. then I’ll settle at my desk and, hopefully, spend most of the day writing.


What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?

I’m not very good at advice but I would say, read. Read lots of books and find out what you like, or don’t like. Most of all though, keep writing even if you can only squeeze in a little each day.


One last question, Gina. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be? And we’re not talking shoes here!

How did you guess my first thought was of shoes? A whole room lined with shelves for new additions...anyway, I’ll stop day-dreaming. The most important goal to me is write books readers enjoy so my goal is have even more books out there and I’ll cross everything (fingers, eyes, toes) that people enjoy reading them as much as I love creating them.


Gina, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and congratulations on Lies Love Tells. I’m sure it’s going to be a great success, as will be your next books!

Thank you, Richard! It’s been wonderful visiting with you!


Gina’s excellent book Lies Love Tells is available from Amazon on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lies-Love-Tells-ebook/dp/B0077AWZSG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349531657&sr=8-1



Gina also has an excellent website at http://www.ginadickersonwriter.co.uk/home


Publishing and Publishers


It's getting harder and harder to get published these days and trying to approach a traditional large publisher is getting near impossible without an agent.

The numbers are becoming worse with 1,500 books being written for every one that gets published. Whether that's an increase in rubbish books being written or publishers taking less books, I'm not sure, but I certainly count myself exceedingly fortunate to have had the first two novels in the Temporal Detective Agency series for YA published. Links are below and I feel no shame!

To get to the point, which I usually do eventually, I saw a cartoon this morning and I hope the person who posted it won't mind me putting it on my blog. It epitomised in a humorous way the barriers put in an author's way when trying to sell a book.

Blog on Dudes!



Leap of Faith is on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Temporal-Detective-Agency-Series-ebook/dp/B007XYIFO4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365676627&sr=8-1&keywords=richard+hardie

Trouble With Swords is on Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trouble-Swords-Temporal-Detective-ebook/dp/B00AFEKVE6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1365676686&sr=8-3&keywords=richard+hardie

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


MY INTERVIEW TONIGHT IS WITH CHRIS TOOKEY

My guest tonight is an English film critic who has written for both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Not one to follow the crowd, he frequently disagrees with his contemporaries and has been known to be quite vocal in his criticism. But that’s surely the job of a critic! All film companies dread owning one of Tookey’s Turkeys!

Chris Tookey is always interesting and can often be controversial. Tonight he will be Chris Tookey!






Chris, many thanks for joining us. Tell me, how did you first get into journalism?
 
I first succumbed at Oxford, where I read History and then Politics, Philosophy and Economics. I was first rock critic and then Editor of Isis, the university magazine. When I left university, I had a choice being a theatre director, a composer of musicals, a journalist or a politician (I was a Liberal, by the way.) I’d been involved with all of these at Oxford, at a reasonably professional level.

I plumped for the theatre as I thought it would help me combine writing, composing, directing and producing, but after two years I was given the chance to move into television, initially producing and directing for ATV and then as a freelance – which I managed to combine with writing ten musicals, all produced professionally.

In my spare time, I started doing interviews with well-known authors for Books and Bookmen. As a result of that,  I was asked to review films on TV and then TV as a whole for the Sunday Telegraph, which I managed to combine with my directing.

But after a few years of that, Miriam Gross invited me to be the paper’s film critic, which required me to attend screenings on Mondays and Tuesdays and sometimes Fridays, so at that point I had to decide between journalism and directing. Having already worked as a director for 13 years and become dissatisfied with the kind of commissioning that was going on in TV, I chose writing. Three years later, I was recruited by the Daily Mail to be their film critic, and a couple of decades later here I still am. Although being a critic still strikes me as less than wholly creative, I have used my spare time to write three novels, which  my agent is currently trying to place with publishers.


Not the easiest thing in the worlkd, as all writers know only too well! The job of a film critic would seem to be the perfect life for any film buff, but what are the down sides?
 
I’m probably as much a books, theatre and music buff as I am a film fan. But yes, it is mainly a pleasure to be paid to watch films – though there are times, usually after seeing thirteen bad movies in a row, where it can remove the will to live. It’s at that point where it’s only too possible to seize on a film that’s only average and praise it to the skies. It’s such a relief.

The other down side to being a critic is that everyone thinks they can be one. Well, of course anyone can be a bad critic. To be a good one requires taste, writing talent, brains, experience and negative capability (being able to see things from multiple points of view, not only your own). Not enough people realize that. It’s tiresome to be told you’re a moron online by people who can’t spell or punctuate, and think Transformers 2 is a work of genius.


Crash ver2.jpgSome years ago you criticised the film Crash, do you still feel that screen violence is desensitising?
 
I know that screen violence is desensitising, because it’s desensitised me. That doesn’t mean I’m going to become a copycat killer, but I’ve undoubtedly been hardened to behaviour and violence that most people would find extremely shocking, and rightly so. It’s quite difficult not to lose one’s moral bearings.

My objection to Crash was not so much moral as pragmatic. I’ve never been a big fan of censorship, mainly because I’ve always mistrusted censorious people in authority, but I was very much aware that the British Board of Film Classification had traditionally refused to give an 18 certificate to movies where non-consensual sex was involved, either to titillate the audience or to suggest that it was somehow pleasurable for the victim. Until Crash, the most famous example of that was Straw Dogs.

Crash was all about people gaining sexual pleasure from pain, mutilation and death. The masochistic victims were just as enthusiastic as the sadistic perpetrators. I didn’t see then how the BBFC could possibly award it an 18 certificate under its own guidelines, and I still don’t.

After that decision, the flood-gates of sado-masochism opened, and we’ve had numerous films come through which are far more more brutal and perverted: films like Baise-Moi, Hostel A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede 2. And, of course, there’s been a whole new genre of “torture porn”.

Hollywood is fond of congratulating itself for films that supposedly encourage audiences to do great things or become more liberal and tolerant. I’m sure we can all think of films that have won awards for civic virtues, rather than artistic ones.  

I think film-makers need to come clean on the fact that films also have the power to influence society for ill. I am very much aware that children see lots of films that they are psychologically ill-equipped to deal with, and I have no doubt that violent films – and especially ones that involve sexual violence – can, especially if they are viewed to the exclusion of other, more civilised movies -  have the harmful effect of normalising bad behaviour for certain people, especially if they are immature, psychologically damaged or just plain dumb.


Are you in favour of stronger screen censorship, or more rigid viewing categories?
 
Quentin Tarantino 85th Annual Academy Awards - Press RoomEssentially, I’m in favour of stronger self-censorship by film-makers. I regard the most irresponsibly pernicious films as a kind of environmental pollution. I wish directors like Eli Roth (who’s behind the Hostel films) would stop, but sadly they’re making too much easy money to give up now. Similarly, I think Quentin Tarantino is a potentially brilliant writer-director who might achieve that potential if he became less hung up on extreme violence to please the fanboys.


As a critic you have to watch all genres of film and be objective, whereas the average film-goer tends to like a narrow field. Do you find it easy leaving your personal tastes behind?
 
I am anything but objective, and any critic who pretends to be objective is a liar. No two people watch the same film. We’re all, to some extent, influenced by our background, tastes and aspirations. I do try to be fair-minded and try to watch films from three angles simultaneously. One is from my own, subjective viewpoint. The second is from the film-makers’ point of view: what were they trying to achieve, and how far did they succeed? The third angle is to try and work out what the audience is for a certain film, even if it isn’t me. If I have room, I usually attempt in my reviews to give some indication of what the core audience for a film is. That’s because I’m writing for millions of people who read the Mail, Mail Online or my website www.movie-film-review.com, whereas most of my colleagues are writing for a few thousand, or even a few hundred.


As a private person, rather than a critic, what sort of film do you love to see?
 
I genuinely like the best films in every genre. I really liked The Cabin In the Woods last year, because it was an intelligent slasher movie. And I liked Wild Bill, even though it was that most tired of concepts, a British gangster film: it simply struck me as one of the best in its genre. I enjoy anything that’s talented.

But I do have a soft spot for musicals and I was delighted that Les Miserables turned out to be as good as it was. My  favourite musicals, however, have all been better on stage than on celluloid, so I would love to see a revival of that genre, which would allow us to see and hear more of the best musicals performed with present-day production values. I’m not holding my breath, though, and I’m very happy to keep watching great thrillers like LA Confidential, ground-breaking movies like Fight Club or Adaptation, or imaginative fantasies like The Lord of the Rings.

The important thing for a critic is to attend each film with the willingness to be receptive. It’s heard to attend an Adam Sandler film with any degree of optimism after witnessing the rest of his  oeuvre, but honestly I do try.


What’s your favourite film of all time and favourite actor?
 
I think the greatest movies have the power always to move you. So Casablanca and it’s a Wonderful Life always work for me.  There are also a few films that I think are great and hardly anyone else does. Those are often comedies, and comedy is notoriously subjective. Here, I’m thinking of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Stanley Donen’s Movie Movie and Isn’t She Great. I sincerely think they’re wonderful films, funny and truthful about the human condition,  but I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. We’re all different, and that’s a very good thing.


Are you disciplined as a journalistic writer with a set routine and preferred place to write?

I’m extremely disciplined. I see movies Monday and Tuesday and write about them on Wednesday morning. There’s no time for writer’s block. I carry that discipline through to writing novels or musicals. I have never missed a deadline, and unlike my old pal Douglas Adams I would feel horribly guilty if I ever missed one. I never like to feel I’ve let anyone down.


Many years ago you were very much involved in the musical Hard Times. Do you have any plans to get involved with the stage again?

Yes, I wrote, directed and co-produced Hard Times, which I still feel deserved a much longer run than the 100 performances or so it achieved in the West End. It’s good to know from the many letters we received that many of those who did see it really loved it and came to see it three or four times. It’s only one of eleven musicals I’ve written but I still think it had some of the best songs and carried the most emotional punch. I am writing another musical right now, based on the Arabian Nights. I’m enjoying that and hope to get it on some day – though right now it’s on the back burner, as I’m concentrating on completing my third novel.
 

So you write fiction?
 
Yes. My first book is called Superhero and it’s a comic fantasy. Very English, it’s a combination of Mervin Peake and P.G. Wodehouse, or a more grown-up J.K.Rowling. My second, The Trophy Hunter, is a comic thriller about a footballer turned private investigator, who’s addicted to the computer game Football Manager – hopefully, a bit like Raymond Chandler meets Simon Brett. My third, Another Fine Mess,  is another comic thriller. which is a sequel to the first one and is about a killer who apparently targets film critics.  The one thing they all have in common is that they’re all, I hope, funny. That’s because my world-view is essentially ironic and comedic. I hope some brave soul will publish them. And so does my agent.


If there was one thing you could change in the film industry what would it be?
 
I’d give everyone who makes films a greater sense of social responsibility. But it ain’t gonna happen.


You’ve attended many film premieres. Do you have a favourite moment from one of them?
 
Skyfall (2012) Poster
I hate film premieres as a rule. They go on forever because – rightly – the stars want to meet their public and sign autographs. Good for them, but not so great for the audience waiting for the film to start.  Oddly enough, my fondest memories are of two movies this year – Les Mis and Skyfall – because both films far surpassed my expectations and, I think, the audience’s. It’s always a pleasure to be at the birth of something great.


One last question. What is one thing would you like to achieve during the next 5 years?
 
I wouldn’t mind being less often insulted by morons, but I genuinely enjoy doing what I do. I’m extremely fortunate to feel fulfilled with both my job and the work I do in my spare time, writing and composing. I also have a good family life and friends, so really I’ve no cause for complaint.


Chris, it’s been a pleasure talking to you and thank you so much for your time, as well as for agreeing to meet my blog community.

 
Thank you.


You can read all about Chris on Wikipedia at  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Tookey

His film reviews are in the Daily Mail and on his website, uncensored, at www.movie-film-review.com