A massive congratulations to Andrew Campbell-Kearsey who was awarded winner of the first phase of the GKBC International Short Story Competition. Below is Andrew’s interview, where he gives us an insight as to how he ticks as a writer.
Sum up everything about you in no more than 50 words.
I’m a former primary headteacher living in Brighton with my civil partner. I’m 49 and love walking my dogs along the beach. I’m very nosy and love talking. Always wanted to be funny. Sometimes can be in print. Happy when reading in the sun or listening to Abba or showtunes.
What is your earliest writing memory?
It’s not a good one. I remember infant school exercise books full of repetitive stories and every Monday was ‘News’/writing about the weekend and believe me in Surbiton in the late sixties/early seventies nothing much happened. I think I wrote ‘Went shopping with my Mum and my brothers played football’ pretty consistently.
How would you describe your writing style?
Sorry, I can’t really answer that very well. I didn’t study English for A level and adult education courses focusing on deconstructing literature didn’t float my boat. I’d love to think I vary it but friends think that they can recognise my voice. I like the whole unreliable narrator style. I avoid description of appearance unless it’s crucial to the plot or character.
Which authors have most inspired you to write in this way?
I do love the books by Patrick Gale. It’s a super feeling to trust an author so much that when you begin to read you have confidence that you will enjoy the experience. I read a lot but the two books that leapt out at me were Zoe Heller’s ‘Notebook On A Scandal’ and ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole.
How do you take criticism of your work?
That’s mean. I’d love to say I’d nod sagely and thank the person for their constructive criticism. But that’s just not true. Honestly, I take it hideously personally which is silly. I think I see writing as an extension of myself and therefore as I want people to like me, I want them to like my writing too. I’m learning that subjectivity means that some people may just not enjoy what I write. I have to learn to accept that
Is there anything you find particularly challenging when writing?
My biggest problem is that I live in central Brighton, walking distance from the sea, great cinema at the Komedia and seemingly thousands of places that sell coffee and cake. If a friend so much as suggests meeting up, I’m there in a flash. I’m trying to be more disciplined about writing but there are times when cleaning out the fridge is more preferable than writing. Basically I am lazy and should push myself more. Competitions are my deadlines.
What’s the greatest piece of advice anyone has given you?
Just write. For me, competitions provide the inspiration or theme for many stories. Other friends hone their skills on writing blogs or fan fiction. I just love writing short stories. I’ve written over 200 of them.
What’s the worst piece of advice anyone has given you?
Write about what you know. I think that’s incredibly limiting. I wrote about a man who is reincarnated as a mayfly. Pages open on Wikipedia on Buddhism and the life cycle of the mayfly taught me all I felt I needed to know for that particular story.
Do you hold a lot of importance to the names of your characters and the title of your stories?
The names of characters come to me as I write. I’ve never come up with any great descriptive Dickensian ones like Wackford Squeers. I have a few favourite titles like ‘Unmusical Bumps’ and ‘Friesian Ponchos.’
Have you always wanted to become a writer?
No. I was perfectly happy being a headteacher. Then I wasn’t well and had to stop so I had to find something else to do. I tried all sorts of creative things like mosaics, working with glass and drawing classes but it was the creative writing that stuck. It’s taken me quite some time to get going. I call myself a writer now but my first course was in 2004 and it was only 2009 when I read out my winning story at the Ilkley Literary Festival that I began to feel like a proper writer.
Do you prefer to remove yourself completely from your stories or to draw on your own memories for your characters?
I think a lot of me creeps in. I think I’m flattering myself if I said I always invented new characters. They are always consciously or subconsciously based on observations, particularly ways of speaking.
What’s your long term goal with your writing?
I have had a couple of stories made into films by Thorny Devil Productions and I am writing the screenplay for the third. It’s a different discipline. I’ve just had an e-book published by Spinetinglers. It’s a collection of 20 of my stories called ‘Centurionman. (I happen to live in Centurion Road.) Ideally I would like to have one of my novels published and have a television series along the lines of Tales Of The Unexpected based on a selection of my short stories.