Interview With ‘Apparitionist’ Author, Rogan Whitenails

Today I am pleased to share an interview with Rogan Whitenails, the author of Apparitionist. This particular piece of work and correspondence has been of great significance to me, as the collection touches on very familiar & relevant themes. I am currently absorbing it all at a slow pace, as some things must not be rushed.

The Book

apparitionist.jpgApparitionist
By Rogan Whitenails
Publisher: Indoor Fighting Press
ISBN: 9780953456635
Pages: 88
Genre: Poetry

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This unique book of prologue poems with frayed ends, rhyming couplets with obsessively counted syllables, at 6 by 9 inches may not fit into your back pocket, but you will want to carry its secrets around with you always. Together the poems form an existentialist novella about a man outside his own time and a study of empathy and pity. The front cover painting by Andrew Salgado is another secret, a parergon to the artist’s Storytelling era, which has never been exhibited. The book is introduced by Ned Raggett who offers his own thoughts on the Apparitionist.


Interview With Rogan Whitenails

Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? How would you describe yourself as a writer?

Whenever I greet people in the street, I’m likely to simper at them slightly as I say “Morning” or “Hello”, and then I invariably let out a weak laugh, which is involuntary. I’ve often tried to suppress this laugh, but can’t seem to bottle it up. It always comes out, a little nervous giggly sound, and, despite it only being audible to me, I find it infuriating. Then there are sides to my character that show me to be far less worried about public approval or validation, a side that allows me to cope well in an emergency, so that I can talk fluently to paramedics, and a side that can tear a strip off someone who’s upset one of my loved ones in some way. This disregard for approval is evident in my writing, but so is that irrepressible simpering laugh. I do have a strong sense of empathy, however, which is perhaps what defines my work more than anything, though I resist the didactic approach.

My speech patterns in social situations mark me out as an eccentric, and can alienate me quite quickly, and these ways of speaking mirror my literary idiom. I will often use highfalutin and bamboozling language in a social setting, and, as with that little laugh, I can’t seem to stop myself. But then in contrast, for example, someone will express some uncalled for annoyance with my driving, and, without thinking, I’ll get out of my car and hear myself shout in a Basildon accent, “You got a problem mate?” Going from eloquence to base inarticulacy manifests in my writing as bathos.

I know that you and I have spoken about Apparitionist, but could you please share some of your inspiration behind the collection for others?

I was interested in making use of several techniques in the writing of my book. I’ve already mentioned bathos. I find it a useful, playful way of wrong-footing the reader: just when they think they have me pegged, the prevailing colours in a poem will digress.

Colour was at the forefront of writing the poems, not only because I’ve always seen colours whenever I hear sounds, but because I’d made a decision to work closely with painters, mainly Andrew Salgado. Andrew’s style of painting is always developing, and he too seems to enjoy wrong-footing people, but essentially his style is recognisably gestural. I would write to/stalk Andrew, and he would occasionally reply, and my book took some if its shape from my thoughts about his work.

One other technique worth mentioning is a process that I call “Evanescing”. “Poets ninth removed from the Somme, deprived of generous hell, will glom onto trifles,” is a line from one of my early poems, and the motif that runs through much of my work. Of course I feel immensely grateful and privileged to have never seen conflict first hand, but I’ve often wondered what my role as a poet might be potentially. I wanted to write about conflict in our world, the devastation in its wake, but was unsure how I could go about this without appearing crass. I also wanted to stay clear of didactics. I came up with the idea of using this evanescing approach, which allows me to travel without moving from my location, at all times making clear that I know who I am and where I am, but seeing through empathy others’ desperate situations.

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing Apparitionist?

The words fall into place pretty fast when they do come, and so on a practical level it has been hard to get them down quickly enough on occasion, especially when I’ve been interrupted by prosaic but unavoidable activities like needing to go to the toilet or eat. In fact, there is much about going to the toilet in this book, as there is about eating. I explore why, oddly, notions of both promote strong feelings of empathy within me. It has something to do with how these bodily functions are related to milestones in our early development, and can be taken away in a stroke.

Likewise, what has been the most rewarding part of the writing process?

There was a realisation, after I had written quite a lot of the poems, that they were not simply individual pieces, but were instead forming a homogenous narrative about someone who is reviewing their life after their death. It was unexpected, perhaps, but felt very natural at the same time, and has sparked a new energy in my work: keep writing, revisit themes, and a wider story will emerge.

Do you currently have a work in progress that you could tell us about or any upcoming ideas?

Since publishing my book, I’ve realised that the reference point for my narrative has shifted away from the Apparitionst towards a different character, which I’m calling Flâneur-fabular. For anyone who is interested, this subtly new perspective is unfurling and free to read on my Blogspot.

Do you spend a lot of time reading? If so, what would be your favorite genre?

I do spend a lot of time reading novels, but because of my obsessive tendencies, I make painfully slow progress, and tend to get slower towards the end of a book as I re-read each passage. To counter this obsessiveness, I intersperse novel-reading with poems. At the moment I’m reading The Book of Monelle by Marcel Schwob in tandem with the selected poetry of Herbert Read. I like a central character that is profoundly introspective, I suppose, which one finds across the genres.

Do you have one book or author that you draw inspiration from and would recommend?

A poet I hold in the highest esteem is Gerard Manley Hopkins. He illustrates to me why poetry is the greatest art form. That’s my view. People will often praise a poem by saying it’s so good, it is close to music. Poetry is not “almost” music; to say that is doing it a disservice. It has an oral dimension and tradition, obviously, but its power lies in the fact that it makes use of quietude and is ineffably inside of you, as much like a prayer as a song. Other poets I like very much are Nizar Qabbani and Celia Dropkin, whose work is hard to find in print.

I’ve also been a long-time admirer of the lyrics and literary work, blogs etc, of Nick Currie, aka Momus. I find him fascinating, how much of his work manages to be simultaneously tender and unnerving. I write to him/stalk him sometimes too.

Can you please share something with us about yourself that we would not know from your bio?

People may be surprised to hear this, but I spend rather too much of my time wondering why I’m not more liked, why my work is not more recognised. I confess that I would like to be more popular, but at the same time, I can never compromise. No space but this thin place for me, as art’s consensii sits entrenched, but I will not mimic.

And I have to ask, as I always do, do you drink tea? If so, what would be your favorite blend?

My favourite is camomile tea, which I drink with the bag on its string left in the cup.


image1About The Author

Whitenails is a writer of prologue poems and rhyming couplets with obsessively counted syllables. Since the age of 21, he has suffered from a neurological condition that affects his balance. His book, Apparitionist, a study of empathy and pity, was published by Indoor Fighting Press in November 2017. Its poems build to form an existentialist novella about a man outside his own time. He is seen as an outsider, and is rarely published in magazines. His poems are more likely to appear in the exhibition catalogues of artists with whom he has established a creative bond.
 
Buy his book:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK

Follow his blog here.


I want to extend my appreciation to the author for this wonderful review and my copy of Apparition.

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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Drift Stumble Fall Blog Tour: Author Interview with M. Jonathan Lee

I am thrilled to take part in the Drift Stumble Fall blog tour. The book is available the 12th of April, 2018 through Hideaway Fall, and today I have a wonderful interview with author M Jonathan Lee for you.

The Book

Full-cover-final-353x539Drift Stumble Fall
By M. Jonathan Lee
Available 4/12/18
Publisher: Hideaway Fall
ISBN: 9780995492349
Pages: 310

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Richard feels trapped in his hectic life of commitment and responsibility.  From the daily mayhem of having young children, an exhausted wife and pushy in-laws who frequently outstay their welcome, Richard’s existence fills him with panic and resentment. The only place he can escape the dark cloud descending upon him is the bathroom, where he hides for hours on end, door locked, wondering how on earth he can escape.

Often staring out of his window, Richard enviously observes the tranquil life of Bill, his neighbour living in the bungalow across the road.  From the outside, Bill’s world appears filled with comfort and peace.  Yet underneath the apparent domestic bliss of both lives are lies, secrets, imperfections, sadness and suffering far greater than either could have imagined.  Beneath the surface, a family tragedy has left Bill frozen in time and unable to move on.  As he waits for a daughter who may never return, Bill watches Richard’s bustling family life and yearns for the joy it brings.  As the two men watch each other from afar, it soon becomes apparent that other people’s lives are not always what they seem.

Purchase Drift Stumble Fall:  Amazon.com  Amazon UK


Interview With M. Jonathan Lee

Before we get into books, I know that you are a very active mental health awareness campaigner and advocate. Could you tell us a bit more about that and Mind, Time to Change and Rethink today?

Yeah, sure. I lost my brother to suicide in 2004, just before my twins were born. Ten years earlier he’d already tried to take his own life (surviving a jump from a multi-storey) so mental health has always been something huge in my life. I was at a very low point when I wrote my first novel and in hindsight saw it as my legacy. Writing, without question, saved my life. I have written for the above named charities and I am working with Mind now to launch a mental health website. Something new, to keep people alive.

Were you able to draw on some of your own personal experiences while developing Drift Stumble Fall and the protagonist Richard?

Yep, absolutely. When I was very depressed, I remember clearly driving past Christmas lights in people’s windows and absolutely wishing I was them. It all looked so warm and cosy. So desirable. I would have traded lives at that moment, without even knowing what their lives were like.

What was your favorite aspect of writing Drift Stumble Fall, was there perhaps a favorite scene or specific elements that you enjoyed the most?

That’s a great question. I absolutely feel that DSF is a story of positivity. I really do. At the time I was writing it, I’d say to my wife, this is a story of hope. I loved throwing in the scenes where the family watch Jurassic Park and Titanic. Though, I absolutely loved writing Bill and Rosie’s story.

When I read, character development is everything. There has to be a certain amount of viability and connection. How do you ensure that your characters remain relatable to readers?

I always write from the perspective that I am simply chronicling something that is happening in front of me. Almost like watching a play. I am a very down to earth, observant person from the north of England. Most of my characters I have met somewhere down the line and I can almost hear them speaking when I write.

Now that you have published several titles, how has your writing process changed, or has it?

Certainly. I could spend an evening telling people how not to write. My first novels were written chronologically, with meticulous time spent making sure every sentence was perfect. There are two issues here. The first is that if you write in order you may get in from an awful day and then have to write a happy scene. This automatically causes issues because you have to try to change your mindset. Instead, if its been a bad day, I write something bad. The piecing together of the novel comes at the end. Secondly, if a sentence doesn’t work in thirty seconds, I highlight it and move on. That way everything flows. When I come to the edit I have maybe a hundred sentences to change.

I have to often wonder how authors feel about their own books being reviewed. It has to be a somewhat emotional or perhaps stressful process. Do you read your book reviews and if so, how do you handle any criticism that you encounter?

Yes, I do, and I suppose I wish I didn’t. Writing is my life; I love it. So when a new novel comes out I read perhaps that first thirty or forty reviews to make sure that people understand what I was trying to put across. If they do I’m happy. I don’t mind a bad review, after all I am comfortable that everyone can’t like everything.

How long do you spend researching before starting a new story or is this an ongoing process?

It is totally an ongoing process. I spend no time with research because I write about every day life. I write about things that happen around me, with an added twist of course.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, would you?

That’s a fantastic question. Hmm. The answer is a definite no, but only because the earlier books are a snapshot in time of how I wrote then. Don’t get me wrong I am hugely proud of the first two but there are parts now, that I would write differently. Of course, part three of the trilogy is yet to come.

As a writer, which books or authors have you drawn the most inspiration from? Any recommendations?

I’ve always loved Mark Haddon. I love how he forms sentences. I also love Yann Martell and have read everything Nick Hornby.

Last but least, I always ask, do you drink tea and if so, what is your favorite blend?

I love tea. Almost black one sugar. And simple Yorkshire Tea, of course.


RLT18-200x300About the Author

M Jonathan Lee is a Yorkshire-based author and mental health awareness campaigner. He began writing seriously in 2006, shortly after the suicide of his brother, Simon, and his own struggle with anxiety and depression.  It took nearly five years for Jonathan to write his first novel, The Radio – a black- comedy which deals with suicide which was shortlisted for the Novel Prize 2012 (for unpublished authors) and subsequently published in 2013.

Jonathan campaigns tirelessly to remove the stigma associated with mental health problems and works closely with various mental health charities including MindTime to Change and Rethink, frequently blogs for the Huffington Post and is a regular guest on BBC Radio Sheffield talking about mental health. He regularly speaks in local schools and colleges on writing and mental health and is currently spearheading a local outreach project in which local churches provide assistance to those affected by anxiety and depression. Before writing full-time, Jonathan held a senior position in a FTSE100 company.  He lives in Barnsley, Yorkshire, with his second wife, five children, two cats and a dog.

Follow M. Jonathan Lee:  Website  Twitter  Facebook


Follow the Tour

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I would like to thank M. Jonathan Lee and Hideaway Fall for this opportunity and their time!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

An Author Interview with Will Ruff

AuthorInterview (2)Today I am thrilled to welcome Will Ruff to Books, Vertigo and Tea for an interview and to share his debut book; The Tomb of the Primal Dragon. Will is speaking at SXSW this year!


valence (2)The Book

The Tomb of the Primal Dragon
By Will Ruff
ISBN: 9781973416173
Pages: 414
Genre: Mystery/Crime

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Synopsis:

Arthur Biers, a young would-be historian just returned from a trip to Xi’an, China that nearly got him killed. He has a fresh wound, he’s been discredited in the media as a grave robber, and his role in the illegal excavation of the first emperor of China’s tomb nearly started a war. The United States government wants to know what happened. He recalls the story directly to the United States Ambassador who’s desperately trying to smooth things over.

In an attempt to get into graduate school, Arthur found himself searching for any position covering the drifting relationship between China and the United States. Ready to give up, and with nothing to show for it, Arthur stumbles on what appears to be the perfect opportunity. He encounters a technology mogul intent on building the next media empire using virtual reality. The man behind the project, Wyatt Waller, is trying to win a contract for a pioneering excavation of the tomb using drones. He invites Arthur to join the project as a researcher and when Arthur arrives, he quickly begins to suspect that there’s something more going on at the site than the excavation of historical relics.

Their research suggests the tomb is hiding deadly secrets, if it survived, but China has taken the position that the technology isn’t there to excavate yet, and they have no plans to begin. The story follows Arthur, Wyatt, and several others on a journey across China as they begin to question our understanding of history and the way it’s written. And they all become obsessed with the idea of breaking the real story behind the legendary tomb. Even if they find out what’s inside though, they may not be able to prove it.

Read an excerpt here.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com  Amazon UK


 Author Interview

1. The Tomb of the Primal Dragon presents a fascinating concept! What inspired you to develop a plot involving secrets contained within a tomb and museum?

I always knew I wanted to write a story where a character changes the way the world understands history. In college that was spurned on by the story of Heinrich Schliemann who discovered the historical site of Troy. He was a businessman, and his methods were pretty far out of the accepted norms for archaeology. He was convinced the Iliad and the Odyssey were based on historical events, and he spent his life trying to find the evidence. He eventually did despite the entire archaeological community not taking him seriously.

When I was studying traditional China the textbook mentioned the first Emperor and how he unified China, and when it referred to the tomb of the terracotta warriors, and the emperor’s tomb which is almost a mile from the warriors, there was an aside that said of the emperor’s tomb “Itself not yet excavated.” That was the exact moment I decided to write a book about someone becoming obsessed with it, and I spent years digging into it from several angles and what a thing like that meant to the world.

2. Can you describe some of the research that went into writing a story set in China and evolving an excavation?

I studied Chinese history in college, and took a few semesters of Mandarin before studying in Beijing. It was 2009, and I was there for four months taking four hours of language classes a day, history, and mass media, and enjoying the culture. When we got there we took a trip to Xi’an where I got to lay eyes on the Terracotta Warrior museum so a lot of the descriptions come from that. Same goes for all the other sites featured in the book. A lot of the half-English half-pinyin you’ll read in the book comes from that experience. I also wrote my senior thesis on President Nixon’s trip to China where he met Mao and basically changed the balance of power in the Cold War.

The technology side of it was the hard part. When I first started writing it years ago, the idea of drones being used for archaeology had been floated in various articles I found online, but I had no idea how the stuff worked. Then I started reading up on things like LiDar and I eventually connected with a drone software expert who helped me sort of plan this fictional excavation down to what it might cost, and how long it would take to capture enough data. The technology part of it is the coolest, because I’ve been able to speak with so many brilliant people who love the idea and I can actually get them excited about this tomb—itself still not yet excavated.

3. I know that The Tomb of the Primal Dragon was your debut novel. What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered during the writing and/or publication process?

Writing when you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to say is really hard, and it took me a long time to really get going on the story. I tried writing it in college, but that turned into 25 failed attempts at writing an opening chapter. I’d never done anything on this scale before, so I thought I would probably never be able to do it. It wasn’t until years later when I put pen to paper and stepped away from the computer that I could finally focus and get through it. I wrote 80 pages by hand and then finally moved it to the computer and knew where I was going with it. The scene I had written turned out to be the scene where the main character Arthur, who’s fresh out of college and trying to find work in a technology driven economy meets this media mogul who wants to build an empire for journalism in virtual reality. Their encounter is this sort of “technology meets storytelling” moment which is one of the main themes of the book. The big lesson I learned is that you don’t write in chronological order, you write, and you figure out what comes next, and whether anything came before. Then you make sense of it.

4. Did you have a character that you favored most while developing them? If so, what was it that you enjoyed about them specifically?

That’s definitely a hard question to answer since Arthur’s perspective is in first person. In that sense I probably injected all my studies into his character, but there’s aspects in all of them I find intriguing. Bruce has this philosophy that history doesn’t belong to anyone and it isn’t yours to hide. There’s something charming in that but it gets distorted for him and he goes down the wrong road of philosophical purity as opposed to looking at how his work is going to have an affect on people. Emmy I think represents what every ambitious hard working person wants. She’s brilliant, she has a talent for making things happen quickly, and she’s very intent on getting it right the first time—even if she goes against what everyone else thinks. But she hasn’t been given the right opportunity. Arthur is a guy who desperately wants to get into graduate school and he wants to be a part of history, not just teach it. A lack of job training makes it hard for him. And then there’s Wyatt. Wyatt is this serial entrepreneur who has money and can build pretty much anything, and he thinks a media empire is the next obligation he has to society. He’s also in this very self-reflective phase of his life which I can identify with.

5. You mentioned that you will be speaking at South by Southwest (SXSW) this! Can you share a bit more about that with us?

Yes! I’ll be bringing the book to SXSW to talk about the writing process, thought process, and main themes behind the book. Should be about an hour, and I’ll do a Q & A if anyone has interest in that sort of thing. The really cool thing about SXSW is that it’s a big tech festival, and in writing this I got really excited reading up on the technology that might be used for this kind of excavation, and people in tech circles are so far pretty huge supporters of the idea behind the novel. Should be a blast!

6. Last but least, I always ask this one – are you a tea drinker, and if so, what if your preferred cup?

The best tea I’ve ever had was in Shanghai during that semester abroad. I have no idea what kind it was unfortunately. I like tea, but I’m more of a coffee drinker. Black coffee.


imageAuthor Bio

Will’s writing has been compared by readers of his early works to classic authors from Hemingway and Hitchens to some of the great defining authors of the modern generation including Michael Crichton and John Grisham.

His debut novel, The Tomb of the Primal Dragon, is a genre bending exploration of both what it’s like living in the modern day in a world where technology eclipses meaning, and an exciting adventure following the geopolitical balance between the world’s great superpowers as they plunge headfirst into the new theater of war, the digital world.

Fans of thrillers looking for a fresh take on the genre as well as those trying to understand how technology is shaping the future will find much to dissect in his writing.

Follow Will Ruff: Website  Facebook  Youtube


A special thank you to Will for his time and the interview today!

Happy Reading,

Danielle ❤

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