Author Interview: Pete W Sutton

I have recently been given the pleasure of interviewing Pete W Sutton, whose fourth book The Museum For Forgetting has recently been published by Grimbold Books.

 

 

First of all. Tell us more about The Museum For Forgetting. It is a collection of short stories with a central theme of memory and fallibility? Are the narratives linked in any sort of way beyond theme (such as reoccurring settings/characters)?

The Museum For Forgetting is a collection of 11 tales – some previously published, some written for the collection. I guess memory is a common theme that I come back to often and therefore it seemed like a natural choice for a second collection of stories. The stories are not related as such and characters don’t recur. It’s more a thematic link. I use SF&F and horror in these eleven tales and they range from flash fiction to novelette length. It’s a range of what I’ve been writing over the last few years.

 

 

You have had other books published in the past (including Seven Deadly Swords and another short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies) are these at all linked to The Museum For Forgetting in their themes, settings, or characters?

Seven Deadly Swords is a standalone novel but it does have a related theme. The sins of the past often catch up with the people who populate my stories. When I released A Tiding of Magpies back in 2016 I was guided by the editor and publisher to provide more stories that didn’t fit my initial conception of the magpies theme so when I had the chance to republish it last year with Grimbold Books I revisited and saw that some stories would fit Museum better and was able to juggle a couple of stories. So the Magpies available now is a little different to the 2016 version and a couple of stories from the 2016 version have ended up in Museum. I’m sure if there were ever a short story completist fan it’ll drive them mad. 😉

 

 

Some of your writing has been described as ‘Weird Fiction’. Would you like to give a brief introduction to that as a defined genre to those who may not be familiar with the term?

I’ve become more comfortable over time to being hard to categorise, and, dare I say it, a bit niche and obscure. I think the attempts to categorise my work as weird fiction or (as some have tried) magic realism reflect that I don’t follow strict genre boundaries. In the past, it might have perhaps been called Slipstream or if I were writing in the ’90s and early 2000s, New Weird. Generally though it’s because I’m an eclectic reader. Some of my work has even been categorised as ‘literary horror.’ I don’t often reach for a tentacle and I don’t consciously write transgressive fiction nor do I try to subvert the standard horror monster tropes so maybe weird is a label that just doesn’t fit?

 

 

Would you say that you have evolved as a writer between your different projects?

I have learned how to write a story every time I write a story. I hope that I’m writing better now than when I started around 2013 (late starter) and I’ve certainly tried a lot of different methods of production (having written my last novel longhand but using Scrivener to write the current one.) I’d say I’m less likely to jump straight into writing something without a plan than I used to be – trying to introduce more intentionality into the process and I’ve also slowed down a lot.

 

What is next for you? Do you have anything on the pipelines?

I’m currently writing a game tie-in novel for Red Scar in their Devil’s Run world. Devil’s Run is a little bit Mad Max, a little bit Car Wars and a little bit Z Nation (to my mind) but quirky and its own thing. The basic premise of the game is that it’s set some decades after a nuclear war and the west coast of the former United States has devolved into warring factions of road warriors. There are factions based on the Hell’s Angels and on former navy units but also some real oddball factions e.g. based on the Vikings or 1960’s Britain. Oh, and there is the Revenant virus that sees shambling hordes of undead in bombed-out cities. I’m having a lot of fun with it.

 

If someone were to read you for the first time, what book (or story) would you suggest they begin with?

People can start where they like, my stuff is standalone. I’d like lots of people to get The Museum for Forgetting right now obviously but it doesn’t really matter where you start. I would say that Seven Deadly Swords isn’t much like the shorts, Sick City Syndrome, my first novel is – although that’s now out of print. One day I’ll revise and release it as a freebie…

 

What was the first thing you ever had published, and how long did it take you to achieve publication?

I came to writing in a roundabout way. I did a science degree and on that degree, I did Science Journalism. I then had a ‘plan’ to get into working for science magazines and I did an MA in Publishing. For various reasons my plan failed and I ended up working in telecoms. I was still interested in publishing and a very keen reader and regularly attended the Edinburgh Book Festival as well as lit fests so when Bristol Lit Fest started up I volunteered to help out. I ended up on the committee and got to attend a whole load of events for free, including some writing workshops. I also got to meet authors and discovered they were just normal people (shocking eh?). At around the same time, a friend got a publishing deal. I started to think that maybe I could give writing a go but did nothing about it. I then did some work for a Bristol publisher and was at another writing workshop when I said to the woman running the workshop – “I’d like to write someday.” And she asked what was stopping me from writing now. It’s odd but it felt like I’d been given permission and I went away and wrote a short story. Then another. Then my fourth was taken for publication by sympathetic editors who were willing to work with me to make it publishable (it was a bit rough when I submitted it) The process of being edited showed me a whole bunch of beginner mistakes I’d been making and I went from there. That fourth story is Artifice Perdu in Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion and is the first story I was paid for. It took me a few months to go from not writing to being published which obviously is highly unusual – but I had written and edited for RPGs for decades before that. Since then lots of people who’ve known me for years have said they always knew I’d be a writer!

 

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain by Amy Jeffs which retells the early myths of our storied isle along with fab woodcut art. I’d highly recommend it.

 

And finally, would you like to give a shout out for three books which you feel more people should read, and tell us why?

Wow that’s a really hard question – do I choose three books by friends, but only three would mean I’d be leaving people out… I’ll mention three short story collections that have impressed me recently and that might not be on everyone’s radar.

Jagannath by Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck is not as widely known as I thought it’d be. It was published almost a decade ago now and is one of the strongest single author short story collections I can think of – her work is just amazingly good and I wish I could be as good!

Hollow Shores by Gary Budden has an amazing sense of place, suffused with the liminal edgelands that make up parts of the British coast and it’s an impressive collection.

I’m pretty sure that Edited By, by Ellen Datlow is on the radar of those that know but this is a great retrospective collection of some of the best tales she’s edited and it’s a fantastic multi-author collection and it deserves a wide audience.

RisingShadow Review for Bloodsworn

RisingShadow has reviewed my latest novel Bloodsworn. It is one of the most detailed reviews I have received so far and it described it as “perfect escapism for everybody who loves classic epic fantasy with dark and gritty elements” and “one of the best reads of the year”.

To read the full review, click here.

Author Interview: Lorraine Wilson

Today I have been given the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Lorraine Wilson, whose debut novel, This Is Our Undoing is due to be published by Luna Press on the 3rd of August. It looks like a fascinating novel so I have taken some time to ask her some questions.

 

 

Lorraine lives by the sea in Scotland, writing speculative fiction set in the wilderness and heavily influenced by folklore. She is fascinated by the way both mythology and our relationship with the natural world act as mirrors of ourselves and lenses for how we view others, and with a heritage best described as a product of the British Empire, she is drawn to themes of family, trauma, and belonging. After gaining a PhD in behavioural ecology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland she spent several years as a conservation researcher in odd corners of the world before turning to writing. She has been stalked by wolves, caught the bubonic plague, and once had a tree frog called ‘Algernon’ who lived in her sink.

 

First of all. Tell us more about This Is Our Undoing. Judging from its blurb, it seems like it might be a mosaic of genres?

Yes, it kind of is! It’s a speculative novel, but speculative is a very broad ‘genre’ term, so in this case, This Is Our Undoing has elements of SciFi in its near-future, slightly dystopian setting, but it has a fantastical thread in it too (that I can’t tell you about without spoilers!), along with hints of folklore and lots of science and the wilderness … and at its very bare plot essentials, it’s got a murder mystery … So take your pick!

 

 

What would you say are its principal themes?

I said to someone recently that this book was my protest against powerlessness, and I think I inadvertently stumbled across my best summary of it so far! It’s my attempt to say that the choices we make in the face of issues far beyond our control (like societal intolerance, climate change, political corruption) still matter. It’s about the legacy of harm and loss, and how our identity is shaped by both our trauma and our choices. Family (and found family) is central to the novel because they are the people you will most risk yourself for, both your life and your identity, and I wanted to explore that conflict of protecting those you love versus staying true to yourself.

 

Was it the first novel you attempted to write?

No. Definitely not. I move back and forth between books so sequencing them is tricky, but I think this was about my fourth? My first was quite thoroughly awful and is never being allowed out of its locked drawer! The other two are sitting waiting for me to revisit them with a little (lot) more distance.

 

How long did it take you to find a publisher for it?

I just checked my files and late 2018 was when I started subbing it to agents. After six months with only a handful of full requests, I revised it almost completely and decided it might be too cross-genre to fit traditional publishing routes neatly, so started approaching indie publishers … and Luna was one of the first I submitted to in summer 2020. So… just under two years, maybe?

 

 

You have a PhD in animal behaviour and there is mention of the forest playing a part in This Is Our Undoing. How much of this knowledge you possess have you utilised whilst writing this book?

Quite a bit, to be honest. In two ways. First in the creation of the setting – as someone who has lived and worked in boreal forests, I know what it feels like to walk through the forest at night, what it sounds like at dawn or smells like when you’re in the middle of a clearing. I know what birds are singing and which flowers are flowering when etc etc. All of that background information was really useful in allowing me to make sure the scenes felt real and alive, and also – and I LOVE doing this – allowed me to use the environment my characters were in to provide subtext, adding to (or contrasting with) whatever atmosphere I was trying to create, whether that was sorrow or fear or loneliness. If you read the book, you might be able to spot me doing this – cherry-picking from the environment to add hints and emphasis to the scene’s action. It’s fun, and if nothing else, makes use of that hoard of obscure knowledge!

 

 

The second way I used my training is more direct in that my main character Lina is a scientist carrying out ecological research. So the details of her job, the work and studies she is involved in are all things I have done to some degree, although I’ve played around with the state of technology a little bit given that we’re slightly in the future. It was fun to write a field scientist character, but the reason I did that was actually because I wanted the contrast between the wildness and wonder of the forest, and the cruelty of the past that Lina thought she had escaped from (evil author laugh).

 

 

What is next? Does This is Our Undoing have a sequel or are you currently working on something completely new?

This Is Our Undoing doesn’t have a sequel. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing the stories of a couple of the side characters but that’s not happening any time soon! I’m currently working on two new books, both at the drafting stage. One is another speculative near-future story full of digital ghosts, hedgewitchery and more forests! The other is heading the other way in time – it’s a historical fiction about belonging and family trauma and Victorian women botanists.

 

Would you consider writing in any other genres?

Ha! See above. Yes! The historical fiction was a total shot in the dark for me. I’d never written anything like it but I wrote it during lockdown, without any planning and whilst homeschooling, and it was the pure escapism I needed at that time. I have also written other slightly less speculative books, based in the present day, but they are still (as is the hist fic one) influenced by folklore and the wilderness. I think those two themes are my ‘genres’!

 

What book are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished beta reading the next in the Chemical Detective series by my fabulous friend Fiona Erskine, and you are in for a treat with this one! So now I’m flicking between a few until one grabs me, which is my current strategy at the moment as my reading concentration powers are suffering from ‘pandemic brain fatigue’. Currently being sampled are: Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s The End of Men, Heather Kassner’s The Forest of Stars, and Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army. An eclectic mix!

 

And finally, would you like to give a shout out for three books which you feel more people should read, and tell us why?

Oh excellent… deep breath…

Intisar Khanani’s The Theft of Sunlight. It’s a lovely, thoughtful, thrilling, diverse and rich YA fantasy that deserves all the love!

Yvonne Battle-Felton’s Remembered. Because it is stunningly evocative and powerful, and because Yvonne is just the greatest, most generous champion of other writers, and I can’t sing her praises enough.

Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune. This is a hypnotic book full of layers and kindness and potency, and everyone should read it!

 

Thank you, Lorraine!

Lorraine Wilson’s This Is Our Undoing is due to be published by Luna Press on the 3rd of August, and can be preordered at Luna Press, Amazon, Waterstones, The Book Depository, as well as other outlets.