Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m chatting with Carl Plummer. Welcome to clubhouse tearoom, Carl. Shall we order now? What would you like?
A very strong Twinings English Breakfast Tea for me, please (just a dash of milk). Toasted crumpets with salted butter would not be pushed aside.
While we wait for our drinks can I start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I decided to write what I wanted to read.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I think my dialogue is okay – the voices of the characters very distinct. I tend to overwrite descriptions – especially the pastoral stuff and I tend to get a bit too Sir Hubert Parry.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Plenty of mulling – and an idea that came into my head while writing the last book. Still mulling – but about half-way through.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
I have 2 finished projects – Pelham and the Plan on the Clapham Omnibus, (soon to be under the searing eye of my editor), Pelham on Tin Islands, and one work-in-progress – working title Pelham and the Man with the Mandolin.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? Do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?
No synopsis at first. I have a starting point – a scene in my head, and a final scene. I work my way from first to last. Often, the first scene (chapter) may become 2nd or 3rd and the last scene may become penultimate or ante-penultimate. Not very disciplined, maybe, but I remember John Le Carré talking about this in an interview, years ago. And if it is good enough for him…the only difference being, he is a brilliant author…and me…well….
I am very ‘character led’ – give them a situation and watch them do something stupid.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors, or screenwriter, or poet, and can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
An unfair question, maybe not, but a difficult question if looking for a definitive answer. I must put Cervantes at the top, only wishing he had written more. (If I choose him, that makes six authors – but he cannot go unmentioned – we novelists owe it to him. Can we take that as read?).
Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, P.G. Wodehouse – and I am not going to put them in order. They all have a narrative wit, as if talking to just you, because you are in the know – you understand, you are taken into their confidence. Maybe it is the first-person narrative they use so much. I think that is what got me into writing first-person narrative. When I write, I feel I am talking to someone who understands, someone who gets the jokes. All havebeautiful prose, with action, with humour, adventure, and moments of darkness, and distinctive voices.
Screenwriter: I would choose Alan Plater. (Born in Jarrow, brought up in Hull, where I were born). He has written so much, but my favourites would be his Beiderbecke series: The Beiderbecke Affair, The Beiderbecke Tapes and The Beiderbecke Connection. He has done so many things, including some Mrs. Marple, Dalziel and Pascoe, Inspector Lewis, Maigret, Campion, and way back in the 70s, some Softly, Softly.
He is maybe what can be described as a jobbing writer – akin to a session musician – and they are invariably the best – they have paid their dues, like all the great singers and guitarist of the 60s and 70s before they became famous.
This may sound a bit silly, but I like his wry humour; (apologies for the wryly – breaking a writer’s rule) there is a gentleness to his humour, if that makes sense.
Influence on me – the humour, I hope.
Poet: My go-to poet when I feel like a dose of verse is Derek Walcott. His Homeric narrative poetry is lyrical, with mixtures of Caribbean, patois, French Creole, and English. The language is so rich, and there is always a sense of journey, escaping, and going into the unknown. I wish we had more of him on audio, reading. Omeros is perhaps his most famous work, but for anyone new to him, I would suggest The Schooner Flight from The Star-Apple Kingdom. You can ‘hear’ the words. You can ‘feel’ the words – the hot sand, the sea, the sea-salt winds. Influence on me – the imagery, making the reader hear and feel. (Sounding a might pretentious there – sorry).
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I spend a great deal of time on research – and will often get lost in a subject while doing so. A good teacher knows 50 times more than what he/she is teaching; I think the same should be with writing.
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
No real schedule. My students take up so much time, many of them sending me essays or snippets, or questions on WeChat late in the evening or at the weekend. I don’t mind that; I teach Theory of Knowledge and Literature, and their questions always prompt me to question things myself or send me delving into some research – things I can use in my writing.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No. perhaps I should. I would if I could, but I would have to be living like a hermit in a cabin in a forest. (I would quite like that).
How many hours in a day do you write?
I have bouts. A bit like binge-drinking. Nothing for weeks then a whole weekend or an evening and night (a nuit blanche) – non-stop. I don’t do word counts; I don’t count hours – I write the scene. I spend hours going over a scene in my head – over and over again – for days, even weeks, until it is written in my head, description, dialogue, everything. Then it goes onto the page. Then leave it for a few weeks: edit – leave for a few weeks – edit. Edit, edit, edit. Cut, cut, cut.
Is that tea ready yet?
Yep. You enjoy your tea and crumpets while I let our readers know where to find out more about you, Carl. 😉
Carl Plummer Blog Page: Author
Facebook Link: Pelham on Parole out now – supposed to be launched Sept. 1st, but they jumped the gun. 4 Star review on BookOnline.org. Encouraging.