Stewart Bint is not just a brilliant author, he is amazingly witty to talk to. Humour and friendly sarcasm drip from his words even in generic conversations, as evident to his Twitter followers. He is compassionate, considerate and devotes a lot of his time to his and support for anti-bullying and the fight against Lyme disease. His barefoot-walk campaigns are speak oodles of his tireless voice in aid of increasing awareness of the Lyme disease.
It was a very gripping conversation that I had with Stewart Bint, over a cuppa virtual coffee, about his books, his writing style and much more. Read on…
Coffee Bean Thanks for agreeing to have this virtual coffee chat with us today, Stewart! Stewart Bint You’re welcome. I’m pleased to be here
Coffee Bean You’ve successfully published quite a few of your works, inspiring many… How have you worked your premises out? Would you begin one, end it, and then move on to the next one? Or do you work on many in parallel? Stewart Bint I write them one at a time, but find that ideas for future novels can strike at any time. When that happens I write a short synopsis or flesh out the ideas and file them away until I’m, ready to start work on them. Ideas can come from all sort of places — for instance the inspiration for my latest novel Timeshaft came from a walk in Cranford Park in London, while The Jigsaw And The Fan satirises the long-running miners dispute in the 1980s.
Coffee Bean Ahh right… I understand… Although the focus is on the current work, you’d still be filing away ideas for future ones Stewart Bint Absolutely. For instance, I finished my next novel yesterday, which is due for publication in June. So today I’m looking at notes and outlines for a collection of short stories which will be out just before Christmas. And I’ve got an outline worked out for my next novel (June 2015), but I won’t start to write it until the short stories have been completed. When I get an idea or concept, I make a full note…so I can have numerous files in a folder floating about in a real haphazard way.Then when I’ve finished the current book I start to get my new ideas into some semblance of order, and the book starts to take shape in my mind. For the next two books though, it’s slightly different. While I’ve been working on “In Shadows Waiting” which is due for publication on June 7, I’ve been working on ideas for a collection of short stories due at Christmas. And between those two, there’ll be a book featuring a compilation of my magazine columns which I’ve been asked to produce, principally by my American fans, in October. So all the ideas for the short stories have been floating around…and now the novel’s finished I’m getting ready to start writing those.
R C Bean Oh great… We all just got to know not only about your working style, but also about the fabulous line-up of books that are about to come out… But let’s a rewind a bit and start with your first book, Malfunction? Stewart Bint I have been fascinated with the concept behind Malfunction for nearly 40 years and made three abortive attempts at writing a full length novel about it over the years. None of them worked, and I gave up after a few chapters. However, the idea of the setting of Malfunction, and the central character, the enigmatic tramp, popped into my head one night and seemed perfect fore a novella. So the story was told in 8,000words, and I think worked well. It tells the story of an explosion in a revolutionary new energy plant, and how the plant’s chief scientist is given the opportunity to go back in time a few hours to prevent it.
R C Bean Right… Would it have been a subconscious fantasy of the author? Because it does make one wonder how amazing it would be to get a few hours rolled back for many of the disasters that strike all our lives… Stewart Bint You must have read my mind. In my magazine column in February 2013 as Mother’s Day was approaching, I wrote how my Mother and I had been somewhat distant in the latter years of her life. I wrote: “You only get one Mum. So make the most of her while she’s here. Tell her you love her, and show her you love her. Looking back I can see what a wonderful job my Mum did in bringing me up in difficult circumstances, yet I can’t recall ever telling her that. It’s too late now. My Mum died in 2000. One of my books is about time travel…so is the one due out in May. Do you think that’s me wishing I could turn the clock back like my characters can, just to say: ‘Mum, I love you, and thank you’?”
R C Bean Hmm… Right… That is indeed moving and thought provoking at the same time Many a time we think that disasters are usually explosive and come with a huge frame… But in reality, most of the disasters in life are bad decisions and regrets, which we desperately wish hadn’t happened… So I’d say its natural for the mind to dream of some way out? However mind-boggling the possibility may seem? Stewart Bint I agree. And as the mind looks for solace somehow, it’s how we deal with those disasters and regrets that shapes our characters and makes us who we are today. I started writing stories in little blue notebooks when I was 7 years old. And my writing was a great comfort to me after my Dad died when I was 11. I retreated into my own little worlds that I created in my stories, as they were better than the real world at that time. But would I be the same person today if I had the opportunity to go back in time and somehow stop my Dad from dying? I don’t think so. But, yes, my mind was definitely dreaming of some way out during that dark time.
R C Bean I understand… The trauma of having to deal with things out of bounds for a child of that age, was best comforted by the imaginary worlds… Did your subconscious mind then look at its owner as a child accursed out of no fault of his own? Which was your plot for Ashday’s Child? Stewart Bint Do you know, I’ve never thought of it that way! But that could definitely be the case. That is frightening! The inspiration for Ashday’s Child (to my conscious mind, anyway) came from Hitler’s Jewish holocaust and his aim to create a perfect Aryan race. But I’m fascinated by your train of thought, and my gut instinct tells me you could well be right.
R C Bean The subconscious mind works in strange ways and keeps its intentions well hidden from normal logic and analysis – not to claim I’m certainly right… I’m just explaining why the question even struck me… But given the plots of impending doom aversion in your other plots, you have chosen to surprisingly take a light-hearted theme in your next work The Jigsaw and the Fan is a full-fledged satire that brings your sense of humour and sarcasm to the fore I believe? Stewart Bint Absolutely….my one attempt at comedy. But psychology’s at work there, as well, as I’m aiming the book to be read on two levels. Firstly, it’s a light-hearted ghost story about a dead trades unionist who is stuck on Earth because a strike in St Christopher’s Ministry stops newly departed souls from continuing their journey upwards or downwards. He is sent to a stately home to wait until the dispute is settled. He quickly becomes angry that people are charged an entry fee, and sets out to frighten the visitors away. Word gets round that the mansion is haunted, which attracts more visitors. So he goes on strike and refuses to appear as a ghost! The whole proceedings are watched over by a pair of rather roguish guardian angels, which many readers say is the best part of the book for them. As the plot unfolds we find out a lot more about the after-life, and towards the end, the very meaning of life itself. That’s one level. The plot actually satirises the long-running UK miners’ dispute in the 1980s. That was the actual inspiration for the novel, even though the miners dispute is not mentioned once.
R C Bean That sounds absolutely intriguing and I’m sure must have got rave reviews… Did it serve it’s purpose for penning your thoughts on after life as well? Stewart Bint It did serve that purpose, yes. I’m not sure I’ll attempt such a multi-layered novel again, though. It was quite tricky trying to keep all the plot lines in order, keeping the purpose of the guardian angels’ role alive as they were unlawfully influencing the actions of their humans on Earth, and making sure the satire stayed true. I was mentally exhausted when I’d finished it. That novel took more out of me than any of my other work, before and since.
R C Bean Wow, that’s a revelation… It’s easy to presume that light hearted themes are easier for an author… But it may not always be the case… Did TimeShaft make for a welcome break then? Stewart Bint Timeshaft was still quite hard work, on a number of grounds. And it’s my personal favourite for a number of reasons, too. The inspiration for it came from a walk in Cranford Park, London, in 1991, which is depicted in a scene in the book. That concept had been swimming around in my mind all these years, when I had one of those Eureka moments. Malfunction and Ashday’s Child are completely stand-alone stories and can be enjoyed in their right. But I suddenly saw how I could link the two totally separate storylines and extend them, to actually be the backbone of Timeshaft. So that is what I did. Only one person who read Malfunction and Ashday’s Child ahead of Timeshaft has come anywhere near working out how the two are connected. Many readers came up with the same wrong idea! Now here’s where I embrace the complete antithesis of marketing! If people buy Timeshaft, please don’t buy Malfunction or Ashday’s Child — you’ll be wasting your money, as both stories are included almost word for word within Timeshaft. However, some people decided on purpose to buy all three, to read Malfuncton and Ashday’s Child with the express aim of trying to work out the link between them before turning to Timeshaft for the solution.
R C Bean I see… One would say you gave the first two books as a feeler of sorts for preparing readers for TimeShaft… It must have been quite some work to pick up each thread and weave the connections Stewart Bint You’re right on both counts, but regarding the first point, it was unintentional. It was only when I started to devise Timeshaft’s storyline based around the Cranford Park concept that it struck me that I could link everything. The biggest challenge was actually working out exactly where in the story to bring in the Ashday’s Child chapter. Malfunction forms Timeshaft’s first one and a half chapters, and Ashday’s Child is a chapter around half way through.
R C Bean I get it… And you completely took my by surprise with the marketing antithesis part! Many authors would still suggest that their readers read the other two books – at least for the sales if nothing else 🙂 Stewart Bint I wouldn’t want my readers to feel cheated, so I do like to alert them. I’m always pleased, though, when they do decide to read Malfunction and Ashday’s Child first, to try and make the link. And as both of those are completely stand-alone, it doesn’t matter which one they read first!
R C Bean It’s nice to think from the readers’ perspective and think of what would work for them… Well it’s been a pleasure to have this interview Stewart… Although it would be nice to talk more about your writing, I wouldn’t want to take your time too much, keeping you from your future books! Stewart Bint The pleasure’s all mine. Thank you. Thanks for your patience! Well, I loved answering your questions. I’m fascinated by your insight into how my subconscious mind might have devised Ashday’s Child. With my next one out on June 7 I’m taking a little break before starting serious work on the short stories.
R C Bean Thank you… I try to delve into the why and how rather than stop with the what… Maybe that’s what triggered my questions… Well, let me wish you the very best with the new book that should be out in June Here’s to a better living!