Writers on Lockdown: Ellinor Kall

Ellinor Kall is an explorer of the liminal, embodying the blend between fiction and non-fiction. The popularity of her short story The DreamCube Thread in our recent anthology sparked this conversation on isolation, automatic writing, and occult influences.


Hi Ellinor, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thanks, it’s my pleasure!

So how are things over in Sweden, are you feeling as ‘locked down’ as us?

From what I gather you in the UK seem to have a stricter policy than us. There are restrictions on how many can gather in one place, on visiting the older and vulnerable groups and things like that. Many work from home if possible, but many people are still out and about.

Every spring Swedes go crazy when the sun returns after a long dark winter and people HAVE to gather at the temporary outdoor seatings that pop up outside the pubs – no virus can stop this annual sun-worshipping ritual. Maybe it’s a remnant of some stupid viking mentality: if we die in battle with the virus we’ll get to sit and drink beer in the sun on plastic chairs outside Valhalla.

Haha! Do you find isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?

I’m a rather introverted person, and before this I was already working from home at least one day a week. And when not working, well, I’m mostly staying at home, reading, writing, listening to music, watching films and playing games. So this “isolation” is normal for me.

When I’m working on something longer I need time, preferably over several days, to get into the right mindset, get into the world, arrange all the pieces before I continue writing. Any disturbance from the outside world and I have to start over again. My mind is kinda chaotic and wants to go off and do other things all the time. So I have to spend a lot of energy keeping focus until I get into flow. But once that happens it’s hyperfocus to the point I forget to eat.

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Ellinor Kall”

Writers on Lockdown: Logan Ryan Smith

Logan Ryan Smith writes dark, disorientating, and highly imaginative streams of consciousness with a unique sense of humour and madness. In the third of this new series, I caught up with him to talk about isolation, the flow of writing, and the unreliable narrator.


Hi Logan, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Hi, C.R. Thanks for the invite to participate. Very happy to be a part of this.

How are you faring in these strange times, is isolation a help or a hindrance to your creative process?

Outside of the occasional moment of being overwhelmed emotionally by the terror and beauty of a whole planet trying to achieve something together, in unison, not only for themselves, but for their families, neighbors, and those workers out in public selflessly providing essential services for the rest of us, I guess you could say I’m doing quite well, actually. As I’m betting you’ll hear from most writers, I’m not incredibly social. I’m not antisocial, but the things writers like doing (reading and writing) are things done in isolation already, so it’s not a huge disruption to my life. And I’m in isolation with my favorite people, my family, so why would I complain? So, we’re taking this lockdown very seriously and fortunately they’re like me — not super social. I guess we were all homebodies to begin with, so we’re not dealing with the same stress as those that have a real need to be out and about with bunches of people. So it goes.

As for the creative process, I guess it has stymied it. I usually take a break after releasing a new book, but I likely would have begun a new one by now had this whole thing not happened. I am fine with (some) isolation, but I actually do a lot of my writing out of the house. That’s mostly due to not having any kind of writing studio in our house, which means the kids would be asking every five seconds what I’m doing, what my book is about, and if they can help me write it. But when I say, “Sure. Tell me how many S’s there are in ‘occasional.’ I can’t remember,” they just give me blank expressions and start hitting the keyboard, laughing madly like a couple tiny maniacs. It’s frightening. You should see it.  That said, even if I get my writing studio with a door that locks (we’re going to try to convert the garage during this time of lockdown), the six-year-old is already a master lock-picker. So we’ll see how that goes.

Aside from needing space, I’m also not the type to write when my mind is completely occupied by something other than the thing I’m writing at the moment. I turn on the news every morning, hoping against hope that the death and infection rates are slowing, and as yet, it seems to only be increasing. Hard for me to think about my next book when that’s how the day starts. Then of course there’s getting used to working from home. So, sitting all day in the house on the computer for the day job makes it a little daunting. I mean, to basically “clock out” of the day job without having gone anywhere and then to simply “clock in” to the writing job is an abrupt change in gears and I’m much better working when there’s more of a transition from one thing to the next. I hate abruptly changing gears.

All THAT said, the itch to write is a lifelong affliction, and that has returned. I’m ready to get rolling. What that will likely do is inspire me to get to work converting the garage ASAP. So, long story short, this whole crisis has affected me by inspiring me to do some home renovation. Who’d a thunk it?

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Logan Ryan Smith”

Writers on Lockdown: Gavin Jefferson

Gavin Jefferson is a multi-genre author, spanning time travel, fantasy, humour, and the paranormal. In the second of this new series of interviews, I caught up with him to chat about isolation, trigger warnings, categorisation, and the impact of comic books on his work.


Hi Gavin, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thanks for having me, I love this idea! 

So, how’s this crazy situation been for you so far – do you find isolation a help or a hindrance as a writer?

I find it okay, to be honest. Although I work in an office full of people in my day job, I tend to live there in my own world, with over-ear headphones and music. You might say that I’ve been prepping myself for this for quite some time, ha ha! 

I tend to do most of my writing on my lunch breaks or late at night, so because I’ve been lucky enough to have the ability to work from home, I’m getting roughly the same amount of writing done. One thing I didn’t expect from the lockdown is how it has made me look at my work in a different light.

Really? In what way?

Well, it’s forced me to consider theme and story setups more. I’m a firm believer in trigger warnings, but I never really considered pandemics as triggering events. I know, for me at least, I don’t want to read anything relating to that right now. And I don’t think I’ll want to in the near future, either. To think I intended to reread Station Eleven this year, too.

Take The Surrogate, for instance. That’s the story of the world’s last obese man. The way I eradicated obesity in that book was to have the worldwide governments band together secretly and have them release a virus into their respective drinking water sources, altering everyone’s genetics. It felt like something only bigger people, like me, might be offended by. And, to be honest, I thought the presence of that potential trigger would be clear from the synopsis. But, the virus idea… I hadn’t even considered it. I put a tweet out prior to the lockdown telling people not to read the book, or to take care with it if they did. The last thing I want is to upset people. I mean, it’ll happen whether I want it to or not, I guess. But, I’d rather present the warnings upfront and have a clear conscience about it than not.

I jokingly said that there would be an influx of pandemic-related fiction over the next decade, but now that I think of it, there probably will be, right? This’ll be taught in schools, at the very least.

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Gavin Jefferson”

Writers on Lockdown: Kenny Mooney

Kenny Mooney’s books are experimental, ‘unapologetically nihilistic’ prose poems that skillfully thrust the reader into new perspectives. In the first of a new series of interviews, I caught up with him to chat about isolation, writing style, philosophical influence, and the importance of ambiguity in literature.


Hi Kenny, welcome to Writers on Lockdown!

Thank you for having me!

So how are you faring in these strange times – is isolation beneficial to your creative process or a hindrance?

The isolation isn’t a problem for me. I’m an introverted, fairly anti-social person, so being told to stay indoors and not socialise is basically my life. I’m amused at how many people, mostly those I work with, have been going on about how they don’t know how they’re going to manage, and it’s been about a week. I imagine them already chewing their fingernails down. These will be the fucking idiots buying all the food in the supermarkets. 

Isolation definitely benefits my creative process though. I’m not the kind of person who can write around other people, I need a totally separate space that I can control and manage. Not that I’ve been writing very much lately, but when I do, having somewhere away from other people is certainly required. I guess because this whole situation isn’t actually that much different to my normal life, for me, I don’t feel as compelled to take advantage of the lockdown and do something creative.

I think pressure to be productive can have a negative effect on output for creatives. Would you agree?

I would definitely agree, at least for me. Different people respond to different stimuli, but in my experience, pressure is not a great way to encourage creativity. And I think that can often be part of the problem for writers, and other artists. We put ourselves under so much pressure to reach some arbitrary level, be it a particular word count, or to be original or funny, experimental, or whatever. I think if people just relaxed and let the work be itself, to arrive in its own way, they’d be happier, and maybe more productive. But who knows. I’m wary of giving or listening to writing advice. Do whatever works for you.

Continue reading “Writers on Lockdown: Kenny Mooney”

Emanations VI

A world of light. It’s quiet here. Peaceful. My forehead is pressed against yours, and I think: you are older now. So much older. Am I older too? Sunken eyes. Grey, worn skin. Wise with it, though. For a moment it seems as though we are about to kiss, but no. We’re way beyond that.

There are no words, categories, or sensations anymore. Only thoughts mingling as one. I send you the violet energy from my reserves, so that you might be nourished, rejuvenated. I see it tunneling through your veins, and you gasp.

In your eyes now there’s a different light. An abstract sort of light. You send it shining right at me. I know it’s time. We have to let go. The cogs whir into action all around us, all at once. The hands begin to twitch. The face is blank. A new consciousness will soon rise.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. Each slice is to be read as a stream of consciousness, a little window into the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations II

Is that a uterus or a spaceman with his arms outstretched? The rose-lit dome I visit in my dreams has begun to play tricks on me over the last few nights. The hospital say it’s one of the signs. I know that should terrify me, but it doesn’t. It just makes me feel I’ve been taking the pills properly.

His thoughts are channeling through my veins. I can hear him in my spleen. He’s saying something important.

“I don’t know if you can understand me. They say you can’t, that you aren’t developed enough. But I believe there’s a chance, and it feels only right for me to talk to you. I’ll be the provider of your nourishment, after all. I’ll be your guide. So we need to establish our bond, don’t we? You need to know it’s all going to be ok.

You are in the womb of the fourth dimension. Everything you’ve learned in your ‘lifetime’ is simply the pieces clicking into place to prepare you for a normal birth up here. You have to learn three to know four. All the sights, sounds, smells: they’re chemical reactions as your mind builds itself. Side effects. Echoes. A vague awareness of what’s beyond.

Linear time is a weird phenomenon that happens only while in the womb, too. I can’t imagine what that’s like. But please know that all the mental suffering, the cognitive dissonance, and the sense of taking a one way trip is because you are not here. You are not where you belong. You are contained in a space of limitations that is unnatural to our kind. You are but a cross-section of what your whole self will be.

When you take your infinite breath, there’ll be treasures you can’t imagine. I promise you that, my angel. Movement without boundaries, and a plane of time. You and me. One more pill. Just one more pill.”

*

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

~ C S Lewis.

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic (but human) fiction writing. The words come from states of meditation, excitement, or indifferent vacuity and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing. They are intended to be read as streams of consciousness to open windows to the back rooms of the mind.

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Emanations I

I had a date with chaos. I knew it would come, but never when, until one Tuesday when it spontaneously crashed in around me. It sent wine bottles flying and blasted out the music of my scent. Static interference. Sferics, I thought, as I bit my tongue. Chaos struggles with language, so, as it made itself at home in my cellar, I translated its vibrant colours for the sake of conversation.
“Human beings always coming with their whys,” it said. “Making connections. Putting meaning on my doings. The only disease that afflicts me. Billions of whys.”
“Giving things meaning is what we do,” I replied, curling my forefinger around a lock of hair. “We are castle builders. We pull the loosest of your sands into mind-buckets and force them into aesthetically pleasing shapes. We do it because we can, but also because it’s fun. Don’t you like the whys?”
The skies opened then, and flies with beating red hearts for eyes poured upon us. In seconds they covered every bit of visible skin. They crawled and buzzed and ate and loved. Grotesque things. So I said, in the most flirtatious tone I could muster, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

***

‘Emanations’ is an experiment in automatic fiction writing. These absurd little stories burst directly from states of meditation, excitement or indifferent vacuity, and are subject only to the lightest touch of editing for clarity. They are intended to be read as impersonal streams of (un)consciousness: windows into the back rooms of the mind.

Newsletter – February 2019

Virtual Futures Near Future Fiction Vol 1
News
I’m pleased to tell you that Virtual Futures Near-Future Fictions Vol. 1 is now up for pre-order on Amazon! This is an anthology of 18 ‘bleeding-edge’ social sci-fi shorts, and includes my brand new and exclusive story Undefined Variable. The official release date is 5th March.

It was a pleasure to be featured on Mike Chapman’s Saturday Interviews this month. Mike asks lots of interesting, in-depth questions, so that was a lot of fun to do. You can read the full interview here. Mike also wrote a very thoughtful review of Mind in the Gap, which you can read here.
What I’m Writing
I’m busy working on the second draft of my novel The Enlightenment Machine at the moment. It’s full of my typical mind-bending weirdness, but the very first part of it is set in the North-East of England where I grew up. I had written a lot on memory on the first draft, but as nothing quite compares to a visit, I went to Redcar to take some photos and make notes of the areas I’ve chosen to feature. My Grandma came with me, which was fantastic as she was able to give me some insights I’d have otherwise missed, and she unknowingly filled in a vital part of the plot I was missing. The visit was the injection of enthusiasm the project needed after being left on the back-burner for so long, and it’s now progressing at a pace and quality I’m happy with.

I’m continuing to make time for writing amidst a busy schedule by getting up an hour or so early each morning. There’s something that really sets the mind on task when it’s the first thing you think about when you wake up; before the over-rational, self-critical part of the mind stirs from hypnogogic bliss…
What’s On My Mind
I’ve been undertaking some night-time experiments recently, in which I meditate upon a chosen Tattva symbol before sleep and record the resulting dreams. I’ve had some interesting experiences with it so far, which you can read all about here.

tattva cards

Partly due to this experiment and partly as an avenue of research for the book, I’ve been reading a lot about the theoretical fourth spatial dimension. My thoughts on this are coming together to crystalize some unusual ideas, which I’ll be sure to write up on the blog soon.
What I’m Reading
I just finished My Eyes Are Black Holes by Logan Ryan Smith, which is an impressive novel in a style reminiscent of David Lynch or perhaps Hunter S. Thompson. It traps you in the mind of a man troubled by hallucinations, confused memories, and grotesque fantasies. I highly recommend it.

For my non-fiction read, I’m in the middle of Other Worlds by Christopher G White. It’s an exploration of our willingness to believe in higher dimensions across history, and our fascination with the line where spirituality and science meet. I’ve learned a lot from it, and plan to write a review feature on it when I’m done.

And (because I can’t read my Kindle in the bath) I’m also re-visiting an old favourite novel: Rubicon Beach by Steve Erickson.
What’s On My Headphones
While writing, I’m almost exclusively listening to Nine Inch Nails and Coil at the moment. They seem to hit the perfect creative vibe for the section I’m working on. Otherwise, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic by The Ocean has rarely been off my headphones. I saw the band live for the third time back in November, and was once again blown away by their performance.

Podcast-wise, I’m still dancing with Third Eye Drops. It’s an ever-fascinating foray into philosophy, psychedelics, self-development and spirituality. I highly recommend checking it out.

***
For more information on my books, or to purchase a signed copy, please visit my books page. Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for regular updates on my projects, as well as articles, flash fiction, and reviews of the unusual. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram if that’s your thing.

The Persistence of the Square

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After my run of four unusual big dreams, I took a break from the Tattva Experiment. But the yellow square of Prithvi persisted in planting itself in my mind in unseen ways.

Back when I was researching for Mind in the Gap, I watched an insightful TedTalk about string theory and how we could visualise 11 dimensions. In it, there was reference to 1884 book Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott. Flatland is the story of a two-dimensional world occupied by geometric shapes, in which the protagonist – a square – is introduced to a sphere and consequently the third dimension. I’d heard of this before, on a podcast though I forget which one. On both occasions I took note, but didn’t go out of my way to know it in detail. Then, a couple of weeks after my last Tattva dream, Flatland was mentioned again, this time on Rune Soup by guest Christopher G White. He is the author of a book called Other Worlds, which explores the overlap of modern day science with spirituality. I bought it immediately based on the fascinating conversation with Gordon White, and was fully absorbed from the introduction.

The first chapter of Other Worlds is almost entirely about Flatland. It forced me to contemplate it in ways I hadn’t previously. I read that chapter just before bed one night, and my head was spinning with thought. Then, the yellow square approached me. I could sense it on the peripheries of my mind: that magic realm of subconscious acknowledgement and hypnogogic suggestion. I didn’t attempt to commune with it, but in a way I realised it was unnecessary: my conscious attention, and the method previously employed in the Tattva experiment, had been bypassed.

That night, I had another of the big dreams. It went like this:

Continue reading “The Persistence of the Square”

Reflections: Reading and Writing Short Fiction

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Writing Short Fiction: The Word Count Limbo

JG Ballard once said in an interview:

“I am very grateful that I started my career as a writer writing short stories because you really learn your craft. You can also explore yourself; if you write a huge number of short stories it doesn’t take you long to realize you have certain strengths and weaknesses and that your imagination leans towards one corner of the compass. I think young writers today are tempted into writing novels far too early.”

That pretty well matches up with my experience as a writer so far. And I would add that short stories are a great way to get your name out there, either by sharing them on a blog or submitting to anthologies and journals.

I started out writing fragments of stories: just ideas, really, but written as prose rather than notes, and usually in first person. I progressed to writing ‘proper’ flash fiction with more curated content between 300 and 1,000 words. I wrote them in great numbers and shared them in multiple formats, so I got lots of feedback on what worked and what didn’t. In particular I learned where the uniqueness of my style shone and where it felt forced or mechanical. Continue reading “Reflections: Reading and Writing Short Fiction”

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