Monday, 23 February 2015

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Interview with Shaun Stafford

Shaun, your short “Incessant” featured in Issue One of TLC, and we had one of your poems, “Mummy, Mummy, Where Are You?” in Issue Two. Where do you get your inspiration from to write such things?

Well, “Incessant” was inspired by my own neighbours and my own frustrations at listening to their incessant and banal attempts to call their cat in. The poem just came to me one morning, about 4am, when I woke from a diabetic hypo. My mind works like that. And those quick-fire inspirations really do work well with short things such as stories and poems.

How would you define your writing style and what genre does it fit into?

I started off writing thrillers, but nothing was successful. My earliest book, “die Stunde X”, is alternative history – it’s my bestseller.  I wrote it in 1994 or 1995. Now, I mainly concentrate on transgressive stuff – people who are not decent members of society. “Besotted” was probably my most controversial book, but “Maggie’s Children” is, I guess, equally as fucked up.

Tell us how you write, how you get focused onto the task.

For “Besotted”, I tried to become Benjamin Beerenwinkel. I don’t mean that I got cancer or that I became fascinated with underaged teenage girls, but I wrote books and I drank alcohol. Lots of things that happen in “Besotted” actually happened to me. The mugging, the bizarre situation of chatting to a pair of transsexuals in a pub (happened to me in my village pub), and one or two of the characters are compounds of people I know.  For “Besotted”, getting drunk was the best way to write. Strangely, when I wrote “Maggie’s Children”, which is about an alcoholic former teacher, I barely drank. I don’t sit down and say, “I’ve got to write 2,000 words” because some nights, some days, that just won’t happen. But I am able to sit down in a pub with my laptop or my pen and notepad, and bang out, say, 5,000 words in a couple of hours when the inspiration gets to me.

What are you working on at the moment?

The problem is, I’ve got so many novels that are perhaps two or three chapters in, I’m not sure which one to focus on. I have one story, “One Eight”, which is a futuristic story about cloning, which I might endeavour to finish in 2015. I will definitely finish the sequel to “Blood Money”. And I always try to knock out a short story every month. Writer’s masturbation. Even if it’s too shit to show anyone, I’ve still written something.

Who is your favourite writer, the one you admire the most, the one who inspired you to be become a writer even?

Chuck Palahniuk inspired me to start writing more transgressive stuff. I wrote “The Journal” after I read “Fight Club”. But I really dig Martin Amis, and obviously Steinbeck and Bukowski. A friend of mine, Tom Gaffigan, advised me to get into Steinbeck (I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t into him until fairly recently) and the way he dealt with characterisations inspired me when it came to writing “Besotted” and “Maggie’s Children”.  Guilty pleasure is Andy McNab (though I rather think he has a ghost writer), but then there is nothing wrong in having a guilty pleasure. I don’t think any writer inspired me to become a writer myself. But naturally, every book I read and enjoy is an influence and inspiration, and there have undoubtedly been too many to mention here.

Bizarre snap questions time (currently or favourite):-

Currently drinking?  A can of Carling lager.                        
Currently eating?  Pringles – Sour Cream and Onion.
Currently reading?  I’m reading “Of Men and Monsters”, an old sci-fi novel.
Currently listening to?  The Style Council - "Shout To The Top".
Currently driving?  Ha, you taking the piss? The last car I owned was a Saab 93 Aero. I rather suspect I won’t be driving anything that flash when I can drive again.

What do you think of low-budget magazines such as The Literary Commune, and the role they have to play in helping lesser-known writers to get their work “out there”?

Lots of unpublished writers have no audience for their shorts or poems. Yeah, the Kindle means your stuff is “out there” but in some instances, you’ll be lucky to sell a handful of copies of your stuff, mostly to your family and friends. Something like The Literary Commune means that your work gets out there to 100-200 people. And a writer, to be fair, doesn’t care how many people read their stuff, just so long as a handful of strangers do. That’s the key thing. If a stranger reads your stuff and nods his or her head and thinks to themselves, “Yeah, man, I really dig that.”

Any advice or encouragement you would give to other writers, whether their stuff is being read or being hidden away in a bottom drawer somewhere?

Read lots of books. You can’t possibly write unless you enjoy reading. Develop your own style, your own voice. Trust me, you won’t have it when you start writing, but you will once you’ve written a few things. Practice makes perfect. And never, ever, ever give up. If you enjoy writing, trust me, you will, with practice, hone your craft and people will start to enjoy reading your stuff. Oh, and don’t write because you want to be a millionaire. That’s never going to happen. Write because you have to write. Write because it’s in your blood. Write because if you don’t write, you feel that you’re nothing. Take inspiration from everything in life, good and bad. Having one of your characters tell an anecdote, one that’s happened to you or to someone you know, makes them seem more real. And never, ever, ever give up. Oh, I said that already. But yeah, if you enjoy writing, just write, and eventually, get your stuff read by people. Grow a pair of balls and hand your stuff to someone. Someone like The Literary Commune.

Ha, thanks, Shaun. Just don’t write about us in your next book!

Interview with Brian Ward

Brian, your short story “Five Feet Away” appeared in Issue Two of The Literary Commune.  It fitted perfectly with the remit out of our lowly magazine – being such a transgressive story. Would you consider yourself to be a writer of transgressive fiction, or is your output more eclectic than that?

Some of the stories that I have written could fall under that bracket. I guess writing damaged characters with a dark side appeals to me for some reason, but I wouldn’t say that all of my output is it exclusively transgressive fiction. Different genres appeal to me and I’m toying around with writing a story with some supernatural elements to it, and even one that could possibly appeal to younger readers.

Tell us how you write, how you get focused on the task.

Sometimes, it can be as easy as sitting down with the laptop and typing words onto a blank screen. Other times, I have to convince myself that I don’t need to see that particularly bad episode of Friends for the 15th time and coax myself into turning off the internet connection. When I manage that much, I try to set myself a goal of writing 3,000 words, but truthfully, I’m happy if I manage a third of that. I’m also a member of a writing group that meets up once a month, which has been invaluable in keeping me focused to produce something on a regular basis.

We understand you have a novel underway. Anything you can tell us about it?

It’s a dark humoured story about a man in his early twenties who feels that his old school friends, who are busy with successful professional and love lives, have abandoned him. He starts to resort to some pretty extreme measures to bring that all to an end for them to keep them in his life. The story gets quite Machiavellian at times, but that’s all part of the dark humour that I’ve tried to maintain throughout it. I’m completely finished with it now after several re-writes, and I’ve started working on another novel, so maybe it’s time to take the plunge and start submitting it to agents and publishers.

Are you able to continue writing shorts while you work on your novel?

To be honest, I don’t have a vast amount of short stories completed. I tend to concentrate and flesh out longer stories that work better as novels. I would only write a short story if a certain hook or plot occurred to me that would only ever work as a short. But I do have a couple more lying around in a pile somewhere. But when I’m working on the novel, that’s what I tend to focus on.
Who is your favourite writer, the one you admire the most, the one who inspired you to be become a writer even?

It’s hard to pin down a single favourite writer. I enjoy the works of many, ranging from the likes of JRR Tolkein, George Orwell, Stephen King and Roddy Doyle to name a few from the top of my head. But as a kid, I was obsessed with Roald Dahl. I guess his dark and twisted humour seen in children’s books like The Witches, The Twits and The BFG appealed to the ten year old me. I remember writing my own horror stories in my school copybooks trying to channel him, so he can definitely be credited with inspiring me to become a writer. As I got older, I was very pleased to discover that he had written some extremely dark short stories for older readers containing some great twists. People should check them out.

Bizarre snap questions time (currently or favourite):-

Currently drinking?   I’m sipping on a glass of Coke Zero right now.  
Currently eating?   Some re-heated Chinese food. Yes, I’m disgusting.
Currently reading?  I’m roughly a quarter the way through A Storm Of Swords at present
Currently listening to?  My ‘Recently Played’ list tells that the last thing I listened to was White Fox, an album by a great Irish indie rock band called Ham Sandwich.
Currently driving?  A thirteen year old Ford Focus. It hasn’t given me a day’s trouble.

What do you think of low-budget magazines such as The Literary Commune, and the role they have to play in helping lesser-known writers to get their work “out there”?

I think that they are be a great way to get a writer’s work out to a readership in a manner that is beyond their control. You never know who could be reading and taking notice.

Any advice or encouragement you would give to other writers, whether their stuff is being read or being hidden away in a bottom drawer somewhere?

Get your work out there and have it read by friends, family members and acquaintances. Ask to get them to give you honest feedback and try not to be offended by what they might have to say. If a few of them point out the same criticisms, they could be on to something. Just don’t be afraid to ‘kill your darlings’ in order to perfect your work before submitting for competitions or publication. And if you are completely happy with what have you produced, well what are you waiting for?

Thanks, Brian, and we're looking forward to reading your novel!

Interview with Susannah Morgan

Susannah, your short story “The Excuse” appeared in Issue One of The Literary Commune.  Much of your work seems to be about the terrible things in life.  Is it hard writing about these things?

The work I’ve done in the past, I’ve seen some tough things, and they’ve undoubtedly had a profound effect on me.  Some people don’t take their work home with them.  I suppose in a way I can’t stop thinking about these things, and so putting  my thoughts down on paper is kind of cathartic.

How would you define your writing style and what genre does it fit into?

I prefer to write in the first person, because it’s more immersive.  If you can become the person you’re writing about, feel their emotions, I think it comes out more in the writing, and as a consequence the reader actually believes you.  It may not be as entertaining as traditional fiction – I guess some might call it depressing – but it’s an honest style.  Though not, I understand, to everyone’s taste.  I guess my genre is urban fiction.

Tell us how you write, how you get focused onto the task.

I think of an idea – as you say, something terrible – and try to imagine myself in that situation.  Once I’m there, I sit and write.  A short story can be anywhere from 500 words to 3,000, so I just write until it’s all out.  I don’t like to be disturbed, because when I’m writing, I’m in the zone.  I can probably write the first draft of a short in an hour.  When I’ve finished, I have to slip back in “Susannah”, which might mean having a glass of wine and listening to some good music!

What are you working on at the moment?

Better to say what I’ve just finished, because I don’t actually stop when I’m working on something.  I’ve just finished a short about a girl who is on the fringes of a gang, and the trouble she faces from the male members of the gang.

Who is your favourite writer, the one you admire the most, the one who inspired you to be become a writer even?

The first writer who deeply affected me was Sylvia Plath.  I guess it was the open honesty in much of her work .  The fact that she died at the age of thirty means that once you’ve read what she’s produced, there is no more.  I suppose that demonstrates that there is a limit to everything.  I also like reading Bukowski and Houellebeque. I've read a couple of Shaun Stafford's books too - but then I do know him and he twisted my arm!

Bizarre snap questions time (currently or favourite):-

Currently drinking?  A nice glass of merlot.                        
Currently eating?  A Galaxy chocolate bar.
Currently reading?  Aside from these questions, I’m reading “Atomised” by Hoellebecq.
Currently listening to?  Radiohead.
Currently driving?  Not right now - I'm filling in this questionnaire! -  but when I do drive, it’s a Renaultsport Clio

What do you think of low-budget magazines such as The Literary Commune, and the role they have to play in helping lesser-known writers to get their work “out there”?

I think there should be more magazines like The Literary Guild.  Small circulation, with an eclectic readership.  Not that I’m a fan of young adult fiction, but lots of young writers get into writing by writing YA, and there’s not even a market for them to get their work read.  Short stories are a good way to start writing and it’s just a shame that people have to resort to putting their stories online, on blogs, for people to read.  It’s more real when somebody reads a magazine or a book.  And even getting your work read by a hundred or so people in a small fanzine is a fantastic achievement.

Any advice or encouragement you would give to other writers, whether their stuff is being read or being hidden away in a bottom drawer somewhere?

If you’re hiding your stuff away, you will never improve your writing.  You have to have confidence in what you put down on paper.  If somebody tells you it’s rubbish, ask them why.  If somebody offers you advice as to how it can be improved, listen.  Maybe their advice is worthless, maybe they have a valid point, but as a writer, particularly when you’re starting out, you have to be critical of your work and allow others to be critical as well.  Having said that, don’t be afraid to show your work.  Keep writing and keep reading.  You can’t improve your writing without doing both.  Short stories are a great exercise to improve your skills.

Thanks, Susannah!

Interview with Ray Hyland

So, Ray, your story “Fourtold” appeared in Issue One of The Literary Commune.  You told us it was the first chapter in a story you were planning to write.  Notwithstanding the fact that it was a very cohesive short, have you got around to finishing the story that it was a part of?

To be honest no, I have a rough outline of where I want the story to go but am pre-occupied with the style of writing at the moment. When I was reading some of my older stuff I noticed a few things I wanted to improve upon so hopefully I can address that with this story.

As well as being a writer, you’re also a film-maker.  Tell us about your last film, “Riffed”. (

Yes, Riffed is a film based during the recession in 2009. An office in Dublin is told that their business is closing down. It is a black comedy and has done quite well so far. It has been picked for a few festivals which was quite satisfying.

I hope maybe next year to enter a few more festivals and possibly make the film available online too.

So do you prefer writing screenplays, writing short stories or writing novels?  What do you think they main differences are between the three styles?

In a way screenplays are great because you can fix them up quite quickly if they're not going to plan. They do not have much of a life outside of their main purpose though. Which is a shame, I always liked reading screenplays and putting the film together in my own head.

I enjoy the short story concept very much though. It is a great way to improve your skills as a writer.

How would you define your writing style and what genre does it fit into?

I would say it is classed as fiction maybe to land on the thriller shelf,maybe not. I haven't given it too much thought,which isn't a great idea! I find it amazing how different it is to tell a story in the first person though.

Tell us how you write, how you get focused onto the task.

I write on my phone a lot recently. I was chatting to Kenny Stapleton,who plays the big guy Eddie in Riffed(and also provides the music) He said he uses the phone a lot. I have to say it's winning me over. Have to charge the battery more often though.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am hoping to get a short film done this side of Christmas. Also working on a cartoon. There is one big job that may or may not happen next year. We'll see!

Who is your favourite writer, the one you admire the most, the one who inspired you to be become a writer even?

I used to like Raymond Chandler a lot but he's a better writer than a storyteller in my view. In his own words he lost his way during The Big Sleep and even though it is beautifully written there is a segment about 50 pages in that makes no sense.

Graham Greene on the other hand is as neat as ninepence.

I really like certain books rather than just writers. Puzo's The Sicilian was a great read. Also I like Cormac McCarthy, J.G Ballard.

Bizarre snap questions time (currently or favourite):-

Currently drinking? Water
Currently eating? Had some chips an hour ago
Currently reading? Need to get a copy of Stephen King's The Stand,that's next.
Currently listening to? Lana Del Rey
Currently driving? My 18 speed Giant bicycle!

What do you think of low-budget magazines such as The Literary Commune, and the role they have to play in helping lesser-known writers to get their work “out there”?

I think they suit all kinds of writers. Whether you're at it a while or just getting back into it or even brand new it's an excellent way of setting yourself a goal and reaching it!

Any advice or encouragement you would give to other writers, whether their stuff is being read or being hidden away in a bottom drawer somewhere?

Read it yourself again. If you're sure it's crap send it in anyway. It's all part of the process! And it's never as bad as you think!

Cheers, Ray!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Issue Three

Issue Three - February 2015

Cover by Aldrin Barter

Happy Valentine’s Day by Gary Wright
A Muslim Migrant Speaks by Mufassil Islam
Alice by Shaun Stafford
The Queen by Susannah Morgan
Thoughts Become Things by Stephen Roche
The Drunken Man by Stephen Roche
This Fashionable Man by Shaun Stafford
Father and Child by Steve Gibbs
Bentley Drivers & Joy Riders by The Open Souled Vandal
Fourtold chapter 3 by Ray Hyland

Issue Two

Issue Two - December 2014

Cover by Aldrin Barter

The Joys of Christmas by Gary Wright
Fourtold Chapter 2 by Ray Hyland
The Job by Andy Firman
Nae Heart by Anon
Mirror, Mirror by Steve Gibbs
Mummy, Mummy, Where Are You? by Shaun Stafford
The White Flag by The Open Souled Vandal
To Be Fallen by Conor O’Reilly
In Memorium by Conor O’Reilly
What to do about Uncle Jarlo by Niamh Delany
Five Feet Away by Brian Ward
Snooze by Shaun Stafford

Issue One

Issue One - October 2014

Cover by Aldrin Barter

Incessant by Shaun Stafford
The Excuse by Susannah Morgan
Auto Cruise by The Open Souled Vandal
Why England Loses by Shaun Stafford
Football, Football by Steve Gibbs
Boyish Humour by Steve Gibbs
Tryst by Leon Dempsey
Her Life by VS O’Connor
Fourtold chapter 1 by Ray Hyland
Time by Anon

Welcome to The Literary Commune

Firstly, let's put a message out to all of those who have stumbled onto this blog after an Internet search. Let's tell you what The Literary Commune is. 

We're a lit-zine with a small readership. We publish short stories, poems and articles by writers. Our lit-zine is free, is printed on real paper, and currently goes out to readers across the UK and Ireland. Most of the prose in our pages is urban, transgressive, edgy. We don't do vampire love stories. We will print any kind of poetry - edgy or humorous - and our articles are also edgy, funny or political. We want to make people think. We want to make them laugh. We want to shock them as well. And yes, there are a few swear words littered through our zine, and few controversial topics as well. But we're all adults, aren't we?

We felt we needed more of an Internet presence for The Literary Commune. We're now three issues in, and our readership seems to have stabilized around the 100-150 copies per issue. Now, while this is good for us insomuch as it only costs us about £50 to print and distribute each issue, we'd definitely like to see our readership spread.

There are two ways this can be achieved. Firstly, we can produce a PDF version of each issue, so it can be downloaded and read by anyone across the entire globe. But that kind of defeats the object of a "lit-zine". We like being a cheap, paper zine. It's old school. It's a tactile format. And reading on a computer screen is never as easy as reading from a book or a magazine. Of course, we have considered releasing a PDF copy of back issues, say, three or four issues later. But it's still not the same as a paper magazine, and it may mean that at some point in the future, we won't be distributing paper copies because nobody asks for them. Now, the second way we can get our readership to spread and grow is to get our name out there. That's why we've started up this blog. And that's also where you guys come in. Tell your friends about us. If you know someone who writes, give them our contact details. We want new writers and poets. We want those indie writers out there to get their work read by more people. If you know someone who is an avid reader and is prepared to give fresh writers a chance (what have they got to lose? This lit-zine is free, and most of the stories are less than 2,000 words) give them our contact details so they can get on our mailing list. And if you know a place - a hip, beatnik bar, a book group, a writing group - which might be interested in having a dozen or so copies of The Literary Commune, get in touch with us. Our dream is have a distribution of about 500 copies per issue.

Now, here's the flipside to that. If our readership grows, then the cost of producing the magazine will increase. Of course, we're a bimonthly publication, so the costs aren't overly excessive, but we may need to introduce some adverts to keep our costs down. At the moment, we bung in three or four ads per issue, basically to fill in the white space after a story or article finishes. We definitely don't want the ads to take over the magazine. But if four advertisers are paying £10 to put an ad in the mag, then that reduces our costs by £40. Don't get us wrong, we don't want to be advertising corporate shit. We want to advertise books, societies, music, art - stuff like that. So again, if you know anyone who wants to chuck an ad our way, give them our contact details.

On a final note, we'll be keeping comments open, so you can all have your say, if you want. We won't censor anything (we don't censor anything in the lit-zine) but we will remove blatant ads or spam. We want everyone to get behind us - writers and readers - so do us all a favour and spread the word.