The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Marc Nash

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Marc Nash

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Summary: We really enjoyed the collection of flash fiction by Marc Nash and it was a real pleasure to chat to him when he popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 19 March 2012
Interviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy

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We really enjoyed the collection of flash fiction by Marc Nash and it was a real pleasure to chat to him when he popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Marc Nash: I really don't imagine a type of reader when I write. But if they're like both the reader and the writer that I am, then I assume they're readers who like a little bit of a challenge in their reading material, love language, like books which deals in ideas and aims for a level of emotional engagement.

  • BB: Tell us a little bit about Marc Nash. What brought you to writing?

MN: A love of words, a desire to grapple with life and what it means to be human, plus a yearning to communicate. I started off writing stage plays at University and thought that was a great idea for a profession when I graduated (it wasn't, I made zero money!). When my twin boys arrived 14 years ago, I couldn't afford the time hanging around theatres at night, so I turned my hand to writing prose fiction. Compared to rearing twins, writing is a relative breeze!

  • BB: We can believe that!

Why flash fiction?

MN: It snuck up on and took me completely by surprise. I'd barely written a short story let alone flash, when I self-published my debut novel. I decided to take 6 months off from writing anything new in order to promote the novel, but very early on I discovered the #fridayflash community on Twitter and started participating. I was still getting ideas for writing, and limiting myself to 1000 words a week of new writing seemed to be the answer to using those fresh ideas while still leaving sufficient time for promotion. The promotion period actually ran to 12 months and a few weeks after that I realised I also had 52 flash stories I was proud of and felt were good enough to publish as my second book. The beauty of flash is that it calls for an entirely different style of writing to that for novels and I believe each form feeds back into the craft of the other.

  • BB: We'd read that 52FF has its origins in a weekly piece for Twitter's #fridayflash community. How does social networking influence your work? How does it influence the flash fiction community generally?

MN: The whole premise of #fridayflash couldn't work without Twitter. Although we each post our stories to our own blogs and websites, the link is from Twitter and it's at a regular time on fridays so that readers know to return each week for more if they like what they read. There is perhaps an issue of whether it's mainly other writers reading your work rather than 'pure' readers who aren't writers, but your work is still being read. And we are a community, we support each other outside of Fridays, both each other's writing and things beyond writing. I've made what I consider to be great friends through the community. I'm going to meet a few of them for the first time when I read in Oxford for National Flash Fiction Day on May 16th and am really looking forward to doing so. One or two of us are already talking about collaborations...

  • BB: That should be quite a day, Marc!

How important is feedback and reader reaction?

MN: What I love about social media and Twitter in particular, is that the author gets the most unique experience of talking to readers before they've bought the book, as they buy it, while they are reading it and after they've finished reading. It really allows for a genuine conversation about the work and the reader can ask any question or make any point they want to in a way that I don't believe was quite so possible before this world of interconnectivity. The author can get invaluable feedback on what works and what doesn't work from their readers. The whole thing is pretty mind-blowing really! I've polled people on my blog to name my next novel!

  • BB: Flash fiction is a disciplined format, but are you a disciplined writer?

MN: Ha that's a good question. In terms of sitting down to write and not procrastinating, yes I am disciplined. But in terms of pre-planning no, I like to see where the words take me, that way hopefully if it's fresh and surprising to me, it will be a similar experience for the reader. And as to the discipline of the words themselves, er no, I get sucked up in their fiendish challenges they pose me and like to come back for unravelling further associations and meanings.

  • BB: What fires your imagination the most?

MN: I'm like a magpie, I take from anything, books, music, things I see in everyday life, news stories, memories of personal experiences. But even just one or two words can inspire me to form something in some cases. For me I know I've got a story when the central metaphor and what it's associated to come together. For instance there's a story in the anthology called "Lost Sole" which was inspired by stepping off a bus and seeing one abandoned lady's flat shoe on the grass verge and then going home and imagining its story and the story of all shoes, from the Iraqi journalist who removed his shoe and threw it at President Bush, through to the display at Auschwitz of a tower of shoes of the victims. Rather than plot twists, I like word and surprising association twists. A simple object such as a shoe has so many different meanings and references.

  • BB: Who are your favourite authors?

MN: I love Franz Kafka's work, but of contemporary writers I like Don Delillo, Jonathan Lethem, Jeanette Winterson, David Peace, Dubravka Ugresic and Michel Houellebecq.

  • BB:

The publishing landscape is changing very quickly. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Would you tell them to go it alone or to try the traditional route first?

MN: I think it depends on what you write, your own personality and a great deal of honesty with yourself. If you genuinely think your work is ready to be read by a paying public, then I would say self-publish if the traditional route isn't happening for you. But you have to be absolutely sure the work is ready. The personality bit is whether you feel you can go out there and sell it, because no one else is going to do that job for you if you self-publish. Are you outgoing, able to approach shops to ask to do readings and signings? Can you make book trailers or front video readings and to do so without spending too much money on it? Can you build up a following of readers by interacting with them and conversing about all manner of things, not just trying to push your book on them? Finally, some types of writing are a tougher sell than others, be it conventional or self-published. As long as you have a realistic perspective on what it is you want to achieve from writing, that should be sufficient to guide your publishing decisions.

  • BB: That's valuable advice, Marc.

What's next for Marc Nash?

MN: Well there's two more books complete, one which I'm collaborating with a designer on to produce some modern day majuscules for, like the illuminated manuscripts of antiquity. Then there's a couple of flashes from the anthology I'd love to perform with live musicians, I think that would be amazing. And I'm also looking to collaborate with a video designer to using kinetic typography (animated letters that come alive) to render the flash story How One Of Them Remembers Their Conversation. Still writing flash though not one a week now, but somewhere down the line will be a second anthology I hope. Then it's back to the work in progress on quantum physics and detectives! If any one out there wants to collaborate on the above projects, please do get in touch.

  • BB: That all sounds very exciting, Marc. Good luck and thanky you for talking to us.

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