Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BOOK REVIEW: CRUMBLING UTOPIAN PIPEDREAM BY SCOTT WOZNIAK



Scott Wozniak has seen some shit. This new poetry collection from Moran Press offers a sobering snapshot at a life of hardship, pain and regret. Wozniak puts it all on the line and pulls no punches. At times it can be hard to swallow, but it is necessary. This is vital and honest poetry. 

One particular poem that stood out to me and hit me right in the feels was Numb, a poem that highlights the stark reality of heroin addiction - as he watches his friends die one by one from overdoses, he finally realises that he needs to get clean:

"I stood numb,
tearless,
thinking to myself,
"They finally got
what they wanted,"
then wondered,
"What the fuck
made me
stop wanting
to die?"

That, to me,
is more mysterious
than death
could ever be."

This is not poetry that glamourises the struggle, or celebrates reckless behaviour, but poetry of survival and redemption. Of fucking up and learning from it. Of taking every blow that life can throw at you, getting back up and throwing right back.

Littered throughout the confessional big hitters are astute and oftentimes comical observations about modern life, delivered in Wozniak's concise and succinct style. The juxtaposition of these lighthearted interludes make Crumbling Utopian Pipedream a fascinating and enjoyable read. I am incredibly proud to have published Scott's work in past issues of Paper and Ink Literary Zine (#9 and #10) and shout out must be made to the striking cover artwork by Marie Enger (whom illustrated the covers of Paper and Ink Issues #6 and #9). Grab a copy of Crumbling Utopian Pipedream from publisher Moran Press. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

BOOK REVIEW: WHEN YOU HEAR THE BELL THERE'S NOWHERE TO HIDE BY JOHN D. ROBINSON



John D Robinson is my new favourite poet. Bar none. 

I do not make that statement lightly, and to make it abundantly clear, it is not because we are both from the same town, nor is it because John's Holy & Intoxicated Publications recently published my own collection of poetry (Worse Things Happen At Sea), and it is definitely not because having met the man I can attest that he is a genuine, lovely bloke whom also bought me a cup of tea. No, it is because having devoured this book in double quick time it was instantly clear that John D Robinson specialises in writing a very particular form of poetry: That which I wish I had written. 

Poet John Grochalski puts it perfectly in the book's introduction; "what has always struck me about a Robinson poem is how stark the language is, the grit that comes off the page, and the life that is distilled into each line". Robinson's no nonsense style is refreshing to behold. The no bullshit front cover sets the tone and that distilled, direct approach is carried through each line of every poem. No word, syllable, letter or full stop is wasted.

You will find no flowery, metaphorical head scratchers here, just stark and honest poems about life, and all of its absurdity. From shitty jobs, to shitty girlfriends, to one heart breaking poem towards the end about a cat, which I am not ashamed to admit made me cry. That's right, a poem about a cat made me cry. I don't think a poem has ever made me cry before. Maybe I hadn't been reading the right poetry. I certainly am now.

John D Robinson is somewhat of an elusive character. No website, no social media, and unfortunately you are unlikely to find When You Hear The Bell There's Nowhere to Hide on the shelves of your nearest Waterstones, nor languishing in the algorithms of Amazon. If you wish to purchase a copy you will have to contact the man directly and you can do so via johndrobinson@yahoo.co.uk. Do it. Do it right now. You will not regret it.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#16]


This month's interview is with a writer whose fantastic story The Crowning features in the tenth issue of Paper and Ink Literary Zine. She has had books published by both Eraserhead and Ladybox Books, and is not only a brilliant writer but is also a photographer and model to boot. Her website URL may be TiffanyScandalSucks.com, but Tiffany Scandal is one hell of a talent...

First things first, what is your name, where do you come from, and what do you do?


My name is Tiffany Scandal. I grew up in Los Angeles, but currently reside in Portland, Oregon. I'm a writer, photographer, and sometimes model. I also do some work for King Shot Press, a micro publisher based out of Portland.

Your latest book, Shit Luck, was recently published by Eraserhead Press, tell me a little about it...

It's a bizarre dark comedy. I wanted to write about the absolute worst day anyone could have and turn it into something that reads like a slasher film had it been written and performed by the guys of Monty Python. There's some Evil Dead moments, too. My first two books are often described as incredibly bleak, so I wanted to break away from that and show my readers that I can be funny... sometimes.


Your first book, There's No Happy Ending, was also published by Eraserhead. How did the hook up with them come about?

I've been a huge fan of Eraserhead Press for some years. Reading the works of Carlton Mellick III, Jeremy Robert Johnson, Cameron Pierce, etc. I started paying closer attention to Eraserhead Press and found out that they throw an entire event dedicated to Bizarro Fiction, aptly named BizarroCon. I bought a ticket, went by myself, and made a lot of amazing friends. After that weekend, they expressed interest in working with me. They invited me to pitch some ideas and I was paired with Kevin Shamel as an editor. By the following BizarroCon, I was celebrating the release of my first book.


Your novel, Jigsaw Youth (published by Ladybox Books), was a very personal story, grounded story, how did writing that compare to writing the more bizarro stuff and which do you prefer?

Hmmm. This is a tough one to answer. I just love to write. It doesn't matter what the style or theme is. I have a lot of demons that need out, and putting words to paper is one of the main ways I know how to survive.


Your short story, The Crowning, which features in PAPER AND INK #10, captures a mix of dread and cuteness. What was the inspiration behind it?

Maybe this sounds crazy, but when inspiration hits, it's almost like a vision. I was laying in bed, just thinking, then I pictured what the main character was seeing during her final moments. It was such cool imagery in my head, I immediately penned down the scene and built a story around that. And I like capturing innocence. Children, depending on the age, sometimes don't know how to react without the prompt from an adult. So capturing the wonder in the kid's eyes as this surreal death is happening is really what I wanted to capture in this story. 

Which writers/artists have been the biggest influence on your own writing?

My favorite authors to revisit are Roberto Bolano, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Sylvia Plath. Current authors that blow my mind and inspire me to be a better writer are Violet LeVoit, Laura Lee Bahr, and Samantha Irby.

If you were stranded on a desert island which three books would you want with you?

Antwerp by Roberto Bolano, Everything and Nothing by Jorge Luis Borges, Meaty by Samantha Irby



Same question, but music. Three albums...

Jerk of all Trades by LunachicksSmell the Magic by L7, Abyss by Chelsea Wolfe

Finally, what does the future hold for Tiffany Scandal?


Working on a buttload of short stories, writing a new book, curating/editing an anthology for charity, building up King Shot Press. At some point, I'll throw in the towel and fade away, but today is not that day.

Thank you for answering these questions, Tiffany. All the best with the new book.

Connect with Tiffany via her WEBSITE, TWITTER or INSTAGRAM and buy PAPER AND INK #10 HERE or HERE

Thursday, 16 February 2017

BOOK REVIEW: WAVES BY JARED A. CARNIE



Waves is the debut novel from writer and poet, Jared A. Carnie, and was published last September by Urbane Publications. It follows the story of a young man by the name of Alex. After his long-term girlfriend breaks up with him, his life and its planned trajectory, take a nosedive. With the future he thought he knew, and thought he wanted, taken away from him he is understandably heart broken. In steps his childhood friend, James, who invites him to tag along on his annual visit to his parents' home on the Isle of Lewis. Alex is reluctant at first but James does not take no for an answer, and Alex soon finds himself on a journey of self-discovery in the Outer Hebrides.

Let's forget for a second that when reading this book I learned that Donald J. Trump's mother was from the Isle of Lewis, and not let that taint the beauty of the far flung Scottish island, because Lewis is as much a character as any human in this story. Carnie really makes it sing with rich, candid descriptions of the rugged, historical landscape. Other than being the origin of Trump's mother, I know precisely fuck all about the Outer Hebrides, nor seen photographs of it, but I almost feel as if I have spent time there myself thanks entirely to Waves.

The character of Alex is at times somewhat of a damp squib, and I often found myself wanting to reach into the page, give him a slap and yell at him to grow a pair. Then I'd remember what a pathetic mess I have been after break-ups and cut him some slack. However it seems that Alex was always kind of a damp squib, even when in a relationship. Living at home with his mother and working a job he hates, saving up every penny he can for his "future" with a girlfriend that is away at university. By his own admission he had over-committed to the relationship in an attempt to convince himself it was what he wanted, rather than attempt to find out what it really is that he wants from life.

Finding out what you really want from life is no easy thing, and if you're thinking that knocking about on a freezing cold Scottish island for a week is going to solve all of your problems, you're dead wrong. By the end of the story Alex still doesn't know what he really wants from life, but he is one step closer to knowing what he doesn't want, and that is half the battle. 

My only criticism would be that I found it a teeny tiny bit dull in places. I would have enjoyed a touch more conflict, even if it was just of the superficial, Tom Foolery kind. Aside from that Waves is a fulfilling, introspective read, and I found that it had an unexpected a calming effect as I read it. Almost as if I could hear the waves crashing against the shore in the background.

Grab a copy of Waves from Urbane Publications.

Check out my interview with author Jared A. Carnie.

And check out these sweet "inspirational memes" that I made from quotes from the book.            

WORDS TO LIVE BY [#76]



Jared A. Carnie's novel, Waves, is available from Urbane Publications

Photographs from Pexels

Thursday, 2 February 2017

LIT FIEND INTERVIEW [#15]


The first LIT FIEND INTERVIEW of 2017 is with a writer that I have been wanting to interview for a while now. He has appeared in countless issues of PAPER AND INK, as well as many other publications that I admire, and he has also interviewed me on his own website, so it was about time I returned the favour...

First things first, what's your name, where do you come from, and what do you do?

My name is Jared. I was born in Essex and now live in Sheffield. I write poems and novels. I also spend too much time doing things that aren’t writing.

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, Waves, last September. That must have been a proud moment for you?

I still don’t think it’s really settled in. My girlfriend always tells me off because when people ask what I do I never say ‘I’m a writer’. I don’t know if I ever will. There’s something about it. I’ve probably met too many unpleasant, unaccomplished people who declare ‘I’m a writer’ to anyone and everyone they meet, so the idea of introducing yourself in that way is kind of tainted for me.

As for getting published, it’s a really surreal experience. I’d been working on Waves a long time, a lot of editing went into that thing - probably a deceptively large amount given how simple it seems to read. So overall, getting published becomes this weird, stretched-out feeling of nearly-celebration. After all that writing, there’s the first moment where the novel is provisionally accepted. I remember reading that email in my office at work. It was great. I think I managed even less work that day than I normally do. Then there was the process of doing more edits, going through the proofs etc and getting that sent off. That was pretty cool - knowing I had to accept I was finally done with it. Then there’s the moment where you first see a printed copy. That’s really nuts. Then I finally got to see it in shops. Real, actual shops. Mad. Seeing it on a shelf alongside Camus and Capote (just by alphabetical chance) was hilarious to me. In Cold Blood and The Outsider are two of the greatest books of all time - as a teenager I used to go around telling everyone I knew that they had to read them (I was a lot of fun to be around). So to imagine someone walking into a bookshop, seeing Waves, In Cold Blood and The Outsider, and even for a second considering Waves as an alternative to those is downright absurd to me. If that sounds like I don’t believe in my writing, that’s not true at all, I put a lot of effort into my writing and I believe in what I’m doing, there’s just a whole established world of things out there that I know nothing about, and to think of my book sneaking in through the cracks is a very strange (and satisfying) idea.

So, to really mark the book coming out, we had an actual launch night for it. That was really cool. My girlfriend and I have this policy where we try to mark anything we achieve by doing something to remember it. Otherwise your life can just sort of become this one big blur with no obvious full-stops outside of tragedies. I’d had to try and raise money for my friend Sophia - and that went even better than I’d hoped. We had Dean Lilleyman and James Giddings read. They’re both brilliant. Laura Hegarty played some magical songs. There was a bar and music. It was a really fun evening. I felt proud to know the sorts of people who turned up for it.

It was published by the terrific Urbane Publications, who are continually putting out great stuff. How did the link up with them come about?

I’m pretty sure it came about when they first published Billy and the Devil - Dean Lilleyman’s fantastic debut. I imagine most of your readers will be aware of it, but if not, then I definitely recommend it.

I just thought the book was fantastic. I was curious about who had put it out. I read about Urbane online a little, saw some of the things Matthew (Urbane’s chief) had to say, saw a couple of other cool things I saw they were putting out, and decided to get in touch. When I see people asking for advice on how to get published, on reddit or wherever, I do always think the only worthwhile advice is look where things you love are coming from, and try there. And if you’re only reading Hunter Thompson books from forty years ago and think you deserve to be the new Hunter Thompson except that nobody is ‘brave’ enough to publish stuff like you’re doing, you’re wrong. Get better. Look wider.

Take Paper and Ink as an example. You’ll quite often see kids who have just discovered Bukowski moaning that nobody is publishing anything like that anymore. As if Paper and Ink wouldn’t be all over someone like Bukowski. What some writers want right away is a name and a legacy and they’re not content to just be the weird outsider that most of the brilliant writers really were.

Waves is set in the Outer Hebrides, on the Isle of Lewis, where I believe you lived your self at some stage. How autobiographical is the story?

I lived on the Isle of Lewis for a couple of years. I loved it. I’ve been back since to visit some friends there, but that was just before the book came out so I’ve no sense of what most people there thought of it. Or if they’re even aware of it.

As for the plot of Waves, it’s not really autobiographical at all. I didn’t go through that situation and that’s now how I ended up on Lewis. I moved up there already in a great relationship. But it was something I felt like I’d seen a lot of people go through - in one way or another.

Having said that, everywhere in the novel is a real place I spent a lot of time. Most of the things that happen in the novel are things that happened to me, most of the things that Alex does are things that I have done, they’re just framed through a different lens in the novel. It was a fun experience because I had this character and this context I wanted to write from, and then I had this series of events and places I knew really well that I wanted to explore within that. It was just like shining my own truth through a prism or something to see how it came out.

Before reading your novel I had only previously read your poetry, which I always enjoy, do you prefer one form to the other?

I think the most fun I’ve had writing has probably been with novels. As in, the rare two or three times I remember actually feeling satisfied while writing. Occasionally, if you’ve been going long enough, you hit your stride and you know that, without even stopping to think, you’re mining something decent.

I feel like I need to stick up for poetry more often though. If I hear someone say they don’t like poetry it’s like hearing them say they don’t like music. It’s just odd to me. I always try to assure them they just haven’t found the right poetry for them yet. Although obviously, people have a lot going on in their lives and getting into poetry is never going to be the priority. And I also totally get that the way poetry is first presented to you, both as a reader and writer (through school or wherever) is generally devastatingly lifeless, so it’s not a mystery to me how people end up feeling turned off poetry. When PUSH was selling poetry to the stands at Upton Park, I felt that was a really special flag in the ground for both poetry and literature. Poetry can go anywhere and poetry should go anywhere.

Personally, I just love being able to write poems (by ‘being able’ I mean, nobody can stop me, not that I necessarily think I’m good yet) and frankly as an outlet I can’t even measure how good it’s been for me. The great thing about poetry is that one tiny spark of an idea can be enough for something brilliant to burst out.


Which authors/poets have been the biggest influence/inspiration on your own writing?

John Fante is the high watermark for me in terms of what I’d like to achieve with a novel. That’s what I’m shooting for and that’s probably what I’ll always be shooting for.

Having said that, a couple of years ago I fell totally head over heels in love with Richard Brautigan. There was something in the way he uses language that helped open up an idea for my next novel - so I have to say at the moment that he’s definitely a huge inspiration. The next book will be very different to Waves and to be honest very different to anything I thought I’d be writing at this point.

Charles Bukowski takes over basically an entire bookshelf in my house so it’d be pretty dishonest of me to not list him as a big one too. Reading him early on, aside from everything else I got from it, probably also helped me feel like I didn’t have to choose between poetry and novels. People love him for both. As an aside, while we’re on the subject, I feel it’s always good to get the word out there on this: Bukowski never wrote ‘Find what you love and let it kill you’. Stop putting that on your Instagram. Go buy his books and quote something he did write.

Desert Island Books: If you were stranded on a desert island which three books would want with you?

The books that mean the most to me are the books that make me get up out of bed and actually do something. I don’t know if on a desert island that would be a bit frustrating. There’s not all that much to do I imagine. Maybe I’d find something though. Maybe they’d spark some kind of creativity and I’d end up turning the island into a paradise through sheer inspiration and ingenuity.

Rimbaud is something I go back to over and over. And Graham Robb’s biography of Rimbaud is a book I’ve read multiple times. I don’t know if they’d do me right on an island though. Likewise, there’s a book of Tom Waits interviews I take around with me quite a lot when I’m travelling. They’re hilarious and full of great music/book recommendations. The problem is, on a desert island, I wouldn’t be able to access those recommendations, so it’d just be a bit frustrating I reckon. I’ll try to think smart here. Right, to start with, John Fante - Bandini Quartet. I’m cheating I know, but it was published as one book so cut me some slack, I’m stranded on a desert island for christ’s sake.

What next? Maybe something by Kapuscinski would make me feel like I was connected with the rest of the world. Or drive me mad because I’d never get to see it. Leaves of Grass maybe? That seems broad and engaging and full of life - an evergreen thing to read. Then maybe something like Infinite Jest? I’ve never gotten around to reading that and probably never will unless I’m stranded somewhere with it for a real long time.

That’s what I’ll go for: Bandini Quartet. Leaves of Grass. Infinite Jest.

Well. That’s not what I expected my answer to be at all.


Same question but music. Three albums. Go…

You know, I thought I’d always look forward to someone asking me this. Making music lists is my favourite thing in the world. I’ve no idea why. I don’t even show them to anyone. I just do it to pass time at work. Anyway, turns out this question is a total nightmare. Jeez.

Guns N Roses - Appetite For Destruction. Tom Waits - Rain Dogs. Manic Street Preachers - The Holy Bible.

There. I won’t think about it too much or I’ll hate myself for missing so many other things out.

If you could get drunk with any three people, dead or alive, who would they be?

Can I do this twice? Is that cheating? Assuming it’s me as I am, today, sitting down for a chat, I’ll go with Tom Waits, Kathleen Hanna and Akala. Although I’m pretty sure they’d get sick of me pretty quickly as I’d keep asking them question after question.

Right. Now, if I get to summon the dead I’d say Peter Cook and Arthur Rimbaud for sure...and maybe Bill Hicks? Get some quotes from him on the political landscape. Start tweeting them. That’d get me some followers.

Yep. I’ll go with that. Sober and living: Tom Waits, Kathleen Hanna, Akala.

Drunk and dead: Peter Cook, Arthur Rimbaud, Bill Hicks.

What does the future hold of Jared A. Carnie? Any more novels in the pipeline?

I’m working on this novel called Oranges. Well, I say I’m working on it. I’ve hit a brick wall the last few weeks. I can’t work out if it’s a creativity wall or a confidence wall. I’ve reached the end of the first draft of it and I keep thinking ‘is this a book?’. I need to stop worrying about what I think a book should be and start worrying about what I think Oranges should be.

I’ve got a rough idea for a themed poetry collection too, based on when my girlfriend was very sick, but I’m unsure whether I’ll consciously see that through. I get a bit turned off by ‘concept’ poetry books. ‘This is a book about my relationship with my uncle’ - I don’t care. It always makes me assume that the book was forced, so I’m trying to avoid that. I’m also working on putting together some of my other poems for a pamphlet.
I am writing every single day at the moment. For the first time in my life I’m making myself do it, just to keep working at the craft, even if there’s not a project it’s specifically going towards. I’m hoping that somehow it’ll mean by the end of 2017 I might’ve accidentally written my way into some interesting situations.

Keep up to date with the interesting situations Jared writes himself into by following him on Twitter and checking out his website jaredacarnie.com