Interview with RJ Askew   2 comments

Today’s interview is with RJ Askew, author of One Swift Summer (previously titled Watching Swifts).

Tell us something about yourself, Ron.

Ron AskewI am from Lancaster in Lancashire in the North-West of England. I did a law degree, but was destined for a career in words, and so moved to London where I got a job as an assistant with a firm that published a book called GO – Graduate Opportunities. It was a start.
So, you became a writer?
I segued into selling advertising space for a couple of national newspapers, but was better at writing adverts than selling space and so used this knack to talk my way into a copy-writing job with a small-time advertising agency.Several copy-writing jobs later, I wormed my way into a reporting job with an American news agency’s London office on Fleet Street. They let me loose on the coffee, sugar and oil markets. It was a great job. I’d made it. I even had one of those early mobile phones the size of a clog. And they used to send me to Geneva and Vienna to chase OPEC oil minsters around, or up to Orkney to check out oil terminals. But all good things must end.

No! That sounds like a dream reporter job. I was a journalist myself and the farthest I ever got was Anchorage, Alaska! You were in the hotspots of Europe.
The mighty Reuters was about five doors down Fleet Street in an imposing Lutyens edifice of imperial grandeur, and they paid a lot more. So I talked my way into the world’s greatest news agency as a reporter. I put down roots and spent the rest of my glorious career in the arms of The Baron, as Reuters is known to insiders.I edited millions of words written by hundreds of reporters from all points of the globe. I loved fooling around with their words, supposedly honing them into things of beauty, mostly just hacking them about. Still, it was great fun.

Reuters is the elephant for journalist. So how’d you get from journalist to novelist?
Meanwhile, I was quietly working away at my own writing for the joy of it, biding my time. Reuters was a news factory where words hurtled at you like trucks on a multi-lane highway. It made me yearn for more poetic forms of expression. That said, without a telling story even the most elegant of writing is as – nothing.I wrote ONE SWIFT SUMMER in 2001, touted it around a few London literary agents, to no avail, after which I forgot about it for a decade. Enter Amazon. I got some feedback for the story, which I then re-edited and self-published in Nov 2011. I had no idea what to do next. And so did nothing.

The story sold a fair few copies in its first eighteen months or so, winning some supportive reviews along the way. Then it stuck.

In for a decade, in for life – I changed the title from WATCHING SWIFTS and ditched my DIY cover in favour of something a little more professional.

Meanwhile, I wrote a series of collaborative stories to keep my hand in. I also wrote a second story of my own – IN THE ROOM WITH THREE DOORS – a short tale of three twenty-somethings escaping the succeed-or-die pressures of London for the watercress beds and nightingales of Hampshire.

ONE SWIFT SUMMER also has a London theme, being a story of redemption set in Kew Gardens, where a jaded young war-photographer finds herself drawn into a wistful relationship with an enigmatic guy who can’t stop smiling and glancing at the sky.

While not a long story, ONE SWIFT SUMMER has had a long maturation and, in spite of its title, is not a story to dash through, being unconventional and gently challenging. I hope you will find the outcome artfully enlivening, a nourishing read that will earn and deserve your enduring regard.


What are you passionate about in life?



One Swift SummerAh! Hence … poets rule! The main female character in One Swift Summer is a photojournalist who has worked in war zones. Do you have a similar background or know someone who does?


Yeah, I’ve met people a few people like Emma Saywell, excitement junkies who like riding tanks into dangerous places. War rocks. People love it. It draws many like flies to its total nastiness. It’s the drama, the danger, the excitement, the buzz of death. Some people feel compelled to get up close to smell death, to know war. It’s such a human thing, killing. We have a complex relationship with killing. I was never tempted to seek out bloody doings myself. Tom in ONE SWIFT SUMMER has known blood and death. But he has changed and turned from them. It is no surprise that he finds himself in a garden. In a way he’s an ancient man, a green man like the one the medieval craftsmen carved high up in the fabric of dreams in stone like St Albans Abbey. Emma is a very modern woman with her go-places career and her hi-res camera eyes.


Tell us about the book.

ONE SWIFT SUMMER – formerly called Watching Swifts – is an allegorical novella of about 40,000 words set in London’s Kew Gardens. Nature is the silent voice in the story. She is the ultimate creator, the poet-in-chief, god if you will. She is limitless in her creativity. In ONE SWIFT SUMMER two of her creations are contrasted, the dynamic swifts which spend all their lives on the wing in the blue, positivity in  motion, and the static, defensive monkey-puzzle tree, a violence of vicious daggers. Tom aka Leonardo is the human equivalent of the swifts, while his foil, Parker, the jobs worth who baits him is the equivalent of the dagger tree. On a deeper level there are 14 sonnets stitched into the seams of the story – perhaps they are swifts, too, albeit of a metaphorical swiftness.


Talk a little bit about your experience as an indie author? What got my attention on you was that you had a highly successful giveaway on Amazon recently. I want to know how you did that.


My experience as an indie is a work in progress. I am lousy at all the social media flimflam. I’m a natural born thread killer. I leave a comment. Instant death. You can sense the life drain from the screen. I’ve been on several sites — Authonomy, Writerscafe, Goodreads. And I have two zombie webbies of my own, presently being galvanised back into life, and which has all sorts of radical junk on it. The best aspect of being an indie author to date has been finding some cracking stuff to read, stuff that is really, really good, strong writing, yet writing that will never get an audience because, because, because… We are living in a golden age of creativity. Never in the whole of human history have so many people been able to turn their hands to writing. There is a massive and marvellous outpouring of talent and beauty going on and we are all part of it. Where it will go no one knows. But it won’t be stopped now — of that I am certain. Yes, there is a lot of deadwood in the jungle. But the jungle is a wonderful and beautiful place in which to find oneself, quite magical. Because we are all little synapses in a larger human soul and that soul’s finest instinct is to create. Can we really be part of the same species as warlords and those of a more petty destructivity we are liable to encounter every day of our lives?

2 responses to “Interview with RJ Askew

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  1. Reblogged this on Murklin Wood.


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