Today’s interview is with Mark Binmore. Welcome to the blog, Mark.
Hey Lela, good to be here.
Tell us something about yourself.
British born and now divide time between my homes in London and South of France with my partner, dog, cats and over 500 pairs of shoes. Aside from writing I own and manage a small bed and breakfast – Maison De L’Orb – so throughout the summer I get to be inspired by guests from all corners of the world who stay with us.
That’s a lot of shoes! At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I guess I have always been a writer. As a kid and even now I have a strange passion for stationary, pens, paper, notebooks…I used to write poems and short stories and just store them away. I have always kept a diary since the mid-1980s so they do make interesting reading from time to time. My first full length story was called We’re Not Going To The Opera which was about growing up in a Thatcher Britain and the consequences that brought on a young gay adult living in London. I wrote about stepping over people outside the theatre, the homeless, which was a thin veiled reference to an MP who said at the time “The homeless? Aren’t they the people you step over outside the theatre,” so from then I was inspired by quotes and sayings.
Tell us about your writing process.
It all starts with an idea then I look back on a whole collection of notebooks, scribbles, unpublished scripts to see if anything can be re-used, maybe a title, a sentence, a quote, anything. For my recent book Take Down The Flags I unearthed a few stories which had a similar pattern but the main process was to speak to people and/or their families and friends who had experienced war and what the ending of war was like, good, bad, difficult. From that I recorded a whole heap of memories and conversations which I used as a basis for individual stories. For my other new book Nemesis which is essentially a collection of prose and lyrics, it was a continual process of about two years just writing and editing out pieces that didn’t work or feel right sat amongst others. For that book the individual title of each piece came first which is really important to me. A title has to grab me.
What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?
I am working on a detective yarn at the moment so have recently been given a whole set of classic 1930s detective books which have been out of print for years and I am loving the style of writing. I guess I go through phases of different genres, historical fiction, the in-between war years, 80s revival, music, biographies I love especially if the person has “lived” in the real sense. I don’t see the point of reading a biography of some reality TV star who is 21 and just released their first perfume called Success.
What are you passionate about?
Music, food, shoes, perfume (I collect old famous scent, my latest is the Cher perfume from 1987), people. Interestingly I have just noticed I wrote people last. I try not to be a materialistic person but in many ways I am. I love shoes. I buy them, wear the, collect them, the same with perfumes, records, things that make you recall a memory because that can also have an influence on your writings. I have written and published two books under a nom de plume and one of them was set in the 1980s, rather trashy and a definite summer beach read and my music collection actually helped me in that one.
What is something you cannot live without?
My secret pantry stash of chocolate and a bottle of Kouras scent.
When you are not writing, what do you do?
Aside from running the B&B, love to walk the hound, gym, keep fit, travel, read and cook. Pleasure can be found either by writing or cooking up some good food be it a Mediterranean feast or something to curl up with on a sofa and chill. Eating is what I do best and I am one of those annoying people who Instragrams good food, but only the best food gets a look in. Music is another important factor in my life. With my book “Ember Asleep” we recorded a mini 6-track EP to coincide with the book release, I guess you can tell as an author I like to do things differently, and last year I released a standalone 12” dance single. Fellow writer Chris Henson documents all of this in his book Tour De Europa and his latest one Versus America where he followed me while on two book tours.
Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?
Out of all my books I would have to say Nemesis which has recently been published. The idea was to bring together new prose pieces with liner notes so that the reader could get a nod as to what I was writing about. Although the book has a general theme, that of a journey, for me after finishing the book an editing it, I discovered it was a journey of saying goodbye, goodbye to people, places, friends that were no longer friends, situations and moving forward but at the same time it wasn’t sad or lonely it was a positive step. Perhaps I should have written this book a long time ago.
Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?
Usually when observing people while at a café sipping a café or lunching with friends. I listen to conversations, remember names and think to myself I could maybe use that. I always carry a notebook around with me so I can jot these things down.
What sort of research do you do for your novels?
For Now Is Not The Time Of Trumpets and A Life Of Parties these were both about imaginary people set against the backdrop of a real world so certain facts I had to get right. As both were also set during the 1920s/30s I also had to get the language right. Certain names and sayings had to be changed because they were not used in the norm at that time or a date was wrong.
If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?
I’ve been told that when reading them you feel you can actually “see” the character and the setting where I have put them. That is encouraging because I can also see them. Trumpets and Parties are currently being workshoped for a theatre adaptation in America and it’s great that certain visuals have been exposed. The actor playing Stephen from Trumpets is exactly how I imagined him. For my prose collections people expect poetry to be written a certain way. I don’t conform to that so expect something different.
Do you have a special place where you write?
I have ability to write anywhere but when editing or completing a chapter it is my library I hibernate to where I am surrounded by many things, objects, books, pictures which inspire me. I have a great painting of a baby doll with a cracked head floating in a sewer, it’s macabre but inspiring.
I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?
I am hoping there is WIFI. If not a huge writing pad, pens, pencils so I can start on some cold lonely isolated prose I can call -If On A Winters Night. Music is a must, I can’t live a day without hearing good music whether it be the soulful tunes of Dusty Springfield, the batting donkey sounds of Kate Bush or some good electro disco. Book wise I am reading some old 1930s travelogues at the moment which are funny, exciting and rather sad because they show Europe before it changed forever. Food wise some fresh bread, cheese and olives daily would be great.
Talk about your books individually.
My first book seems like a lifetime away and one that I probably wouldn’t publish now. Even When Tonight Is Over was essentially a collection of inspirational short stories that may mean something different to the individual reader. Looking back some are a bit whimsical, others too fantastical for my current liking but it’s a book that was published some time ago and is still selling so I shouldn’t be too hard on it but like any writer you should be allowed to look back and re-evaluate what you have done years down the line. I was asked by my publisher to write my biography, they wanted to see what my writing was like, and it is an exercise I would probably suggest to people wanting to write. The end result was liberating, funny, sad and called In Search Of The Fabulous People. It was given a strict limited release and is currently unavailable. I saw recently someone sell a copy for a huge amount on Amazon. I followed this with a series of prose books which I am actually proud of The Hair Of The Hound, Hounds Of Winter, Ember Asleep and a further collection of stories Jig Of Life. This was my first book published in USA and Canada under the title “The J”, my editor believed the American people wouldn’t get the word “jig”.
I then published my first full length book Now Is Not The Time For Trumpets which was received fantastically well. A story/interview set in the late 1980s about the life and times of a once beautiful bright young party person from the 1930s. I enjoyed writing the book and was happy when it was finally published. One character from that book, Agatha, stood out and therefore I wrote a book about her in her honour A Life Of Parties. And what a life she had, the celebrity of her day. Both books were republished a few years ago as Simply Divine and likewise all my prose and short stories were republished into one big book A Sorta Fairytale. There are of course my two non de plume novels which I can’t talk about, but maybe someday, when the dust has settled.
What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?
To feel that just for a moment they have stepped into my mind and enjoyed being there so much they either want to return or settle and stay for a while. It’s a good place to be.
How do readers find you and your books?
Join me on Twitter @MarkBinmore
Join me on Facebook www.facebook.com/markbinmoremedia
My website can be discovered at www.markbinmore.wix.com/markbinmore
You can Instragram me @MarkBinmore
You can buy me in digital or analogue fashion at www.amazon.com/author/markbinmore
You can listen to me at www.soundcloud.com/markbinmore
My two new books are available now Nemesis and Take Down The Flags