A Conversation


It is, apparently, fashionable for one to interview fellow artists. I’ve always been wary of this practice, feeling that perhaps, in some barely understood manner, it pandered to the undistinguished tastes of shallow people. But in our modern and democratic age, it seems that pandering is no longer the social kiss of death that it once was, and so I invite my good friend, Will MacMillan-Jones to step forward to be interviewed.  He is a writer and poet whose books I have read with great enjoyment.

Over to Will.

Ho, Tallis, well met! My friend, compatriot, fellow imbiber of the red muse and brother poet. I trust that today finds you in rude good health, and well provided for (in terms of wine, some newly-baked bread and a little cheese perhaps)?

Excellent, then let us take shelter below the verdant spreading arms of this good tree, rest in its arboreal splendour, and enjoy nature’s fruits – and in particular the contents of that bottle I see resting in your pocket. For we are always told that it is better to give than to receive, are we not, and today I am in the humour to offer benefice to your soul by allowing you to ease the burdens that life has poured upon me this day by sharing your bounty…

Will, after you with the bottle. But yes, it is always good to see how other writers work, what fuels them and keeps them working away. Which do you feel is the most important driver for an artist, poverty, braggadocio or the striving to be the best among your fellows?

Come, we have both performed our work before our peers. Standing before a roomful of critics, colleagues and creditors – occasionally contained within the same bodies – reciting and performing your best and latest work – for are they not most frequently the same thing? – and baring one’s very soul before them; what can be more rewarding than the acclaim of our peers? Why, but the other day I did perform some poetry before a strange audience from a nearby valley who had not heard my work before. And they did applaud, as did the other performers. So the praise of peers is beyond compare – as long as one has enough to eat and drink. A little more of that excellent cheese, if you would be so kind. Thanks.

Will, as you know, it is said by some that in wine there is truth. Could you recommend a decent inexpensive wine that you find encourages you in your quest for truth?

Merlot, for me. The deep rich colour delights the eye, even when the glass may be cheap, and the flavour of the summer, the rich warm days of summer, floats across the palate and brightens the mind and tongue. Of course, as for any professional writer, anything will do in a pinch. Let me top up your glass a little. And why, mine seems to be empty too!

I thank you sir, you pour my wine with generous hand. Now as you may know, Arnot Stillwinter always claimed that a constipated body has a constipated mind and a constipated spirit. Could you suggest one recipe that you recommend to keep everything flowing smoothly?

Curry. I was introduced to curry whilst still a callow youth by friends at the University. Not here, a place some distance away called Bradford. The food was offered in a most basic fashion, yet the taste exploded upon my tongue, much as the later explosion was memorable, although in a different way.

Now we begin to touch on those things most important for those of us who live by our art. The old problem that faces any true artist, how to deal with ones creditors. Fight, flight or negotiate?

Music hath charms to sooth the savage beast, it is said. And do not we poets have music within our souls, within our words, within our tongues to speak fair to all manner of people? Having said that, it is most unwise to offend those who may yet be generous again with their patronage, and so I prefer to simply avoid both the subject and the object of the sentence and thereby have to deal with neither until I am in funds to repair both my conscience and their pocket. As you raise the subject, perhaps you recall that last month, when you were somewhat embarrassed in that eating house over a small matter of a bill for food and ale, I came to your aid and you promised to repay me?

It is funny how on a fine afternoon, trivial matters continue to elide together into some formless whole, whilst other details elude one entirely. Still, as I was about to say, at some point even an author has to stare their readers in the eyes and deal with them in person. I’m sure that many of those who read this blog would find beginners guide to the performance art would be useful. Far too many seem to remain closeted in their garrets shunning the teeming life of the city.

Ah Tallis, do we not both know the fear, terror and delight in standing before an audience with nought between one and their ire (and possibly somewhat over ripe tomatoes) except a memorised volume of poetry or an old tale from long ago? One learns to educate, entertain and delight others only by braving the stage and speaking one’s truth. Or lies, or invented fantasies, as you deem fit for the night. To entertain and stir emotions, that is truly the Great Art to which we aspire, and writing can only be improved by taking it, naked and quivering as a newly born wain, to the baptism of fire that is an open recital night.

Wise as always sir. Thus I will broach another topic dear to us both. Selling the damned book. Ignoring the electronic medium for a moment, how do you go about selling your book to those whom you meet in the real world?

Why Tallis my friend, are you in such straits that you feel a need to supplement your income by selling your work? I thought you well comforted by your patron! Well, if times are so hard, then I shall impart such little wisdom as I hold. There are about all the towns in this fair land Literary fairs, book fairs and such. There one may take a stall, place one’s wares in their best array and engage with such who may pass by and encourage them to buy. Sordid, I know, yet it can be great fun and many new contacts and acquaintances may be made to your benefit. And to theirs, of course, as they read your offerings. Then too, expanding one’s performances as we have talked about can help to raise your profile, and widen the circle of those who have heard your name and reputation. They too may seek you out to acquire a more permanent record of your fragrant utterances. Did you want that last cut of the cheese? No? Then I thanks you.

The last of the cheese often has a bitter edge to it. But then to characters. I have followed the characters you have created with relish, amusement and occasionally concern. Are they based on real people and are you still in contract with those people, even if only to visit them occasionally in the asylum in which they have been incarcerated.

Ah, upon this I must maintain a dignified and professional reticence. For it is true that for many of the characters there is a living prototype, one who is rarely aware of their transmogrification. Although I may say that one character is well aware of his originator – or perhaps that should be the other way around? And he most heartily approves, as does his wife who reads those sections of the books where the character is in difficulties with the eagerness that one might expect from a loving spouse…

I do wonder about loving spouses at times. Still it does not do to pry too closely into what happens behind closed doors. Yet I suppose that for the sake of completeness that we ought to explore electronic media. How do you recommend selling a fragile bundle of exquisitely hand-woven electrons that the lumpen call an e-book?

Vile and hateful things, are they not? They smell of recycled plastic, doubtless processed by some lumpen low life in a council recycling department, rather than the fragrant musk of a lovingly printed tome whose ink has dried to a pleasing colour upon the parchment. Yet I am told that these things represent the future, whatever that might turn out to be. Should their electrons fail them, then they will reawaken to the joy of a real book to be loved and treasured.

Still, they are with us, so the subject must be addressed. And the answer is that I do not really know. I flounder about in this artificially created world called Internet, using blogs and facebook and the like in the wild hope that scattering enough enticing electrons around will lead customers to the work as a mouse would be attracted by a trail of cheese. Did you finish that most excellent cheese? A shame. And the bread, too?

The bread seemed lonely sitting there ignored. But the sun will set in time and much remains undone. We have looked at creditors, but occasionally the author will find that the there are scoundrels out there who refuse to pay the money they owe. Have you any tips for hunting them down and divesting them of your hard earned money?

Well, one way is to let them take you out for a chat and perhaps the last of the wine in that so sadly empty bottle and then remind them of the sum. That bottle is empty I suppose? How sad. Is there indeed a more doleful sight in the world than a bottle of wine that has become empty? Purpose, usefulness, a meritorious place in the cosmos, all drained away. Ah well. Fortunately I too brought a bottle of liquid delight with me, and can open it later on.

Finally what question have I neglected to ask you?

About Life, dear boy, Life. I am told that these new-fangled mathematicians and atomic physicists have ruled that all things in the cosmos can be reduced to numbers. But when I sought the answer from one, he just muttered ‘42’ at me, and then invited me to leave his presence in the most inappropriate and abusive tones. Perhaps he was unexpectedly sober at the time.

Still Tallis my boon companion, much as I have enjoyed this chance to chat (and remind you about that bar bill), and thank you for the refreshments, I have upon my desk unfinished works of a poetic nature, and two yet incomplete novels; one of a fantastic yet humorous nature, and the other a tale of  most horrific and frightening events. A tale of adventure and derring-do in the wide realms of interstellar space yet resides with an editor, and I must away to both poke the editor with a stick and scribe more words for these projects lest that stern taskmaster at Red Kite Publishing doth visit me with harsh words and falsely accuse me of procrastination. As if I should be that dilatory!


And with that, dear reader, he vanished! Still I would recommend his work to you, you might discover more for yourself exploring the links below.





https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Macmillan-Jones/e/B005TIMXI0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1484317058HYPERLINK “https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Macmillan-Jones/e/B005TIMXI0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1484317058&sr=1-1″&HYPERLINK “https://www.amazon.co.uk/Will-Macmillan-Jones/e/B005TIMXI0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1484317058&sr=1-1″sr=1-1


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