Writer of the Month
May – EMBA
To celebrate this year’s fantastic shortlist, we’ll be featuring the East Midland’s Book Award authors in the countdown to the award ceremony on the 20th June, where the winning author will receive a ?1000 prize.
Will Buckingham is the author of Cargo Fever (2007, Tindal Street Press) and Finding Our Sea-Legs (2009, Kingston University Press). He is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the De Montfort University, Leicester. In 2010 he was awarded the British Academy funding to undertake research for his next novel in China.
Will Buckingham’s The Descent of the Lyre has been shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013.
Writing East Midlands caught up with Will to talk about his writing:
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the East Midlands Book Award 2013. How do you feel?
The nominations for this year’s EMBA were extremely impressive, and a lot of books by writers I greatly admire didn’t make the shortlist. My fellow writers on the shortlist, too, are exceptionally good. So, yes, it’s very pleasing to be shortlisted.
The Descent of the Lyre has been a long time in the making. After the book’s completion it was hard to find a publisher willing to take a risk on a book about nineteenth century Bulgarian guitarist-saints. It’s a curious kind of story, but it’s one that I was always convinced was worth telling. And the shortlisting is, in many ways, a confirmation that my hunches, on this occasion, did not fail me, despite the caution that is often found in the publishing world.
Could you tell us a bit about The Descent of the Lyre?
As I said above, it’s about a Bulgarian guitarist-saint. Bulgaria is the legendary home of Orpheus, and I see the book as being a set of loose variations on the theme of the Orpheus myth, as it follows the protagonist, Ivan Gelski, from his birth in the village of Gela, to the abduction of his bride and his life as an outlaw in the hills, to Vienna and the concert stage of Paris.
The Descent of the Lyre is a book in which several of my obsessions collide. Although a non-believer, I have long been fascinated by religion, and so religion and religious belief play a large part in this book. I’m also interested in storytelling as an art form, and although some have called the Lyre historical fiction, I have always thought of it as closer to story or to fable. Finally, I’ve played classical guitar since I was a child, and so the book takes the guitar as one of its themes.
The novel was researched back in 2007 in Bulgaria. I took my guitar with me, and caught the train down to Bulgaria, where I spent a couple of months visiting monasteries, going to sites associated with Orpheus, wandering the hillsides, and making a lot of friends. I came back with a draft but took another five years of writing and rewriting to take me from there to eventual publication.
Being a writer based in the East Midlands, how do you feel about the opportunities on offer in the region?
What advice would you give to emerging writers?
Writers are a pretty diverse tribe, and there’s no one path to take as an ‘emerging’ writer. Often the advice of writers boils down to a thinly-veiled account of how they themselves did it. So if writer x says, ‘You must write every morning for ninety minutes from six to seven thirty’, what they are actually saying is that this is what they do. And because writers are so diverse, this isn’t always useful. Sometimes I worry that, in giving advice like this, writers are guilty of a shocking lack of imagination.
Speaking personally, I spent far too long early on in my writing career looking over my shoulder, worrying, in the face of a barrage of conflicting advice, if I was doing it right.
But is there any general advice? Well, perhaps two things: first, get to know the writing of others; and second, write stuff.
Can you tell us about your writing process? What do you find to be the most exciting part, and why?
I love research. I love finding out new things, going out and investigating the world. For me, writing is a kind of investigation, an exploration of possible worlds. I also enjoy following the logic of a story through, to see what the implications of any decisions I make might be, further down the line. And I do, in the main, enjoy the actual process of writing itself: putting words on the page, seeing what turns up under the pen or on the screen as I type. Although I research and plan quite heavily, for me the actual writing is always liable to go off in new and unexpected directions.
As you are an East Midlands author I wondered if the region affects your writing, perhaps by giving it a ‘sense of place,’ or a particular voice or identity, in any way. Or is this not a great factor in your writing?
Who, if anyone, has had the biggest influence on your writing and why?
What are you working on at the moment? What are you hoping for next in your writing career?
The East Midlands Book Award winner will be announced at the Award Ceremony at Barnsdale Lodge on the 20th June as part of Oakham Festival. You can download the full festival brochure here.
Interested in reviewing the EMBA 2013 shortlist? with the opportunity to have your review published on the Writing East Midlands website?
All reviewers will be entered in to a prize draw to receive two tickets to attend the prestigious award ceremony at Barnsdale Lodge in Oakham on 20 June and win the full set of shortlisted books. Find out more here.