Interview with author, Russell Mardell

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I’m a playwright, scriptwriter and novelist based in the south west of the UK. My debut collection of short stories ‘Silent Bombs Falling on Green Grass’ was published at the end of last year and my next book is out early next year. I’m a film and music nut, animal lover, caffeine addict and Evertonian.

I met you through AD Lane and his Indywood project, how did you first become involved with that?

Antony is a good guy. Like many others, I expect, I stumbled upon Indywood on Twitter and was really amazed by his determination and passion. We are more or less the same age but I haven’t had that determination for a long time! Being independent I like to support other indies when I can. I think there tends to be a sort of solidarity between independent artists, maybe that’s just a romantic notion, but it’s what I’ve found so far, be it film, writing, music…maybe we should develop a special handshake or something. Having worked in film myself I know what a huge task he’s facing, not least because he isn’t doing the typical first film thing of making something with a couple of locations and a handful of actors, he’s really going for it and, mad as it may be, that deserves huge credit I think. Also I do love a good horror film so he got my interest through that anyway, and anyone who advocates the old school way of doing horror and not bending to CGI is okay by me.

When did you start writing?

My family would tell you I was always writing but I’m not sure I remember it that way. It’s true to say that English was pretty much the only subject at school I enjoyed or was much good at but I only really started writing properly when I had left college. Film was always my main passion, probably still is, and I started by writing film scripts with a view to filming them. I’d trained in film production after college and that was always the area I had planned to work in. From that work I was asked to write for theatre and greatly enjoyed doing that for a while. Novel writing was always there in my mind though, and right now it’s the most gratifying writing I’ve done.

Which authors most inspire you?

There’s many I like, and a lot of books that have inspired me. I vividly remember buying ‘The New York Trilogy’ by Paul Auster and reading it for the first time. That left a big impression on me, and I’ve followed Auster since, I’m yet to read one of his books that I haven’t enjoyed. I like Charles Bukowski too…Dino Buzzati, William Wharton, George Orwell…there’s a lot. But to be honest as far as inspiration goes it usually comes from either films or music!

Did you decide to write a series of short stories rather than a novel or did it happen in the writing process?

It had always been the intention to write a short story collection. I wasn’t convinced at the time that I was ready to tackle a novel. Also I didn’t believe any of the stories would benefit from being stretched in to a novel. So really the decision was more or less decided by the stories I wanted to tell.

Were the “Notes from Mewlish Lull” stories written before or after the others?

They were written first. They are part of a larger story that may one day be reworked and put out there. I was never happy enough with them in novel form. I never felt there was enough there to justify a novel, they felt like little episodic adventures. There was a lot there I liked so I reworked them as shorts. It was nice to have a recurring character to help tie the other stories together.

Do you have a favorite story from Silent Bombs. If so, what makes it your favorite?

I’ve a few, for different reasons, if the feedback I’ve had is anything to go by then ‘Farringdon’ and ‘Four Doors Down’ are the two that seem to resonate most with people, which pleases me as I’m very proud of both. But I think my favourite is the title story itself. Thematically it’s the one that most represents what the book is about.

How did you go about getting Silent Bombs published?

I was always told, from the start, that selling short stories by an unknown author was going to be difficult and that the public didn’t buy short stories. Add to that the fact that ‘Silent Bombs’ was clearly not going to be for all tastes I had decided early on that I would self publish as approaching publishers was clearly going to be a long and pointless endeavour. It’s a very narrow market at the moment, there seems to be one or two genres that are being milked dry and a huge over reliance on celebrity authors, which I find very distasteful. As much as some publishers criticize self-publishing for saturating the market with mediocre ‘anyone can do it’ writing, I would argue that selling sub standard garbage from celebrities, and a lot is, who have never written before in their lives, does just as much to pump crap on to the bookshelves. It’s understandable of course, they make a fast buck trading on a name, but it would be nice to feel the playing field was slightly more even. Or even that those on the playing field were people who had devoted themselves to writing not just celebrities with time on their hands.
I did a lot of research in to the publishers out there, almost a years worth, sought advice from a lot of people, and in the end the same two names kept appearing, one of which was Matador which is who I decided to go with. They are a great company to deal with but what they really have in their favour is the quality of the end product. There is still snobbery about self-published books and self published writers don’t help themselves if the book they produce doesn’t look professional. Matador have a very high standard of publishing which I believe is essential.

Your next writing project is a novel, what can you tell us a little about that?

It’s called ‘Stone Bleeding’ and it is a novel but not really a conventional one. It’s a story told from three different viewpoints and told backwards. Part love story, part satire. Very dark, but hopefully also very funny. It’s published at the start of March.

Besides novelist, what other job titles do you hold/did you hold?

I’ve done a lot of jobs over the years; shop work, bar work, all sorts, but now I’m writing full time – film, theatre and novels – struggling through and learning to embrace the advantages of doing it independently.

Any other projects we should check out or keep an eye out for?

There may be some film work on the horizon; there are a couple of things I’m working on. I may also be dragged back in to doing some stage work, not something I’m clamouring to do but I may be persuaded.

Advice for up and coming or struggling writers?

A good editor is more important than a good agent. Most writers starting out drastically overwrite and the old adage of ‘less is more’ is so true. I’m still learning that. With ebooks and self-publishing there is a huge temptation to rush through your writing just for the cheap thrill of seeing your book out there – that thrill soon goes but that book is always out there and if it’s half arsed it still has your name on it. Get it to the very best it can be, get it read by people who aren’t biased, get it edited. Accept that people will criticize it and grow a thick skin. As much as there are many more opportunities to publish nowadays so are there more forums for strangers to dismantle your work. If you can’t take criticism go and do something else. Also if you want a job as a writer, treat it like a job, not a hobby. There’s a big difference.

If you could have dinner with any historical figure, who would choose and what would you talk about?

Probably someone film related, someone from the golden age of Hollywood. Does that count as historical? They would have to do all the talking. We’d have sandwiches and a cup of tea.

Any last words?

Usually it’s something like ‘I’m sorry I said that,’ but for this purpose I will just say thanks and please keep supporting independent artists!

Russell is on twitter and has a facebook page. His book, Silent Bombs Falling on Green Grass is available on Amazon and also on his website. Our review of Silent Bombs can be found here.

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