Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Guest author Graeme K. Talboys: The Story of a Circle



Graeme K Talboys was born in Hammersmith, London. He still blames his parents. Since then, he has been coming to terms with the fact that he had his head taken apart in the ‘60s, whereafter the bits were exposed to loud music from various sources, strange movies, stranger writings, and some downright weird people. It eventually got put back together, but there were bits left over and they never did find the budgie.

In between being a space cadet and teaching in schools and museums, he has written nine works of non-fiction, eight of which have been published (on museum education, drama, and matters spiritual). He has also written twelve novels. The first (written when he was seventeen) was lost on a train. The next two (written in his early twenties) he wishes had been. Four later novels have been published, three of which are still in print (Wealden Hill, Thin Reflections, and now Stealing into Winter) and a collection of short stories (Stormwrack) will be published later this year.


The Story of a Circle

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a land with no computers, just two channels on the television, and a distinct absence of central heating (otherwise known as 1960) a young boy made a discovery. He was surrounded by books, had learned to read at an early age, and around about the age of seven he realised you didn’t just have to read other people’s stories, but that you could make up your own and write them down.

That was how it all began. Sitting at a small table in his bedroom, he would fill little red cash books with stories that were lavishly illustrated with brightly coloured felt tipped pens. It might all have faded away; he was also rather fond of an enormous construction kit and loved to build things. But in 1962 he started to take a new, weekly magazine for children called Look & Learn.

Look & Learn was a large format, full colour magazine packed with factual articles and superb illustrations. It covered every subject under the sun and was well balanced between the sciences and the arts. What particularly captured this young boy’s imagination were the articles about writers and the serialisations from classics of literature. In a pre-computer age when owning a television was still considered a luxury, this magazine opened up the world to a hungry mind. It stuck a compass point into a blank sheet.

The young boy grew up and eventually I became a ‘proper’ writer; a journey that had the best send off imaginable. I still revisit those magazines, appreciating as an adult just how well-written they were: informative, interesting, literate, never patronising. That the magazine later incorporated such comic strips as ‘The Trigan Empire’ was just the cherry on an already well-iced cake. For such a confection, it was nourishing fare.

The writing journey has never been an easy one, but it has always been fascinating, with an almost obligatory surprise at each turning. Somewhere along the way, quite early, I began to read the books of Michael Moorcock and New Worlds, the magazine he edited. The fertile ground in which my imagination had thrived was given a whole new slant (and some very weird fertilizer). Much later I became associated with a project that is compiling a Michael Moorcock bibliography. There I learned that early in his career, he had written for Look & Learn; a fact that had the compass turning to sketch in, for me, parts of a circle.

Looking back over my books, I now realize it is the joy and wonderment I found in Look & Learn that I have tried to evoke in my own writing; that and the economy of language allied with an assumption of intelligence on the part of the readers. Another arc completed.

But the closing of the circle, and an event that has given me enormous satisfaction, is the endorsement for my latest novel provided by none other than Michael Moorcock. As one of those instrumental in inspiring me to start writing, who encouraged me in the ‘70s to continue, and whose work (in all fields) I much admire, I feel honoured to have one of my titles associated with his name.

This foray into a more commercial form of fiction is not exactly new (I had a spy novel published in 1999), but it is the first time that I feel I have come full circle and, armed with experience, I now feel ready to set out on a whole new journey.

Giveaway!
A free, signed copy of Stealing into Winter will be sent to someone chosen at random from the comment trail.

When Jeniche, a sometimes successful thief, found her prison cell collapsing around her, she knew it was not going to be a good day. Certainly, the last thing she wanted once she had escaped into the war-torn city was to become involved with a group of monks and nuns on pilgrimage. Even less did she want to help them escape and guide them through the desert and into the mountains so they could get home. Of course, the last thing you want is often the first thing you get. In a world growing painfully from the ruins of a long past catastrophe, it is not just the Imperial ambitions of the Occassan nation that worries people; it is the all too real danger of the past rearing its vicious and mysterious head. What did happen all those centuries ago? What has it do with a thief? And why are the Occassans so interested in her skills?


20 comments:

Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Graeme! How wonderful that one of your major writing influences has come full circle like this! I would have loved to tell Gerald Durrell how much of an impact his books had on my life from childhood, and how much he influenced my world view, but alas, I never got the chance.

Best of luck with Stealing into Winter!

Graeme K Talboys said...

Many thanks, Liane. It's a pleasure to be here.

Olga Wojtas said...

A fascinating insight, Graeme, thank you! And I'd forgotten all about Look & Learn, but it had a huge impact on me too. Brilliant to discover the Michael Moorcock connection.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks, Olga. I always looked forward to my Look & Learn each week (along with my Beano and TV21). A great publication.

jude parsons said...

They say that what goes round, comes round and I hope Stealing into Winter is as successful as it deserves to be. It was a captivating read and I look forward to following Jeniche's adventures in the next book.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Bless you, Jude. I'm always fascinated by what influences us as writers. Some things are obvious, others less so. All add to the mix.

William Doonan said...

Me want to win book!

This sounds like a fascinating read. I was a huge Michael Moorcock fan as a lad, so if he says this is good, I have to read it!

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hi William, thanks for stopping by. I was trying to capture something of the fun and pace of his early fantasies. Not sure I can turn them out as quickly, though.

Janet C Coyle said...

I know nothing about Michael Moorcroft and I didn't read Look and Learn, though I did get the weekly editions of Knowledge which eventually became an encyclopaedia. I still had all 26 volumes until I moved house a few years ago. It was fascinating to hear how your own journey into Literature began. As a teacher, I am so aware of what children are given to read and they ways in which that literature will influence the way they write. All those second person stories which came from those 'choose your own ending' books of the eighties, was one influence I remember in the work of the children I taught.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Gosh. I'd forgotten about those, Janet. What you say about influence is so true. And interesting to see how different people respond to the same thing. Mind you, I didn't get into children's books until I started teaching. As a child, most of my reading was from my mother's collection of things like Companion Book Club books

Charles Gramlich said...

So much fun to hear of writers' influences. I was influenced by the book club that my grade school joined and we could get books for like 10 cents or something sometimes. I got so many books and I still have some of them.

Jenni said...

With a name like Jen as the main character I have to read this!

Fancy that I went to school with someone famous!

Graeme K Talboys said...

Books. Couldn't get enough of them at school. I had an astute teacher who put me in charge of the class library in Junior School and I would take a bus into the city on a regular basis to get the big library. Heaven.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hi, Jenni. This calls for an investigation. I can think of three from school. I'm not exactly famous yet, but I'm working on it. :-)

Graeme K Talboys said...

Aha! That Jenni. How are you?

Nic Houghton said...

"Look and Learn" was the only 'comic' my parents would cheerfully subscribe to for my sister and I.
Congratulations on your new book Graeme.
From an Old Lewesian

D.R. Ransdell said...

Graehme, that's wonderful about hearing from Michael Moorcock. It's so interesting to look back at the influences that have affected us. I think we tend to forget how important they are (of course, this is easy to do when the event happened 20, 39, 40 years ago). I found Gerald Durrell to be an influence as well, for example. While I appreciated a lot of his brother's work, Gerald's "My Family and Other Animals" is a special delight.

A new book by Pico Iyer reflects a whole book on this theme--for him the influence was Graham Greene, and the recent book is "The Man Within My Head."

Your book has a beautiful beginning! Best of luck with it.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Hi Nic, and thanks. Good to see you here. I think a lot of us managed to get L&L under the radar, as it were, because it was educational. Of course, it was slipping under our radar as well.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thank you for your kind words Diane. And I'll certainly look out for Iyer's book. It looks fascinating. I believe we should embrace our influences; acknowledge them, learn from them, examine why they have become important to us. That, to me, is the best way to move beyond them and add something new to our own work.

Liane Spicer said...

William Doonan, congratulations! You're the winner of a copy of Stealing Into Winter by Graeme K. Talboys!

I'll pass your e-mail contact along to Graeme and he will contact you about the prize.

Enjoy!