This week, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is doing something a bit different with our author spotlight. Since the person we are happy to shine our spotlight on, Paul Magrs, is both an author and and artist, we have asked him to answer questions about both areas of his expertise! The first section is about his life as an author.
Thanks so much for joining us, Paul. Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?
I’ve been a published novelist for twenty-five years and I write magical realism, science fiction, Gothic Mysteries and memoir. I write for both kids and adults, and sometimes I write for Doctor Who. I live in Manchester in the north of England with my partner Jeremy and our cat, Bernard Socks.
Where can people find your work? (Besides Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester –though they should totally check here first!)
Some of my earlier titles are harder to get hold of. Online sources are maybe best for those. Good bookshops (like Annie’s!) should be able to source my work for you easily enough..! Lethe Press in the US last year reissued my first three novels – ‘Marked For Life’, ‘Does it Show?’ and ‘Could it be Magic?’ They also published my ‘missing’ novel from 1999, ‘Fancy Man.’ All four are available in very handsome editions with new introductions and extra, related short stories from the time.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your latest books?
Whichever genre I’m writing in, my subject is usually friendship. I’ve realized this over the years – whether my characters are Brenda and Effie solving supernatural mysteries in Whitby, or Lora and her gang having adventures on the prairies of Mars, or the Fourth Doctor, Mike and Mr Wibbsey defending Nest Cottage against intergalactic menaces, the thing that I’m really writing about is loyalty and love and how people get along together in even the most bizarre circumstances.
What was the inspiration for The Martian Trilogy? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
With my Martian Trilogy of novels, the ideas had been bubbling away and fermenting for years. I wanted to write science fiction that was fun and adventurous, full of colour and larger than life characters. I also wanted it to feel like some of the classic children’s books I loved. In the end I described it to myself as being a blend of elements from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House Books and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. It’s life on the Martian frontier.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
I love all my characters – I have to, otherwise I wouldn’t write about them. But in this trilogy I think my favourite to write was the gallant robotic sun bed, Toaster. He’s brave and clever and slightly broken. He was once a fixture on a luxurious Starship from Earth, but following the crash-landing on Mars, he’s one of the few Servo-furnishings still operative, so in the decades since he’s had to turn his hand to every task the humans come up with for him. He harvests blue corn in the fields, cooks for everyone and carries heavy machinery; he also teaches and babysits the children. Also, as the story goes on, he proves himself to be the loyalest and most steadfast of companions – even when his mind is tampered with by the enemy. He also harbours some amazing secrets that are unfolded, gradually, as the trilogy goes on.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?
Notebooks are the key to everything. Write down everything that passes through your head. Make time to write down all the fleeting stuff. Especially daydreams. And all the details of the way people talk and interact. You might not think it’s useful yet… but nothing is ever wasted.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
My next book is published in April 2019 by Snowbooks and it’s called: ‘The Novel Inside You: Writing, Reading and Creativity.’ It’s a book to do with my writing life, and an encouragement to those who want to write and create. It’s also illustrated by me!
Russell T Davies read it and wrote, recently:
“This is so much more than How To Write, it’s How To Live. Part-memoir and part-tutorial, this book asks, ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ and miraculously finds an answer. From life. From memory, family, lovers, heartbreak, childhood, loss and joy, all captured beautifully in these pages.”
Many of the same questions were asked of Paul, this time about his career as an artist:
Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your artwork?
I’m a novelist who used to draw and paint, but got out of the habit. My drawings only appeared in corners of my journals. My partner Jeremy would buy me art materials every Christmas to encourage me to paint again. Eventually… when I was forty-five – I did! I set out in 2015 to draw something every single day. Gradually I taught myself to create pictures again, and I haven’t stopped.
Where can people find your work?
Online, they can follow my on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My blog is http://www.lifeonmagrs.blogspot.co.uk
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you create? What do you think draws readers to these works?
I love to draw scenes from south Manchester, where I live. It was a bold move, when I started drawing again, to step outside and draw in public. I was used to writing in public, and don’t think it at all odd. When you write in public, no one bothers you. When you draw, it seems that everyone wants to talk to you, and ask what you’re up to. It’s quite delightful.
The world around us is constantly changing and there are little human dramas going on everywhere, as people go about their business. One of my heroes is a local one – LS Lowry, and I love to echo his scenes sometimes, in observing all the people doing their stuff in urban settings.
I also really, really love to draw people’s cats and dogs. At some point along the line I discovered that I could capture something of their personalities in the way that I painted them… and that’s a lovely thing to do.
What is your favorite part of being an artist? Of the whole art and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
My favourite thing is allowing myself the precious time away from writing to do something that doesn’t involve words. I love immersing myself in lovely colour and having something unique to show afterwards. I find the actual business and process of making a picture much more enjoyable than writing – it’s more physical and sensual.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other artists?
Take paper and materials with you everywhere. Make time to do it. It doesn’t have to be long. And they don’t have to be expensive materials. Just practice every day.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
My illustrations appear in my new book about writing, reading and creativity: ‘The Novel Inside You’, published by Snowbooks in April 2019.
What does your work space look like? What do you need to have around you while creating your art?
Lots and lots of books. My study is very messy and filled with heaps of books of all kinds, in any old order. This is essential for me to be able to work. Also, Bernard Socks the cat, who likes to help out.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us, Paul!