Interview – Mark Binmore, author of Now Is Not The Time For Trumpets
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Mark Binmore, author several short story and poetry collections, and the upcoming fictional memoir Now Is Not The Time For Trumpets. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Mark.For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
MB: In a nutshell, born in Torquay, England and moved to London in my late teens where I lived for many years before moving to France where my partner and I set up and run a bed and breakfast in Beziers. I was trained as an actor but got bored easily and found writing more of a challenge. I did have aspirations of becoming a pop star (I write lyrics all the time) but at the age of 43 I think my “moment” has passed.
SPS: What are your perfect writing conditions, and how often do you write?
MB: I write every day. I’ve kept a diary since 1985 so the daily writing thing comes easy to me. I always carry a notebook and have a habit of overhearing conversations and names which I may use. I was at a luncheon the other day and a friend was talking about a Jewish friend they knew years ago – Gladys Shenkmen who made her millions from selling pickles – and the name conjured up a whole image so I had to write her into my next book which I have done.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to publish your work?
MB: A close friend and ex-lover actually read some of my stories and prose and said you need to get these out there. Pure and simple so I did. It wasn’t about selling one copy or a thousand it was just the pleasure of seeing a book that I had written out there in the world and on a bookshelf.
SPS: Why do you think it is that you have found yourself writing in the style/genres that you do?
MB: I’m not sure. That element of wanting to be a pop star made me write lyrics for years although some people see it as prose/poetry more than lyrics. Ideas then came for short stories and the idea of writing a longer novel was really to see if I could do it, if I could finish a longer piece.
SPS: Can you take a moment to tell us all about your short story collection, and where the ideas for the stories came from?
MB: I see Jig Of Life as a belated follow up to my first short story collection – Even When Tonight Is Over which was published in 2010. The ideas came from true stories that have happened or general observations that I had written done over a period of time.
SPS: Why did you decide on running an underlying theme of Love?
MB: Because love is easy to write about – love displays many emotions from lust to deceit. What some people see as love many see something else. It’s an interesting word along with “hate”.
SPS: Did you find any restriction writing in the shorter form?
MB: I actually wrote these stories very much like a pop star recording a song in the 1980s. They used to record a 12” version and then edit it down for a single 7” mix. I tried to do the same. Write more and more and then edit down but informing people that these stories could if needed be expanded.
SPS: Do you have a favourite story in the collection?
MB: The Answer – which was based on a true story which happened to a friend of mine. Interestingly when I did a mini book tour earlier in the year most people kept coming up to me offering hugs believing the story was about me. It was quite unreal.
SPS: Can you tell us about some of your favorite characters involved?
MB: There aren’t really any characters in this book. It’s written in a style of ambiguity so the reader can decide what the story means to them.
SPS: Is there scope to make any of the stories into longer works?
MB: I do have the longer edits of the stories but at the moment there are no plans to release them. Maybe in time, I actually prefer the shorter 7” versions of the stories.
SPS: Moving on, can you tell us about your upcoming fictional memoir Now is not the time for Trumpets?
MB: It’s a fictional biography, part memoir part interview. Stephen Wallingford (main character) is now in his 80s, living as a reclusive in his rambling old family home and a writer pays a visit to interview him about his life. Declining interviews for years Stephen agrees and opens up about his life as a bright young beautiful party person, stories of parties, of gin, of beautiful friends and lost love.
SPS: Where did the idea come from to create a fictional memoir, and how did you create Stephen’s character?
MB: I am a great lover and reader of biographies, but mainly of those who have lived a little. What amazes me every year come the autumn book stores are full of reality stars aged twenty who have written (or ghost written) a biography and then called it “My Life”. What life? You went school, you left, you became famous for fifteen minutes and that’s it. The idea was to create a fictional memoir/interview about someone who never existed in the real sense but the world which I am writing back did and does exist.
SPS: Are any of the events contained based on real events, however loosely?
MB: Stephen is one of the last surviving bright young people beautiful party people of the 1920s and 30s. They did exist and his life journey takes us through his early years and through the second world war. Most if not all of the events (especially those in the final chapter where we re-meet some of the people in the book and give them their own personal biography) did happen either to myself or members of my family which have stayed in my mind. Several characters are very loosely based on family members but best not say who. Several close family members have already emailed me their suggestions.
SPS: Other than Stephen Wallingford, who else might we meet?
MB: Agatha Dewsbury, a friend of Stephen who was also a writer, I like to see her as a delicious drunk with a past. Obviously family members, his father (affectionately called Dada) and his mother Winifred. He has siblings including Rachel and Mary who both have their own stories to tell. There are a whole collection of passing characters including the Nazi German sisters Heidi and Eva (Heidi causes quite a scene dressed in her Gestapo uniform at a party and was therefore banished from Stephens’s home)
SPS: What emotions are you hoping to evoke from readers?
MB: Someone recently reviewed the book as a great sense of loss but tragically beautiful, a glimpse into past times that can never be revived. It is also quite poignant that with recent D Day celebrations an element of this is raised in the book. Another person wanted to Google Stephen and all his friends after finishing it then realizing they couldn’t as he doesn’t exist.
SPS: Is the idea to make it a standalone piece, or could there be future connected works??
MB: The next book is connected and with a further book I am thinking one or two characters might pop up again (the story of whatever happened to Eva Gunfrag in Berlin 1945 is appealing to me)
SPS: We always take a look at an author’s covers; how did your new covers come about?
MB: The original idea was to republish my two hounds books (The Hair Of The Hound and Hounds Of Winter), being two collection of prose I didn’t want them to get “lost”. I was then sent new covers for all my books the entire same theme and loved them. Under the banner of “Looking back to see ahead” it’s great that these books are being reprinted and reissued along with my new book.
SPS: What kind of responses have you received from people who have read your work?
MB: Amazing actually, some great comments and personal reviews. Some people “get it” especially the prose. Some of the pieces especially in the Hounds Of Winter were written with music in mind, pieces set against a background of falling snow and interestingly was asked recently by a musician if they could take some of my work and create music to go with the lyrics. I said yes at once.
SPS: What’s next on the self-publishing horizon for Mark Binmore?
MB: I have just completed another fictional biography – A Life Of Parties – The Story of Agatha Dewsbury. I felt there was so much behind her that needed to be said. We discover her childhood, how she got into writing, her love affairs, her scandals and find out whether or not she was a witness to murder. I have also started a follow on book “Take Down The Flags” which was inspired by watching VE celebrations recently. Six stories all set in May 1945 at the end of the war but for the people in each story they not waving the flags to celebrate the end of hostilities for a variety of reasons.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
MB: I think in this modern digital era of social networking, it is much easier, simpler and rewarding to get the work out there and be seen. Obviously it is great to have a huge publishing company behind you with an endless promotional budget but even then the books you see in September, these so called biographies of reality stars are usually in the bargain bucket come February. For me it’s also about discovering new writers, new talent that years ago you wouldn’t have been able to see.
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
MB: Yes and more so. I’ve done a few book tours and the response has been overwhelming and positive. It also makes you want to write more and more. It’s lovely as well when a tweet gets retweeted or you get a mention by someone famous, even at 43 years old, I still get that buzz, it’s the 70s child in me. Someone said tome recently you have a huge fan base in Germany, I quite liked that even the word “fan”, very 70s.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
MB: Write, write and write. Set aside just thirty minutes a day to write. When people say “Oh I’d love to but I just don’t have the time” I always suggest making time. Switch off the soaps, the reality shows, and the comedy repeats and write something. If you don’t start you never will. I’ve recently started back at the gym again and it’s the same thing. Instead of moaning about weight gain and muscle loss you have to start in order to make change. Change is good, so write.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
MB: Again I have a few biographies I am reading. I recently re-read the autobiography of British gymnast Louis Smith. I know what I’ve said before about reality stars writing books but this is kind of different, overcoming challenges and moving forward and achieving their goal. An inspiring read actually those actually made me go back in the gym and work. Perhaps these young biographies have their merit after all!
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Mark. All the best for the future!
MB: and thank you for all your support and tweets and messages. I’ve said it before but will say again, your publishing site is amazing, has increased sales and awareness not just for me but for other writers so I feel privileged to be part of your team.
SPS: For more information on Mark Binmore and his work, please do visit his Showcase Author page here.