Jukebox Time got a chance to interview Alec Reid in regard to his book For Her Bones. We got insights into his book, his source of inspiration and much more.
Q. Welcome to Jukebox Time! How are you doing?
Alec Reid: I’m glad to be here. All is well.
Q. Please tell us about your wonderful new book For Her Bones.
Alec Reid: It is a collection of dark tales. They are probably best described as ghost/comic-horror stories, although a ghost does not always reveal itself and the horror is sometimes implicit rather than in your face. However, I did try to make sure every story has enough atmosphere and suspense to provoke a strong feeling of unease within the reader. Perhaps this video will help set the tone:
Q. What inspired you to write this book?
Alec Reid: It began with a party! A long while ago my good friend John Telfer, who will get another mention later in this interview, and his wife, Lin, decided to throw a Halloween party. Each guest was required to bring along a ghost story to read aloud. I decided to write one of my own, ‘Last Dance Saloon’. It ended up being far too long to read at a party, so there was nothing for it but to sit down and write another, called ‘Under the Bridge’. It fitted the bill, a jolly time was had by all and I pretty much forgot about the whole thing.
But not entirely. A few years later bits of ideas began to rattle in my brain, no more than fragments really, but enough to get me started. After all, two finished stories were already lying dormant in my laptop. Maybe I could come up with enough material for a whole book. Perhaps. Trouble was that, although I have written professionally since my early twenties, plays, documentaries, poetry and journalism, none of them had the same word-count as a full-length book. And, as all writers know, the hardest part is staying glued to the chair. Then I remembered that some of my friends were churning out books. Peer pressure.
But your question was about inspiration. Mine was the thought that chilling though many of them are, the classic ghost stories generally take place in a hermetically sealed environment, or somewhere otherwise separated from daily life. Yet here we are in the twenty-first century. Surely, ghosts, terrors and supernatural events should not be vanquished by technology and social media? They should retain their power anywhere, on the daily commute, in front of the computer and in all places where people gather together in broad daylight. I wanted to show that terror does not need darkness in order to thrive.
Those were the stories I wanted to tell. Those stories made me finish the book.
Q. Any tips, experiences or advise you would like to share with all the aspiring writers out there?
Alec Reid: This is the toughest question. Sometimes writers offer advice that barely disguises their motivation: ‘I want you to write a bit like I do, only not as well.’ Yes, writers can be simultaneously vain and insecure. Perhaps it’s best to be wary of their advice, including mine.
It’s easier to talk about the nuts and bolts of writing, pointing out a structural problem, suggesting cuts and so on, but then any good editor should be able to do that. For general advice, I can only offer my own perspective.
Until I was thirty, I thought writing was something everybody did, so why shouldn’t I write too? However, as my day job involved working with creative people all the time, it was an observation without merit. Instead, I will tentatively offer a few thoughts based on longer experience.
First of all, why write at all? No one asked you to and there are millions of good books out there. The answer is, of course, you must, but only do so if you feel you absolutely have to until it becomes too uncomfortable for you not to. Oh, and don’t read guff about the ‘market’. It can only be about what sells today, not what is likely to sell tomorrow. It will do nothing to turn you into a writer. That said, if there is a genre you really like, and you feel you have something to offer there, go for it.
If you find that to gain ease of mind you need to write and that trick of the brain never quite leaves you, I have some good news. You will get better at it. There was a decent theory that genius or near-genius equates to around 10,000 hours of work. I suppose what I am saying here is, keep writing.
It doesn’t have to be every day. Take a break. Wait until the pressure builds within you, although, when you do get back to it, you may be in for a shock. For the first week or so, maybe more, it will be harder work than you remember. Naturally. It’s like going to the gym or taking any other exercise after a long break. Give it a week or two and the muscles start to respond as they should. The brain sometimes needs toning up too.
Q. You are into multi-disciplinary fields! Can we expect a musical or a radio drama in the near future? Also, which book or projects are you working on now?
Alec Reid: ‘Muscles! The Musical’ is a long-standing project that I have never lost sight of. I wrote a book and lyrics, with music by the actor/composer, John Telfer – I said I would mention him again. It is set in a 1980s boxing gym. The owner wants to take it up-market, much to the dismay of the trainer and a promising young boxer. One evening, a group of women on an office night out come charging in, mistaking the gym for the new night-club next door. No more spoilers: the show develops into an ensemble rom-com with happiness and the future of the gym at stake.
Some years ago we were given a far too early production in an off West End theatre. It achieved good reviews and ‘House Full’ notices, but there was still much to do. John and I continued to work on it and recently we tested it at a public reading, where it received a standing ovation. All well and good, but now we have the difficult job of trying to raise the money for a bigger production. We have a potential producer who is going to see what he can do in. That respect, but it won’t be easy. Wish us luck!
Q. Finally, as we ask all our guests on Jukebox Time, do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with the world and our readers?