Steve Markham – One Of My Favourite Fast Fix Friends
As my readers know I have a huge amount of love and affection for fellow Fast Fix housemates Steve and Luke. We became very close on a rollercoaster ride we will never forget. The friendship between the three of us remains and I have no doubt it will carry on for the rest of our lives.
During my time at the house, Steve started telling me about a book he was writing and straight away I wanted to read it; I couldn’t wait. Steve is very articulate and funny so I knew it would be good. I wish you guys got to see more of us the real people in the house and our journies as opposed to what Coleen Nolan kept in her drawers! If they did you would have seen an amazing bond grow and the fantastic humour, support and love of friends develop in front of your eyes.
It Is With Great Pleasure
And now it is with great pleasure that I can announce that Steve’s first novel is now available to buy on Amazon. I fell in love with this guy immediately and I think you will too. Steve has very kindly answered some questions from me about his book, his writing and his inspirations and I am glad now I can share that with you.
Interview With Steve Markham
What is the title of your book?
It’s called Dallas Redbuck and the Cricklewood Revolution and tells the story of an ex-burlesque performer who tries to resurrect her career by opening a new nightclub but faces stiff opposition. It’s a humorous book or meant to be!
Where can people buy this book?
It’s available as an ebook for Kindle and as a paperback. Both are on Amazon. You can search by my name or by the title. (link to book above)
Can you please describe what the book is about?
Yes, plain old Elaine Redmond is an ex-burlesque performer who now lives a humdrum life and one day has an idea to open up a new nightclub. She’s never done anything like it before and her inexperience shows. She not only has to convince the council that it’s a good idea but also her formidable but naïve mother. There’s a little ‘whodunnit’ in there too but I won’t give too much away!
What is the first book that made you cry?
I can’t ever recall any book making me cry – it’s usually films and TV that have me turning the waterworks on. I live for the day the written word can evoke that kind of emotion in me.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Once you get started I feel very energised but then you have the worry of whether it’s good enough or too long or too short which can be draining. But I do enjoy the actual writing process.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
I once read a book called Frost Dancers by Gary Kilworth which was about hares. I thought it was absolutely magical but no one ever seems to have heard of it but it remains one of my favourites.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Funnily enough, I find writing about women a lot easier than writing about men! The main characters in my book are women and I think women make much stronger and funnier characters. I found it more difficult to get into a man’s head if you like.
How many hours a day do you write?
Depends on the day really. I work full time as a data analyst so often at night the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer screen. If it’s the weekend I can write all day but it varies. I don’t have set times either. I just do it as an when I feel like it – the beauty is not having deadlines to work to.
What did you edit out of this book?
I had some sort of idea about where this book was going but it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Skye (Elaine’s friend) had a much larger role in my mind when I was thinking about the book but Elaine’s mother took over. So although I had dialogue and plans for Skye they shifted over to Marlene (Elaine’s mum) instead.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Making up character names is so hard! You run through a load of names in your head but sometimes they sound cheesy or downright unbelievable. It may sound horribly morbid but I’ve been known to go through graveyards looking at names on headstones for inspiration and I’ll nick a forename from one tombstone and a surname from another. I was conscious when I was editing I had no end of Irish sounding names so I had to change a few. I was still left with McCorkindale, Malone and Finnegan – I haven’t a clue why I latched onto the Celtic vibe!
What was your hardest scene to write?
I think the scene where the consultant delivers bad news was particularly difficult. I didn’t want to go into too much technical detail and as the book is meant to be humorous I didn’t want to go down the shocking, heartbreaking route. But I do think pathos makes comedy work in some way. I had to write that scene a few times before I felt I’d got it right.
What is your favourite childhood book?
My all-time favourite is a book called ‘The Little Grey Men’ by B.B. (pen name for Denys Watkins-Pitchford) which is about the last 4 gnomes left in England. Written in 1942 it still has its charm and I took a copy on my Kindle into the Fast Fix clinic whilst we were filming. I’ve read it many times and its sequel and I’ve no doubt I’ll read it again before too long.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I’ve never written one before – well not for adults. I wrote two children’s books for my younger brothers when they were about 7 (they’re 40 now!) and I just wrote a chapter a day to read to them at night so I don’t have an average. This book took about 8 months to write in total.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I’m not sure I’d have wanted to write anything that wasn’t my own. I just appreciate others work and hope to get some kind of inspiration from it.
How important is research to you when writing a book?
Well, my research perhaps wasn’t as meticulous as it could have been. But I did do basic research about planning permissions and council procedures and the like. There was a lot of artistic licence but I wanted to at least get the basics right. Some of your readers are going to be very intelligent people and I want to respect that.
When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I dreamed of having a book on the shelves and now, with the advent of self-publishing, I have finally achieved it. But I used to create newsletters and mock newspapers as a child so I’ve always been a budding author.
What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything basically. I love to see words on a page and am usually impressed with authors who can master dialogue well. J. K. Rowling is particularly good at dialogue I think. So she’s my benchmark in that respect.
How often do you write?
As I mentioned before – as and when I feel like it. I can go a couple of weeks without writing anything at all. Some weeks I write a little bit each day.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?
No, not at all. I hate the thought of sitting in front of a keyboard and nothing comes out. I’ll get the idea for a new paragraph or some new dialogue when I’m walking to work and then can’t wait to get it down on paper.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Any author will tell you the first sentence is probably the hardest. I remember at school being told never to start with the word ‘It’ and that has stuck in my brain ever since. Once you’ve got a couple of lines down it does start to flow thankfully.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
Not particularly. I have an idea how many words I’d like to write but it doesn’t always work out that way. Being a new author I don’t want to make text overly long. As long as I’ve got across what I wanted to get across then I’m happy.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?
I have a basic plot but how I approached this book was that I would think of funny scenes and write these then slot them into the story. I tried to make these insertions as seamless as possible. But I think if I write another one I might sit down and plot it very carefully beforehand. But then again you never know where the story is going to take you. I’m not sure I want to be tied to a rigid plotline.
What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the right turn of phrase. Have I used that word/phrase before? People who read aren’t stupid. They know if you constantly use the same old phrases. There’s an author called Rebecca Shaw who was notorious for doing that and it irritated her readers so finding new ways to say something is particularly difficult.
What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?
I’d never say that writing was easy. You write what you think is a good piece then revisit it a day or so later and think ‘that’s rubbish’. Sometimes you can be your own worst critic.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read a fair bit but after a long day at work, I don’t want to be taxed by uber complex plots where you struggle to understand what’s going on. My favourite authors are J. K. Rowling, James Herbert and even Fern Britton!
What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
That’s it’s there to be read and enjoyed. Sometimes you get a book and wonder what the point of it was. I’d be horrified if I thought people thought that about mine.
Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?
Yes. You can do whatever you want to do – something I’m always telling my son. Don’t let people hold you back and never think you can’t do anything. My favourite quote appears at the front of my book – Nothing is impossible – the word itself says I’m possible – Audrey Hepburn.
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Write what you feel. You may have rubbishy days where you think what you write is not good enough but trawl through the rubbish looking for the specks of gold. You’ll get there.
What did you want to become when you were a kid?
I wanted to be a primary school teacher (can you imagine?). Although looking at the unruly behaviour of today’s children I’m not sure my nerves could stand it.
Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?
I learned to read at 5 and my appetite for books was insatiable. My parents bought me an Enid Blyton book called ‘The Book of Brownies’ (nothing to go with girl guides!!) and I adored it. I still have this battered but much-loved copy on my bookshelf with my parents writing in it dated Christmas 1970. It’s still one of my most treasured possessions.
What books have influenced your life the most?
As I don’t tend to go in for heavy going, meaningful books I’m not sure I’ve been inspired although I do like autobiographies where people have triumphed proving that you can do anything. Barbara Windsor’s autobiography sticks in my mind.
Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?
I’m reading Brandan Chase (another book by B.B.) at the moment. I think I missed out on this one when I was a child so making up for lost time.
Do you have a daily habit of writing?
I have to write in some form or another for work most days. I love getting things down on paper.
How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?
I’m very passionate about writing. I love to see something I created in print. It’s a massive feeling of pride. I wrote the foreword for Tracey’s book and I had to read it over and over again. Reading my own book thrills me. I just hope others feel the same way!
Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
I think it’s true that everyone has a book in them but some people are better than others. I don’t think my book is going to set the literary world alight but I wrote it because I wanted to and I’d be happy to read it. So that’s fine by me.
What do you do in your free time?
When I’m not writing or listening to music or drinking gin and tonic (not so much these days!) I love to tramp about the hills and dales with Paul. We love the freedom and silence.
Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?
I would like to think my younger self would be more assertive but there’s not much else I’d change.
How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
I opened a bottle of wine. Then I couldn’t wait to get a physical copy in my hands. Having something on your bookshelf with your name on it is an incredible feeling.
Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?
I hope (as do all authors) that I’m a little bit unique. I prefer to write humorously so I want people to think – yeah that’s Steve when they read my stuff. So I’m not looking to resemble anyone.
What other genres do you enjoy reading?
I like horror but only if the plot isn’t overly complicated. Love biographies and books about the countryside. Like the odd crime novel too.
When can the readers expect your next book in print?
Blimey. I’ve only just finished this one and I’ve already been asked by a number of people when the next one is coming out. I’ll definitely do another one. As soon as I’ve got some kind of plot. I don’t want to churn out books for the sake of it though. When the time is right I’ll start on a new book.
It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?
Totally. By the time I got to the end of this one, the characters were real to me. I felt like I’d known them forever. To the point where I’d think – nah- she’d NEVER do that…
If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favourite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
Um. Controversial but I really hate the thought of book clubs. I get out of a book what I want to get out of it. I’m not sure I need to share that with anyone else. I would just prefer to recommend a title, to be honest.
How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?
I like to have ABBA on in the background. Enough said there I feel! Drives Paul mad!
Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
No, I usually just commandeer the dining table. I don’t like shutting myself away but I don’t think I could sit in a café and write.
Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?
No, not at all. I’d talk out loud about how I was going to deal with a plotline – Paul wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
Have any of your past loves inspired characters in your books?
No. I try to avoid putting people I know in my books. I was tempted to write a book set in a workplace but the temptation to include people I worked with would have been overwhelming. And that would have been dangerous!
If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?
I’m happy writing humour. I wouldn’t feel confident writing about anything else at the moment although I have tackled children’s books which I may revisit at some point.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?
My parents both loved books but they didn’t force us to read. Although I loved the look and feel of books so I was a very enthusiastic reader. I could read, on my own, at 5.
How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?
I think they’ve made reading a lot more accessible but I still think there’s nothing better than having a physical copy in your hands.
How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
I’m not sure where it came from. I don’t know why I picked on an ex-burlesque performer. You could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather when one of my Fast Fix housemates turned out to be an ex-burlesque performer herself!
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
I love to make people laugh. Simple as. And I hope that comes across. Any feedback I get will tell me if I’ve achieved that.
How long have you been writing?
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Getting a start, a middle and an end. The plot ended up nothing like I’d imagined. But I think that was part of the attraction.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The whole process. Creating the characters, developing them. They became my friends by the end of it.
Steve Markham And His New Book
I can’t wait to get my signed copy. I really enjoyed that interview and hope you did too.
Thank you, Steve, I’m so very proud of you and give Paul a hug from me.
I wonder what the second novel should be about. Really looking forward to that one.
I think I shall do some more interviews so watch this space for that one.