Tag Archives: plays

**Friends and Traitors Blog Tour** Getting to Know John Lawton.

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome John Lawton to the blog. His latest novel ‘Friends and Traitors‘ is available now. 

Many thanks to John for taking the time to answer my questions today.

Vic x

Nick Shot Close

Tell us about your books, what inspired them?
I really don’t know. I’ve written most of my life. Certainly since 1957 when I first encountered Shakespeare’s history plays. And in the years that followed, since you can’t imitate Shakespeare’s dialogue unless you’re Tom Stoppard (and whoever watched or read him for his plots?), I came under the influence of writers who were writing stunning dialogue. My first sight of a Pinter play about three years later is still vivid.

Peter Cook’s EL Wisty monologues were compulsive and when the Dagenham Dialogues with Dudley Moore came along … well, I think I learnt as much from them as I did from Pinter. The really odd thing is the switch from writing drama to writing novels, which happened about 1983 … cause? … failure. Wasn’t getting anywhere as a playwright. That said, much of what I write, certainly in earlier drafts, strikes me as reading like a two-hander play. That’s how most of my books begin  … two voices talking in my head.

A taste for dialogue, a course in Russian at University, reading Gorky Park, watching Ian McEwan’s The Imitation Game (not the recent film of the same name) all fuelled the plot line that became my first Troy novel.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Dunno where they come from, but I know where they arrive. Usually in trains, and almost as often out walking. I do a lot of walking.

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
I think my favourite scene might be towards the end of A Little White Death, when Tara Ffitch takes about a page to slam the morality that put her in court. I stand by every word of that. And I’m quite partial to the scene in Friends and Traitors when Guy Burgess rattles off the list of things he misses in his Russian exile. My favourite characters would be among the minor figures … Fish Wally in two or three novels, and Swift Eddie in most of them — a part I wrote hoping Warren Clarke would play him one day.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Not sure I quite understand the question, but I usually have a plot fully worked out in my head before I write a word. Only book I’ve ever plotted on paper was Black Out.

Can you read when you’re working on a piece of writing?
Yes. But not books by anyone doing what I’m doing.

I spent last autumn on a Mick Herron binge, and I think I’ve just begun a Timothy Hallinan binge. Neither of them write historicals.

I keep picking up and putting down Illusions Perdues. I think I might have to wait for a new, better translation, but if that theory works why do I have six different translations of Ovid?

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
“Write a book a year and take control of your life” – Gore Vidal. Somewhere I still have the letter.

I’ve never been able to do that of course. Come to think of it, I turned down a book-a-year offer from Penguin ages ago. I’m a fan of Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series which appears very regularly and I don’t know how he does it. My ‘mentor’ Ariana Franklin got up to a book a year in her seventies, but I honestly think it was exhausting for her. With hindsight I wish she’d slowed down. So good advice as yet unheeded.

What can readers expect from your books?
Writer vanity prompts me to say that I hope I can shatter expectations with the odd surprise, but a running character creates expectations otherwise she/he would be rather inconsistent. So expect politics, romance, a touch of mayhem. Do not expect a who-dunnit, as my books can bang on for another fifty pages after the who of dunnit is obvious. I cannot change Troy’s character, he will change only as the time-setting of the novels change (and I’ve never liked the idea of fiction existing outside of time …  Troy ages and hence changes) but I quite deliberately move the locations around. Black Out is set entirely in London, with Old Flames I went rural and in Friends & Traitors has a lengthy continental journey before settling back in London.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Yep. Abandon all social media. Leave it to Trump, he’s welcome to it. I am looking forward to his ‘Twitts from Prison’. Shut down your twitt and bookface accounts, resign from your readers & writers group, bin your iphone, stop talking about writing and write.

If anyone asks why they haven’t seen much of you lately tell them you’ve been studying for the civil service entry exam and are hoping for a job with the ministry of [fill in blank as appropriate]. My usual choice is the ‘White Fish Authority.’ Such a wonderful name for a government ministry, alas it shut up shop in 1981. I wonder if there was ever a ‘Chips and Mushy Peas Marketing Board’?

What do you like and dislike about writing?
Like … the doing of it. One of the best narcotics around and it’s free.

Dislike … promoting a book. Best regarded as a necessary evil. I hate being photographed. (Sorry, Ali Karim.)

Are you writing anything at the moment?
Yep. Third book in the Wilderness trilogy. And another game of with Zoë Sharp. All done by email as we live in different countries.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
Dunno. I live by writing, which I consider most fortunate, but to say my moment was the first time I received a fat cheque would be both crass and untrue. I’m not interested in prizes, the gongs and daggers, and winning one didn’t engage with me much. I think it has to be ‘finishing-summat-that-had-me really-foxed’  … which has happened from time to time, but I’m not saying which book or books it was.

Review of 2015: Mhairi Ledgerwood

OK, so due to the blog being on lockdown at the end of 2014, we didn’t get the opportunity to hear how 2014 had treated some of our favourite folks. Well, we’re back with a bang this year!

Mhairi Ledgerwood, a wonderful playwright and all-round lovely lady, is here to open the series with her review of 2015 and by all accounts, it’s been a cracking year for her. Oh, and today just happens to be her ninth wedding anniversary – congratulations to Mhairi and her husband, David!

Thanks for being involved Mhairi!

Vic x

Mhairi Ledgerwood

2015 was an incredible year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

Stepping onto the film set of “Hummingbird”. “Hummingbird” was a short play that I wrote which had a reading at the ARC and The Traverse in 2014. At the start of this year, I decided to be brave and send it to Dan Perry –a film-maker and fellow writer that I met on the Creative Writing MA at Teesside University in 2010. I’ve loved films since I was a teenager, but never thought I’d be in the position to have one made. Dan said yes and it was filmed in June of this year. I went to have a peak at the set just before we started filming and seeing the green screen set up, the set, the film-making equipment… to go from being a teenager in my bedroom reading films scripts bought from Waterstones to seeing something that I’d written about to get made… Yeah, I won’t forget that in a hurry. Dan’s a great guy, it was fantastic being able to get the chance to work with him professionally. It’s being edited just now so looking forward to seeing the finished film!

Hummingbird set

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?

Man, so many! Non-professionally, my husband David took part in the London Marathon and that was an amazing experience. Even as a non-runner, I got swept up in the atmosphere of the whole weekend. There was also 8 weeks spent at the ARC over May/June where each member of the Writers ARCADE group had a rehearsed reading of a play they’d written. To be part of that was incredible, getting to see everyone’s plays, what they’d been working on… I’ve been a part of that group since it was founded and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come as a group. Yes, I had to write one of the plays, but as a theatre fan, getting to see 7 other readings every week over the course of two months – I loved it!

ARCADE rehearsed reading

Favourite book in 2015?

The Paying Guests” – Sarah Waters. I don’t often get the time to read books (too busy reading plays) but I love her work, so made sure I kept an eye out for this. She also writes stories either before, during, or after WW2, with really strong female characters.

Favourite film of 2015?

I try and see all the Oscar nominees (time dependent!) and loved “Whiplash”. Incredible performances from the two leads.

Favourite song of the year?

Again, so hard to choose! I’ve been keeping a Spotify list all year called “2015” where I save songs that come up at certain times; there’s the ones on there that I played a lot while writing my ARC play, or ones I heard from West End shows I’ve seen this year. If we’re looking for something that was released this year then “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, I really like that.

Any downsides for you in 2015?

Terrible time management! I could be a lot better at this.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

Less faffing. More writing/cleaning.

What are you hoping for from 2016?

I’ve been really lucky the past couple of years to have had several rehearsed readings of plays on in venues around the north-east. 2015 saw my first 60 minute play being presented. I would love for 2016 to be the year that I have a full production of a full length play that I’ve written. I would love a play on at the Edinburgh Fringe. To see “Hummingbird” accepted to a short film festival. I’m co-writing a play called “Signal Change” with a friend of mine that had ten minutes previewed at Northern Stage in October – we’ve already written more, so am really looking forward to what’s going to happen with that in 2016.

New Talent Being Showcased.

January can be a pretty boring time after the December rush of Christmas parties, friendly catch-ups and family get-togethers. People are skint, they’re on diets and there’s generally not much going on. However, ARC Stockton are looking to change that. On Wednesday, 30th January, they’re holding their first Scratch Night of 2013.

After the success of their first new writing Scratch Night and their Short Sharp Festival, ARC are bringing you an evening of 8 rehearsed readings of exciting new short plays by members of Writers ARCADE: their new writing group for emerging playwrights.  Local actors and directors have been working in collaboration with these new promising writers to stage their ten minute plays for your all important feedback. Here’s a preview of some of the work being showcased.

A Small Donation by Louise Taylor.

Beth is. Alex definitely is. Kerry thinks she is, because she doesn’t really know what ‘it’ is. Are you? How much is it worth to you? And what would you be willing to give it up for?

Radio by Mhairi Ledgerwood.

Mam can never do the right thing, while Stephanie is trying to hold the family together. Andy wants a bedtime story, but it may come at a high price. How much value should we place on art and is it worth fighting for?

Unpaid Leave by Allison Davies.
Higgs is off on sabbatical, but first she needs to find a suitable replacement. Might Tio be up to the job of running the show or will he be shown the door? Only time will tell.

The evening is held at ARC Stockton Arts Centre, Dovecot Street, TS18 1LL Stockton-on-Tees.

Tickets are £3.00 and free for ARCADE members. Book here or email box.office@arconline.co.uk or ring the box office on 01642 525199. Be quick, ARC’s last Scratch Night was a sell-out!

Vic x