Borders and Boundaries

On this all new episode of We’d Like A Word, we talk borders and boundaries with two authors whose work deals with separation.

Asia Mackay

Asia Mackay is the author of the highly acclaimed and witty spy thriller Killing it and its recently published sequel, The Nursery. It tells the story of Lex Tyler – covert operative, assassin … and mother. As the cover blurb says, ‘Bad guys can wait. Bedtime can’t.’ Asia tells us all about the genesis of the character and how she maintains the boundaries between being a mum and being an author while her heroine struggles not to blur her work and home life too. We also talk about real life female spies, the ‘Sexy Lamp Test’ and other measures authors can use to make sure that their work has the right balance of male and female characters.

Brian McGilloway

We then turn to Brian McGilloway, New York Times bestselling author of the DS Lucy Black thrillers and Inspector Devlin mysteries. Many of his books are set on or near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and he is fascinated by the lives of the people who live there. He is also a working teacher and has to find ways to keep his writing – which can be quite violent and visceral – separate from the rest of his life. As someone who is in a position to inspire young minds and the next generation of writers, how does he balance the two sides?

It’s a fascinating episode with two great writers and we hope you enjoy it.

Books mentioned are:

The Sexy Lamp Test

The Bechdel Test

The Mako Mori Test

The Furiosa Test

Doing It Yourself (and Doing It …)

In this new (and bonus length) episode of We’d Like A Word, Paul and Stevyn talk to authors Jake O’Kelly (in the studio) and Andrew Chapman (via phone) about self-publishing, the value of beta readers and the importance of good covers. We also talk about gay fiction and about writing sex scenes … because so few people seem to do it well and a great many authors (including your hosts) haven’t yet been brave enough to try. Why is writing a sex scene so hard? (Oo-er) And is it more difficult to write sex scenes that are outside of your comfort zone e.g. a gay author writing a hetero scene? It’s a fascinating discussion. Oh, and apologies for the slight background noise – there was a very excitable radio show going on in the studio next door to us.

Available as a podcast from Thursday 21st November on iTunes, Spotify, Anchor FM, Google podcasts and wherever good podcasts are hosted.

As always, do get in touch if you fancy answering this show’s brain-teaser or to suggest topics for us to cover. Email us at wedlikeaword@gmail.com plus you can find us on Twitter and Facebook as @wedlikeaword.

Paul, Jake O’Kelly and Stevyn

Andrew Chapman

Jake O’Kelly is the author of The Smell of Good Decisions, a near-dystopian near-future thriller set in his home town of San Francisco in which four people become the unwilling victims of a military experiment to weaponise the human olfactory system. He was formerly the head of publicity for Amazon Publishing and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). He now works for online developers Mozilla (creators of Firefox and other well-known software). Website

Andrew Chapman, with the full support of his family, gave up his job to ‘have a go’ at being a writer. He has self-published two very well received books Tripping the Night Fantastic – a booze-sodden and occasionally surreal whodunit – and The Accidental Scoundrel in which the hero discovers that, in order to marry his girlfriend, he has to join her eccentric father’s gang of gentlemen thieves. Andrew’s next book has recently attracted the attentions of traditional publishers and he hopes that he may not have to live in a caravan for much longer. Website

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

99Designs – to get book covers, logos etc. designed

ACX – to get affordable audiobooks made

The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award

And here are the San Diego Comicon photos that Stevyn mentions (and it was 2008 not 2005 – his memory isn’t what it was, obviously) …

Photos Copyright (c) Stevyn Colgan

Books mentioned in this episode:

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Taken by the T Rex by Alara Branwen and Christie Sims

List of the Lost by Morrissey

Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclapp by Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan

Listen to the Banned

The new episode of We’d Like A Word is here and in this episode Paul and Stevyn are talking to US author Alan Drew about his books and about the topic of censorship.

Alan Drew is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel Gardens of Water and the taut thriller Shadow Man. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and associate professor of English at Villanova University, where he directs the creative writing program. He lives near Philadelphia with his wife and family.

Alan’s first book Gardens of Water follows the story of two families during a massive earthquake in Turkey in 1999. And, as Alan explains, the story brought him into conflict with the Turkish authorities.

It prompted us to look at books that people have tried to censor or ban altogether … and we found more than a few surprises. Just cast your eyes over this list on Wikipedia.

The American Library Association also publishes an interesting list of the Top Ten, year by year, of the most challenged books.

Banned Books Week takes place every September and the website has some interesting resources.

Enjoy the podcast.

Gold Finch

On our latest episode of We’d Like a Word, we are delighted to welcome Alison Finch, BBC Radio’s ‘Books Bitch’ (as she calls herself). Alison is the person who decides what books get promoted on shows like Front Row, Saturday Live, Open Book, Woman’s Hour, Loose Ends and many more for Radio 4, Radio 3 and the World Service.

We celebrate inspirational librarians and small press publishers, and discuss why there should be fewer books and how authors get chosen to appear on the radio.

Available on iTunes, Spotify, Anchor FM and anywhere else you find good podcasts.

Among the books we mention in this episode are:

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Everisto (this year’s joint Booker winner)

The Dark Gentleman – G B Stern

You will be Safe here – Damian Barr

Vernon God Little – D B C Pierre

Skios – Michael Frayn

To Calais in Ordinary Time – James Meek

Stories for South Asian Supergirls – Raj Kaur Khaira

The Wake – Paul Kingsnorth

Girl – Edna O’Brien

Lost for Words – Edward St Aubyn

The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee

Also mentioned are The Pigeonhole, Bluemoose Books and Abebooks

The First Six Months

It’s been a pretty cool first six months for the We’d Like A Word podcast. We’ve met some stellar writers like Anthony Horowitz, Will Dean, Belinda Bauer, Adrian McKinty, Helen Cullen, Matt Wesolowski, Aiden Conway, Denise Mina and Gerard Brennan. We’ve discussed fly sex with Dr Erica McAlister, got squiffy in Richard Walmsley’s kitchen while taking about books set in Italy, and we’ve discussed bum reading – or rumpology – with Odditorium curator Dr David Bramwell. We’ve been philosophical with Jamie Cawley and had a good laugh with the legend that is Graham Norton. But it hasn’t all been writers; we’ve also talked to publicist extraordinaire Angela McMahon and, in future episodes we’ll be talking to editors, agents, book commissioners and the lady who decides what gets to air on Radio 4. We’re planning future shows to discuss poetry, songwriting and book design.

But what would YOU like to hear about?

Please email us at wedlikeaword@gmail.com

Because we’d like a word (or two) from you.

Paul and Steve

Writing advice from Anthony Horowitz

We try to ask our We’d Like A Word guests to share a writing tip for other authors and aspiring authors.

This one comes from Anthony Horowitz, who you can also hear at fascinating length on our podcast which is about Life After Death: Giving new life to classic characters after their original authors have died. Like Anthony Horowitz does with James Bond and Sherlock Holmes.

David Bramwell’s Odditorium, weird bum reading and Jacob Rees Mogg

Dr David Bramwell

‘A small Odditorium’ featuring Dr David Bramwell. In this episode author, musician, truth-seeker, Utopian and all round oddfellow Dr David Bramwell discusses bum readers, the world’s largest underground temple, a haunted moustache, Jacob Rees Mogg and singalonga Wicker Man. And we’ll be asking … is Milton Keynes the new Stonehenge?

Our competition question is: What is the official term for a bum reader? Listen to the podcast and email your answer to wedlikeaword@gmail.com


Anthony Horowitz on James Bond & giving life after death

Anthony Horowitz looking like he’s up in front of a firing squad. Picture taken at the wonderful Noireland international crime fiction festival in Belfast.

Anthony Horowitz admits he’s a killer. Dozens of times over. The thing is, we’re not just talking about the dozens and dozens he’s dispatched in the pages of his many books or TV shows like Midsommer Murders and Foyle’s War. But that’s all I’m saying here. You can hear his startling revelations from his own mouth on the latest episode of We’d Like A Word.

Our official topic is life after death – whether it’s right for new authors to give extended life to characters after their original authors have died. Anthony Horowitz does it – and does it well – with Sherlock Holmes and most recently with James Bond in Forever and A Day. (You can win a copy of that in the competition – details on the podcast.)

But we talk about a lot else and a lot of other authors, in particular Sophie Hannah, who has brought Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot back to life.

You’ll also hear Anthony Horowitz read from his James Bond book, let slip his views on Brexit, villains and where he writes.

Graham Norton – can celebs write good fiction?

Graham Norton and Stevyn Colgan on We’d Like A Word

It’s Graham Norton! Yes, that Graham Norton on We’d Like A Word. Talking about his own writing and whether celebrities can ever be good authors? It’s on the radio at 7pm UK time tonight (Wednesday 8th May 2019) Wycombe Sound 106.6 FM. And then via the podcast afterwards.

Graham Norton – comedian, TV star and Father Ted legend – tells us about his other life as an author. He’s written two novels – Holding and now A Keeper. But are they any good? Are they funny? Are they even supposed to be? Do celebrities famous for something entirely different make good writers? Graham Norton may be hilARious (he is), but can he write? You’ll have to listen to this episode of We’d Like A Word to find out. He reads from his second novel A Keeper, talks about how he writes, how he gathers material and about Ireland. There’s also a competition to win one of Graham’s books – but you’ll have to listen to find out.

Writing advice from Will Dean

Some of our We’d Like A Word guests have been kind enough (and sometimes we’ve been organised enough) to provide their writing tips for other authors and aspiring authors.

This one comes from Will Dean, the author of Dark Pines and Red Snow– who you can also hear at fascinating length on our podcast which asks – Is Scandi Noir still Sandi Noir if it’s written by a Brit?