Monday, April 02, 2007

Interview - Edward Cox, Storyteller

This is the first of two interviews with Ed. Here, we're covering his roles as reviewer and non-fiction writer. In the second part, we'll talk to Ed about his new book, "Living Stone," coming soon from Sam's Dot Publishing .

Edward lives in the Essex area of England and has just completed his BA Honours degree in creative writing at the University of Luton. He was first published in 1999 and hasn't looked back. He's a regular in the Sam's Dot Publishing world of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Check out Ed's websites:
Edward Cox - Storyteller
Ed's MySpace

Marva: Hi Ed. Besides working on becoming a world-famous author, you also write reviews for Aoife's Kiss. How do you go about reviewing? Off the top of your head when you've finished reading? Notes along the way?

Ed: A mixture of both, to be honest. Though I have to admit my broader view probably happens retrospectively. I find the hardest part of a review is the opening paragraph. I like to write a little on the subject matter - set the scene, if you like - before slipping into the review itself. I actually spend an astonishing amount of time researching my opening paragraphs. Yet, as is often the case, most of my research never gets used. I guess I just like to know what I’m talking about before I open my mouth.

The funny thing is, at university, I actually conducted a reviewing module, and thought it was imperially boring. Seriously, I bitched and moaned all the way through it, and even though my grades were good, I adamantly claimed I’d never be a reviewer. But somewhere along the line, I began to enjoy writing them, and now find they make a pleasant alternative to storytelling. And the bonus is I get lots of cool stuff to read for free! I’m also very lucky that Tyree Campbell appreciates the way I go around things, and gives me the room and freedom to be creative with my reviews.

I’d like to mention here that I believe there are a lot of problems with reviewing today; writers very often want to stamp their mark and opinions on somebody else’s work way too much. This, at least to me, seems to miss the point; it’s not about the reviewer, it’s about what’s being reviewed. I appreciate that the craft is a little like journalism, and it’s impossible to remain completely unbiased, but I can’t understand it when some reviewers want to exaggerate the bad in an author’s work simply because they’ve found a clever or humorous way to phrase it. Sadly, it happens a lot.

Now, I’ve been on the end of good and bad reviews in the past, and everybody’s entitled to their opinions. But I began to notice that the reviewers, who didn’t like my work, absolutely panned it - I mean they just crashed it to the ground in a very smug and supercilious way. Now, by that rationale, you’d expect the reviewers who liked my work to do the exact opposite, right? Gush praise upon praise on me. But they didn’t; they just dealt with the subject matter for what it was, and explored the nature of the work in an intelligent way. To my mind, that’s the essence of a good review.

Of course, I’m not saying that writers should always steer clear of the bad in their reviews. If you didn’t like something, and feel it’s important enough to mention, then mention it. Just be prepared to back it up with your reasons why in an intelligent, constructive way. You don’t need to be detrimental about the author or his work. Be sure you’re making a valid point, and not just expressing some weak personal opinion. I’ll give you a good example: I once read a review of a Michael Moorcock novel, and the reviewer said it was “crap”. The only reason he gave for his declaration was the fact that the book was a “fantasy story”. For one, you have to think: Dude, it’s Michael Moorcock, what the hell did you expect? And for two, what purpose did it really serve? What did he achieve, other than showing how easily a reviewer could make himself look stupid? He told me nothing, and I bought the book anyway, and thoroughly enjoyed it because it was fantasy.

However, the same has to go for praise. Every author wants to hear “Wow! Simply fantastic!” about their work - and I’m including myself here - but usually that kind of comment comes from someone who hasn’t familiarized him- or herself with the subject matter properly. Be creative, but be constructive. The reader wants to know what they might be buying here. “Wow” and “Crap” tells them nothing.

OK. To coin a favourite phrase of Tyree Campbell’s – end of rant…

Marva: By the way, I've included excerpts from two of your reviews in the next posts. The books are A TIME TO..., an anthology of the Best of Lorelei Signal, edited by Carol Hightshoe and THE DOG AT THE FOOT OF THE BED, by Tyree Campbell.

Also in the realm of non-fiction, your article, "For The Dead Move Fast" that originally appeared in Hungur Magazine was named one of the top ten in the Preditors/Editors poll and won first place for the James Award for non-fiction. What prompted you to write it? Do you plan on writing more articles in the future, in addition to fiction?

Ed: Winning the James was a big deal for me. Not only is it my first award, it’s also fantastic to gain recognition for my work, especially from the kind folks at Sam’s Dot Publishing who have been so good and encouraging to me over the past couple of years. They work tirelessly, for little reward, and ensure the smaller fish like me can find a voice in the independent press. I have nothing but praise and respect for each of them.

As for articles, I have to admit that I don’t have much inspiration for them. I like writing them, but subject matter doesn’t readily come to me. I’ve only written two to date, both for Sam’s Dot magazines, and on both occasions I was asked to write them. It seems that if an editor gets in touch and says, “Can you write an article on….” I can do it no problem. But, strangely, without that prompt, article writing doesn’t even occur to me. I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m just the type of boy who can’t say no.

Marva: Thanks for answering my silly questions. I appreciate your time.

Ed: Marva, the pleasure’s all mine. Thank you for having me.

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