Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Tush's Ten: Stevie Carroll talks music, graveyards, and Seven for the Devil

It is with great pleasure that I welcome writer Stevie Carroll to my blog to promote her new book of short stories 'A Series of Ordinary Adventures'

(Worth mentioning that Stevie first won my heart with her short story in the 2011 Tea & Crumpet Anthology, titled, 'The Utterly True Story of Guy Alien and the Rise and Fall of His Band, X-Wing')

Over to Stevie! :-)

About The Author

1. Who are you, and where do you come from?

I'm a medical writer by day and author of fantasy, SF and mystery fiction the rest of the time. Originally from Derbyshire, I went to university in Edinburgh, and have been working my way southwards ever since. I've now reached the coast, so at some point I'll probably have to move north again if I don't want to fall into the English channel.

I have a livejournal which may explain things in more detail.

2. Describe your writing style in three words:

Diverse, literary fantastika.

3. What inspires you to write?

I get my inspiration from everywhere. Mostly I see either the setting or one of the characters first, and then start to wonder how everything else fits together. I take a lot of photographs, and many of my story ideas come from those, or I dip back into my collections to ensure the details are accurate.

4. What are your stories about?

People, first and foremost. I'm fascinated by the wide range of backgrounds and characters I see in the population around me, and I try to have my writing reflect that. I also like to include places, and parts of history, that other writers tend to gloss over or miss out altogether.

5. Read any good book(s) lately?

I have a GoodreadsAuthor Page and try to give fair reviews to all the books I finish. Two that have stood out recently were The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, which did a wonderful job of combining text, art and old photographs, and Daughters of War by Hilary Green, which is the first book in a trilogy about the British women who went out to the Balkans prior to the First World War and nursed the casualties of the conflict out there. Both those books show how a talented author can take detailed historical research and turn it into a ripping adventure yarn.

Portchester Castle, picture taken by Stevie Carroll.

About The Book

'A Series of Ordinary Adventures'

1. How would you describe your book?

It's a collection of seven short stories (including two novellas) about extraordinary and fantastical events involving everyday British people. Six stories are set in England, and based on places I know well, while the other is set mainly on Crete at Knossos, which I visited twice while at school.

There's magickal realism, a ghost story, horror and a smidgin of Greek mythology. Plus some romance.

2. What's all this about graveyards, then? Where is that story set?

One of the novellas, 'Seven for the Devil', involves several graveyards based on some I've visited in Norfolk and Suffolk. It's the story of Michael, a rock'n'roll/psychobilly double bass player, who at the beginning of the story is recovering from an accident and mourning the deaths of his band mates. He's offered the chance to bring them all back, but he finds out that deals with strange men offering the seemingly impossible never quite turn out as expected.

Highgate West Cemetary, picture taken by Stevie Carroll.

3. Is this a love story?

In a way. Michael's had feelings for one of the band's vocalists, Patricia, for a long time, and discovers that she also liked him when it's possibly too late. But it might not be, as you'll see when you read the story.

Some of my other stories are more conventionally romantic, though: 'Charmed by Prince Charming' is all about the first date for Ash and Colin, two actors in a theatre company that puts on Shakespeare in the summer and pantomime in the winter, and 'The Footballer's Mistress' tells of a ghost who falls for the new tenant of one of the flats she's haunting.

4. Are the characters based on anyone?

None of them are based on any individual person: they're all composites, although I'd love to meet certain of them, and would go out of my way to avoid some of the others.

5. If your book was a movie, who would play your characters, and what would your budget be?

That's a tough one. I think I'd prefer a BBC miniseries with unknown actors and a relatively low budget. These are British stories after all ;-)

Highgate West Cemetary, picture taken by Stevie Carroll.

Excerpt from 
'Seven for the Devil'

It took another two rounds before he could even think of raising the subject with Jimmy. Returning from the bar with another pint of the Fire and Brimblywood, by far his favourite of the current guest beers, a bottle of cider for Jimmy, and a double whiskey for himself, Michael thought he caught sight of a dark figure lurking by the quiz machine. When he looked again, however, there was just the usual bunch of pissed-up rugby players squabbling over their answers.

“A funny thing happened to me on the way back from the cemetery today.” He took a large gulp of whiskey, the burn as it went down his throat strangely reassuring.

“Funny ha-ha, or funny peculiar?”

“Funny peculiar. Odd. Creepy.”

“Well, if you hang around in old graveyards...” Jimmy took a long pull from his bottle.

“No, it wasn’t in the graveyard. It was afterwards.” Michael had another gulp of whiskey. “I got a lift back, because I had two flat tyres.” He paused, realising how unlikely his story seemed against the bright fluorescent lights of the Eagle’s main bar.

“You want any help with them?” Jimmy picked at his bottle’s label. “I could drive over in the morning, and fetch you back to mine. Much easier working in the garage than in that rubbish dump you call a garden.”

Michael ignored the jibe. He’d be moving to a better place soon enough, once he decided where he wanted to live.

“The guy that gave me a lift, he looked like one of those old blues guys. He asked me some really off questions.”

“Pervert, was he? You should be more careful, accepting lifts from strangers.”

“Not that sort of creepy. More like ‘I want to buy your soul’ kind of creepy. He asked...” Michael finished his whiskey. “He asked if I’d be prepared to give up my chance of fame to get the guys from the band back. More than that. It felt like he was offering me the chance to be famous, then offering to take it away so I could have the guys back.”

“A charlatan.” Jimmy fixed Michael with a sky-blue stare. “What have I told you about wearing that fancy watch of yours in public? He could see you’ve got money hidden away somewhere, and wanted a piece of it.”

Michael looked down at the table, where a wasp was weaving drunkenly away from a patch of spilled beer. The old man had never once mentioned money. Then again, he’d never outright mentioned wanting Michael’s soul either.

“I see it all the time.” Jimmy leaned across the table and patted Michael’s shoulder. “Fellows like that don’t just prey on little old ladies, you know. He spotted the jewellery, remembered your face from the papers, and thought he’d try his luck. For all you know, he’s been keeping tabs on you for a while.”

“A con artist? A hustler?” He liked that series, and the hidden camera version, where they conned unsuspecting members of the public before showing how the tricks were done.

“That compensation you got was reported in the nationals. Someone was bound to try and fiddle you out of it eventually.”

“So you don’t think...” Michael made a start on his pint. “You don’t think he was the devil?”

“What? Like the old Robert Johnson story? That never happened, you know. It was just spread around by reporters who couldn’t understand how he could play so well.”

“But surely you believe in the devil?”

“Not like that. The devil is the evil that lurks in people’s hearts, preventing them from reaching their true potential for good. Not some bloke driving around East Anglia tempting injured musicians
to throw away their life’s savings.”

* * *

 St Boniface Church, all pictures by Stevie Carroll.

Holy Trinity Church.

Thank you for playing Tush's Ten, Stevie! :-)


Listen to me read an excerpt: Candlemark & Gleam

Read the first story in the collection via BookBuzzr


  1. Thank you for hosting me.

    I'm glad to see that you liked Guy's story from last year too.

    1. In this low budget series who would play Mr Singh? I have to know. :)

      Grand interview, gals.

    2. I'd like to know who would play Michael :-)