I am very pleased to welcome Tess Makovesky on the blog today.
Tess Makovesky writes a distinctive brand of British comédie noir and her short stories have darkened the pages of various anthologies and magazines, including Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, Out of the Gutter Online, ‘Exiles: An Outsider Anthology’, ‘Drag Noir’ (Fox Spirit), ‘Rogue’ (Near to the Knuckle), and ‘Locked and Loaded’ (One Eye Press). Her debut novella, a psychological noir called ‘Raise the Blade’, is available now from Caffeine Nights Publishing.
You can follow her ramblings (both literary and literal) at her website or her blog. She also spends more time wittering on Facebook and Twitter than she probably should – and she’s very grateful to Christina for letting her witter on here too!
Welcome, Tess. Tell us a little bit about you…
Well, my biography says that I ‘roam the fells with a brolly, dreaming up new stories and startling the occasional sheep’. Which all sounds terribly romantic and Charlotte Bronte, but in reality I’m more likely to be found tied up in knots of uncertainty in my study, battling over my latest short story or novella. I write a weird mix of crime and pyschological noir with a healthy dose of gallows humour running through it – as seen in my debut novella ‘Raise the Blade’, which involves a serial killer and six victims trapped in a web of violence, as well as lots of Pink Floyd references and even the odd elephant or two.
Your inspiration for Raise the Blade?
It started out with a newspaper article about a body found in a Birmingham canal – and in fact the earliest version started with what’s now chapter 3, where Matt finds a body in a canal. However, like Topsy it grew, because I got interested in the motivations – not just of the character finding that body, but also who the body was, how it got there, and whether victims can ever contribute to their own fate. Then I realised that it was starting to mirror Brain Damage, one of my favourite Pink Floyd tracks, so I began to throw in references to that (including, obviously, the book’s title). And lastly the rather unconventional structure grew out of my own love of the short story form, and a desire to stitch a number of shorter, apparently unconnected pieces together to create one overall novella.
What’s your go-to favourite novel?
I don’t really have one stand-out favourite. I read voraciously (although rather more slowly these days) and tend to devour a book then move on to something new. However, there are a few that I go back to every now and again, including Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘Lymond’ series, Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, and ‘Rough Music’ by Patrick Gale.
Where and when do you write?
I write sitting at a desk in what I optimistically describe as my ‘study’ – really a 7 foot x 4 foot nursery tucked behind the bathroom at the back of our Victorian house. It overlooks a neighbouring garden and I can just about squash myself, my desk, chair, computer, and a shelf full of books in there, so there are plenty worse places to write. As to when I write, I’m not sure I ever really stop. Like most writers my brain keeps going even when I don’t and it can be hard to switch off. However, in physical terms of sitting at the computer and typing, I work a good if irregular 7-8 hours a day Monday to Friday. I try to give myself the weekends off, but that doesn’t always work!
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a complete pantser. All I really need is a general idea of what the book’s about and where it’s going, plus a title, the first few characters, and a first line, and then I’m off. Sometimes it all gets in a horrible muddle but often it works better than it sounds as though it would. If I take the time to make copious notes and plan chapter and verse, it sucks up all my creative energy and I have nothing left to write the book.
Do you do any research?
Most of my writing is about people – getting inside their heads, their emotions, their motivations, their daily lives and dialogue, so I probably need to do less research than authors whose books are more factually-based. I do still need to fact-check occasionally, though, and I’m afraid Google and Wikipedia are my standard tools of choice.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
A bit of both, although in general I tend to read less crime than I either should, or than other people expect me to given that I write so much of it. My favourite genre for reading is what I’d loosely describe as ‟women’s literature” – relationship-heavy books written by the likes of Joanna Trollope, Joanne Harris, and Patrick Gale. When I’m working hard on a book I sometimes prefer not to read anything too similar in case it colours the style of what I’m writing. Just lately, though, I’ve been reading more crime than usual, and thoroughly enjoying the change.
Your author heroes?
Dorothy Dunnett for the sheer amount and intensity of research she did. Mary Renault for writing books about ‟unconventional lifestyles” (which is how they were seen back then) and getting them published at a time when other writers seemingly couldn’t. The late Joel Lane for stoking the fires under my love of noir. On a personal level, Graham Smith for making ‘Raise the Blade’ possible, and Paul D Brazill for his endless cheerful support.