Today on Landless, I interview Icy Sedgwick, a talented writer whose new book, "The Guns of Retribution", was released by Pulp Press this month.
Q. Icy, in a minute, I'll ask you about how long you've been writing, if you always wanted to be a writer, etc., but first... you're a native of the North of the U.K., and have returned to Newcastle after living in London for several years. However, your new book, "The Guns of Retribution" is a tale of gunslingers and bounty hunters set in the American West. What prompted you to write a Western? What's a nice girl like you doing in a genre like this?
Yes, my publisher and I have a feeling I may be the first Geordie girl to write a Western! A Western was one of the genres my publisher gave me as an option, and given my predilection for writing historical fiction, it seemed like the obvious choice. I’ve been fascinated by the Old West since I did it at school, I enjoy the movies, and I’d had an idea for a gunslinger character for a while, so it was all good timing. Besides, women write gritty crime fiction, so why not Westerns?
Q. Were Westerns a big influence on you? Who are some of your favorite Western authors?
I’ll be honest, I’d never really read the books, only seen the films, but I’d read plenty of Old West non-fiction. My publisher recommended some novels and I really enjoyed “Flashman and the Redskins” by George MacDonald Fraser. It's a really fun read.
Q. This book is quite different in setting and language than some of your other works. What are the commonalities between Westerns and, say, steampunk?
Locations and themes are very different but if you write Westerns OR steampunk, you have to pay attention to your historical research. Sure, steampunk is more alt-history, and deals with the likes of airships and steam engines, but you're not going to suddenly stick computers in the middle of a steampunk story, and the same goes for Westerns. It's the right detail used at the right moment that brings the stories to life, regardless of their genre.
Q. "The Guns of Retribution" is being published by Pulp Press. You also have works that you've published yourself. How does it feel having a foot on each side of The Great Divide?
I can see the appeal of self-publishing but if I'm honest, I prefer indie publishing. The very fact that someone has read your work and said they want to be involved with it is a massive confidence booster, and you get to work with people who really know what they're doing. Writing is a lonely business at the best of times, and indie publishing can help you feel a little less "lost at sea."
Q. So how long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
I can’t remember how long I’ve been writing – it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been scribbling little stories and so on, but it wasn't until I was 16 and did a creative writing course that I really thought "I want to be a writer." I've been working up to it ever since.
Q. You're beginning a graduate degree program later this year. That's got to be an exciting step. Can you tell us about it?
I've wanted to do my PhD ever since I finished my Masters degree but I was always put off by the cost. I've since looked into it and found it was more affordable than I thought it would be, so away I go! I'm going to be looking at the representation of haunted spaces in contemporary horror cinema, using Freud's theory of the uncanny as my starting point. I'll be looking at all sorts of things, include set design and generic convention, so it should be pretty interesting.
Q. How do you see your graduate program informing your writing? What's your next writing project?
I think that the fact it's based on a particular strand of horror means it should dovetail nicely with my fiction, although my next project is the sequel to The Guns of Retribution. I was going to work on my historical vampire project but Grey keeps dragging my attention back to the sequel. Things take a supernatural turn in this one...it seems I can't get away from ghosts!
Q. Westerns, steampunk, horror... Icy, what do you think of the advice that's often given to emerging writers about picking only one genre to work in? The thinking is that it's better to hone one's craft to mastery in a single style of writing than to work in multiple genres. Care to comment?
I can understand the rationale behind such a supposition but I think that an emerging writer should write whatever story comes to them. While you're learning your craft, it's important to try as much as you can - how can you know you like writing science fiction but you don't like writing comedy unless you try them all? The mechanics of storytelling are the same across all genres - once you start choosing particular genres all you're really learning are conventions. They're useful, but I think it's more important to learn how to tell the story first. Once you decide you want to start pursuing publication, then it's time to narrow down the number of genres in which you'd like to work. Then again, it's worth bearing in mind that genres operate in "families", so if you choose to write sci fi and horror, then new fans won't be surprised. They might be if you suddenly turn to chicklit.
Q. Do you think writing can be taught?
Definitely. I think the impulse towards storytelling is inherent within humans - we're social creatures, we make sense of our world through narratives. Writing is just a way of recording these stories. Some people are naturally more skilled at that than others, but the tools you can use to order your thoughts and tell a story in the best way are definitely available to everyone.
Q. Last question: John Wayne or Clint Eastwood?
Oh, Clint Eastwood every single time!
Icy Sedgwick is the author of the Western, "The Guns of Retribution", now available for Kindle at Amazon.com and at Amazon.co.uk. Icy is one of the bright lights of Twitter as @Icypop. You can find her on Facebook and on her blog, "Icy's Blunt Pencil" at http://blog.icysedgwick.com/.
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