Shortbreader Interview: Chris and Adam

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Shortbreader Interview: Chris and Adam

4 years ago

Introducing the fourth Shortbreader Interview. The last interview was between Anthony Wobbe talks to Diane Dickson. This week we have Chris Donaldson talking to Adam West.

Chris: Hi there mate. Thanks for submitting to interrogation.  No, I won't untie your hands until we're done, now relax and look at the light...  You are more than a regular to ShortbreadStories, and undoubtedly one of its most prolific contributors. When did you discover it and what drew you in?

Adam: Hi there Chris. Yes I know I'm sweating. What did you expect? I can assure you though I am relaxed. Kind of. It's a Zen thing I've been experimenting with. I have a question before we begin if that's okay? Well, two actually.

Do you have a licence for all that electrical equipment? And, won't two electrodes be sufficient to get me to talk?

Fine. You seem to know what you're doing. First question. Yes. I discovered Shortbread when I was about six years old. Dad brought some back from Glasgow in a tartan patterned tin.

Okay. Okay! Turn the voltage down won't you? I promise to cooperate.

That's better, Chris. In fact, it's quite pleasant actually. Moving on. It was just over three years ago I ran aground, I mean ashore, in Shortbread land - I came across a link somewhere on the BBC website and have been here ever since.

Chris: Without being nosy, does your domestic situation allow you as much time to create as you would like?

Adam: If my Agent, Clive, Aka Sir Lord Colonel Fotherington-Smythe gets me that seventh book, one hundred thousand pound advance deal he's being promising, I might spend more time being 'creative'. Otherwise what's the point of writing? Seriously though, I do have the time. Especially now both of our offspring have done a bunk, and Mabel, our ageing, slightly incontinent Border Terrier bitch is satisfied with a quick one-two round the block trailing on behind my mobility scooter (I kid you not).

Chris: Your material on the site is quite diverse, from Vogon poetry to sci-fi and more. What are you most drawn to and what genre do you find easiest to write?


Adam: Vogon poetry indeed! Ouch! Stop that Chris. It hurts. Look, there really are worse poets than me. One day that 'fact' will be proved beyond reasonable doubt. When technology permits space travel to the outer reaches of the Universe these 'poets who are worse than me' with their tedious Vogon rhymes will be exposed and I will be exonerated for my crimes against poetry and history will record that the Vogons (and Vlad) who is not of course a Vogon but a leech, were the worst culprits at making up poetic stuff which at first glance appears prophetic but is in fact twaddle.

Reading wise I am most drawn to science fiction and crime - especially the really unpleasant noirish stuff - and these genres will always be my first loves. However, I am doing my level best nowadays to appear more learned and have even added the likes of Dostoevsky, Kafka and Beckett to my reading matter and at the same time truly embraced the word eclectic which I use as often as I can get away with without appearing pretentious.

As far as which genre I find easiest to write; when I sit down to write I simply imagine a person and/or place, write a couple of lines and then build something around that. So in effect I have no idea what genre I'm 'doing' until it develops into something. It's very organic don't you know?


Chris: Humour is never far away in a lot of your writing, sometimes just in the mood of the piece– is this important?


Adam: With a few notable exceptions there is humour in most situations in life. For all of our sakes I wish we would take more time out to try and make each other laugh. As you get older you laugh less. That is a fact. I don't want to get too deep but we do tend to take ourselves too seriously and life isn’t very funny unless we make it so.


Chris: You are a great critic, and always comparative (I’m sure that you find Phillip K Dick influences on parking tickets), what immediately draws you to a particular author or piece?


Adam: Thank you for the compliment, Sir. But before I answer this question I need you to join with me in a Phildickian moment. Close your eyes. Ok Chris I leave the ropes alone.

Now, accept the reality we currently inhabit is in fact a construct of both our minds. A shared psychosis if you like, which allows us to readily accept without question the existence of a strong light, several electrodes, a variable-voltage generator, two chairs, a length of rope and at least one pair of freshly laundered M & S Y-fronts.

You are sharing! I see. That's great, Chris. Well on that basis I can proceed and say the answer to 'what immediately draws me to a piece' is that elusive beast known as an original 'voice.'

Chris: …And what is most likely to irritate?


Adam: Poor research. Poorly disguised fan fiction. Unoriginal plots. Weak characterisation. Too many contrived scenes and stereotypes. Typified by Vodka addled Russian intellectual types called Vlad seducing thin English girls often called Jennifer. Everyone knows 'true' Russian intellectuals drink tea and are always called Sergei.


Chris: Ok, what is it with PKD that makes him stand out for you?


Adam: He was a very funny man. If I do the longer answer you will need to order in a crate of beer and a barrow-load of sandwiches and I don't think Shortbread's hospitality budget will run to it.


Chris: Do you work at writing or does it have to flow? i.e. if you're stuck do you walk away and wait or write through it?


Adam: It's more of a limp-hobble-gimp thing these days but yes, the former assertion best describes me. I suspect it is best to have a number of writing projects on the go at the same time - maybe a blog/diary - whatever. Then you can flit between pieces depending on mood. Time constraints. The flow of creative juices.


Chris: Have you seen your writing mature?


Adam: Yes. And this is how I see it. Imagine a graph. This graph has two indices - or whatever they're called - and one of the indices - let's say the vertical one, is labelled Maturity and the horizontal one reads Ego. As the latter decreases the former increases proportionately.

Now I've said all that I realise quite how profound it is and I forbid you, Chris, to use it in any context other than in conversation with a Vogon (who would not get it anyway.)


Chris: What advice would you give to new members?


Adam: (Refer to above answer) Try to read more than you write until your writing shows signs of maturing. Don't use speaker attributes. Please do DO unspeakable things to adverbs remembering to keep your writing as free of them as is humanly possible (adverbicides available online but I prefer the manual method of squishing them between finger and thumb.) Don't write stories about cats unless you are Haruki Murakami. Try and comment as much as you can on stories on Shortbread, in order to - other than for reasons of altruism and improving your critiquing skills - foster a strong relationship with fellow writers on Shortbread who may in time become more candid about your writing and as a result help you mature further as a writer. Oh and concentrate all your efforts on your writing. Not on hyping yourself up.


Chris: OK that's it.  I’' letting you go now.  Wait in the chair for 10 minutes after I'm gone.  Tell no one…  many thanks for your time Adam, and indeed for your previous input on my stuff during my time on Shortbread.


Adam: Thank you. I wish I could say it's been a pleasure, Mr. Donaldson, but sadly you miscalculated the apposite voltage on some of these electrodes. Yes, Chris, I do mean those two down there.


If you would like to conduct a Shortbreader interview, get in touch with Rachel at with the name of the person you would like to interview and the questions you would like to ask.