Monthly Archives: August 2015

Spotlight On… Sarah Jane Berger

*** Spotlight On… Sarah Jane Berger ***

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To help to promote the new rep season at the So and So Arts Club, we’re delighted to have interviewed the inspirational Sarah Jane Berger!

Can you tell us about the creation of the So and So Arts Club, where did the idea come from and how is it progressing so far?

I founded the so and so arts club three years ago, because it seemed to me that I could use the fruits of a long career to establish a platform where other experienced artists from all across the industry could come together with people just starting out, and those of us in the middle, who are having to somehow re-invent ourselves in the ever changing landscape, to foster collaboration and generate paid work.

Do you find that your members are mostly from the performing industry or are you reaching a wider ‘audience’?

My members are mainly drawn from the performing industry but they include, producers, directors, film makers, documentary makers, writers and directors, not just performers. The club is aimed at them to help them to take control of their own destiny, but gradually we are accruing a wider audience for all of our work. We welcome people who would like to support artists, and feel that they are as valuable a part of the club as the artists themselves.

What is your proudest achievement in relation to the club, so far?

I think the two rep seasons, last year’s HopeFull Rep which for the first time brought together a full company of actors, writers, directors and producers to generate excellent new work, and of course this year’s Rep Ever Hopefull which has 50 artists in all involved in it, all of whom are being paid.

Tell us about the new rep season and what your involvement entails.

I am producing the whole season as well as directing one of the plays American Venus, based on the story of the silent film star Louise Brooks. So I have raised the money, and brought together everyone, chosen the plays and appointed the directors, and now will be running the box office during the season and doubtless cleaning the loos!

Is there a particular play that you’d like to direct, and what’s the reason for your choice?

I like directing new work, there’s a play I want to develop called The Burning by Ginger Lazarus, it’s a female Cyrano and is very topical as its about abuse in the US army. I hope to direct a full production next year.

You’re an actress, yourself with an impressive list of credits, what has been your most memorable acting ‘job’ and do you have any ambitions for your acting career in the future? (assuming you have time!)

That’s always a hard question, I loved playing Lady Macbeth, I would love to do some more Shakespeare and sometimes plays come in with parts that I would love to play myself, and I love comedy. I like to think that I can continue my acting career alongside producing and directing. My ambitions stretch across all three areas as part of what I am championing are better parts for older actors.

What’s your advice for anyone wishing to work in the arts in whatever capacity?

Work hard, listen to those who have been knocking around for a while and take every opportunity as you never know which one is going to make the difference.

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

Favourite childhood memory?

Being carried on my fathers shoulders round the miniature world in Holland.

Favourite landmark?

Brighton Pier

Favourite holiday destination?

India

Favourite playwright?

Shakespeare

Favourite way to spend a day off?

With friends, laughing and drinking!

The Ever Hopefull Rep season details can be found here: http://www.everhopefullrep.com/

The website for the So and So Arts Club is here: http://www.thesoandsoartsclub.co.uk/

 

GUEST BLOG! ~ Author, Rob Sinclair joins us for his Blog Tour publicising ‘Rise of the Enemy’

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We are delighted to be participating in author, Rob Sinclair’s Blog tour for ‘Rise of the Enemy’.

In 2009, Rob’s wife challenged him to pen a ‘can’t put down thriller’. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Rob picked up the baton, or pen, and ran with it, writing the hit thriller Dance With The Enemy.  

Thus Rob’s Carl Logan thrillers were born, featuring the story of the embattled intelligence agent on his adventures and trials around the world.  

Rob now splits his time between writing and working as a forensic accountant for a global accounting firm.  Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.  In his free time, Rob enjoys watching thriller movies and TV series, a big source of inspiration to him, as well as watching football, keeping fit and reliving his youth by playing with his young sons.

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Here’s a blog from the man, himself with some excellent pointers on how to write a good action scene, if anyone should know – Mr Sinclair should!

How to write a good action scene

All of my novels have a big emphasis on action. It follows directly from the types of books that I love to read and the movies that I watch. The key to action scenes, obviously, is to make them dramatic! Sounds simple, but there’s a bit more to it than that. 

A really good piece of writing advice that I heard is “write the slow stuff fast and the fast stuff slow”. It’s a great way of thinking. Action scenes are by their very nature supposed to be fast and frenetic. But don’t rush them. I think it’s really important to slow the scene down, to show the reader exactly what is happening. “Show don’t tell” is an age-old adage always worth remembering when writing such scenes. I love the quote by Anton Chekhov which captures this sentiment perfectly: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” And this is absolutely essential when writing an action scene, when you’re trying to slow the scene down and show the reader everything. So don’t just write “Johnny stabbed Vinny in the gut”. What was really happening in that scene? Describe the people, their movements, the looks on their faces, the smells, all of the things that are necessary to put the reader right there in the scene. So what was going through Johnny’s mind as he plunged the razor-sharp blade into Vinny’s abdomen? What sound did the knife make as it pierced the skin and sliced through flesh? What was the look on Vinny’s face and what pained noises escaped his lips? 

With all that detail, though, what you can’t do is to bore the reader, or drag things out unnecessarily. You have to make it exciting. You want the readers on the edge of their seat, totally gripped, in suspense for what is about to happen. Using lots of sharp, punchy language always helps. Short sentences and paragraphs. It creates the sense of pace even though you’ve slowed the scene right down. As a very general rule I always like to keep sentences below 25 words. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a habit. I’m sure there are plenty of sentences in all my books that exceed 25 words, but I analyse each and every one to make sure I’m happy with the exceptions. And I always cut them down whenever I can. For an action scene, I trim them down even further. You want a nice staccato rhythm. Boom. Boom. Boom. Imagine the heart beat of the protagonist. That of the reader too. Make the words fit that rhythm. The pace quickening as you go. Building to a crescendo. All of the excitement. All of the drama. All of the blood. The sweat and the tears. You reach the climax… 

And then you’re done. 

Press return. Start new chapter. Nailed it. 

Look out for our review of ‘Rise of the Enemy’, coming soon!

Spotlight On… Robin Sebastian

August’s BONUS Spotlight On…

*** Robin Sebastian ***

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Can you tell us when you realised you could impersonate Kenneth Williams so accurately and if you were a particular fan of the gentleman, himself?

Well I was working as a wine waiter at a private party in London and I was being as gregarious as I could, asking people “if they’d like another bottle up their end” that sort of thing, but I found that the voice I was using was naturally the king of innuendo Kenneth Williams. I had always enjoyed his performances and had owned a copy of Rambling Syd Rumpo since I was 11. At that party was the actor Nigel Lindsay who was doing the London Cuckolds at the National directed by Terry Johnson. Nigel told me that Terry was desperately trying to find a Kenneth Williams for his new play Carry on Camping Emmanuelle and Dick and that I should apply. I was too late as he had already got the excellent Adam Godley instead. It planted the idea in my head and a few years later I landed the role in Round the Horne revisited. Kenneth Williams has been my saving grace.

Did you envisage that your career would involve portraying Mr Williams so frequently?

Not at first, but I would happily play Kenneth in every show; from Shakespeare to Brecht!

Are you a fan of the ‘Carry On’ films and which is your favourite?

Naturally I have an inclination towards the Carry Ons. My favourite being Carry On Screaming! I did land the role of Sir Desmond Uppingham Knightly in Carry on London, but unfortunately Peter Rogers died and the funding was pulled. Boo hoo!

Apart from the man you’re so famous for impersonating, which role has been your best loved to date?

Well I have been in two productions of The importance of being Earnest playing Algernon Moncrieff who is the wittiest character on the stage. I also enjoyed playing Carmen Ghia in The Producers playing opposite Peter Kay. Lots of laughs and masses of ad libs!

Are there are any particular roles you would like to take in the future or shows that you have an ambition to appear in?

I have no ambitions to play a particular role…. Except James Bond of course, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. I would however like to try stand up as me!

Please tell our readers about ‘The Missing Hancocks’ and what they can expect from its appearance at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

These are comedy gold! We are performing four lost recordings : Prime Minister Hancock, The Winter Holiday, The Three Sons and New Year’s Resolutions. We play two episodes per show. So if you’ve enjoyed one show you can come back the next day and see two different episodes. The cast are Stella with Kevin McNally as Hancock, Simon Meerkat Greenall as Sid James, the hilarious Alex Lowe as Bill Kerr, Susy Kane brilliantly captures Andree Melly and Me messing about as Kenneth Williams! It’s quick fire humour at its best with plenty of added banter!

Any advice for budding actors?

Seriously think about doing a plumbing diploma….. As back up!

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

What are your favourite things, if you could only name three in total?

My wife, champagne and dressing up!

Favourite theatre?

Bath Theatre Royal. It is perfectly built and perfectly run.

Favourite co-star?

I have had many from David Mitchell to Rob Webb, Peter Kay, Russia Abbott, Jonathan Rigby, Joe Pasquale, Jenny Seagrove, Roy Marsden and the lovely Sara Crowe. They have all been joyous to work and play with.

Favourite song?

I love music, but my two favourites are Oli Girizo by the Greek band Marsheaux and sprawl two by Arcade Fire. Two very catchy tunes!

Favourite childhood memory?

I have so many. As I was brought up in the beautiful Surrey Countryside in a very loving family. It has to be running through the sprinkler in the garden in the hot summer of 1976.

Favourite colour?

Blue

The Missing Hancocks is at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and tickets can be purchased here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/missing-hancocks-live-in-edinburgh-show-a

and here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22The%20Missing%20Hancocks%3A%20Live%20in%20Edinburgh!%20(Show%20B)%22

Spotlight On… Alyssa Maxwell

August’s Spotlight On……

*** Alyssa Maxwell ***

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Hi Alyssa, thank you for taking to us, can you tell us what inspired you to become an author and what motivates you to continue?

You could say that since I first learned to write, I’ve been a writer. Stories, diaries, letters to friends, even a bit of poetry, I spent many happy hours of my childhood with curled up with pen and notebook, pouring out my thoughts and feelings and dreams. For a basically shy and introverted kid, it was a haven. I wrote my way through high school and college – if I could compose an answer in writing, I tended to excel, as long as spelling didn’t count because in that area, I was the worst and still am. But I also tried to be practical about my writing because everyone told me I needed to be, except for one insightful college professor who asked if I ever considered writing fiction. Hmmm… After working in non-fiction publishing and ghost writing for a number of years, a friend who had just been published inspired me to give it a try. It took me several manuscripts and close to eight years before being offered that first contract.

In the beginning, before I was published, just a love of writing kept me going, along with fellow writers, especially my critique partners. Once those contracts started coming, I had to learn to treat writing as a job, but inspiration comes from finding themes and settings that fascinate me and make me excited to write those stories. And of course there are the readers. I want to do my best work for them and not let them down.

Can you tell our readers about your novels and which story is your personal favourite and why?

I have two series going right now. The first is The Gilded Newport Mysteries. These take place in – you guessed it – Gilded Age Newport, RI, and feature a female sleuth who is a cousin of the Vanderbilts. Emma isn’t a wealthy member of the family, and has just enough of an inheritance to allow her to maintain an independent lifestyle. She works as a journalist and writes her Fancies and Fashions column for a local newspaper, but her heart’s desire is to report on hard news like real life Gilded Age journalist, Nellie Bly. In each book, Emma solves murders that take place in the various summer “cottages” belonging to Newport’s summer socialites. The published titles so far are Murder at the Breakers, Murder at Marble House, and Murder at Beechwood. I’m currently working on Murder at Rough Point. My husband was born and raised in Newport, and his family on both sides have been there for generations, true Newporters. A combination of my own experiences and his memories have fostered such a love for this city that writing about it is pure joy.

The second series, which will debut this December, is called A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. Set in England just after WWI, they feature an earl’s granddaughter and her lady’s maid, who together solve murders on the estate and the nearby village. The first is Murder Most Malicious, to be followed by Murder Most Poisonous, which I’m plotting out now. It’s exciting for me because this was such a pivotal time for women. The war changed society in so many ways, and women were experiencing freedoms they had never enjoyed before, including, in England, the right to vote. This gives me an opportunity to write Lady Phoebe Renshaw as a forward thinking, adventurous young woman, while her maid, Eva Huntford, is continually trying to protect her and maintain more traditional propriety. Together they create a fun and lively balance for the stories. Which of my books is my favorite? It’s hard to choose between one’s children, but I suppose whichever one I happen to be working on is my favorite, because that’s the one I’m putting my whole heart and soul into at that moment.

As a mystery writer, what interested you in exploring and pursuing this genre?

I LOVE puzzles. Jigsaw, Sudoku, word search, mazes, crossword, etc. Writing mysteries is like solving a giant puzzle, one where you also have to create each individual piece first. I compile motives, suspects, murder weapons, red herrings, etc. and then present the puzzle for the reader to try to solve before reaching the end. The experience of mystery novels is, in many ways, a collaborative effort between readers and the author. It’s a fun challenge authors and readers share.

What advice have you got for any budding authors?

Read, read, read, write, write, write. Rinse and repeat. I’d also encourage all new writers to join a writers’ organization, whether it’s the Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, etc. These organizations offer a wealth of information about craft and business, and some offer online chapters for people who can’t meet regularly. I’ve been working with a critique group for over 20 years now, and I cannot stress how helpful that has been in helping me grow as a writer. Networking also helps establish friends and connections that will be helpful once you’re published. As I like to say, it takes a village to write a book.

Any tips for writer’s block?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block per say. If the words aren’t coming, there are reasons, such as the writer doesn’t have a good grasp yet on the characters. The more you know your characters, the more their actions will take shape in an authentic and believable way. I CANNOT plot a story until I’ve fleshed out the characters. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. Other times, a writer might feel stuck because they’ve gotten into a rut. In that case, add something else to your day to break up the writing monotony. Go for a morning walk. Take exercise breaks throughout the day. Take yourself out for a midmorning coffee or tea. Just get up and away from the computer so you feel like a whole human being rather than a brain and a pair of hands. But not too often! Don’t make excuses for not writing.

What is your greatest ambition?

Um, New York Times bestselling author? Or, “This series/movie is based on the novels of Alyssa Maxwell.”

Favourite things (quick-fire questions):

Favourite time of year? 

Autumn, crisp and clear. 

Favourite way to spend a weekend? 

With hubby, poolside, with fabulous things on the grill and a good bottle of wine. 

Favourite animal?

Sloth! They’re so Zen! They put it all in perspective. 

Favourite poem?

The complete works of Shakespeare – can I say that? It’s all very poetic and…just so wonderful.

Favourite food?

I’m of Italian descent so…anything Italian. It’s my soul food and my comfort food.

Alyssa’s website can be found here: http://www.alyssamaxwell.com/