Meet Beautifully Insane Author, Craig Stone - Shortlisted for the 2012 Dundee International Book Prize




Craig Stone’s latest book: Deep In The Bin of Bob is a sensational read about a fourteen year old Muslim boy, named Amardeep, and can be found on Amazon here - Bit.ly/BinOfBob . His other books can be found here - http://bit.ly/hisotherbooks.You will be hard pushed to find writing quite like this. Reading the whole interview is highly recommended.

There are rumours Craig, shadows of accusation, pointing the Boney-M finger at you. M standing for mad...

A pigeon once told me that a lovely (but slightly smelly) man, used to live on a bench he often visited.

A man who oozed something special.
He said you could see it pouring from his eyes into an iridescent pool of genius at his feet, sometimes causing passers-by to side step him through fear of acknowledging their own denials. To save this sounding like a psychotherapy session – can we begin with you telling us about your rise to what I feel, is the honest and literary genius you are today?  Because, let’s face it – your Dark Night of the Soul has been a battle most would turn and run from.

Ha, well, first of all, I can’t let you call me a literary genius without responding with a paragraph that acknowledges that you have, while denying it with a few words that make people believe I am wise and graceful beyond my years; a sentence full of magnanimity and wonder, a dark sky full of stars and bedazzlement. An image of a beautiful boy at the back of his class, etching I hate being alive, into his arm. But I can’t think of anything that clever, so yeah, fuck it. I’ll just say thank you while lighting this fine cigar.

I don’t smoke. Hold me.

I was working in an office, living with a mental landlord and feeling like I was stuck between a wall and all of the hard places in the world. The books in my head itched at the inside of my skull, until one day, I walked out of my dead end job, packed a bag and left a note for my landlord. I walked to the nearest park, Gladstone Park, where I lived and wrote my first book The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness. Cold hands, pen on paper. My life in splinters. If I couldn’t be a writer I didn’t want to be anything. Some part of me thought if I threw my old rubbish life away, I would find a better one at the bottom of the same bin. I wrote the book, grew a beard, started to smell and eat out of bins. Parents cried, strangers judged me. I finished my book, and moved into my sister’s place for a bit. I was jobless and living in a room with a single bed and a dying cat that enjoyed defecating on the floor at the end of my bed. I typed up The Squirrel that Dreamt of Madness as my eyes stung red with cat piss. Excited, I emailed the book to agents and waited for my life to change. I couldn’t get an agent to read it. They couldn’t comprehend original, at the time – or, more likely, they didn’t think I was worth the investment. Then I discovered Kindle and Twitter. Somewhere between ending up homeless for the third time in my life and using Twitter and Kindle, I started making a small name for myself. Twitter liked me, and the people who read Squirrel loved the book. They said nice things like it was the best thing they had ever read, and so the ball of my life started rolling in a better direction. My second book – Life Knocks - found me an agent, and I was shortlisted for The Dundee International Book Prize.

And now, here I am. A little bit different, still a little bit bearded.

That’s quite a prolific journey. One that would undo the largest of men – yet here you are, still determined, un-wallowing and full of that same enthusiasm for writing. Seriously, take a compliment – surviving life alone is an achievement to be proud of.

Okay, can you tell us how you manage to produce so many one-liners? Your website is full of these quirky anecdotes, Twitter too. The header of your blog - Thought Scratchings - reads:


…The bit your brain can't itch, served in a packet of alternative pig shit.

They are so hilarious, unique, and, I understand, fall from your brain like tiny raindrops (or maybe that’s the ongoing damage of feline chem-trails?) – Do you have to think hard about them, or are they as natural as breathing?

Thank you. They are as natural as breathing. But then, I used to have panic attacks. So even breathing can be tricky, if you stop to really think about it.

I want to laugh – but won’t.

It’s a really established blog, with many personal musings, honest 
reviews and at times, outspoken opinions. One review refers to you wanting to shove your head up at horse’s arse because of labored and uninspired waffle. Where do you find your inspiration for such a diverse selection of ramblings? And can you explain where your openness comes from – many of us writers out there are still very afraid to be who we are. Put off by the perceived need to act professionally in order to be taken seriously, driven by a demon that wants us to be liked, rather than genuine. Also, in an overtly, politically correct world – fear of retribution because of saying the wrong thing is at an all time high (or low depending on perspective). 

It’s a real achievement.

I just say what’s on my mind. I don’t know what inspires me - boredom, desperation to be approved by strangers, frustration, the misery of being, fear, the ever fading ability to encapsulate the entire history of humanity in a sentence. The awareness I have is that I am a good writer, so my one real chance and hope of finding peace through work before I die, is by earning money with a pen in my hand, or keys at the ends of my fingertips.

Life is too short to worry about what people think about anything. Look out the window, our leaders and example makers start wars and cause mass wealth imbalance. Better to think for yourself, because if you’re thinking like someone else wants you to think, you can be sure it’s to their advantage, and not to yours. We are all only little tiny specks of nothing. Some specks think they are more than specks, but they aren’t. I’m only a speck. Eventually I’ll be dead; eventually everyone reading this will be too. Might as well fade away knowing I was an honest speck. Might as well disappear knowing I drew a line in the sand and said this is who I am. Especially when a little bit after that, even the line in the sand that we leave ends up fading. We don’t matter, so I don’t understand why people are afraid to be who they are. Our short lives are a million times enhanced, and a lot more interesting, by expressing our being. Horton nailed it, when he said you are the only you.  
Secondly, being who you are is part arrogance. And, although no writer is allowed to admit it, all writers are arrogant. We all have a little secret hole inside us that whispers we are meant to be doing this. We all have a secret hole that whispers our stories need to be told. The act of writing is an act of self indulgence, so there is no way of sharing that with the world without it being all about the writer.

Lastly, I can say what I think, the truth as I see it, and people could just ignore it. And I would rather my truth be ignored, than water myself down so more people like what I write. 

I couldn’t agree more, though as much as we are nothing - we are also everything. What matters is that we are the real version, and, so long as our words are said with pure honesty and no malevolent intent – the only damage which occurs is by that of the receiver - and maybe their own steadfast opinion or belief as the words are digested.

Writing seems to be a huge part of who you are, as well as an expression of what you feel needs to be said. Have you always known that you were meant to be a writer?

Yes. Ever since I ate my third person.

That’s meant to be a sort of literary cannibal joke. It’s my first attempt at such a joke. I’m also trying to bring the word MEGA back, but I’ll leave that for now.

Uncanny – I’ve eaten my third person too. It was never going to work out!

Which authors, actors, poets or even philosophers – have made an impact on you, and your desire to write?

None that I can remember, so quite possibly every writer I have ever read and every person I’ve ever met. I read a lot of Stephen King books when I was fourteen, then a load of philosophy books when I was fifteen. I can’t remember understanding all of it, but I guess it sunk in somewhere, because my books are never far from darkness, yet stuffed with ideas about life and humanity. I started writing bits and pieces when I was very young, and my style was unique. Or I thought it was. I stopped reading because I didn’t want to emulate any other voice. Now I’ve finished my last book, I’m enjoying becoming a reader again.

The desire to write is a curious thing, makes another man weep, makes another man sing.

I like to think that every influence we meet throughout life is like planting seeds within our conscience. You have elements of many greats that shine through you, and your work. Can you tell us where the idea for Deep In The Bin Of Bob came from? If you actually know, of course?

I was standing by the kettle in the kitchen. Watching it boil.  My brain was on the other side of town at the time, trying to get off a bus, and it’s hard to get off a bus if you’re only a brain. My brain dropped out of the doors… The kettle boiled. The click returned me to the kitchen, and I realised I’d returned with an idea. I had the beginning and the end of a new book, and pretty much knew I could have a lot of imaginative fun with the middle bit. That was it. I had previously told myself I wasn’t writing another book, and then along came Bob. One last dream to bash myself over the head with. One last book to never reach the desk of a publisher. One last book loved by anyone who enjoys original stories by original voices. One last e-mail attachment to be played with by agents. I’ll tell him it’s great, and then forget him. Ha, I’m half joking. I’m not bitter about the publishing world. I’m only a dead sardine in a jar of vinegar on the shelf of the garden shed of Stephen King’s third holiday home. I no longer expect the publishing world to call. I’m married, and my books are good. Those two things give me great peace of mind. I am happy.

Happiness and peace of mind are essential in a world fraught with high expectation. It’s good to hear that you have achieved both.

You mentioned that you have gone down the self-publishing route. Having read through your site, I understand why. (For those of you who haven’t – it’s worth taking a look for yourselves.) Would you say this is working well for you? There is so much controversy out there, especially surrounding many agents and publishers stipulating they won’t back a new author if they’ve self-published (Like you’re astained jumper from a charity shop, or a leper holding his own arm to type with). What are your views on this?

Well, first of all, I don’t have a divine right to be traditionally published, nobody does. Also, there are millions of great writers out there. Millions. And less publishers than ever before. Publishers increasingly look at the numbers, and fear spending thousands/millions on launching a new author. I believe once upon a time publishers dared to succeed, but somewhere along the line they have started to fear to fail. I don’t blame them. They are trying to survive. Publishers and agents are people too. They have kids to feed and bills to pay. Ultimately because of fear, publishers and agents will back whatever makes money first, and if there’s anything left, try to push talented writing. If they didn’t work this way round, there would be no money to push the talented writing, so they have to do it this way around. This is why WHSMITHS etc is full of cookery books, autobiographies, and bog standard stuff by famous names. People buy them. Sadly, although the publishing industry has little choice in how they operate, this means most of the good original new stuff has found its way to Kindle. So, in a way, because the publishing industry didn’t gamble and closed up shop, they are slowly backing themselves into a bland corner. I hope something changes, because the world needs paperback books and the publishing industry as much as it needs Kindle books and indie authors. 

There are always exceptions; Matt Hague and Nathan Filer are two names who spring to mind that the publishing industry has backed, both young, both original, both creative writers. The successful public response to these two authors, I believe, is proof of what can happen when the UK publishing industry speculates to accumulate.

Today, if an indie author releases a book on kindle and sell hundreds of thousands, an email from a publisher or an agent won’t be far around the corner. Look at 50 Shades of Grey and many other examples. All these books were turned down first. 

Before a publisher was interested, it made lots of money.

As for my own experience with agents, I have found them mostly disappointing. They are naturally very busy, but I've had many occasions where an agent has read the first chapter of one of my books, told me they think it’s good, and that they will contact me. And then they never do. They don’t even email me back to say they've changed their minds, or offer a reason for their silence after appearing to like what they read. On a basic human level, I just find that a bit weird. And a bit unfair, because it leaves writers waiting, clinging to the the cruel bosom of hope. And I have 100,000+ twitter followers and an international shortlisting to my name, so for a new writer starting out, I imagine they are completely ignored. Maybe I am wrong, I hope I am. But, like I say, agents are busy. Agents are just people, they get things wrong, but they also get a lot of things right. Publishers are the same. I've had two agents, both reputed to be the best, and still no book deals. So not even getting an agent means what it used to. Also, my experience with agents is only my experience. I am sure there are a lot of great agents who work hard for their authors. After my last agent and I parted ways, I am looking once again for that agent who connects with my work and wants to represent me. That’s the difference. I don’t think the right agent needs to be convinced by the author. The right agent should want to convince the author.

I forever live in hope of finding that agent.

Okay, let’s do away with the heavy for a moment and have some fun. You often see faces in inanimate objects don’t you, Craig? From skewed yellow lines to melted bins. Do you have a list of favorites – even better, can you provide pictures too?

Before faces I saw double numbers. 12:12, 14:14, etc. They were everywhere. Now I’m going through a phase of seeing faces. I prefer the happy faces. I am hoping this develops into something useful, or is the start of a super power, but it’s likely indicative of an incoming debilitating mental condition. Which is nice.

I found this yellow line, added the eyebrows. I wouldn't park my car here.






Breaking Bad coffee...





Brilliant! I once saw on one of your Facebook posts, a picture of I think, Lampard. It referred to a rather fitting billboard and some blasphemy. What I actually noticed was a rather odd looking figure stood behind him  – it scarily resembled one of Tolkien's’ Orc’s. It would appear the inanimate demons are everywhere...




Let’s have some more fun while you’re on a roll.

First of all... If you could choose to be any superhero – who would it be and why? This could also be a book character if red-pants-on-outside-of-trousers aren't your thing – but, they have to be MEGA. (Consider your Mega revival fulfilled)

I would either be SURPRISE CLOWN! Or, Duck-Holding-A-Spatula-Taped-To-His-Face guy, or Déjà Vu Girl. SURPRISE CLOWN! is a clown, and his powers are to appear when you least expect him. His power only kicks in when people are in danger. So, if someone is standing right on the edge of a cliff, SURPRISE CLOWN appears right in their face. If someone is looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, he senses this, his powers kick in and he appears, right in their face, all at once. He wants to retire, but can’t because he’s trying to pay off a debt which he didn’t see coming. He smokes heavily, and can no longer sustain full erections. Duck-holding-a-spatula-taped-to-his-face guy is pretty self explanatory. He is a guy, who has a duck stuck to his face, and the duck is holding a spatula. Sometimes the duck drops the spatula, and Duck-Holding-A-Spatula-Taped-To-His-Face guy picks up the spatula and gives it back to the duck. His secret power is that every now and then, he guesses the spatula is going to be dropped, and then it does. Déjà Vu girl is pretty sure what she just said, she actually said a moment before, but she can’t quite remember.  

Good god! Have you swallowed Walt Disney and Stanley Kubrick – Hannibal style?

Second...Who, if you had the chance to vote for anyone, would be an ideal candidate for Prime Minister? This is a wild-card and you can scrape to any depths you choose – it’s the foundation on which our country is run anyway...

One of life’s great quandaries is that the world needs good people in power to spread kindness, but anyone who wants to be in power is a massive bell-end, and even if they aren't a massive bell-end to begin with, because we are simple puny humans, as soon as we obtain power, we become a massive bell-end. I bet no world leaders make their own tea. That, on a very basic level, makes them dicks. If I had to, actually had to, I would choose someone who refused to live in number 10, and instead lived in a caravan outside the house, so he could fill number 10 with orphaned children. Whoever that guy or girl is, I’d vote for. Could you imagine? What an example to set.

The world could be led by heroes, but instead it’s controlled by bloated cartoon bad guys. 

Beautifully said. Humanity for all living things would go a long way – if only the right souls had hold of the reigns and threw them away.

Okay finally – something still fun but a bit more complex.

I teach drama to under 16’s. One of the tasks I set them is to build an idea called a Fabricated Fairy tale – using a pre-chosen setting, character, mood and Period of Time. Can you build a short story or rhyme, in under 150 words? Here are your Fabrications:

Setting: A Himalayan Cave

Character: The Donkey from Shrek

Mood: Obsession

POT: Bohemian

A cucumber, sweating from the memory of failing basic algebra, rests on a humming fridge that can never remember the words. On top of the powerful cucumber is a slender, nervous grape. In the middle of the grape is a very small girl. She sits, anxiously looking about her; her look obliterating bothersome flies only she can see. She has a face on her look like she’s just remembered she never bought a cat, yet feeds one every morning. In her mind is a grape sitting on a powerful cucumber who silently owns the world, and beneath that cucumber is a humming fridge that can never remember the words. Opening that fridge is a Bourbonnais Donkey wearing a Shrek mask. The Donkey never removes the mask, because he knows his face is a cave. On one particularly cold day in winter, a bear left his mouth and never returned.

I have no words... I’m just locked in a basement somewhere – rocking.

Okay, back to you, now. I’d be really interested to know who does your art work for you? Have you used the same person for each book, and do you have any input with regards to how your front covers are designed?

How important do you feel the cover art is for a book?

I create the artwork, mostly because I haven’t had the funds to hire a professional. Covers are important. If you have a good cover you will sell more books. If a writer isn’t meticulous about their cover, the writer might not be meticulous about their words. Lazy cover, lazy book. They say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do. We judge everything about books, from start to finish, and that’s fine. There’s no rule that a judgement has to be negative. Why would someone spent 6 months to 6 years writing a book, then a day on the cover? Authors should finish their book, and then add an extra month on the end of the final edit to get things right like the cover and the Amazon description – it’s all important. I’m not saying my covers are great, they need some work, but they are good enough for the moment.

Thank you so much Craig for allowing me, and your readers, to get to know you a little better. It’s clear that while you have many wonderful and endearing complexities – that you are a very talented, compassionate and inspiring person. I can only imagine your wife to be smiling like the Cheshire Cat most days and, at times, nodding her head in despair.

Is there anything you would like to dedicate to her before we go – maybe a quote, a song or something from the heart? After all, those closest to us become such a huge part of the personal journey of a writer – and they definitely deserve recognition for their endurance.

 Nope.


Just kidding.



Without my wife, I would probably be dead now. That’s not an exaggeration. At best, I would be on the streets, licking chewing gum from pavements in the hope of getting some fibre into my body. My wife saved me from my third episode of being homeless. She gave me a roof when nobody else would or could. She forced me to edit my books, because she knew they could be better. She supported me while I wrote Deep in the Bin of Bob and she opened my mind to the world of advertising. She has breathed life into my existence, which isn't bad, considering she can’t boil an egg.


I think she will be more than happy with an ode like that. 

Craig, huge thanks. What an amazing interview. I feel as though Dr Seuss had crawled inside my head, yet I also have the sense of empowerment. If you ever decide to expand your humanity, away from the world of words for a while - then I think you would be great as a public speaker, or mentor for all walks of life.

It’s been a real pleasure and I wish you so much success. The world feels ready for a little honest chaos – make sure you spread it far and wide.

Readers, please visit Craig Stones sites below and join in the fun. Disappointment may be a possibility – when you discover your own life may need a little evolution.

- Danl







(And don’t forget the links to his books on Amazon at the start of his interview)

Comments

  1. Not sure why I chose the word 'cool' above - stopped using that years ago! But I loved 'Deep in the Bin of Bob' - and Craig's words and thoughts in general so this was great to find via FB to brighten my start to the day! Thanks and I should add that Craig's wife is a lucky woman :-)

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  2. Thanks Georgia. He's a fab writer and deserves all the love and appreciation that passes his way. Glad you enjoyed the article. Keep an eye out for more :)

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