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10 Questions for James D. Quinton

   An interview with g emil reutter

James D Quinton is a British fiction and poetry writer. His two novels Touch and The Victorian Time Traveller and his two poetry collections Street Psalms and The City Is On Fire And Has Been For Weeks are now available as rematered second editions. Recently published poetry has appeared in BoySlut, Rusty Truck, Gutter Eloquence, Blacklisted Magazine, Dead Snakes and Spudgun Magazine. He is also managing editor of Open Wide Magazine.


The Interview

GER:  As a writer of poetry and prose what was your inspiration to tackle both genres?

JDQ: Poetry came out of being in a band when I was a teenager. I used to write the words to our punky/heavy rock music. From that I started writing flowery, surreal verse, pretty awful. I didn’t really have any literary influences, more inspired by alternative rock/punk rock musicians and their lyrics. At about the same time I left school and was on the dole and started writing a novel. It was contemporary fiction. I got a few thousand words in before I got a job in a record store and it was promptly forgotten.

It wasn’t until I started reading the beats, then a friend found a copy of a Bukowski biography called ‘Locked in the Arms of A Crazy Life’, that I realized you didn’t need qualifications, which I didn’t have, to write. It was very liberating.

From there I started writing more ‘down-to-earth’ poems, still not very good, and the friend and I started Open Wide Magazine to publish ourselves as well as other writers who may share the same ‘attitude’ as us. When the magazine began we weren’t even aware of a small press.

My first few short stories that I submitted were very Bukowski, they had that short, sharp style, but unlike Bukowski they weren’t very good. However, over the years my skills have improved (I hope). Whereas I’ve stayed with the, what we could call ‘Meat’ style of poetry, my fiction is completely different. It’s as if different people write the two – although both, I think, are accessible. Poetry for me now is a cathartic release. I stepped back from that for a while, afraid to put my true feelings down, but I’ve thrown myself into it again, full throttle. Fiction gives me the opportunity to write more commercially, embrace other genres, like SF, and get the crazy ideas down that manifest themselves in my head.

GER: Your poetry has been described as realism and embraced by those that consider themselves poetry outlaws in the Untied States. Are you a realist and what are your thoughts on the outlaw movement?

JDQ:  I am very much a realist in life and in my writing. I just don’t get poetry that isn’t. I can’t stand poetry that is written in the third person. You know, a poem hat describes the feeling and thoughts of a little old lady pushing a pram full of tinned food. I mean what the…? My first encounter with poetry was the First World War poets, and you know those guys weren’t faking it! So, yes it has got to be real.

I’m a bit allergic to other writers, so I have never felt a part of any scene. I know there are plenty of regional scenes both here and in the States and that is a good thing. I’ve known poets to get together, come up with a name and create their own little group to try and promote a buzz around their writing.

Most scenes come together with good intentions and ideals, but often end up becoming what they set out to rail against and also quite exclusive. A true ‘outsider’ has no scene, but just does his or her own thing, writes from the heart and gets their words published wherever they can.

GER:  Your collected poems, Street Psalms, was released in 2009. The collection spans six years. When you read the collection do you see changes in your crafting of poetry and subject matter?

JDQ: Funnily I have just been reading through Street Psalms for a second edition, which is out now. The collection contains over seventy poems, all previously published in print and/or online between 2001-2007. There’s no denying the early prose poems are heavily influences by you know who. But, the subject matter is real. All true stories, it’s all me. There are a few theme poems mixed in, like a couple about the blues. As the book progresses the focus becomes more internal, rather than external, and I think, I hope, the style develops into my own thing.

GER: The City is on Fire and Has Been For Weeks a collection of short stories and poetry quickly followed on the heals of Street Psalms. Many writers today shy away from cross genre publication. What was your motivation concerning this release? 

JDQ: Street Psalms went down really well, we sold quite a few and we got some great reviews and feedback. Someone called it seminal the other day. Just after it was published I found more early poems, which I’d forgotten about that could have been included in SP. So, with them tidied up, plus the new stuff I was writing at the time, I wanted to clear the decks. I then thought I’d flesh it out with the best of my published short stories to give a better perspective of my work, which is also why some very early, pre-2000 poems were included. It’s an interesting mix. As with Street Psalms it has a second edition, unlike SP there’s extra content – amazingly, I unearthed even more previously forgotten published poems (they have been slightly ‘tidied up’ too) as well as the first short story I got paid for! The City… contains some of my favourite pieces.

GER: Touch was released in 2009 and captures the events of in the lives of various characters in a 24 hour period. How were you able to capture the complex interactions of the characters and the development of the story?

JDQ: Touch is a contemporary fiction novel that I first started in 2004 and, I think, I finally finished it in 2007. I would write some one week, leave it for a few months, then go back to it – not the best way to write a book. Having just reread it (yep, a second edition), I was surprised how good it was for a first effort. The main influence behind the book, not in terms of content but how it developed, was Pulp Fiction. The scenes are all cut up and the main characters pop up in other character’s scenes. It’s not until the final few pages that those characters come together for the finale. I had quite a bit of mainstream interest when I sent it out, but in the end it, like the other three, it came out on a small press

GER: In 2010 The Victorian Time Traveler was released. How did you become involved in this project and how did it affect you as a writer?

JDQ:  If only there was a simple one word answer to this question! The Victorian Time Traveller is a SF/fantasy adventure that features a huge dash of extremely liberal faith theology and also takes time to have a go fundamentalism and antitheism. You have a series of books in States that go under the banner of ‘Left Behind’. They are a collection of nasty, right wing, and literally inspired Christian fiction books. The Victorian Time Traveller is the antithesis of those unpleasant publications.

It begins as meta-fiction with myself claiming I found the manuscript in a recently deceased relative’s home. The manuscript was written in 1900 by ‘my’ great, great uncle and documents what he saw when he went into the future, first the beginning of the 21st century and then the end of the 21st century. Then my great, great uncle takes over and the story and it starts with him addressing his wife. He explains that his story is based in the sole testimony of one man and is written in a contemporary to the time (our time) fiction style.  The main story focuses on a group of progressive believers being targeted by an agent of the devil in order that they aren’t around when ‘the end’ comes so they can’t fulfill their destiny of nurturing people when they reconnect with ‘the light’. There’s an unrequited romance going on between the two main protagonists, Dan and Catherine, which move things along. There’s so much going on in the book, so many layers, that it’s quite hard explain it all succinctly. I can only suggest people get hold of a copy!

It was a massive task as a writer and even thinking about it I have to take a deep breath. I learnt a lot in terms of technique and style. But, having just reread it (yes, another second edition), it all comes together; ultimately, it is a positive story that promotes unconditional love to all.

GER: You are one of the managing editors of Open Wide Magazine.  Issue 25 marked your tenth anniversary of publishing Open Wide. The magazine has varied between publishing on the internet and in print. What are your feelings regarding internet publishing versus print publication of the magazine?

JDQ: I love reading about the history of the small press, especially in America. A few years ago John Bennett sent me the Vagabond anthology, which celebrated that publication’s history. I get really excited when I think about all those little magazines that have popped up over the years publishing all those poets who got their words out, and then maybe disappeared.  A.D. Winan’s Second Coming book is a great read too. If I had the money I’d collect copies of all those old magazines. I find it fascinating and romantic. So, the point I’m going to make is that it’s really hard, for me anyway, to have the same level of enthusiasm for an ezine and/or blog.

Nowadays, if you have the passion and drive to start a poetry magazine, financially it is cheaper to publish online, you don’t even need to pay for domain name and hosting, stick it in a blog. I think the problem is that so many pop up, everyone hits them with submissions (because it’s really easy to fire an email off), they publish a few issues and then are gone. It’s a bit like sorting yourself out – you feel a little grubby afterwards. It’s also a bit Catch-22 – I got my words out, but the ezine has folded – what did it mean to me? Nothing, really.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t some excellent, long-standing publications. Fox Chase, Red Fez, Zygote, to name three. All have survived because of the passion of the editors and, most importantly, they’ve created a community and people want to be involved. Also a lot of publications are using audio and visual technology. Another plus is that you can potentially reach anyone with a computer around the world. So, I think when all the right elements come together then you’ve got yourself a great outlet. I don’t want to sound pious about the print vs online debate; there are some great poetry blogs out there – and they know who they are. I guess the reality is that the online format has replaced print. More people read small press authors online they do in print

Personally though, I do choose print. I’m going to be subscribing to more print publications. I know how much effort it takes to produce one these days, and they deserve to be supported.

I regret the online/PDF issues of Open Wide, the format we choose was purely out of necessity i.e. money, and let me be honest, it was easier.

I have great memories of printing and stapling the magazine together and then packaging it up, and this was in the mid-2000s when we were sending hundreds of copies around the world. At the time we were also publishing chapbooks, broadsides and special editions under the banner of Feel Free Press. Sadly, we took on too much and were unable to continue with some projects we had in the pipeline; we burned ourselves out. So apologies to anyone who did have their work in the fire that went out.

But, Open Wide will be print from now on. It’s an unbeatable feeling holding the damn thing in yours hands after sweating to get it edited and looking absolutely perfect. And we hope to pay our writers….

GER: Many poets/writers make repeat appearances in Open Wide. Can you name five of your favorite poets/writers published in Open Wide and why?

JDQ: That’s quite a difficult one. I should say that Open Wide has mainly been a platform for new writers, but if we like your work, then yes, we’ll have you back. It’s great to see a writer develop.

I think I’d have to point you towards the credits list for our 10th anniversary edition. All my favorites are there. Many have gone on to bigger and better things. In all cases their work simply stands out, it has that something special. There are a few names absent, but the idea behind that issue was to publish our preferred writers of the last ten years, and that’s what we did.

GER: Your poems and stories have gained acceptance at various publications across the globe. How has the submission process, both in acceptance and declination affected you as a writer?

JDQ: At the moment it seems that ‘meat’ poetry is out of favour and a lot of places I stumble upon only do peculiarly themed issues or issues based around bizarre abstract statements that they then expect you to interpret. I can’t be bothered with that.

With a lot of ezines replies, ironically seeing as they’re a part of a global community, they are becoming a lot more impersonal, especially when using smishsmash or similar. There’s no feedback and no sense of camaraderie; it’s a bit cold. I’ve never had any ego problems with work being declined, and I am always grateful when work is accepted – it always means a lot.

GER: What new projects are you working on?

JDQ:  I think I might have mentioned the second editions of my four published works so far?! They’ve been remastered with new covers. So, if anyone reading this is interested then I highly recommended checking out the new editions. They’ll also available for the first time on Kindle. You can find more info on my website www.jamesdquinton.co.uk

Aside from that I have a novella, a beat western, awaiting a home. I have just finished my fourth novel, a contemporary set SF, which I’m currently sending out to publishers and agents. I have just started book five, a supernatural horror. I’m also writing poetry when the words comen .

On top of that we’re gearing up for Open Wide 26. So, if readers are interested in submitting please head over to www.openwidemagazine.co.uk

You can read the poetry of James D. Quinton in The Fox Chase Review at these links 2009 AW2012 SU

James D. Quinton Memorial Page: https://foxchasereview.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/rip-james-d-quinton/