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‘Still’ | Shortlisted for Saboteur Indy Lit Award

Still is shortlisted in the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards for Best Mixed Anthology. Congratulations to all the talented Still writers and many thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the book.

Readers are invited to vote for the book, details at Saboteur Shortlist

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David Hebblethwaite’s story-by-story review of ‘Still’

DAVID HEBBLETHEWAITE is a renowned book blogger from Yorkshire, who reviews both novels and short fiction on his blog Follow the Thread. He also writes reviews for The Huffington PostStrange HorizonsWe Love This Book and Fiction Uncovered. He’s a big supporter of the short story format and since the end of September, he has reviewed every story that appears in Still – in chronological order. We’ve listed a brief excerpt from each individual review below, or you can read the full reviews here.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

‘Still’ on sale at Foyles

And the ending is a real shock to the system. ‘Midnight Hollow’ – Mark Piggott

But, for those four pages, the author convinces you it’s all true. ‘My Wife, The Hyena’ – Nina Killham

I also love the way Blackman transforms the imagery of dirt trailing down a wall; the ending of ‘Sanctuary’ becomes as much a tableau as one of Bakker’s photographs. ‘Sanctuary’ – Andrew Blackman

Wyld  keeps the atmosphere suitably unsettling, and any hope she offers comes with its own nagging doubt. ‘Corridor’ – Evie Wyld

There’s a neat reversal in this story, and I like Frey’s use of the staircase as an image and venue. ‘The Staircase Treatment’ – Myriam Frey

The choppy rhythms of van Mersbergen’s prose underline the sense of unease, up to a rather chilling end. ‘Pa-Dang’ – Jan van Mersbergen

The titular rose acts a symbol of the family’s hope – something to keep growing in the garden, and not to remove, for fear of angering the landlord. ‘A Rose For Raha’ – Ava Homa

Royle tops it off with a dark twist at the end. ‘The Blind Man’ – Nicholas Royle

It’’s amusing to read, but also leaves one with the nagging thought of just how easily that sort of thing could happen… ‘From the Archive’ – James Miller

Details of ‘real’ life are heightened through their transformation into Hershman’s science-fiction idiom, and the ending is especially poignant. ‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

Rechner makes good use of sensory detail to convey the stuffy and intense atmosphere of the theatre. ‘The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister’ – Mary Rechner

Hussein reveals the full possibilities only gradually, and even then keeps the truth ambiguous. ‘The Tree at the Limit’ – Aamer Hussein

Just as Beard’s piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, so it effectively portrays lifts as simultaneously useful and threatening spaces. ‘Life Under Inspection, Do Not Touch’ – Richard Beard

This is a nicely paced story, with an effective sting in its ending. ‘Odd Job’ – Preeta Samarasan

What follows is a snappy, rhythmic jaunt through the cacophony of modern life. ‘Noise’ – James Higgerson

 ‘A Job Worth Doing’ is more a celebration of what has passed. ‘A Job Worth Doing’ – SJ Butler

Rose captures a certain stiff formality in the voice of his protagonist; and the range of details focused on creates an effective sense of diffuseness. ‘Sere’ – David Rose

This piece is both a portrait of the emotional value that books can have to someone; but it’s also a poignant tale of loss… ‘Morayo’ – Sarah Ladipo Manyika

A well-constructed mosaic of events from Justin Hill’s life, with recurring themes of memory and going through doors. ‘Waiting’ – Justin Hill

What gives this story its edge is a clear sense that this is a false hope, and that the protagonist can’t move on in life because she won’t let go of the idea. ‘Ten A Day’ – Jan Woolf

‘Opportunity’ provides an elegant and broad examination of its issues. ‘Opportunity’ – Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Its supernatural twist gives this tale a very effective chill. ‘In the Dressing Room Mirror’ – Claire Massey

I like the ambiguity in the ending of this piece, and especially how it illuminates the narrator’s character. ‘The Owl at the Gate’ – Nicholas Hogg

Definitely a story that carries greater force than its length might suggest. ‘Still’ – SL Grey

This absorbing read takes a shocking turn. ‘How to Make a Zombie’ – Deborah Klaassen

A fine note on which to end the anthology. ‘Winter Moon’ – Xu Xi

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Photographs from ‘Still’ launch event, 26 September 2012 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

THANK YOU! Negative Press London says a BIG thanks to all the writers (reading/non-reading) who were at the Still launch event in the Gallery at Foyles, as well to all the people who came for what was a very lively entertaining literary evening.

The readings went down a storm and the audience really enjoyed the mix of writing and related photography. It was a special treat to hear the stories read out with such passion and panache. Q&As, discussions and mingling followed!

Thanks to the writers who were there: SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, Tania Hersham, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen (thanks for setting up Facebook event), Claire Massey, James Miller, Jan Woolf and Evie Wyld.

And thanks to the writers who were there in spirit: Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Ava Homa, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan and Xu Xi.

A big cheers to Paul Savage for a fantastic bar service and to David Owen at Foyles for five star help and organisation.

All photographs by Roman Skyva,

If anyone has any photographs they want to share, email to (max file width 1000px at 72dpi, if possible)

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‘Still’ exhibition at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London – until 30 October

The Green Room

‘Still’: an exhibition of photographs and excerpts from related stories

An exhibition of photographs from Still by Roelof Bakker has opened at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB.

Twenty large size photographs of vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall are exhibited in two separate spaces: the Café on the first floor and the Gallery on the third floor.

In line with the approach of the literary art book, each photograph is accompanied by a brief excerpt from the related story with the writer’s name and story’s title included.

With excerpts from stories by Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Ava Homa, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, James Miller and Evie Wyld.

With excerpts from stories by Richard Beard, SJ Butler, James Higgerson, Nicholas Hogg, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Preeta Samarasan and Jan Woolf.

Justin Hill, Waiting, from Still Negative Press London 2012

Excerpt from ‘Waiting’ by Justin Hill to accompany the print ‘The Green Room’

The book itself was launched at Foyles on 26 September in the Gallery with a literary event including readings by Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, James Miller (with Jan Woolf) and Evie Wyld as well as a screening of the video film from the project with other visuals.


Negative Press London and Foyles have also launched a short story competition.


20 C-type prints from negative film with film information borders, size 50cm x 50cm, framed. 20 plagues with story excerpts mounted on foam board.

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Q&A | Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle

Photograph by Julian Baker

NICHOLAS ROYLE LIVES IN MANCHESTER. He’s the author of a short story collection, two novellas and six novels and has edited fourteen anthologies, including the acclaimed series, The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2012 (Salt). His novel, First Novel, is due to be published by Jonathan Cape in 2013. Royle also runs his own press, Nightjar Press, and he’s a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. Royle, together with author Andrew Blackman, offered invaluable support throughout the process of putting Still together – including suggesting that Bakker start his own press. He put his stamp of quality control on Still by taking on the copy editing with fellow editor Ros Sales (Time Out).

Roelof Bakker talks to Nicholas Royle about writing, his story ‘The Blind Man’ and his on-going support of other writers.

Did you start writing at an early age?
I wrote a poem at primary school. The opening line was ‘In the dark, dank cave’, but the teacher read it out as ‘In the dark, dark cave’. I can still hear my tiny, whining voice crying out in protest. I think that’s when I became a writer. I started writing short stories when I was 20, at the end of my first year at university. I wrote eighteen and was sending them out all over the place before I sold one.

Short story or novel?
The short story. But ask me again when my new novel is published next year.

Your new novel, First Novel, is published next year. An intriguing title, is this the book you’ve always wanted as your first novel?
Ah, I anticipated you. No, First Novel is my seventh novel to be published and the seventh one I’ve written. My first novel, Counterparts, was indeed my first novel. I am very interested in first novels. First Novel is about the same thing I’ve been writing about for many years – identity – and other stuff as well. Dark stuff.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your life as a writer (or on life in general)?
As a writer, Derek Marlowe and M John Harrison. Both flit in and out of genres, appealing to genre readers and mainstream readers at the same time. And both write beautifully, which I aspire to do. Marlowe died in 1996; happily, Mike Harrison is not just still alive, but still writing brilliant fiction. In life in general, my parents.

The Best British Short Stories 2012, editor Nicholas RoyleYou are known as a supporter of the short story format and you’ve edited quite a number of anthologies, including the splendid new series, The Best British Short Stories 2011 and 2012 (Salt Publishing), for which you source stories from books, magazines, blogs, journals etc. How much time do you dedicate to reading?
I’m always reading either short stories for The Best British Short Stories or novels for Salt or stories submitted to Nightjar Press, or something I’ve been asked to review, or students’ work. I recently bought two novels I really want to read – M John Harrison’s Empty Space and Keith Ridgway’s Hawthorn & Child – but God knows when I’m going to get the chance to read them.

The Best British Short Stories 2011, had a great influence on me on when putting together this book. I particularly enjoyed SJ Butler’s ‘The Swimmer’ and ‘Flora’ by David Rose – both stories are incredibly visually stimulating. I got in touch with you initially to get their details, as I wanted to invite them to contribute to Still.

You were immediately supportive of the idea and offered additional author recommendations, including Claire Massey and Myriam Frey, who I consequently researched and invited. Later on, you suggested I start my own press to publish Still – which I did with Negative Press London – and you shared advice from your experience of running Nightjar PressTo put it simply, you were my mentor – alongside author Andrew Blackman. Q&A Andrew Blackman. You also copy-edited Still with renowned editor Ros Sales (Time Out), that was very important to me. Is mentoring part of your make up? Do you enjoy pushing people forward and making things happen?

I do, I love it. A lot of what I do incorporates a mentoring element, whether it’s editing anthologies or publishing stories with Nightjar Press, or novels at Salt or teaching creative writing, or even doing actual professional mentoring, which was how I came to know Tom Fletcher, a young writer whose work I had admired when I read some in an anthology. By chance I was approached and asked to mentor him for six months, which led to my becoming his agent and getting him a deal for his first two novels. I find it exciting and satisfying to work with people who I can see – and you do see it straight away, in the first paragraph, the first line sometimes – are really, really good, but maybe their talent has rough edges, their craft needs a little work, and all you have to do is encourage them and help them to see what works and what doesn’t.

What’s been happening lately with Alison Moore is one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me in the world of books – and it’s amazing when you can say that and it’s not about your own work. Alison’s first novel, The Lighthouse, is one of the first four novels I acquired for Salt, in my role as an editor there. I suggested we enter it for the Man Booker Prize and the publishers agreed. It got longlisted and as a result has been widely reviewed – very positively – and is selling well and getting an awful lot of word of mouth. Even if it’s not shortlisted, the book has benefited hugely from the process. It’s good for Alison, good for Salt, good for everyone who’s enjoyed reading it and good for me, I can’t deny it. I’ve been working with Alison since coming across one of her stories when judging the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2009. I later published one in Nightjar Press that is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. It’s easily in my top ten short stories.

The Strong Room Archive Roelof Bakker

The Strong Room (Archive)
 © 2012 Roelof Bakker

The story you’ve contributed to Still, ‘The Blind Man’, is a dark and twisted story which is strangely poetic at the same time. My feeling is that the boy in story is based on aspects of Nicholas Royle as a boy, particularly the obsession with buses and bus routes? Also, where does this dark side come from?
Yes, I used to haunt bus garages and pinch bits off scrapped buses. I had a few destination blinds, which I let go at some point. I really wish I still had them; those place names are so evocative. The ones in the story are chosen deliberately and they correspond to actual bus routes. I still have a complete set of Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive timetables from the mid 70s in lovely little ring-binders. Shoot me now, go on. I couldn’t tell you where the dark side comes from as I had a very happy childhood. I think we all have a dark side, just as life has a dark side; some of us are drawn to it. It’s fascinating. The story – like most of my stories – takes some factual biographical and autobiographical detail and embellishes it and twists it and at some point departs from the truth.

Do you use visual materials to work out ideas, like newspaper cuttings and photographs?
I used to keep press cuttings on all sorts of subjects, but I got rid of them recently, realising that I hadn’t looked at them for 20 years. I do use images a lot, which was why your project attracted me. The abandoned spaces, too, were a big draw for me. I love to prowl around disused buildings and take photographs and notes and then I might write about them, use them as locations.

Have you worked with artists previously?
There was a great project called Thirteen put together by photographer Marc Atkins. He did a series of black and white shots of female nudes and sent these out, randomly, to a number of writers. I did a story called ‘Standard Gauge’ that I still think works. In addition I collaborated with the artist Devid Gledhill to write a series of short pieces to accompany a series of paintings he did of an East German doctor and his family and their home. David worked from photographs and I worked from David’s paintings. The paintings and texts were exhibited together in a Manchester gallery and may yet form the basis of a second, bigger exhibition.

Marionettes Claire Massey Nightjar Press

A Nightjar Press chapbook

With Nightjar Press you’ve re-introduced the chapbook format: a single print publication dedicated to simply one – usually dark– short story. The books are beautifully made and give the short story format their due importance. Where did the idea come from?
Well, I wouldn’t claim to be doing something new. I came across the work of Joel Lane when a story of his, ‘The Foggy, Foggy Dew’, was published in a limited-edition chapbook in the mid-80s. He became one of my favourites writers and a close friend, all thanks to a young man called Mark Valentine, who had the vision and energy to publish that story as a stand-alone pamphlet – a chapbook. Twenty-odd years later I would publish stories by both Joel and Mark in Nightjar Press, bringing my interest in chapbooks full circle. I think there’s something special about the short story. A good story deserves to be made a fuss of. It deserves its own art, its own cover and ISBN.

How do you manage to fit it all in: you’re a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, a writer, an editor and a publisher?
I don’t think I do fit it all in. I’m slowly whittling away at the hours of darkness and am not getting enough sleep. Something’s got to give, I’m just not sure what yet.

Are Nightjar Press planning to publish an anthology of chapbook stories? Will there be an e-book?
I’ve been approached by a small publisher wanting to do an omnibus volume, but I don’t know. There are pros and cons. We’ll see. If it were to happen, there could conceivably be an e-book version of that.

What’s does future of publishing hold?
I like the fact that while the market has got much tougher and the business is pretty cut-throat, and big publishers are less and less interested in taking risks, small independents are doing just that – and in some cases it’s paying off. Look at this year’s Man Booker longlist. Three novels from small independent publishers. That’s brilliant.

What are you working on next?
I’m working on a new novel and I’m always working on new stories. I started a story in summer 2011 that I still haven’t finished, but I’ve done others in the meantime. There’s a non-fiction book I want to do, but I’d probably need a contract for that. Nightjar will probably go on – unless sales dwindle. I’m loving my editing role for Salt. The success of Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse has made a big difference to them – to us, I should say – but I’m as excited about the other novels I’ve got coming up – first novels by Stephen McGeagh (Habit), Kieran Devaney (Deaf at Spiral Park) and Simon Okotie (Whatever Happened to Harold Absalon?), and next spring a new novel by one of my favourite writers, Alice Thompson (Burnt Island).

UPDATE: The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2012 has been announced since the interview was conducted and Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse is one of three novels from small independent presses to have reached not only the longlist but the shortlist as well.


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Q&A | Andrew Blackman

His debut novel On the Holloway Road (Legend Press, 2009) won the Luke Bitmead Writer’s Bursary and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Blackman was the first writer Roelof Bakker approached. His immediate enthusiasm helped kickstart Still. His novel, A Virtual Love, will be published in 2013. For Still he wrote ‘Sanctuary’, a story about a wounded criminal seeking sanctuary in a church in Kilburn.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Writing was always my way of understanding the world and expressing myself in a way I could never seem to do verbally. I was a shy, awkward child who always seemed to say the wrong thing, but discovered that in stories I could take my time and find exactly the right words. My rationale has changed somewhat over the years, but that was the initial impetus, and I think it still plays a role.

Which challenges you more, short stories or novels?
I see myself primarily as a novelist, and spend a lot more time writing novels than short stories. I enjoy exploring themes and characters in the depth that a novel allows. The short story is a different kind of challenge, though, and I like to write stories as a change of pace and as a way to experiment and develop my writing. I wouldn’t say I’m a short-story expert, though, like some of the other writers in this collection.

Male Artists' Dressing Room (Clock) by Roelof Bakker

Male Artists’ Dressing Room (Clock)
© 2012 Roelof Bakker

Why did you select the ‘bleeding’ clock photograph?
When I went to see Roelof’s original photography exhibition in Hornsey Town Hall one murky evening back in November 2010, this photograph was my favourite – it was the one I highlighted in my blog post about the event. The rusty water trickling down the wall looked like a trail of blood, and the stopped clock was a great visual metaphor for the way that the town hall had been stuck in time since its abandonment.

What is the thinking behind ‘Sanctuary’?
When I chose the photo, I had no definite story idea in mind – just the ever-potent themes of blood and time. Then I was cleaning out my pockets and found a note I’d scribbled on a scrap of paper that just said ‘Sanctuary – still exists?’ I remembered I’d been thinking about the medieval right of criminals claiming sanctuary in a church, and wondering when this was last exercised.

When I found the note, everything came together, and I saw I could bring in the blood (a powerful religious image in itself) by asking what would happen if a murderer with blood on his hands tried to claim sanctuary today. The clock comes in because there’s a time limit before police storm the church, and also because the story is about a man out of his own time.

This was a very different story from my usual work, much more violent and action-based. Using the photograph as inspiration got me thinking in different ways, and experimenting with something I wouldn’t normally try.

Do you use visuals to generate writing ideas?
I wouldn’t say that I generate ideas at all, because that implies a level of control that I don’t feel I have. Instead, ideas come to me when I’m doing something totally different, like going for a walk or waking from sleep. Sometimes this can be a visual image, but more often it’s word-based: a phrase that sticks in my head, or a ‘what if?’ question that occurs. I wrote a post about the process earlier this year. READ

Andrew Blackman On the Holloway RoadYou’ve been living in Barbados recently. Are you enjoying life in the sun?
It’s a beautiful place, with lots to inspire. It’s peaceful compared to London, and I’ve been able to concentrate a lot more on my writing. I’ve only been here a short time, but managed to meet some local writers at the inaugural Bim Literary Festival.

What are you working on?
My second novel, A Virtual Love, is finished and due out in spring 2013, so I’m hard at work now on the third. It’s loosely based on the true story of my great great grandfather, who was supposed to be the pretender to the throne of Spain, but gave it up to move to England and photograph hippos at London Zoo.


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How interesting projects come about

The book Still probably would never have happened, if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of Andrew Blackman, the first writer that photographer Roelof Bakker contacted.

There’s an inspiring post on his blog on how interesting projects come about. The post also explains how Blackman helped kickstart Still. ANDREW BLACKMAN WEBSITE

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