The Writing Life – Season 2 Episode 6

Paul Atherton, a.k.a. Vincent Atherton, is the author of Viking Voices, a historical novel set in the times of the Vikings that shows how a hidden treasure came to be buried in the banks of a river. In this interview, Paul talks about his experience with self-publishing, as well as his experience marketing and selling his books.

You can listen to his interview here:

The Writing Life – Season 2 Episode 5 – Yamuna Venugopal

We interviewed Yamuna Venugopal for the fifth episode of The Writing Life. Yamuna is an Indian writer who often writes short fiction from a female point of view. She published one of her stories, Abstract Art, in PIF Magazine. In this video, Yamuna talks about publishing fiction online and how that can get you an agent.

Listen to the podcast here:

6 Facts About Writing a Memorable Villain


When you think about memorable villains, they always have something extra, something that makes you realise he/she is not like the others. Darth Vader has a rad costume and a tragic backstory. Sauron is a giant eye. Mr Smith is a cool software programme.

Having a memorable villain is just as important as having a memorable hero or heroine. Your hero can be the greatest but if the antagonist is not on the same level, even if the hero wins we don’t really care that much…

So here are six facts to consider when writing a villain:

1. They don’t see themselves as evil. You wouldn’t think of yourself as the bad guy. People tend to rationalise and justify their behaviour, and see others as evil. After all, the Nazis thought they were helping the world…

2. They need proper motivation for what they do. Villains don’t just go around thinking ‘I’m so evil, I’m going to kill you and everyone you care about’ for no good reason. They are driven by something. Voldemort was completely focused on killing Harry, but he had a reason for it: he wanted to be all-powerful and immortal, and Harry was an obstacle in his path and a threat to that power.

3. They don’t have to want to destroy the world. It’s slightly silly when you think about the fact that villains live in the world too. That’s why I loved Starlord’s answer when Rocket Raccoon asked him why he wanted to save the galaxy: ‘Because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it.’

4. They have flaws, just like everyone else. Villains can’t be perfect, because that’s boring. They need weaknesses. Voldemort’s strength is his considerable power, but love is his weakness because he can’t understand it.

5. They don’t kill people willy nilly when things don’t work out the way they want, otherwise they wouldn’t do anything else but think of where to dispose of bodies and try to evade the police all the time.

6. The villain should hurt someone the reader cares about. If you have your villain blow up an entire planet, chances are the reader can’t connect emotionally to that situation and will maintain a detached stance. Sure, it’s a terrible thing to do, but readers need to be able to care about characters, and if someone close to the hero or heroine is threatened, the stakes are higher (and personal).

The Writing Life – Season 2 Episode 3 – Gabriella Campbell

For the third episode of The Writing Life we interviewed Gabriella Campbell, a Spanish writer of short fiction and poetry. Gabriella self-published her collection of fantasy and science-fiction short stories, and in this podcast she offers advice based on her experience with the publishing world, including marketing and productivity tips.

Listen to the podcast below:

How to Edit a Podcast – Part 1

microphone-516043_1920Editing is a time-consuming process and I know a lot of people who find it even more boring than sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with the TV on a shopping channel and a slow internet connection on their smartphone. I, on the other hand, love it. I like taking the raw material and turn it into something polished, and I honestly enjoy the entire process, even when I feel frustrated when it’s not going the way it should.

Although I’ve previously edited and published an anthology during my MA, I had never edited audio before, so this has been an adventure. I started doing this because I am the one who edits The Writing Life, and I learned what I know through trial and error and Google. To make it easier for other people in the same situation as me – basically, people who never did this before – I will blog about my process here.

I’m using Audacity because it does everything I need and it’s free. I’m by no means an expert, though. Like I said, it might be fair to say this series is for people who never used audio editing programs before and really need to learn the essentials. I can, at least, explain those.

In this Part 1 you will learn the very basics:

  1. How to download and install Audacity
  2. How to open a file
  3. How to save a project

1. How to download and install Audacity

Audacity 2The easiest bit. Go to their website and download the version that best suits your operating system. I use Windows 8, so that’s the one I went with. Then just follow the instructions until it’s installed on your computer. You can then open the programme and see what it looks like.
2. How to open a file

It looks scary. I mean, for a newbie, such as myself, the first contact with an audio editing programme is like a rat staring at a palace. Sure, it’s interesting, but the rat must be confused.

OK, so you go to File, then Open and you choose the file you want to edit.

A problem might occur: if you’re recording audio in an iPhone, for example, the resulting file cannot be opened in Audacity, for some reason (as it is M4A, and the software doesn’t open that). There are some good websites out there that will convert M4A into MP3 or any other format, and you don’t even need to sign up to use them. For example, I use Online Audio Converter and never had any problems after that.

Once the file is opened, a set of blue waves will appear, and this is what the sound looks like – each ‘rise and fall’ are the pitches of the voice or music. An example:

Audacity 1
3. How to save a project

When you click Save or Save As, you’re saving the audio as an Audacity file. You can open it again at a later time to continue editing.

And it’s done! I hope this is useful and if you have other handy tips, feel free to tell me, I’m always looking to learn.

Stay tuned for Part 2Basic Commands in Audacity.

The Writing Life – Season 2 Episode 2 – Gary Flood

Gary J Flood was the guest in the second episode of The Writing Life. Gary is a freelance journalist, copywriter and slipstream writer and, if you missed his interview live on Bailrigg FM, you can listen to it now as a podcast.

In it you find information about making a living as a writer and tips on marketing yourself, amongst other useful advice.

You can check out his website here, as well as follow him on Twitter.

A Short Story – Fourteen

wattpad book cover FourteenI published another short story on Wattpad. It’s called Fourteen and it’s about a small boy growing up in Angola during the dictatorship period in Portugal, when the country was still part of the colonies. Having been taught to spy on his own family, and after suspecting his father of treason, he makes a decision that changes everything.

I wrote this story during my MA, though I still think it’s missing something. It’s difficult to say what when I’ve read it so many times.

Have a read and leave a comment telling me what you think, even if what you think is: ‘Boy, this sucked.’

I don’t mind!

The Writing Life – Season 2 Episode 1 – Andrew McMillan

Season 2 of The Writing Life premiered Sunday 11, and though we had technical issues in the beginning, they were quickly solved and I couldn’t be happier at the result. For weeks, we – Inés, Kitty and I – have worked to make this show the best we possibly can, so finally listening to our hard work on the radio feels great.

Our first guest was Andrew McMillan, poet and lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. You can listen to the interview now if you missed it live. He talked about making a living from poetry and finding work as a writer.

To listen to our weekly interviews, tune in every Sunday at 6PM on Bailrigg FM. Also, subscribe to our YouTube channel to access all the interviews we do in this second season.

For more information about the show, check out our blog.

What is a Heteronym?

fernando pessoaThe term was coined by Portuguese writer and poet Fernando Pessoa, who also invented the whole concept. A heteronym is beyond an invented name, however, as it implies the creation of a whole person, including his or hers biography and writing style. For example, Fernando Pessoa’s most famous heteronyms are Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Álvaro de Campos, all of whom possess dates of birth and death, family, education, and very distinctive poetic styles.

Reading the poems penned by each of these people (because calling them anything else is a disservice) is quite the experience, as it feels unconceivable that a single writer could have achieved such disparity in his poetry. Pessoa managed to create 81 heteronyms (that we know of) and each and every one of them felt real to him, which in turn make them seem real to us. They interacted with each other, as they even critiqued each other’s work.
Caeiro writes in a simple, but philosophical style:

I’ve never kept flocks,
But it’s like I’ve kept them.
My soul is like a shepherd,
It knows the wind and the sun
And it walks hand in hand with the Seasons,
Following and seeing.
All the peace of Nature without people
Comes and sits at my side.
But I get sad
As the sunset is in our imagination
When it gets cold down in the plain
And you feel night coming in
Like a butterfly through the window.

(First stanza in Keeper of Flocks)

While Reis was a Stoic and an Epicurean:

Lydia, we know nothing. We are strangers
Wherever we may be.

Lydia, we know nothing. We are strangers
Wherever we may live. Everything is alien,
Nor speaks our language.
Let us in ourselves create a refuge,
And from the hurt and tumult
Of the world withdraw.
What more can love desire than not to let the others in?
Like a secret uttered in a mystery,
Maybe this become our sanctuary.

(in Odes)

And Álvaro de Campos wrote long poems and embraced futurism:

I am nothing
I shall never be anything
I cannot wish to be anything.
Aside from that, I have within me all the dreams of the world.
Windows of my room,
The room of one of the world’s millions nobody knows about
(And if they knew about me, what would they know?)
You open onto the mystery of a street continually crossed by people,
A street inaccessible to any thought,
Real, impossibly real, certain, unknowingly certain,
With the mystery of things beneath the stones and beings,
With death making the walls damp and the hair of men white,
With Destiny driving the wagon of everything down the road of nothing.
Today I am defeated, as if I knew the truth.
Today I am clear-minded, as if I were about to die
And had no greater kinship with things
Than to say goodbye, this building and this side of the street becoming
A row of train cars, departing at the sound of a whistle
Blowing from inside my head,
And a jolt to my nerves and a creak of bones as we go.
(the first three stanzas of Tobacco Shop)

As I mentioned, his heteronyms have dates of birth, family relationships, childhood memories, friends, etc. And some even lived in the United Kingdom so, naturally, they wrote in English. Something on this scale can only be achieved by someone extremely talented.

Pessoa even coined a very famous saying in Portugal: ‘Primeiro estranha-se. Depois entranha-se.’ This means ‘First you find it strange. Then it becomes part of you.’ (though the original rhyme and the wordplay are lost in the translation). This was a slogan that Coca-Cola asked Pessoa to write in 1928.

He could do it all, it seems. And being able to create and maintain so many people was truly the work of a genius, though some argue he must have suffered from a personality disorder. Since no one knows the truth, I’m sticking to genius.

Do you know of any other writers who use(d) heteronyms?