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William Sutton Interview

Posted on 25 August 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to debut novelist William Sutton

Tell us something about your background.

I won a couple of radio play competitions. The plays were broadcast on LBC in London, which was an exciting start.
Then I decided I wanted to write books. My first novel, THE WORMS OF EUSTON SQUARE, has just been published by independent Edinburgh publisher, Mercat Press.
Iím currently developing ideas for a sequel with the same detective, another novel entirely, and a radio play set in Rio de Janeiro.

MUSIC: I had great times playing guitar for Philip Jeays in London and at the Edinburgh Festival, before realising that one unpaid job was enough. Then I moved abroad and had a Butch Cassidy-like renaissance singing Dylan and Tom Waits songs in S„o Paulo pubs and Italian ice cream parlours.

ACTING: I appeared in Fringe shows in Edinburgh and London, most notably Ken Campbellís production of the longest play in the world, Neil Oramís The Warp, clocking in over 22 hours. I gave up because I wasnít very good.

TEACHING: I tutored Latin and Greek to survive in London, and English as a foreign language overseas. I turned my hand to subjects as wide as geography (which I never studied) and Spanish (which I donít speak) but I most enjoyed teaching guitar and creative writing. Oh, and I tutored the Sugababes.

DRIVING: I learned to drive like a demon working on a low-budget London gangster movie, Hard Men, starring real-life ĎMadí Frankie Fraser.

JOURNALISM: I write articles for magazines for learners of English in Brazil, France and Italy.

How did you start writing?

I never really stopped. You know, from writing stories in class and making up plays with friends at school. At college it was a great outlet for creative energy, a way to meet people, get to know people well. I always loved the process of a play: that arc from first idea through the crisis of rehearsals to the performance.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

My early heroes were Joyce, Beckett (my parents are Irish) and Kafka. It took me a long time to realise that their ambitious techniques werenít necessarily a good influence: we only keep reading difficult books (and studying them and writing about them) if the stories are good enough in the first place.
Iíve learnt a lot about stories from reading Alasdair Gray, Iain Banks and Paul Auster obsessively. I love the humour and ideas in Douglas Adams, and Woody Allen.
Books I keep going back to are The Great Gatsby, Candide, Gulliverís Travels, Zorba the Greek, Trainspotting: fantastic fables, with ironical narrative voices, unmistakable angles. Other great books: The Waves, Crime and Punishment, Anna Karenina, and The Odyssey: great shapes, conflicts, characters.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

My first radio play won the London Radio Playwrightsí Competition, which I think no longer exists.
My novel was accepted after a long search. Several agents liked it, but wouldnít take a chance on it.
I was just lucky to find the right publisher; someone told me about Mercatís books when I did a speculative reading in an Edinburgh pub two years ago. Iíve still not got an agent, but it doesnít seem so important now.

What's the worst thing about writing?

The lack of imposed structure.

And the best?

The lack of imposed structure.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

I send chapters to a few select friends and read bits to my girlfriend. Their response affects me perhaps too much, but it certainly gives me the encouragement to go on. I try to be sceptical when just one person doesnít like something, a scene or a character, but pay attention if several people comment. But the most important thing about it is perhaps recovering that initial excitement of presenting a story, which can get lost in all the rewriting and reworking.

What was your breakthrough moment?

Still waiting for it. But I find muddling through and keeping at it astonishingly good substitutes for sudden inspiration.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

disandland at 21:15 on 27 August 2006  Report this post
Thanks William - great interview. The more interviews I read, the more I realise all writers/creators seem to come from the same place. I often wonder if this is just our particular way of dealing with life.

Good luck with The Worms


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