Pete Sutton lives in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol, UK and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies.
He’s had his work published, online and in book form. Currently Pete has a pile of words that one day may possibly be a novel, working title “Sick City Syndrome”.
Pete signed for Kensington Gore Publishing early March 2016. His collection of short stories “A Tiding of Magpies” is being published soon with the novel “Sick City Syndrome” to follow later in the year.
What made you serious about writing?
I’ve always been a passionate reader. In school, age 12 I was writing short stories and also wrote a play (which my class performed), but then I discovered tabletop roleplaying via Fighting Fantasy books and my storytelling urge was assigned to RPGs for many years. In university I discovered LARP and was part of that mad, enjoyable hobby for around twenty years where my stories were pretty much interactive theatre. That teaches you well by the way, as the audience are also taking part in the story so you get instant feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
I did a degree in Environmental Science and part of that was communication of science and science journalism. Inspired by that I had a plan to work for a science publisher on books and/or magazines so did the MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes. For various reasons I never did make it in publishing, but it was always an interest. So when Bristol Festival of Literature started I volunteered. In short order I was organising events for it and getting to know writers, publishers and other literati. Around the same time a couple of my friends got publishing deals and I remembered my vague – ‘I’d like to be an author one day’ ambition, long quiescent. Working at the festival I got to attend a lot of workshops, and be immersed in creative energy so I decided that I should write.
I still procrastinated though, until I met a writing tutor who, in response to my “I’d like to write one day,” asked me, “why don’t you then?” I had no good reason not to, so started writing short stories. I stopped LARPing soon after and got serious about writing. I was blasé about my level of skill until I got my first critique from a writers group at a convention, and was rudely awakened that I didn’t know the rules of grammar or punctuation and the story I’d submitted had major problems. I took that to heart, invested in some writing books, a good grammar book, and made myself learn.
When I submitted a story in response for an anthology call out (Airship Shape and Bristol Fashion) and it was accepted, I got more serious. Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke who edited that collection were instrumental in teaching me how a story is built. I aim for continuous improvement, I want each story I write to be better than the last, and am constantly learning.
Being published, and wanting to be published again made me serious about writing. Winning a couple of short story competitions made me realise that I could be serious about writing.
How do you write, do you have a specific place or can you write anywhere?
I mostly write in what we grandly call ‘the library’ at home – we have many books, many, many books (they seem to breed) – I’ve been reviewing books online (and for magazines) since 2010 and was getting sent a lot of ARCs – I’m also a terrible book hoarder and bibliophile so can’t resist adding to the collection, even though I have enough unread books to last me a couple of years of reading (at least). So where I write I am surrounded by books. But I’m not precious – when I need to I scribble in notepads, on a tablet, on my laptop at home, in coffee shops, in airports, on trains – you can’t ritualise writing, you have to be able to write anywhere I think.
What is your inspiration for writing? How do you get ideas for stories and how do you pick which ones to pursue?
In a word life is my inspiration for writing – I experience something that sparks associations with something else and that may be the start of a story, or a character, or a situation, or a setting. Everything that happens could be inspiration, stories make the world. How to pick and choose? Well that’s the mysterious part – some things sound like great ideas and you write a story and the story doesn’t come together. But then some things you think are a little thing – a setting for a single scene, a walk-on character, grow in the writing. The novel I am writing right now – Sick City Syndrome – came from two separate, and on the face of it very different, stories. The book is from an entirely different point of view to the earlier stories but they are like the foundations for it – unseen – but what the novel is built upon.
OR, if you read my story “Five for Silver” in A Tiding of Magpies I reveal the big secret of where writers get their stories from…
What advice do you give to writers just starting out?
Don’t wait for permission, learn the rules of English before you try to break them, join a writing group, go to conventions or literary festivals and get to know other writers – read everything, then read it again critically and write. Finish your shit and get feedback.
What is your new book about and when will it be released?
On 28th June 2016 I’ll be releasing a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies.
The stories are all themed around the counting magpies poem – “One for sorrow, two for mirth… ” What’s been interesting is so many people grew up with the TV show version of the song they are surprised by the traditional version – I have no idea why they changed it for TV. The stories are dark and use horror, fantasy and SF tropes. Several have child narrators and are often ambiguous.
I’ve had several nice blurbs from other authors and a brilliant foreword from Paul Cornell.
“As if Raymond Carver turned his hand to writing science fiction.” – David Gullen (Clarke Award judge)
“However dark their subject matter, there is a sweet and subtle music to Sutton’s stories. They take you to strange places.” – Mike Carey (Lucifer, The Unwritten, The Girl with all the Gifts, Fellside).
“Pete Sutton has a talent for the fantastic.” – Paul Cornell (Shadow Police series, This Damned Band, Doctor Who, Elementary).
To keep up to date with Pete’s latest works and projects, visit:
The Bristol Book Blog (His blog)
Far Horizons (a literary e-mag where he is an editor)
or follow him on twitter at @suttope