This is my second Read & Tell on CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS, a new-released anthology for charity purpose, specifically the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
My guest this week is British author Simon John Cox, author of The Cage, one of the fantastic short stories in this anthology. As Jeff Provine has told us last week, Carnival of Cryptids is a collections of stories about creatures man was never meant to know, and Simon’s chosen creature is Yeti.
OMG Simon, what a story! The Cage simply left me speechless! Congratulations on this short story. Would you be so kind to give readers its one-sentence synopsis?
Yeti! Circus! Ringmaster! Money! Moral dilemma!
It felt so much more than that! How real are your characters?
They’re all based on bits of real people. As such the Yeti is either the most or the least real…
Who or what inspired you to write this story?
I had such a positive experience with the first Kindle All-Stars project that when I heard there was going to be a second I decided that I had to write something. I think I picked the Yeti because I like the idea that it’s potentially so similar to Man—that gives a lot of scope. That’s what prompted the story—at its heart it’s an exploration of the moral questions behind the objectification of a living, sentient, intelligent creature.
How long did it take you to write The Cage?
I think I worked on it on and off for a couple of months, but I was sweating right up to the deadline as writing the story changed the direction of the story such that I couldn’t resolve the ending. I wrote a blog post about how I did so, in case anyone’s interested: http://www.simonjohncox.com/2012/10/flowchart-writers-block-technique-and.html
Yes, I could see so much thought and reflection had been poured into this one. The result is brilliant! How did you come up with the title?
I usually find it difficult to come up with titles for my stories, because I write with a story in mind rather than a title. It’ll often take me as much thought to come up with a title as it does to come up with a plot. It was only after I’d finished writing this one that I realised that the thing that was causing all of the conflict in the piece was the cage.
What is your favorite line or paragraph in the book?
Modesty forbids me from picking one, I’m afraid.
You are so humble! I would say it’s extremely hard to pick one, because all of the paragraphs have been so deftly crafted.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’d say probably Thomas Pynchon for his imagery and turbulent imagination, Gabriel García Márquezfor his imagination and poetry of prose, and Cormac McCarthy for his precision of writing. They’re the ones that I aspire to (and fall far short of).
Not far at all, Simon. The Cage showcases your superb imagination and precision, besides being soulful and thought provoking.
When did you first know you just had to write?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something or other…
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?
The real joy of it is when a stranger contacts you out of the blue to let you know how much they liked something that you’ve written.
Definitely count me as one!
Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?
Apart from my partner, other writers. I’m a member of the Tunbridge Wells Writers Group, and I know various writers from the internet (many of them from the KAS1 project). They’re always very supportive in terms of encouragement, constructive criticism, advice and designing book covers (that last one’s mostly Keri Knutson and Tony Healey).
What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.
I’m trying to finish a second novel. It’s about one man whose records are erased and as a result gradually ceases to exist, and another man who is brought into existence by a series of clerical errors. It’s better than it sounds, honest.
Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?
It’s not a career, because I don’t make any money from it, but I wouldn’t call it a distraction either, as that sounds as though it’s something that I shouldn’t be doing…I’d say it’s an escape. It’s a great way of exploring the various ideas that are always rattling around in my skull.
How much do you have in common with your protag George Penny?
We’re both English. Beyond that…not much, I think. Although I expect there’s more of me in him than I realise…
Dumb question; I could see so much of you in this fine piece.
What are your hobbies?
Aside from writing I do a lot of running, and I also do Taekwon-Do.
I always think you need those to stay sane. What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?
I’m a marketer, and I generally write during my lunch hour at work. Otherwise I’ll sit down at the blank page if I find myself home alone in the evenings or at weekends.
Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.
Apart from my partner Saveria, I think honesty and integrity matter most to me. It sounds corny, I know, but it’s true.
Wonderful qualities—I wouldn’t worry about how it sounds. I’m sure they make you a blessing to those around you. How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you, by the way?
The one thing that people say to me regularly when they hear that I’ve written and published fiction is that they’re impressed. I suppose anyone can say they’re writing a book, whereas not nearly as many can say that they’ve written one…
I will look for your other work. What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?
That I am genuinely overjoyed if they like anything that I’ve written.
And they will want more from you. Any tips for us on writing?
I need to know the beginning and the end before I can write anything. I need to know the two points that I’m connecting.
Thank you for stopping here, Simon. Best wishes for your work!
My mini review of The Cage:
THE CAGE deceptively opens with a group of happy sailors seeking entertainment in town, singing and drinking without a care in the world. However before you know it Simon Cox rips your heart apart with a relationship so moving, truths so deep.
The Cage follows the beautiful interaction between an ambitious ringmaster and his captive, and asks thought-provoking questions about our very existence and what matters to us humans. Superbly told in a fast pace, carefully thought-out presentation, by a writer who makes us care.