Interview with A.M. Tennent

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in government housing, in the Shaws, on the south side of Glasgow. We lived in the high flats in Pollokshaws and then moved to Eastwood scheme just off the Thornliebank Road when I was about 13. Pollokshaws has been torn down again now. They tore it down in the 60's and built the flats and then they razed the flats to the ground a few years ago. Although it was not the nicest place to grow up, tearing a community down to the rubble twice has changed the area, and not for the better. If you want to see the flats go down, you can go to you Youtube and type in Pollokshaws Shawbridge demolition - here is a link to one video (you will have to copy paste) - Warning! When the building goes down the video gets LOUD, just in case you have earbuds in.

In this video you can see the first ever library I joined, on the right. I have been a member of every library of every city I have lived in from then till now. That library was my solace and a source of fascination. It was warm in the winter, cool in the summer, a still and peaceful haven. I was bursting with pleasure and pride when I progressed up to the young adult section and was allowed to borrow more than just the little children's books. I still recall my incredulous joy the day I got my first library card. I ran all the way home to get my mum to sign it, and all the way back again, not quite believing my good fortune. That I could take these books home with me, for free! It is a sweet memory.

To the back of the library, far right out of shot, is the first ever swimming baths (or public pool) I ever ventured into and where I learned to swim. There really were baths upstairs too. When I was really young, our immersion heater died and my mum took my brothers and I there one evening to have an actual bath. It was a pretty bizarre experience, overall, sitting there naked in a tub in a cubicle, upstairs from a public swimming pool.To the left on the video you can see some small red gas flats, and further left behind those gas flats used to be a graveyard where we played as children, and there used to also stand the multi where my first love, Mark Rennie, lived. On the 14th floor of that building, in his room overlooking the River Cart, we discovered all kinds of fascinating things about ourselves. These buildings were the landscape of my youth. All gone, now.

At the very back of the screen, behind the multi that is being blown up, you can catch a glimpse of two smaller flats still standing. One of those was the building where I was born. My mother, a state registered nurse, eschewed nursing care as they had been quite cruel to her with prior birth experiences. So I was born at 160 Shawbridge Street, Flat 5, House 58, Pollokshaws, Glasgow, G43 1PE. Phone number 649 5994. My parents made me memorise that, and it is indelibly saved in my memory. If I live to old age I might forget most of my life, but I bet the last thing to go will be that recitation. Like my parents, and most of my past, the room I was born in is gone now too.

In many ways it was a difficult and hard place to be a vulnerable child. But of course now I remember it mostly with fondness, even the hardships. My first 25 years, spent in working class Scotland, has influenced every single thing about me, from my speech, to my politics, to my choice of friends, to my worldview. I daresay most of us could say the same about our upbringing.
When did you first start writing?
When I was very young. But it became more frequent as I grew older, and when I was about 13 I started writing in earnest. Mostly excruciatingly, achingly, embarrassingly bad poetry of the sort only a teenager can truly appreciate. Think Adrian Mole, but with less self awareness.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Around 2012, I was watching something on TV which infuriated me. I can't remember what now. I have barely turned on the TV in over 3 years, because so many things on the TV either bore or infuriate me. Anyway, I decided I want to vent, and vent large.Just an email or an FB status update would not do. I wanted the WORLD to know how peeved I was. So I tried to start a blog and I ranted for a couple of posts. But it turned out, I actually only get ranty on half a dozen topics. As for the rest, I simply enjoy talking. So I closed the blog and started a new one. And out of cyberspace a woman called Kim Foale started following me, and commenting. And then a few more people. And then some of my friends started to drop by. And before I knew it, a lot of folk were reading my words and telling me they were entertaining. And blogging gave me courage and gave me practice. And so, finally, I shut the blog down and started to write my tales as stories in a book. And here we are, four years later.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It seemed (and is) a lot easier than having to try to flog myself to a bored publisher who might read a fraction of one page - if I was lucky - and then bin me with the other 100 submissions that week.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I am switched on, when the connections are flowing smoothly and the thoughts come freely, I love the way the words come spilling out of my head and through my fingers. The rushing, pushing, jostling of ideas. When I am in a writing fugue I literally cannot type the words fast enough (and I type fast!). The words write themselves, I feel like a conduit. And it is an absolute, cathartic joy.
What do your fans mean to you?
When I was blogging, I was genuinely astonished that total strangers would tell me they loved my words.That I had touched them. I cannot tell you how powerful that was for me, how much that meant to me. I felt connected, cared for, and - for that brief moment - that someone understood me. Who could not love that?
What are you working on next?
I have just now finished publishing my first book, but I have many more tales to share and I am going to start on a similar second book in the next couple of weeks.
Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Stephen Donaldson, Bill Bryson, Isaac Asimov, Phillip K Dick, Agatha Christie, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Ruth Rendell - and far, far too many others to remember off the top of my head. I have been reading since I was about 4, and not a week has gone by since then that I have not at least read a few chapters of a book. Reading is an absolute joy to me. A precious thing.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My children. They are now nearly 18 and 14 and they are, as they were on the day I first kissed their brand new faces, the reason, the rhyme, the song of my life.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work for a psychologist, a job I love. I love the movies and will often just go on my own, as trying to organise friends is like trying to herd cats. I volunteer at a children's organisation. I am studying psychology (very, very slowly!), and have taken several counselling workshops to help me be able to support other people and to try to be the best version of myself that I can be.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Sometimes I type in an author, sometimes I type in a genre, sometimes I just randomly browse, sometimes a friend will give me a nudge.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yep. It was "Paddington Visits Glasgow" and was published in the St Convals Primary school magazine. And that was about the last time I submitted anything for publication, until now.
What is your writing process?
Get an idea, quickly write a few sentences before I forget them, sit down and hammer away until it is pretty much finished, or until I am spent. Go back and edit, proof and edit. Go away for a few days. Edit and proof some more. Publish.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Yep. The Fox and the Hare, aged about 4. I was so worried for the Hare, and so pleased when he and the Fox became friends and they were both safe and cared for.
How do you approach cover design?
As easily as possible. I will think about it more for my next book. I just wanted a cover, had some idea of the elements I needed, so asked my teenage daughter to make one for me, and she did.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
There are far, far too many to choose five. I will choose five because that's what is asked. But I could choose 50 and not be done.

Stephen King's The Shining. I read it when I was about 11 the first time. It terrified me, upset me and exhilerated me in equal measure. It became the book all other horror stories were measured against and mainly found wanting.

Stephen Donaldson's first Covenant Series, starting with Lord Foul's Bane. I was aged 15 or so when I first starting reading these books, and they affected me deeply. They were quite difficult going at times and often I was unsure of the sub plots or the adult themes that were explored. But the emotions were deep and painful and at that age the sorrow and passion of the characters was thrilling to me.

Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. For similar reasons. Though nowhere near as meaningful to me, I found the adult passions and the undercurrents fascinating.

Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series, particularly the first three books. They were just so damned quirky, and clever and actually made me laugh out loud. I can recall walking along Netherauldhouse Road towards Auldhouse Park, unable to stop reading, scurrying across the road quickly so I could return my eyes to the book and keep walking slowly with my head still buried in the pages.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, especially The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic. Similarly, I was astonished at how clever the author was, and I was so pleased with myself when I caught an allusion, and laughed aloud many times when reading these books. I was staying with a friend who introduced me to them. We had gotten rid of our TV at that point, and when we weren't out partying the night away, we would sit in the calm and quiet of her living room, enjoying mellow lamp light, the gas fire, and a glass or 10 of wine, the only noise the rustle of our turning pages as we read and read an read some more. Occasionally I would punctuate that with a snort and Andrea would eagerly enquire "which bit are you up to?" and I, giggling, would read the passage aloud to her and we would bask in Pratchett's wit and wisdom. There are no words that do justice to the unexpected sweetness of those hours, cocooned in our own little world of books and friendship.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle fire.
Published 2015-01-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.