Interview with Adrian Graham

Written on September 12th, 2008 by Adam in Reviews, Interviews & Mentions

An Interview with Adam Maxwell, author of ‘Dial M For Monkey’

1 ) Can you explain how you got into writing and, more specifically, writing short stories?

I think I’ve always been writing. And apart from a period where I was writing angsty poetry (I was at uni doing an English Degree – it’s practically the law) I’ve pretty much always written prose. I did a Masters Degree in Creative Writing a few years ago and it was there I think I really realised that I LOVED writing short-short stories. They just encouraged you to go with whatever you were developing and I think I gradually came to the conclusion that a story can be any length. Right now I’m enjoying writing in the form but I’m playing with some other things too.

2 ) Your book, ‘Dial M For Monkey’ was was published by Tonto Press in 2006. How would you describe it for those who haven’t read it?

How I would describe it!? Erm. I’m trying to think of a way of describing it without sounding vain. Fuck it, I can’t – it’s a work of unparalleled genius in the form of short stories. It will make you laugh, cringe and probably weep too. Although the reasons for each I’m afraid I can’t go into for legal reasons. There are some stories that are a page long and some that are ‘traditional’ short story length. It’s contemporary and full of pop culture references – it will cause you to be instantly more erudite and this, in turn, will help you to attract the partner of your dreams. Like hypno-lit.

3 ) Has being published changed your views about writing or the book world?

Definitely. I was lucky enough to be published by a small independent but I think every author thinks that their first book will set the world on fire. Of course when it comes to short story collections this would very rarely be the case and it takes a while to come to terms with that. The industry as a whole tells you that no-one buys them and as a result people believe that. As it happens you and I know that to be untrue, as our websites and the surrounding communities attest there is a massive amount of interest in the form. I think that my experiences have informed the direction I want to go in with my next project because what I want to achieve has changed and I don’t think that it can be achieved through ‘traditional’ avenues. It also helped me realise and I am a complete control freak and that I must maintain that control at all costs…

4 ) You describe yourself as a ‘flash fiction’ writer. Is this a label you’re happy with?

Sometimes. That is, I liked it when I found out that there was a name for the sort of writing that I did. And then sometimes I just wish people would read my stuff. I think labels can be useful and important to help you find a writer but once you have found them then hopefully you will stick with them whatever they decide to do. I’d like to think that I’d be able to write in other forms and for people not just to think of me as a ‘Flash Fiction’ writer.

5 ) There are people out there who see short fiction as being a training ground before writing serious literature, like a novel. What do you think about that?

Hmmm. Not sure. I don’t think that I would ever like to write serious literature. Where’s the fun in that? I think the more you write the better you get at it so it could be said that writing an epic novel would be great training for writing short stories. Ultimately there has to be a mastering of the form but the better you get at writing generally I think the easier that mastery becomes.

6 ) Is short fiction neglected in the UK?

In the mainstream I think it is but in the independents and on the net there is a growing community of excellent writers who will keep pushing it forward. And this is mainly because they know there is a readership out there. If you look at magazines like Esquire in the US they are publishing short fiction but in this country… not so much.

7 ) Your website has a strong identity. It features Podcasts and stories sent out by email. What’s your opinion about digital technology and writing? How does the website fit in with you as a writer and promoting your work?

When it comes to promoting my work the website is right in the centre of that. Firstly, I think that good writing must come first. There are technological gimmicks you can use but you can’t rely on them. Secondly it does need to look good. I know that sounds stupid but people won’t read something, no matter how good it is, if it isn’t presented well. Third I think that you have to find the right purpose for the technology. Take short stories by email on my site. That used to be the mailing list and no-one signed up. I changed the name and purpose and suddenly I’ve got people signing up by the truckload. People want certain content delivered in certain ways and if you can get it right… Well there’s thousands of people coming to the site every month so I must be doing something right!

In the end I started by creating the type of site I would want my favourite author to have. And then I went out to try to convince the world that I am their favourite author. It’s a bigger job than I thought.

8 ) Your fiction often plays with comic violence. Is this a fair generalisation? If so, where does this stem from?

Monty Python. Probably. Or the action films of the 80’s. Or cartoons. Probably all of the above. I think it’s a fair generalisation for some of my stuff and in all honesty I think it comes from the desire to push situations to the extremes. Because of the influences it probably involves some of them reaching violent conclusions. Although, to be fair, it tends to be frying-pan-in-the-face or a kick in the balls rather than anything more ‘horror’ orientated – it’s a kind of like Wodehousian Tarantinoism.

9 ) What influences your storytelling?

The books I’m reading, films I watch, conversations I have, things I see on the internet, TV, just whatever is around me. Consciously or subconsciously pilfering elements as I go.

10 ) When you sit down to write a flash fiction, what happens? Do you already have an idea of what you’re going to do? How do you know when it’s finished?

I practically never sit down and just write. Mostly I have an idea or a phrase I’ve written down or remembered. Sometimes I take the time and plot out what will happen (not so much of this one on the shorter stories).

Next, I let it sit in my head for a bit and let my subconscious do the work. Then when I sit down it’s pretty much ready to pour onto the page. After that I’ll go through it and read it, proof it and decide whether it needs redrafting. At that point there’s usually two scenarios – either it just needs tightening up or it needs rethinking. In the former, one more draft and it’s done. The latter and it might end up with a different ending or being told first person instead of third person, whatever it takes really.

11 ) What are you working on now? And does it involve any monkeys?

There are two things – one involves monkeys and is, I’m afraid, top secret. I may let you in on it but you will be sworn to secrecy and not allowed to blog about it until it’s finished. The second one is a new collection called (probably) ‘Five Tales of Marvel, Murder & Meerkats’ and is going to be an illustrated, beautifully designed and hand finished work of art (no, really). As the working title suggests it is five tales, all of which will be accompanied by an illustration, it will be a thing of beauty. It is hopefully going to mark the beginning of a series of collectables that will become available over time, each one having its own individual style and character and becoming something that I hope people will look forward to seeing ‘what comes next’…


Many thanks to Adam for his time and promt reply to my emailed questions. More information about him and his work is available from his website. There’s a review of ‘Dial M For Monkey’ on this blog here.

The original version of this interview is available on Adrian Grahams site here.