If you don’t know Francis Powell, you should. He is an interesting chap, a man who attending a British boarding school NOT named Hogwarts and, like Harry Potter, didn’t have a great time for the most part. He is published by Savant Books and was kind enough to speak with me.
S: First tell us what made you want to be a writer and what prompted you to write Flight of Destiny.
F: I moved to a remote village in Austria. It was not far from Vienna, but a very oppressive and strange environment. I thought I should try writing a book. I launched into it…nothing came of it. I do many creative activities, painting as well as writing music. Writing lay dormant, put to one side. Then later, living in Paris at this point in time, via an advert, I made contact with a man called Alan Clark, who had a literary magazine called “Rat Mort” (dead rat). I submitted four short stories for this magazine, encouraged by Alan, I began to write more and more short stories, and developed a style…When I had a stock of short stories, it seemed logical to try to put them all together and find a publisher.
S: Your novel is actually a collection of 22 short stories, but the kind of world you create is described as “reflections of a parallel, but darker, often fatalistic noir that proceeds quite independently by its own machinations to grind away at the grist of humanity for what appears to be no apparent reason.” I read some of your stories and they just drove me crazy, with how sharp you twist your writing, especially near the end. What was the motivation for your style?
F: I suppose I like the idea of writing a short story in the same way a fisherman might fish, enticing and luring a reader then hooking them (I am against all forms of hunting by the way). I suppose with my style I like to play a bit with the reader, lay false trails…to tantalize readers, and then at the end of the story turn the story around with his unexpected twist, which is the ultimate aim with this type of short story.
Like with other creative activities, painting for example, often a painter tries different styles before they truly develop their own style. Sometimes this style can come about due to an accident, or coming across something that leaves a deep impression on them…for example the painter Francis Bacon, in his early career had an obsession with Picasso, his horrific images came about having bought a second hand book of diseases of the mouth, added to the fact that he greatly admired Eisenstein‘s Battleship Potemkin, particularly the scene of the nurse screaming on the Odessa steps. Why are my stories so dark? Perhaps writing is for me a bit cathartic and I need to draw out my deep dark thoughts, some of which have been latent over a period of time. I like creating and developing despicable characters…this seems to quite easily for me. We live in this horribly cruel world, full of people who are oppressed, for one reason or another …and this runs through my stories. There is a kind of social commentary that runs through some my short stories…One of the good things that came out of my education was studying Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray and his character Becky Sharpe, archetypal social climber. I think my stories are very “British” in character. It is true to say , I have many motivations behind my writing.
S: Would you ever experiment with a style of writing that isn’t dark?
F: I always love a challenge, but it might be hard, I have tried writing Children’s stories and even they turned out a bit “dark” however children seem to like dark stories. To write a story, with a happy beginning, happy characters, and happy ending, it could be possible, I would have be very disciplined. I do a lot of blogging and enjoy writing factual articles, which require research. It is great to learn new things.
S: You talked about Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss as having an influence on your writing. Was he your favorite British author, or did you have another one who influenced you the most?
F: I love the work of Rupert Thomson, who wrote “Dreams of leaving” as well as other books. I met him when I was a new student at Art College and he and his writing has made a long lasting impression on me.
S: We want to know: Why did you not enjoy your time in boarding school?
F: For me it was a bit like doing a stint in prison…in fact people sent to boarding schools, during the period I was there, easily adapt to prison. There was twelve in a dormitory, you never have time for yourself. You had to match all the conventions of such an institution or you would be become an outsider and quickly become the victim of all kinds of abuse. Most of the boys were destined to join the military, or go into comfortable nine to five jobs…there were a few artistic/creative types, but these were few and far between. Then there were the punishments, most of which are outlawed in this day and age. Running up a hill, without a shirt, whatever the weather, then having a cold shower, was supposed to toughen you up. If you were caught smoking for example you would be caned. Boarding schools are supposed to be character building, but mine just affected me in this negative way.
S: Was your childhood an easy one, or a rough one, in your view? (minus boarding school)
F: My childhood was dominated by Boarding School, however I had some wonderful holidays in Cornwall. However compared to many childhoods, mine was not an easy one…
S: Have you ever been flattered by a comparison to a well-known author or by a review?*
F: An editor compared my work to a re-incarnated Edgar Alan Poe.
S:You have a traditionally published novel, although with a smaller press. Why did you choose Savant Books to publish your book?
F: I guess I encountered Savant by chance. They showed an interest in my work.
S: For all our readers and writers who never got a book published with an actual publisher, take us through the process from the time they acquired your novel until publication.
F: It is a long drawn out process…for me it was complicated by the fact that I am British, my publisher American, so different spelling, grammar, ideas came into play. E-Mails were sent over a period of three years, shaping a reshaping the book. I must say I was a real novice concerning this process of editing and polishing and proofing. A writer thinks about stories, and the precious sentences they have put in their book, a book publisher thinks about readers, selling books, reaching a certain market.
S:What are some future projects you’re working on?
F: At the moment it is full on promotion of my book Flight of Destiny. I would love a follow up to it, I have reserve of stories lying in wait.
Follow Francis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/flightofdestinyshortstories
Watch his awesome video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlV2tHTnM4Q
Purchase from Savant books directly: savantbooksandpublications.com