3 AM LITERARY INTERVIEW
Welsh novelist Jeremy Dean introduces Scrawl, his new literary journal.
by Andrew Gallix
Copyright © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The print version of Scrawl is available directly from the publishers. To order the current issue, send Cheque/Money Order/International Money Order/Eurocheque for £3 UK pounds sterling payable to ‘Questing Beast’, to:
Scrawl, P O Box 1, Blaenau Ffestiniog, LL41 3AX, UK. One year subscription is available at £12 for four issues, there is a discount for two year subscription at £22.
3AM: Why is Scrawl both an e-zine and a paper publication?
JD: Two different readerships. The internet can reach people anywhere in the world, provided that they have access to a computer and don’t live in a totalitarian state that censors the content of the internet. Then again, not everyone has a computer or the time to find an internet café or library to surf. Some people like a ‘real’ magazine, and there remains a general feeling that something in print, on paper, is somehow more valid. Far fewer people have heard of, or seen, the print edition of Scrawl, yet we have received piles of speculative submissions specifically for the magazine, and none for the webzine. Strange huh?
3AM: You describe the paper edition as "a complement to the webzine": does this mean that the webzine comes first? Why is a "complement" necessary?
JD: To me, the word “complement” implies coexistence -- one is not more important than the other -- though the webzine has more potential for reaching a greater number of readers, and can be provided free of charge across the internet. A webzine is also cheaper and easier to produce, and so has a more secure future. At the planning stage, there was a decision to produce a webzine, and if this generated enough interest, then a print edition would follow or there would be annual compendia made available in printed form with highlights from the webzine. The financial assistance from the Arts Council of Wales made it possible to jump straight in with a printed version as well.
3AM: How often will the paper edition be published? Tell us about its distribution? Do you think it is commercially viable?
JD: The print edition of Scrawl is to be published on a quarterly schedule, one each season. Right now, distribution is limited to direct mail-order subscription. We have not really promoted it to any retail outlets as yet. Any retail enquiries are most welcome.
Commercially viable? Depends on your definition. Because it is very small scale -- bulk photocopied and then bound in-house, there is very little up-front outlay in terms of print costs, warehousing, etc. So we can afford to put it out and can be sure on being able to get ‘the next issue’ out too. If each issue is dependent on profits from the last, then things become uncertain. Many magazines fold after only a few issues because growth can be slow, especially when catering for any kind of specialist market. It takes time for word to spread and a reader base to develop. As readership/subscriptions increases, then quality of presentation will improve and the number of pages will grow. We intend to plough back any ‘profit’ into the ‘product’.
3AM: What differences are there between the contents of the launch issue of the paper edition and what is online?
JD: All content is mutually exclusive, except for the Iain Banks interview which appears in both editions. The Lydia Lunch interview in the print edition is different (and less extensive) than the one you will find on-line -- different questions, carried out on different occasions. Likewise, the short Colin Wilson piece we have in the webzine, will be supplemented by a lengthier (and more in-depth) interview feature in the second print edition. In the print version you also get exclusive interviews with Clive Barker, Lewis Davies, Ian Rowlands, Christopher Lee as well as features on David McComb, the futuregoth genre and Beowulf.
3AM: Who are the people behind Scrawl? Were you already involved in the publishing world?
JD: Questing Beast is an independent press which was set up by a small group of writers/illustrators/designers/publishers about six years ago. The primary drive is to fight the blandness of mainstream corporate publishing and to irritate any sector of society that irritates us.
Questing Beast went on to focus on cutting-edge alternative fiction. They are the UK publishers of the anarchist cult classic, The Last Days of Christ The Vampire by J G Eccarius, as well as a forthcoming graphic adaptation of the novel. Their most recent publication is a book about Lydia Lunch, Lady Lazarus by Maren Hancunt (a multi-talented Canadian DJ, Dance Instructor, Performer, Academic) which was written with support from, and includes two extensive interviews with, Lydia.
The editors of Scrawl are Jeremy Dean (that’s me) and Kim Vertue. Kim is a freelance writer of articles, short stories and two novels, so far. And this is what is said about me on the dust jackets:
“Jeremy Dean graduated from North Staffs Poly in 1987 with a BA (Hons) in Audio-visual Design and began operating in the independent underground. His short film creations include Lovelossfear, Pinchbeck and No Way, a music video for the band BrainDeath.
He has been afflicted with intermittent periods of employment as an international freight driver, sheet metal worker, magazine editor and video presenter. He found success as a journalist, his work being published in various magazines covering topics such as true crime, jazz, pop, alternative rock, immortality, psychology and film theory. He is also the author of six books, mainly music-related biographies (including Nick Cave, Henry Rollins, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana) and the critically-favoured novel, Scraps.
Jeremy Dean was born in Newport, Gwent, 1965, and now lives in the heart of Snowdonia where he teaches on a Performing Arts course at a local college.
3AM: How much help are you getting from the Arts Council of Wales?
JD: Money (£500) to get the ball rolling. This was a one-off payment to initiate the print edition.
3AM: Has devolution fostered a sense of cultural renaissance in Wales?
JD: Certainly has! Though I have suspicions that it is often more a ‘sense of’ than a reality. The ‘vision’ is there, though it needs more focus -- perhaps bifocals in the case of ‘Welsh’ literature as the scene is split between Welsh and Anglo-Welsh.
3AM: In recent years, Wales has been associated with indie music (Stereophonics, Catatonia, Manic Street Preachers). Is this something you will be covering in Scrawl?
JD: Yes. The whole remit of Scrawl is to give profile to all forms of the word and media facilitated by it. Primarily it is a literary journal, so we will tend to focus on singer-songwriters and bands with a strong lyrical content because that’s where the poetry exits today.
3AM: Has Niall Griffiths' Grits led to greater interest in Welsh literature?
JD: Niall Griffiths is one of the more interesting contemporary Welsh writers (check out his short in Pathian’s compendium “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe” for a good intro to his stuff) and you have heard of him outside Wales -- so yes, his work is generating greater interest in Anglo-Welsh literature. But there are others just as responsible for crossing the borders, such as John Williams with Cardiff Dead, just out through Bloomsbury, which is receiving a bit of attention in the mainstream UK media. Lewis Davies is very energetic in promoting Welsh writing (his own and that of others) off the ‘east coast’ of Wales. There’s Ian Rowlands, who is working toward a new identity for both Welsh and Anglo-Welsh theatre. I know there’s a danger when you start naming names that you’ll leave out many deserving folks, so I’ll stop with those few before I get carried away with it.
3AM: Is Scrawl committed to supporting local talent?
JD: Scrawl is committed to supporting good writing and to combating boring, bland or elitist literature. There is a conscious effort to showcase Anglo-Welsh writing. All the first issue was written by Welsh journalists, the fiction was from a Welsh writer (Anna Hinds), and there were two main features about Welsh writers (Lewis Davies and Ian Rowlands). The money from the Arts Council Of Wales came with the understanding that there would be prominent Welsh content. But Scrawl would not favour poor writing of Welsh origin over quality writing from elsewhere.
3AM: There is only one short story on your website. Will there be more in the future? Do you encourage fiction submissions? What in particular are you looking for?
JD: The webzine will update every three months and each update will include a new set of five features and a new piece of fiction. If there is increased interest, and if the quality and number of submissions improves, then we intend to create a supplemental site that will showcase new fiction. The print edition is expected to carry three short stories per issue from the second issue onward. We’re just hoping we get enough submissions of sufficient style and quality.
What in particular is Scrawl looking for? In terms of original fiction, anything that’s inventive, imaginative, effective and a good read. Stories that convince the reader that the subject matters to the author. The pretentious ‘beautifully observed slice of life’ shorts that seem en vogue at present can go get printed elsewhere.
3AM: Tell us about Scrawl's educational activities. Are they still in the planning stage? Are they a way for you of being involved in the community?
JD: Still at the planning stage, yes, in that I expect there will be far more extensive services available in the future. At the moment we are available to attend conferences, conventions and educational establishments to give talks on creative writing and journalism, and will be producing activity packs intended for schools and colleges.
3AM: Your “Essentials” page mainly lists books of interest to budding writers. Do you think most of your readers will be people who write themselves?
JD: Scrawl is for anyone with a passion for words, for those who enjoy reading and those who are aspiring or established authors. There is no better way to learn and improve the craft of writing than by reading the work of others, deciding what you like and why you like it, and hearing how those fellow writers approach their life and work. Scrawl also offers plenty of opportunity for freelance contributions, providing an interactive document that bridges the gap between reader and writer, at the same time recognising and crossing transmedia boundaries, from word to sound and vision, from concept to graphic realisation.
As for the “Essentials” page, this section will grow to include “essential” titles dealing with various subjects, for example: five essential books about films or five essential books about food, and so on.
3AM: The three main interviews in your first issue are of very diverse figures (Lydia Lunch, Colin Wilson and Iain Banks). Are they a good reflection of what Scrawl is about?
JD: I would like to think so -- I hope we can maintain such a high calibre of interviewee! The three you mention here are diverse in their style and subject material, but are all groundbreaking, potent authors who, in their own ways, deal with the nitty-gritty of the human condition without pose or pretence.
3AM: How did the Lydia lunch and Colin Wilson pieces come about?
JD: I’m responsible for both of those pieces (oh, and the Iain Banks one too), and I guess I’m a bit of a fanboy at heart. The main motivation for working on a non-profit, non-paying project like Scrawl, is that it gives you opportunities to talk to people you admire and ask them things! Luckily these people are also very generous and supportive.
I’ve had contact with Lydia Lunch on several occasions since I interviewed her for a magazine called Outlook some years ago. I wrote a small pamphlet about her life and work which led to me acting as editor for Questing Beast on Maren Hancunt’s book, Lady Lazarus. I contribute to a Lydia Lunch homepage at http://homepage.virgin.net/questing.beast/lydia.htm. Lydia was one of the first people outside my circle of family and friends to read my first novel, Scraps, and she was kind enough to write back with very encouraging comments, which as I hold her in high esteem as a critic, was an effective ‘vaccination’ against any editor’s rejection slip or negative review. We have managed to stay in touch.
The Colin Wilson interview was done a while ago for a magazine that promptly ‘folded’ before publication. So, I’ve been looking for an outlet for what is an extensive and informative article. Again, made possible by the generosity of the subject. I interviewed Colin Wilson, briefly, after a talk he gave in London to the Psychical Research Society and he was kind enough to offer a more extensive chat over breakfast on another occasion, which was hugely enjoyable.
This interview, also has been great fun, so thanx to 3 AM for a great opportunity to plug Scrawl!
The Scrawl Webzine may be freely accessed at: