On 25th November 2014, we launched the ten-way collaborative novel Circ.
In honour of this very unique novel reaching two years of age, here is a self-inflicted interview.
What is Circ?
Circ was the result of the Ten To One novel project, in which ten authors wrote a novel together, seeking the approval of a judging panel and a public vote to keep their character in the story. Essentially, it was The X-Factor for writers.
What is Circ about?
Circ is a thriller set in Skegness. It follows the lives of ten very different characters, who all cross paths with Razvan Popescu, an old man who keeps himself to himself. Few know the man and even fewer know his past, which he has tried to leave behind in the Romanian woods...
Which ten writers took part?
Myself, Maria Mankin, Yasmin Ali, Jason Holloway, Livia Akstein Vioto, Luke Beddow, Danielle Rose Bentley, William Thirsk-Gaskill, Sue Barsby and Giselle Thompson.
Where are the writers from?
Seven are based in different parts of the UK, whilst Maria and Jason live in the US, and Livia lives in Brazil. It was therefore an international collaboration made possible by the wonders of email and Dropbox.
Which of the ten authors/characters survived until the end?
I am happy to say that my character, Mungo the Clown, was voted winner of the Ten To One project. The reward was being asked to write the final chapter of Circ, which allowed me to bring Mungo's story to its full conclusion.
Who is Mungo the Clown?
Mungo the Clown is a drunk who spends his days on a bench on the Skegness pier. He is lazy, grumpy and sad, although the locals think he is being ironic so they donate enough coins to finance his diet of fried fish and candy floss.
Mungo had an unhappy childhood, which fuels his hatred of the Punch and Judy Show performed on the pier. His only happy memories are from the circus before it burnt down. He prefers his own company, "a circus of one", but he gets dragged into the lives of others as the novel unfolds.
Does Circ work as a novel?
Absolutely. We all agreed to write in closely-written third person like A Game of Thrones. Meanwhile, the leader of the project, author Iain Grant, kept an eye on continuity. Iain was effectively the "director" and gave us brief synopses each month to guide our writing. This ensured a coherent story.
What was the hardest part?
There were nine rounds of voting, which meant I had to pester my Facebook friends every month for nine months to keep me in the competition. I blasted my news feed with constant pleas, which helped me get votes, albeit begrudgingly. I definitely lost a few friends in that time.
What was the easiest part?
I loved my character Mungo. I planned his entire back story and overall arc, so there was no greater motivation to stay in the competition than the opportunity to see his story told in full. This spurred me on and helped me write to the best of my ability.
Did the competition get heated between the writers?
Honestly, no. We were all very supportive of each other. Another motivating factor was seeing pieces of great writing appear in Dropbox each day. Instead of making me competitive, it made me want to produce good writing myself so I would not let the team down.
How was the launch?
The Circ book launch was a high profile event at the Library of Birmingham. Eight of the ten writers managed to attend the launch, including Jason who flew over from the US. We showed Jason the many sights of Birmingham, including our magnificent Library, Bacchus Bar, Old Joint Stock and our enormous Frankfurt Christmas Market. I also introduced Jason to Nando's for which he will ever be thankful.
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