Saturday 28th September 2013
Bookish Banter is proud to present today’s Featured Author.
Birmingham born writer Norman Samuda-Smith made history in 1982 for being the first Black British-born novelist to be published in the UK. He discovered his passion for writing at the age of 10-years-old and since has continued in writing and publishing more of his work; his first novel ‘Bad Friday’ was also shortlisted for the Young Observer Fiction Prize.
Please just give us a short intro all about you.
Ok, my full name is Norman Alexander Samuda Smith, born of Jamaican parents who came to England in the early 1950s. I am the younger of two children through my parents union, collectively; I am the youngest of twelve siblings. I am a father of two sons and two daughters and I have seven grandchildren; five girls, two boys. For 20 years I worked at Birmingham City University’s Art & Design Library. In 2010 I was released from the 9 to 5 grind and I decided to use the spare time that I now have to write and publish the stories that have been rolling around in my head for years.
What part of the planet do you call home?
I was born and raised in Birmingham, England; I’m still here so Birmingham is my home.
How long have you been writing?
It’s a long story so I’ll try to keep it short. My potential for writing kicked in when I was 10. In my English lessons, my teacher Miss Ward used to write five essay titles on the board and she’d say to the class, choose a title which inspires you the most and write a story based on the title. Most of the stories I handed in were never finished. Miss Ward always said if I concentrated on finishing my stories, I would get higher marks. Then when I was 12, I started to write a series of books about a football team called the Caribbean Stars. All the players and characters in those books were my friends. The Caribbean Stars won every domestic trophy; eventually they won the ultimate football club prize in Europe, The European Cup. I entertained my friends for a couple of years with the Caribbean Stars’ stories. When I grew out of writing those, I started to write other stories, but didn’t share them with anybody. I guess they were my development years.
Have you got a book to promote at the moment and can you tell us a little bit about it please?
I have two books to promote Laura, Britannia’s Children and Freedom Street.
Britannia’s Children, is a collection of short stories that illustrate Black-British dialect and identity in their infancy. The stories take you inside the world and culture of a people from the Caribbean and their British-born offspring They speak of the past, present and possible future. For some, they will be a history lesson; others, a trip down memory lane. You can buy a copy @
Freedom Street is a collection of Short Stories and Poems. They take you on a thought-provoking reading excursion of contemplation, love, hope, family and remembrance of departed ones. You can buy a copy @
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on the third edition of my novel Bad Friday, in celebration of its 30th Anniversary, and the fact that I was the first Black British born novelist to be published in the UK. It was first published in 1982 when I was just 23 years of age. Bad Friday will be published in October 2013. Details of the novel are available on my website; I will reveal the link to that later in this interview.
Where did the inspiration for your latest book come from?
Living and growing up in our close knit inner-city community of Small Heath Birmingham back in the day. My West Indian roots and culture, reggae music, sound systems, and my love of the game of basketball.
Which genre do you write for or do you cross genres?
I’ve never really pinned myself down to a particular genre, I leave that to the experts. I just write about family, relationships and friendships, mainly what’s happening around me, or what inspires me.
Did you do a lot of research for the book and how did you tackle it?
Most of my research is observing, listening, my environment, everyday life, the news, talking to people and reading. I grab unconnected situations, throw them into what I call the melting pot and then I start playing. Subconsciously, I ask myself, what would my characters do in this given situation?
Do you think you have improved as a writer since beginning your book and what lessons have you learnt about the process?
I think I have improved. The more I write, the more confident I become, less doubt surfaces.
Any stumbling blocks in the writing process for your latest book?
The only stumbling block was trying to improve on what I had already written. The hardest thing was revisiting a novel written by a 23 years of age me, and questioning why I wrote it the way I did.
What is it that you love so much about writing?
I love the challenge. Grabbing bits and pieces of individual words, sentences, paragraphs and scenarios, then mix them up to create believable stories. I call it painting pictures with words.
Did you craft a carefully well thought out plan for the book or did it just flow naturally?
I recognised when I was younger stories just flow naturally. The plan comes after I write down what emerges organically. I’ve stayed loyal with that formula and it works for me.
Do you have a blog and do your fans encourage you?
Yes I do have a blog. It’s called Panther Newsletter, an on line cultural review, which spotlights news, articles, short-stories, history, local and international artists, writers, poets and community leaders etc. You can view it @ http://wp.me/DUcK or http://panthernewsletter1.wordpress.com – I’ve had 49,000 hits and counting since its launch in 2009. It could have been more, but I took a break from it to work on my projects, Britannia’s Children, Freedom Street and Bad Friday. So I guess 49,000 hits is encouragement enough. By the way, log on to Panther Newsletter and you’ll be able to read the synopsis of Bad Friday it will whet your appetite.
Self-published or traditional or both?
I’ve been down the traditional publishing route and I don’t plan to go back there again anytime soon. I prefer to self-publish. I affirmed it when I was a little boy at school in short trousers, I’m doing it now, let’s see where the journey takes me.
Is your book a part of a series?
Yes. There is going to be a sequel to Bad Friday. It already has a title, Inner-City Blues. I’m toying with the idea of it being a trilogy. Plus there could be a couple of spin-off novels another branch of the Bad Friday brand. I’m also considering a follow up to Britannia’s Children (The Next Generation); the experimental drafts look and feel very tasty so far.
What other passions do you have in love apart from writing?
I love basketball. I don’t play competitively any more, but I do take time out to shoot some hoops. I aim to meditate every day, exercise by doing Yoga, Chi-Kung, now and again I head to the gym; and of course I pray to the most high. All designed to keep me fit healthy and alert physically and mentally. I love chilling with my grandchildren, and watching my favourite selected programmes on TV. Plus I love following the fortunes of my two favourite teams in the world of sport, Manchester United and the L.A Lakers.
Do you have any inspirational heroes, literary or otherwise who have really influenced you?
Oh yeah, there are loads, but I’ll name a few. Inspirational heroes; My mom and dad, Marcus Garvey, Nanny of the Maroons, Haile Selassie, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Mohamed Ali, Magic Johnson, Pele. Literary heroes; Raymond Chandler, Jess Mowry, Albert French, they are just a few.
Do you have a book trailer?
Yeh I have two book trailers and one planned for Bad Friday. A friend of mine told me they are not book trailers, but you know, I like to play around, have fun and do things different from the norm; forget the ‘rules’ sometimes; experiment. So I’ll give y’all the links to them, so you can watch and make up your own minds.
How do you pace yourself with writing and do you have a special place to do it?
I live in a small flat so my ‘special place’ is in my living room and I usually write with classical music in the background. I’ve discovered that classical musical relaxes my mind and I can write for hours with the music playing and I don’t realise it. Sometimes I write all day until the early hours of the morning, other times I might just write for one or two hours. It depends on my mood or on what other things I have to do on a particular day.
Do you belong to any writers’ circles and does it help you to focus?
No not really, although on the Linkedin site I’m connected to three writers groups where you can get involved with or start an online discussion, promote and brag about your books etc. There’s no pressure if you don’t. On the other hand I follow podcast and writing advice sites hosted by Joanna Penn and Anne Wayman; and blogs like yours Laura, and LeTeisha Newton (who you interviewed earlier this year), to see what y’all are up to, and to be inspired.
If you could give one piece of advice to a budding author – what would it be?
That’s easy; read other writers who are better than you. Study their style; find your own voice, your style. Trust your instincts, and be confident and believe in what you do. Oh yeah, keep the faith and never give up.
Where can we buy your book and like your fan pages?
Britannia’s Children: http://www.feedaread.com/books/Britannias-Children-9781782991656.aspx
My website/Blog: http://panthernewsletter1.wordpress.com
A Review of Britannia’s Children: http://www.naiobijames.com/rustys-reviews.html
Britannia’s Children on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BritanniasChildren?ref=hl
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Thank you for joining in the fun Norman – it was a real pleasure featuring you on ‘Bookish Banter’.
Thank you Laura and nuff respect for the invitation and opportunity.
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