Conversations with Colleen: Meet the Poet, Tallis Steelyard, & Author, Jim Webster @JimWebster
Hello everyone! This week I’m thrilled to bring you a special guest. Today’s interview is with the poet, Tallis Steelyard. I asked him to pick a few questions from my huge list HERE, which he did.
Now, for those of you who don’t know Tallis, he is the creation of British author, Jim Webster. I’m convinced the two of them are one in the same, but you should be the judge of whether that is true or not.
I asked for a drawing of Tallis and Jim Webster shares,
“Tallis was born some time ago. Just exactly how long ago is disputed by a man who claims that whilst he is over thirty, age is mere assumption and nugatory in the great scheme of things.
Be that as it may he has been married to Shena for many of those years and she too insists that age sits lightly on her. As a matter of practical courtesy, age appears to agree.”
Hello, Tallis! Welcome. Would you mind sharing the first book that made you cry?
I can remember it as if it was only yesterday. I sat staring at a ledger in the office of Miser Mumster. The columns were just so, the hand elegant, and all the totals balanced. I realised that I had achieved perfection in my craft. Even the Miser, passing behind me, commented favourably on my achievement.
But the sudden realisation that I could not improve devastated me. I sat there and wept. I could go no further. So at an unfeasibly young age I left the counting house and swore to earn my living as a poet.
As a retired bookkeeper, I totally understand how you feel. So, does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing should be done in one of two ways. With my verses I feel that my best work is done resting in a hammock on the deck of the barge where I live with my wife, Shena. For my words to flow there ought to be a glass of white wine within easy reach and a scrap of paper and my trusty indelible pencil also close at hand.
Then there are other occasions where I face a blank sheet of paper and need to write prose. Here I write swiftly, my words pouring from me. Hunger and an empty store cupboard is the finest cure for the writer’s block.
Tallis, what do think are some common traps for aspiring writers?
Let us be honest here. If I wanted to attract aspiring writers I merely have to place a small advertisement in one of the literary periodicals proclaiming I am seeking contributions for a new journal and I will be swamped with writers offering me their work. Indeed I have often thought I would get plenty of takers if I insisted they pay to be included.
I would tell writers not to give their work away. Yes read a few of your verses at a friend’s wedding. That is a gift, a generous gesture. But to pour your heart and soul into work and then just give it away to readers who are in all probability better remunerated than you are is pure folly. It is like offering free shoe-shine to patrons of the best seats in a theatre and refusing to take money because, ‘you’re doing it for the exposure.’ If you don’t value your work, why should anybody else?
Excellent advice! So, if you could write a letter to your younger writing self, what would you say?
Do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, agree to any plan suggested by Lancet Foredeck, even if he is pouring wine with a generous hand.
That sounds like logical advice. In that case, what was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
This is a difficult question to answer. I’m torn between the time I paid Dorfut Tongle to look the other way when I had to enter the Sinecurist’s summer ball without a ticket; or perhaps the third bottle of wine I purchased when I was talking to Cil Martgold, and was trying to get to the bottom of her part in the unlikely success of Lancet’s novel.
Tallis, I’ve read some of your poetry. Do you view your writing as a spiritual practice?
No. It is a craft. I am a jobbing poet, my skill with words is the tool of my trade. To me they are the equivalent of the hard won dexterity of a dancer, or the way a cabinet maker can see the potential in a piece of wood. If my work is spiritual, then so is theirs.
As an accomplished writer, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I tend to write about individual people. Therefore I merely try and understand that person rather than trying to understand a complete gender. I find it easier that way.
That’s brilliant! Tallis, don’t hold back, now. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would run away to sea as a deckhand, work for a bookie as a runner, attempt to pass myself off as a dealer in exotic spices, and fight two campaigns in Partann as a condottiere. If I lived through the experience I would probably have reached, at the age of twenty, the level of experience and cynicism I struggled to achieve in my forties.
You are quite the character, I must say. So, do you have any sage advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Always keep writing. Master your craft. If in doubt, write some more. If possible always write for publication, even if it’s only in small hobby magazines. That way you’re being constantly edited.
Tell me, have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
I do it all the time.
You do? Then, how do you chose what gets written?
Now this is the crux of the issue. One has to be very careful, especially when, like me, one merely writes about the world as one observes it. I have seen a number of people bring all sorts of trouble down upon themselves by doing this.
Take the sad case of Tiffany Mealwight. She wasn’t initially a writer, but after a troubled dalliance with Macken Twir, a leading figure in Port Naain, a usurer and a lawyer, she decided to tell her story.
She gave some thought to how much detail she would include in her account and decided that she would hold nothing back. Personally, I am always wary about this approach. For example I assume that my readers are adults and can be expected to know what happens on the other side of the bedroom door. If they don’t, is it really my duty to explain it to them?
But still, others disagree with me. I know one very fine novelist who writes erotica. His income far exceeds mine, but alas I couldn’t go down that route. It is not moral scruples which hold me back, more my sense of the ridiculous.
But still, Tiffany in her writing bared all.
Her troubles came not because of her honesty but from her coyness. Whilst she described their amatory exchanges in almost painful detail, she decided not to mention the name of Macken Twir. Instead she referred to her lover as Master M.
Had she used Macken’s name, he would doubtless have been somewhat irritated. He might even have snubbed her when they met at social functions. But by referring to him by a single letter, her readers went on a quest to ascertain who her lover was by going through her book with a nit comb. Every piece of otherwise irrelevant detail was seized upon and discussed in prurient detail. Soon any gentleman in Port Naain with an ‘M’ in his name had been accused of being her paramour. Not only that but should that gentleman have a wife, she too would go through the book, checking on times and dates. And have mercy on any husband who couldn’t provide three witnesses of absolute rectitude who would vouch for his alibi.
Things got so bad that even I was suggested, on the grounds that the name Tallis Steelyard doesn’t contain the letter ‘M’ at all, thus proving how cunning Tiffany had been in naming her Innamorato.
Eventually matters escalated to the extent that Tiffany could no longer attend social functions without an aggrieved wife berating her! Eventually, unable to cope, she fled the city and settled in Avitas. There she managed, in a small way, to capitalise upon her reputation, and proceeded to write a number of scurrilous novels which claimed to give an insight into Port Naain society. They sold poorly to the worthy citizens of Avitas, but were imported into Port Naain in considerable numbers, normally smuggled past the customs officials in bales of wool.
So in all candour when I tell my stories I just name the names. Far better to offend one influential person on purpose than a score of influential people by accident.
That being said, given that a fair proportion of my tales are about people who are unlettered, dead, fled, or so hardened to disparagement they no longer care, it is rare that I get complaints.
Well, that leads me to my next question. How realistic are your books?
I have always attempted to ensure that my books cling with a passion to the absolute truth. After all, if truth is beauty and beauty is truth, surely the most literary satisfying version of a tale has to be the most truthful?
Tallis, do you like traveling or do you prefer staying close to home?
To be fair, I do travel, but normally it is an activity I embark upon with a degree of reluctance. Most of my journeys are made at short notice and in considerable haste because I have somehow managed to offend somebody who lacks the self-awareness to accept the implied castigation inherent within the story in which they were mentioned.
I have to know… Do you keep a diary?
Good Aea no! Can you imagine what would happen if somebody found it and read it!
“Jim Webster is probably still fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels.”Amazon Author Page
Thanks so much for stopping by to get acquainted with Tallis Steelyard. The reason that we have managed to cozen Tallis Steelyard into answering our questions is he, or rather his amanuensis, Jim Webster, has three novellas he is promoting.
It was ever thus, but still, Jim insists that they are works of great moral edification which can be read to their advantage by any intelligent person.
The first is, ‘Tallis Steelyard and the Rustic Idyll.’
When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of his generation.
Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.
The second, also narrated by Tallis Steelyard is, ‘Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady.’
In his own well-chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.
The third, in which Tallis appears and plays a no doubt stalwart, but secondary part, ‘On the Mud. The Port Naain Intelligencer.’
When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as reassuring as you might hope.
All are available, for the discerning and undiscerning alike, for the princely sum of £0.99 or around $1.27 U. S.
How to Connect with Jim Webster
Blog: Jim Webster: https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com
Facebook: Jim Webster
Thank you for stopping by to learn more about Tallis Steelyard and Jim Webster.