I’d like to introduce you all to Yasmin Selena Butt who is the author Gunshot Glitter. I’m looking forward to finding out what you all make of her as her sense of humour and ‘can do’ attitude to life make her a very interesting person to talk to – not to mention the fact that she keeps trying out various types of milk ….!
According to Amazon “A gritty, compelling, darkly-gleaming diamond of a read.” – Sunday Times Best-seller, Lisa Jewell”
This was another of those books that happened across my path which initially made my heart sink; my first thought was ‘I just don’t read murder mysteries‘; that was before I started reading and got myself hooked by the characters and the intricately woven story. I ended up reading until 1.00am in the morning because I just had to know what happened next. It’s not so much a murder mystery book, it’s more a ‘look at what can happen to the human psyche when it is challenged out of it’s normal expectations about how life should be’ book. I thoroughly enjoyed it; I loved the main character Celine and it made me realise ‘there but for the grace of God go I‘. There were so many differing strands, personalities and perspectives to take on board that the reader couldn’t help but admire the way in which Yasmin has drawn them all together to tell the complete story, not just one part of it. This is another new author I shall keep on my wish list.
Hi Yasmin and welcome to the interview. My first question is always, ‘What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?
That there is a one inch difference in the length of my thighs, I didn’t twig it for a good thirty years, so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either! A tailor in Koh Samui called out different leg measurements for a bespoke suit and I said, ‘Woah! Rewind please?’ It was actually the root cause of a lot of spinal problems and in 2004 I didn’t walk for an excruciatingly painful 6 months which was horrible. Now I’m pretty good, but just have to be careful when buying shoes to ensure they can be tweaked.
Are the names of your characters important to you?
Yes, very much so, I have to feel they ‘own’ their names. I am a bit of a name ‘collector’. I’ve discovered them in all kinds of weird and wonderful place: in jobs, on gravestones, in movies, in surgeries. I loved the spelling of Sera in the Oscar-winning movie, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’. Sera was a whore with a gentle heart of gold, beautifully played by Elizabeth Shue. I wanted to hold her for everything she endured in that film. I could never watch it again. In my novel, she’s a very different kettle of fish; I’ve had a few readers express some very extreme intentions towards my Sera! But I loved the name. If I see a name that resonates, I end up writing it on whatever I have to hand, or taking a photo if I spot it visually.
How did you choose a title for your book?
‘Gunshot Glitter’ went through several working titles: Meet Cornelia Friend, Try Me Free, Steel Heels, but I’d always loved the song, Gunshot Glitter by Jeff Buckley. It’s a slightly obscure, lo-fi bonus track on his posthumous album ‘Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk.’ I needed a startlingly, arresting name for the burlesque club, which bookends the start and end of the story. And the image of a fired bullet of twinkling glitter, which is also the device punters use to choose a dancer at the club was a very powerful image. Music plays a massive part of Gunshot Glitter in creating the cultural context for the story.
Have you ever wished that you could be or do anything else instead of writing, and if so what?
I’ve always wanted to write in some incarnation or another, but as a teen I desperately wanted to be an athlete or dancer. Unfortunately I got a lot of opposition on that score, despite getting a grade ‘A’ in dance. Later on, I wanted to be in a band, but I didn’t think my voice was strong enough and plus I grew this enormous 36G chest which made mastering the electric guitar a real struggle. So in the end I settled for a geeky passion for music and dancing at gigs. I’ve had musicians tell me they love watching me from the stage. Polly Scattergood wrote a Facebook post about Gunshot Glitter and seeing me dance at her gigs. I still love dancing, it makes me really happy, when I’m out I get dragged back onto the dance-floor by strangers which is really funny.
What is the best excuse you have ever come up with for missing a deadline?
It wasn’t quite a deadline, but I once turned up to a university seminar twenty minutes late, apologised to the teacher and told him the cat had had kittens that morning and had needed help giving birth! We did actually have a cat, but he was a boy. I suspect I’d probably got carried away playing records and dancing about the house; 9am starts were never my strong point.
What has been the best experience you have ever had in your life?
Living and working in the Maldives, at Soneva Fushi, back in 2002-2003 was absolutely amazing. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. I was flown out, had my own room, fed delicious food, had all my laundry done and swam in the Indian Ocean every day and got paid to teach English. I didn’t wash a fork for six months! I worked very hard to get the role and never took it for granted. My students were lovely and I am still in touch with several of them today. The plan was to try and write in my free time, but I was way too distracted with the gorgeousness of my new home to do that, even though a sweet carpenter called Preecha built a desk for me in my bedroom. I had such good intentions! I did name a lovely little Thai boy in Gunshot Glitter after him though. When I left he gave me a hand-made wood photo-frame as a goodbye gift. I have a photo of my shadow in it, it hangs in my lounge.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my best writing happens if I don’t agonise or dwell on it too hard. If I do, ideas feel forced. I like to watch things happen like a film playing out in my head. Gunshot Glitter was originally conceived as a short story called ‘The Birthday Present’. In all honesty it started with a tagline I’d spotted : ‘You can try me for free’, and I immediately visualised a beautiful, seductive woman, but one operating from a position of friendly self-confidence. Sometimes, all I need is a powerful opening line, an imagined context for the moment and the rest just flows from there.
With a novel the breadth and scope of Gunshot Glitter, I found I looked for inspiration in pictures, songs, people and situations I’d come across during my life.
I’m also very empathic and I wrote a lot of it peering out at the world from the eyes of my characters. I broke a lot of literary conventions writing this novel such as blending genres, but it works and it’s the stronger for it, reviews so far have proved that. I just wanted to write an original, authentic story you could lose yourself in.
What was the most important thing you learned at school?
That a good teacher can make you and a bad one can damage you. I experienced both at school. One of my teachers was so disturbed at one of my stories she gave it a ‘C’ and told me she was thinking of calling my mum to find out what was happening in my home life. That really angered me. She couldn’t just accept I had a vivid, dark imagination. I had to tell her, if she did that I’d be in big trouble. I come from a pretty conservative family. Writing was my only outlet, where I was most free to be expressive. My other GCSE teacher said it was the easiest ‘A’ he’d ever given and said it was extremely progressive writing for a fourteen year old and to never, ever censor myself.
The story (The Risky Business) was about a Soho rentboy who rescues a little girl from her father, who’s trying to pimp her out and they try and become a family. They try and look after each other and for a while they are okay. But when he’s diagnosed with AIDS and rejected by his boyfriend, he calls in Social Services who come and collect her, he tells her he loves her but he can’t look after her anymore, he wants her to be safe and she leaves screaming his name, and he goes home and takes an overdose. It made my school friends cry. I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written. The only thing I’d change is his name. I called him Sandi Toksvig! So I had mixed feelings about school to be honest, but some of my teachers such as Mr Bowen, Mr Rees and Ms Matthews were amazing. It’s true, no one forgets a good teacher.
What is the book that you wished you had written?
I wish I’d had the literary ear, sensitivity and ability with language to pen something as gentle, engaging, nuanced, moving and tender as Michael Cunningham’s ‘ A Home at the End of the World.’ I am in awe of that novel. I saw the movie with Colin Farrell and Robin Wright-Penn and all anyone cared about was the fact Farrell kissed a bloke, and they ignored the sweetness of this story about these three people trying to belong to one another and carve out a life. I have only read it once and it’s the kind of book I will wait years to re-read, so I can savour it afresh. I even tracked down Michael Cunningham’s email address at the university he lectures at, to thank him for dreaming it up, because it moved me so intensely. He’s more famous for ‘The Hours’ which won Oscars years ago, but for me, this is his masterpiece.
What is your favourite TV moment of all time?
This is probably going to really show my age, but it was in the climax of the BBC2 drama, ‘This Life’. I found the thump that Milly bestowed on the insufferably smug Rachel, at Miles’s wedding, when she found out Rachel had told Egg, she’d had an affair with her boss, just minutes after Egg had proposed to her, profoundly satisfying!
Milly was this restrained, bright, workaholic who was always impeccably turned out, so to see her lose control like that and belt Rachel who’d acted as if butter wouldn’t melt for the whole series was intensely shocking. It was an ‘Oh my God’ moment!
‘This Life’ was written by Amy Jenkins and broadcast in the mid-1990s. It was unmissable, ground-breaking television and really defined an era. Here’s the clip for the uninitiated:
If you could commit the perfect murder where would you hide the body?
In a lake heaving with starving piranhas who’d make neat work of it in minutes. Failing that cover it in a wax and leave it in a waxwork museum where it’d take people a while to twig it wasn’t part of the exhibition. Actually no, that would be the stuff of nightmares. Can you imagine the smell?! I don’t know, do a ‘Weekend at Bernies’ and take my corpse, clubbing? Let my victim have one last great night out? Then gently deposit them in an alleyway in a nice little corner, with a note pinned to them saying ‘Shhh . . .don’t disturb me, I’m having a kip.’
Where to buy the book and find out more about Yasmin
You can meet Yasmin on her website at: yasminselenabutt.wordpress.com. You can also find her on facebook.com/yasminselena; on Twitter at: twitter.com/YasminSelena and on Goodreads at: goodreads.com/author/show/6476276.Yasmin_Selena_Butt
Why ‘The Thursday Throng’?
These posts are called The Thursday Throng in honour of the throng that waits eagerly outside the book store when a new author is doing a book signing event or appearance. On this website it takes the form of a ‘Meet the Author‘ online event with some information about our author’s latest book and an interview. If you would like to take part in the Thursday Throng then why not visit Thursday Throng Author Interview Guidelines to find out more.
If you would like to see all the Authors who have been featured on The Thursday Throng you can click here: womanontheedgeofreality.com/2012/06/17/the-thursday-throng/