We have the pleasure of featuring “Multiple Choice” in our anthology, Forging Freedom. The story appears in the section, Imagining Freedom: Fictional Tales of Freedoms Lost, Sought, and Won.
Hi, my name’s Andrew Kirby, and I’m a storyteller. I write fiction under the name AJ Kirby, and have had numerous short stories published across the web, and in print, and I’m also the author of five novels, including the Amazon best-selling ‘Bully’, and the Guardian prize short-listed ‘Paint this town Red’. I also write a great deal of non-fiction, including political commentary, sports-writing, and book reviewing (I review for the New York Journal of Books and The Short Review). I’m in my thirties and I live in Leeds, which is in the north east of the UK, though I’m originally from the north west, and I was named one of the best 20 authors under 40 writing in Leeds this year.
Tell us about your story in Forging Freedom.
My story is ‘Multiple Choice’. It is a tale which explores how our freedoms are often curtailed and restricted by the choices we make, or are forced to make, or in many cases are made by others – or by our upbringing, our economic status, our families – when we are still very young. It is a story of how privilege is inherited and how expectations are lowered for those who aren’t privileged. The story takes place in a school, on exam day, and our two protagonists are faced with a multiple choice question which will define the rest of their lives, for good or ill.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Apart from a brief dalliance with music in my late teens – I wanted to be a rock n’ roll star then, however was too lazy to learn to play guitar so was instead lead singer of a band named ‘Magnetic Fishpond’ – I’ve always lived a life full of stories, and I think I’ve wanted to be a writer since as far back as I can remember. Even with that brief musical interlude, I was still keen on doing something creative. I wrote the lyrics to our tunes then.
I’ve always loved stories, and have a vivid imagination. I won a writing competition when I was ten years old and the prize was a years’ free pass to our local swimming pool – still probably the best prize I’ve ever won – and I think this gave me a real boost. It helped provide me with the conviction I could achieve things with my words.
Studying English Literature at university nearly knocked that desire out of me though. I’d always loved being creative, however that course taught me how to pull apart, how to deconstruct language and stories, and I kinda slipped away from writing for a few years after I graduated: I think I was scared of what others could do to my words, how they could topple the towers I’d so lovingly constructed. But then I decided to stop being so precious. Stephen King defines a writer as someone who writes, and someone who finishes what they write. That is all. So I decided to pick up my pen anew, because I felt I had stories to tell, and characters to give voice to. Without the creative outlet of writing, I’m not sure how happy I’d be, and I think creativity in general is not given the respect it deserves in society at large: that’s sort of what I’m aiming at in my story in the collection, ‘Multiple Choice’.
What’s the strangest place you’ve ever been?
I absolutely love travel and broadening my horizons, and I’ve visited many places which have pushed me completely out of my comfort zone, however if I had to pick one – just one – strange place, it would have to say Tunisia. We visited the desert where they filmed the Tatooine scenes in Star Wars, and I thought it was the most barren, most desolate, most otherworldly space I’d ever seen. People left their mark on the landscape in only very small ways, and when you trod on the sand, your footprint would soon disappear, blown away by the Sahel winds. Quite humbling really. It really felt as though you were on another planet, as though underneath all that sand, that grit, there might be a Statue of Liberty… if I’m not mixing my film metaphors too much…
Tell us about your writing routine or space.
My writing space is the attic bedroom in our house. Though this may change as I have a funny feeling my son – due soon – will want the room as his nursery. Once he arrives, I’ll probably snatch the time and space to write wherever I can find it, and I imagine my writing will change too. I’d like to tell new stories which he could enjoy… At the moment, I write quite cynical, dark stuff. You never know, his birth might inspire me to a new, wholly positive world view.
If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what non-survival item would you bring along that you couldn’t live without?
I’d like to have said a generic e-book reader. Devices such as that have probably allowed people like me a ‘cheat’ on questions such as this now… My Kindle has about 200 books on it and I’ve not read half of them yet… But when I think about it, what would power the damned thing? So no, that’s out. Instead I’d probably opt for some kind of writing implement in order that I could tell my own stories. At least I’d have no distractions, and I’d likely actually complete something I’m working on…
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Yes. I am always working on new projects. Probably too many. I have a pile of books on my bedside table waiting for review (though I am not accepting any more review submissions – my partner and I have our first child on the way – a massive project in itself! – and I want to devote as much time as possible to him). I have about four novels I’m a chapter or two into and need to decide which to press on with. And I’m also plugging away at some new short fiction. Finally, I’m reaching the conclusion of my second full-length sports book. This has been commissioned by a publisher and I’m working to a deadline, so it takes priority. I hope to have it published by Christmas this year.
Finally, where can we find you? (blogs, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Here are my salient links:
Author website – www.andykirbythewriter.20m.com
Goodreads Author Page – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3029490.A_J_Kirby
Author WordPress Blog – http://paintthistownred.wordpress.com
Amazon Author Page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/A.-J.-Kirby/e/B0046CG746/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
New York Journal of Books Reviewer Page – http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/reviewer/j-kirby
Forging Freedom was published September 17 on Constitution Day. The book features fiction and non-fiction stories from authors around the world.
Written by veterans, entrepreneurs, citizens, and writers from all walks of life, the book contains fictional tales of freedoms lost and won, essays on the current state of freedom throughout the world, and stories of freedoms imagined in a distant future or whimsical world.
“The contributors of Forging Freedom come from all walks of life, but are bound by their burning passion for liberty,” Michelle Malkin, author, blogger, and small business owner, “Read this book. Share these stories with your children. Keep the flame burning!”
Reason Magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward called the anthology, “A fun, fast, and fascinating read for anyone who loves liberty.”