- Nicola Batty
- I am a writer of novels, plays and film scripts. I live in Manchester England with my partner Andy and our teenage son Jack. Andy and I started my Newsletter Raw Meat and began publishing with Rawprintz in 1999 to showcase my work. Some of you may be confused by my continual references to Ziggy, that’s my wheelchair! Both Andy and I are writers. I’ve recently lost my sight – hence the continual reference to my being confused! Thanks for visiting.
More About Me...
THE BLIND SIDE
We were sitting in the park that summers evening, I remember; perhaps the sun was even gradually beginning to sink below the treetops, for time was getting on. Suddenly breaking off a constant stream of chatter, my friend turned to me and asked the Question.
"How long have you been blind?"
I stared at her blankly, both seeing and saying nothing. It seemed obscene - I've never thought of myself as being blind... the wind stirred the leaves around me quietly, and I tried to think of a suitable reply.
"I don't know... maybe, seven years? I can't say anything more definitely sorry."
But I can still see the light. I think I'll always be able to see the light... It means so much to me. The only way I can see the shape of a person is if they're standing in front of a window, blocking out the light - I see them as a negative, an absence of light.
As I lost my sight, my other senses sharpened. For a few years now I've tried to teach myself the art of telling the colour of a flower by its smell, there is definitely an art to it which I'm still learning! But as long as I can still see the light glowing around the edges of the day, I'll still watch and imagine... for there, in my imagination, colours and dreams exist. Thank you.
The tiny figure of Alice stared up at the glass table towering way over her head, and frowned.
So what the hell do I do now? she said to herself. All around her the darkness of the gloom of the underground tunnel yawned and smothered... the feint rustling of leaves shifting on the ground was just audible, though only just - it might easily have been her imagination. Behind her she was aware of the secret door in the wall of the tunnel... the secret door she was longing to open. It shone with a strange unreal brightness which seemed to come from nowhere Alice could see, and the brightness became golden, golden as a summer's afternoon. Still she frowned up at the key outlined, enticingly through the glass of the table as it was. That key must open the door... but how am I meant to reach it? thought Alice to herself, wondering over to the leg of the table. She looked at its slippery surface and touched the cold glass of it, weighing up the possibility of climbing up. She stood back and ran at it, jumping as high as she could and trying to cling to the glass legs, desperately clawing and trying to grip, but it was no good. She kept on slipping back down again and again, until finally she sat back on the ground, wiping the sweat from her face and feeling the long strand of her fair hair clinging to her forehead. Finally she laid down, staring up at the key, unreachable as it was.
So what now? Alice thought to herself as she lay back and watched the key. Well... if I can't reach it physically, why not try a little mind control? I've often heard my father talk about such things... so why not give it a try now?
So she stared at the key and stared and stared, willing it to move ... to move just a little, just a little... the golden key, to the golden door. She could make it move, slowly but surely it inched across the glass table towards the edge. At last the key was directly above her - she stared at it, not believing what she had just done. The powers of mind control! She lay on her back raising her arms to receive the gift from above... the golden key. For now it was hanging half over the edge of the glass table, and was swaying on the exact point of balance... still Alice stared up at it, feeling slightly proud.
What do I do when it hits me? It'll kill me! Alice thought to herself. But could not move, as she watched numbly the key tipped and began to fall slowly towards her.
If you'd like to read more of my work, I'm currently serialising my novel The Spark on this Weblog and would welcome your comments on it.
FROM NICOLA BATTY
The scene is suitably set, with an appropriately bland backdrop of depressing Old Trafford, Manchester…
Fran’s atmospherically charged retrospective recollections serve, not only to mix Sex with Religion to great effect, but also to expose the ‘anarchistic’ tendencies of Punk-era attitudes, for what they really were… distractions from the apathetic existence of a bored generation, whose virulent indifference to authority had taken root, flourished and spread, to Teen, and middle-age Wastelands alike.
The (larger-than-life…?) characters are illustrated to surreal perfection in this metaphor-laden, irreverent frolic through the ironies that spawned this ‘Dry Rot’ – most notably, Fran’s sexually confused (or confident…?) ‘Mentor’, Mary – quite contrary…and whose ‘garden’ grows… well… in both directions… conceiving a devil that, ultimately, foils the best laid plans for revenge, despite claiming two (or is it three…or even four…?) victims in the process.
I've actually just rediscovered this novel in 2011 after originally writing it before Dry Rot. The main character is very similar to Francis in Dry Rot; like her, she is a restless teenager searching for a new experience. When she meets Thomas the enigmatic reluctant vampire and gradually uncovers his life story, she becomes absolutely besotted by him. However, when her friends hear about her charismatic new friend, they don't believe it and in fact she gets sent eventually to a psychiatrist. The eccentric Doctor Lloyd-Jones is intrigued by Alison's stories and wants to meet Thomas himself - but Alison refuses. This is a wonderful tale, set in Timperley. This novel will be available on the internet shortly.
This was one of my first complete novels, written originally in the early 80’s. It is still my personal favourite - it combines black humour with an attack on religious hypocrisy. The central character is 17 year old Frances, who is sent to stay with her Uncle Robert who is a catholic priest. Uncle Robert has just had his leg amputated because of cancer - his own visible form of decay, also seen in the dry rot which is attacking his church. Frances is a typically restless teenager; she longs for experience both sexual and otherwise… so she is easily charmed by the exotic transvestite, Mary. He encourages her to lead her uncle into temptation… is the only way forward to purify the decay by fire?
Written originally in the mid 80’s and re-written in 1991, this novel is more ambitious than Dry Rot - involving two different times co-existing simultaneously. The contemporary part is set in East London; the heroine is Louise who is becoming troubled by feelings of being overtaken by someone else’s spirit. She meets the mysterious Guy Saint, a psychic medium who is very interested in her experiences. Meanwhile in Victorian London (1888), Oscar Wilde and his friend Robbie Ross talk of “Killing Time”; in the background there lurks the Whitechapel Murderer, who moves closer towards Louise…
THE TURN OF THE CENTURY PARTY
This is a political and historical novel; it is based on factual events and involves real characters as well as fictional ones! Set in Paris in the 1890’s, the main characters are Michel and Emile both of whom are committed anarchists. After planting a bomb which kills several people, Emile is eventually caught and guillotined. Michel is totally devastated by his death, and plants a bomb at a busy hotel before leaving the country for England. Although he longs to return to Paris, he knows that to do so he will have to be in disguise...
MRS JOHNSON’S CAVALIER
My fourth novel was written in 1998/99, and was partly a practice-run for me to get used to my newly acquired computer! Although it is set in modern times, this novel also used history; Mr and Mrs Johnson are both obsessed by the 17th Century and belong to an organisation in which they can play the part of being Cavaliers and Ladies. Annie Johnson is a teacher of History at South Trafford College in Manchester and among her students is Caroline, who is also fascinated by her teacher’s enthusiasm. She attends a 17th Century Dance with them, where everybody is dressed up in their finest lace and silk – including Robert Johnson. In the present day he remains a very ordinary chap; irritating and insensitive, but as a Cavalier he is someone else completely, someone who’s dashing, elegant and charming. Not surprisingly, Caroline falls for the Cavalier. The book has been published by RAWPRINTZ, and is still available on demand.
This is the sequel to Dry Rot, set in the year 2000. Having been in and out of various mental institutes, Frances has finally tried to make the break and return to normal society and to Old Trafford. Near to the site where the dry rot church once stood she discovers a warehouse, where the mysterious Camp Mary is situated; though the sand, sun and sea are all artificial, the tents are not… and neither are the customers who pay for an unusual weekend break. Frances is amazed to discover that the site is run by her old friend Mary, who has cut his hair short and has taken to wearing suits. Once again Frances is drawn to his strangeness – but she also becomes entangled with the more conventional love triangle. Both of these have disastrous consequences…
WORK IN PROGRESS -
THE SPACE BETWEEN (the trilogy)
When I began work on this project in 2005, it was going to be a trilogy - but now I'm not so sure! I have already finished a first draft of the first novel The Spark, and I'm now nearing the end of the second which is also entitled The Space Between. The original idea behind the trilogy grew out of my studies at University about Wilde. My imagination was captured when I read about the disappearance of one of Wilde's short stories at the time of his arrest, and then its subsequent reappearance in America twenty one years later. I was intrigued by the fact that there was such a large space in between in which nothing definite is known about the missing manuscript... The space beckoned enticingly to me, and I just had to fill it with my own mixture of history and fiction. You can read extracts from the novel The Space Between in my Monthly Online Newsletter Raw Meat
Part of the story is set in Whitechapel East London, involving one of my own fictional characters Harriet who is a prostitute - the novel opens in 1889 with the birth of her son Jack - who Harriet names after Jack the ripper... see my novel Killing Time for more.
Another thread of The Spark is set in West London and is based around the artistic partnership of Charles Ricketts and Shannon - their original idea of setting up their publishing company The Vale Press; and also their various friends which included both Oscar Wilde himself and his close friend Robbie Ross. As the years progressed, Wilde's short story The Portrait of Mr WH is written but never published, Ricketts thinking it too dangerous a subject for The Vale Press to handle. Meanwhile in Whitechapel, Harriet leaves the brothel to live with her friend Emma, - whose son Freddy has become a good friend with Jack.
Since completing the first draft I don't feel happy enough with it to be able to go ahead and publish it myself - therefore I would greatly appreciate any comments or suggestions you can make. I'm including with each extract (that I post on this weblog) my own comments and criticisms of it.
THE SPACE BETWEEN (the novel)
Although I was originally quite sure that this novel would be the second part of a trilogy, I think that almost having completed it, I'm having second thoughts about how much further to take the original idea. So far the novel continues directly from where The Spark left off with the death of Wilde in Paris. Meanwhile in Kensington, Harriet is working as a maid in the house of Robbie Ross. Ross becomes friendly with Jack's friend Freddy - which provokes Jack. Sensing her son's dislike of Ross, Harriet steals the manuscript and leaves his house for the Freedom Press in Whitechapel where Jack has been living with his new friend Georges. Following Wilde's death Ricketts publishes his friends story as a final tribute to him and also as a special bond with Shannon, to show their commitment to each other.
The disease that I have is called Friedreich’s Ataxia, a progressive condition that affects the nervous system. For much of my younger life I allowed the fact that I was in Ziggy to affect me as little as possible; I lived alone, I went to London for a few years, I took a BA at Polytechnic, I went to Transylvania… I did all the usual crazy things people do! Several things happened around the same time at the beginning of the 90’s… I moved in with Andy and had Jack.
It was when Jack was a baby that I first began to have problems with my eyesight, which had never really given me trouble before. I think I realised right away that the disease had chosen to attack my senses, for my hearing also has become deficient in recent years. I had to give up using a word processor to write, when it became impossible for me to read what was written on the screen. My imagination, however, is still active and raring to go!! But seriously, the loss of my eyesight has been the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with, because I was an artist as well as a writer, and it meant the end of my painting and sketching. Thankfully, this interest in art has been passed on to Jack, so it’s not dead! But still, the deterioration of two of my senses presented problems not only with writing but also reading…
Recently I took an MA in English Studies at Manchester University, which I enjoyed! I needed to prove to myself and to others that I was still capable of achieving such a thing. It wasn’t just a question of a piece of paper saying I had passed, but it was a continual battle against people’s embarrassment and ignorance. Still, my MA was a success, and so my life continues into the 21st century, with new targets to be achieved and improvements to be made always.
Although RAW MEAT was originally begun as a response to continual rejections from publishers it has become much more than a method of advertising; the past ten years have been pretty traumatic for me with the loss of my sight and RAW MEAT has become an important means of communication for me! Through this I have retained my sanity by discussing things going on around me in my life: Andy and Jack, my crazy helpers, books I’m reading, music I’ve been listening to and anything else exciting I’ve been doing! That includes of course my own writing, which will always be at the centre of my life. SKIN
Many people have asked where the title for my Newsletter came from; Raw Meat was one of the first unfinished novels I wrote many years ago. I thought the best thing about the novel was the title and so… it was eye-catching, that was the thing! RAW MEAT was originally Andy’s idea; he thought it would be a good way to publicise my work. The Newsletter began life in 1999 and it’s still going strong today! In RAW MEAT I have been serialising various stories from The Ziggy Collection, and also Killing Time, The Turn of the Century Party, Camp Mary and With An Axe. As well as writing the editorial, which gives an insight into my own life and what’s been happening each month. I also keep readers up to date with my own work in progress – at the moment this is The Space Between - which is also the name of the entire trilogy, as well as being the title of the second novel – I include extracts from this novel as I write them. I have already completed the first draft of the first novel The Spark. This section of the newsletter is called RAW MATERIALS, and in it I describe the process of writing, as it happens. Also appearing in RAW MEAT are occasional contributions from my son Jack, who has his own page. Andy also writes a column called Urban Scrawl.
Skin was written in 1989, for a competition run by BBC TV; I decided to try my hand at a new form of writing… and was astounded by the results! The ideas behind Skin are various, though it is largely about the breakdown of communication between people. My first thought was always with the visual effects, the way that this tearing of skin could be used metaphorically on screen. This short TV script was originally published by the BBC, in an anthology of the Debut On Two, competition winners. Although Skin was amongst the chosen six it was never televised, but it has been published once again by Geoff Barton in Ten Short Plays, which was used on the school syllabus. It has also been published by RAWPRINTZ, together with an introduction by myself, and is still available as an on demand title.
My obsession with Oscar Wilde inspired me to produce a dissertation for my MA in English Studies, which I took at Manchester University in 2001 – 2004. Although I knew that the subject would be Wilde, I wasn’t sure of the exact title until I began writing… Reinventing Wilde grew naturally out of historical facts to become almost a work of fiction itself. Writing each chapter was very exciting, combining fact and fiction, the Victorian age and modern interpretation, to create something quite new. Amongst the modern interpretations I concentrated on, were Saint Oscar by Terry Eagleton, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde by Peter Ackroyd, the film Wilde with Stephen Fry, Who Was That Man? by Neil Bartlett… and not forgetting my own novels Killing Time and The Turn of the Century Party! I was very pleased with the result, and have made my dissertation available not only to Wilde freaks but to anyone interested in his life, not only his plays!
My favourite chapter is Wilde in Fiction, which seems to lead directly into my latest project on which I am currently working, The Space Between. Extracts from this (the second novel in my work-in-progress-trilogy) are currently being posted in my Newsletter RAW MEAT. I have already completed the first novel of this trilogy The Spark - which is currently being serialised in Without Boundaries. The chapter from my dissertation (Wilde in Fiction) was published in January 2007 in The Wildean, which is the official journal of The Oscar Wilde Society. By the way, I passed my MA. And Reinventing Wilde is still available from me as a RAWPRINTZ publication.
THE complete ZIGGY COLLECTION
This collection of tales are directly autobiographical! They were not written chronologically – in fact I only decided to collect these short stories together a couple of years ago. They cover different episodes in my life; there is one about my son, Jack, another about my childhood in Stockport, another about my years spent in London. Although the story Sightless, which concentrates on how I have dealt with the loss of my eyesight over the past years, was going to be the final story, I didn’t want to end the collection on such a note. I added a final fictional story, Second Sight - which shows that the imagination always wins in the end! The publication of these stories marked a completely new venture for me into autobiography – which I had previously avoided like the plague! But people reacted so positively towards the stories when they appeared in RAW MEAT, that I was encouraged to publish them as The complete Ziggy Collection… which is now available from my publisher RAWPRINTZ as an E-Book on CD-ROM. The price is a minimum donation of only £2.99 in the UK to charity, and all the proceeds go directly to the Manchester Ataxia Branch. To order your copy (with a beautiful cover, illustrated by my Dad, C J Batty) please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org MY FILM SCRIPTS:
DRY ROT and WITH AN AXE –
My initial success with Skin encouraged me to produce further film scripts, which have received positive feedback from the BBC - so far! I wrote With An Axe in 2003; I have been fascinated by the tale of Lizzy Borden’s axe murders in the 1890s for many years, and always thought that they would make an excellent visual piece. Although the BBC found my script "too literary" I am still keen to publish it myself. (Which I will do one day). From this script I went on to write a full-length film script adaptation of one of my novels, Dry Rot. I was very pleased with the result and hope to go on to write more film scripts in the future! Dry Rot the novel has now been published on CD-ROM as an E-Book by RAWPRINTZ, and I have included the film script version as an extra bonus.
Throughout my childhood in Cheadle Hulme, I was always writing; I completed my first novel Flash the Robin (fully illustrated!) when I was about ten, and ever since then I have gone from strength to strength. In more recent years I have written seven novels and a collection of short stories; they are all quite different from each other - science fiction, black humour, historical subjects, fantasy, and even religion! Although I consider the novel to be the natural form for formal writing today, I have recently turned my attention to film and TV scripts. One of my TV scripts Skin was actually published by the BBC several years ago in an anthology called Debut On Two, and then it was published again by Longman’s in Ten Short Plays - which was used on the school curriculum, so school kids throughout the country have studied Skin!
After many disappointments concerning publishers letting me down, I decided to take the initiative by joining forces with my partner, Andy; together we set up RAWPRINTZ to publish my work, ourselves. Andy has given me constant support and encouragement along the way. The name of our company came from my Newsletter RAW MEAT, as I use the Newsletter to advertise and talk about my work (for more details about RAW MEAT see below). We recently published a collection of my short stories called The complete Ziggy Collection, which is available as an E-Book on CD-ROM (see below). We have also published my first novel, Dry Rot in this same format.
Over the past few years I have been writing several autobiographical short stories, which have been collected together to form The complete Ziggy Collection which is now available from me – the price is £2.99 and all money will go directly to the Manchester Ataxia Branch. Ziggy is the name of my wheelchair; I originally named him when I was really into David Bowie. I was just about seventeen then, and have been through many Ziggies since that date, but the name has stuck!