Every now and again we interview an erstwhile Structo author here on the blog. This time it’s the turn of British author and poet A.H. Sargeant, our most frequent contributor, whose stories and poetry featured in three consecutive issues: four, five and six. He’s been troubling our shortlists ever since.
How did you hear about the magazine?
Probably by accident! In recent years I decided to ‘get serious’ about my writing and was surfing the net looking for a publisher. In October 2010 I sold my first story ‘Don’t Beam Me Up, Scotty’ (under the title ‘Lost in Transit’ at the request of the editor) for the princely sum of $10. Dark Adventure was (and is still, I suppose), a US online magazine publishing a ‘Fall Fiction Frenzy’ feature and this decided me to keep looking for a similar publication in the UK. Then I discovered Structo and was delighted when you accepted my story ‘The School of Oriental Dancing’ for your fourth issue in the Spring of 2010 [you can read it here – ed.].
Can you say a little about your writing background?
I seem to have been writing for ever! At my Secondary Modern School (I failed my 11-plus twice!) in London’s East End in the 40s and 50s, English was my favourite subject. Essay Writing – called Composition in those days – was a medium I fell into with enthusiasm. I actually won a London Schools’ Essay competition sponsored by the then Greater London Council and UNICEF. The prize was a Conway Stewart fountain pen and pencil set, presented to me by the Mayor of Leyton. I realized there might be some profit in this writing game!
On leaving the RAF (National Service) in 1956 I eventually got a job as a copywriter in the advertising dept of first, a brewery (!) and then a furniture manufacturer. After several years however, I left and entered marketing proper, where I remained until I retired at the age of 63, whereupon I returned to my first love, copywriting, on a freelance basis. But unlike Fay Weldon and Dorothy L Sayers, still my work never leapt off the page into mainstream literature!
When I eventually called it a day in 2006 or thereabouts, at the age of 72, I knuckled down to creative writing for real. I have in fact, been writing on and off since I was in my twenties.
We have published both fiction and poetry from you. Do you have a favourite form?
As much as I love poetry (stuff that rhymes, preferably) it is, for me to write it, an ‘inspirational’ thing – something really strong must present itself. So the answer is short stories. I love everything about the genre. It may have something to do with the maxim regarding copywriting (and poetry for that matter): ‘the best words in the best order, and the fewest’, but most of all it is the format that allows the reader to discover an event, to experience it for a while, and then leave it, either resolved or unresolved. It doesn’t matter either way. If it is resolved with a dramatic twist at the end, well and good. But if not, if it leaves the reader still pondering the outcome, well, that’s a resolution of a kind – the reader still has to think about it and work out a resolution of their own!
My heroes of the genre are too many to enumerate but among them are O. Henry, Guy de Maupassant, H.G. Wells, M.R. James and of course, Arthur Conan Doyle. You can tell where I am coming from!
And I am compelled to write short stories since I may not have time enough left to complete anything longer!
Structo has opened up a whole new experience and opportunity for my writing (and reading) and without being a sycophant I consider myself very privileged to be numbered among your contributors, indeed, a ‘most regular contributor’. My English teacher (Mr Foote, Snr. – no first names in those days) would be so pleased!