Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Interview with Novelist Colin Bell in Second Life

Wolfgang Glinka (aka Colin Bell)

I’d become intrigued at both the title of the book and the idea of a writer having been discovered in Second Life, when I read the notecard from Jilly Kidd. She had sent it to me after I’d messaged her to say hello and to ask what was new with her and her activiries in Second Life. The notecard begin with; “If you missed the wonderful celebratory event with Colin Bell reading from “Stephen Dearsley's Summer of Love”, the first novel to have been discovered by a publisher on Second Life, you can read his first page-turning chapter here.” In our conversation she’d also mentioned that it was her publishing company, Ward Wood Publishing that had been the discoverer and had secured the publishing rights to Mr. Bell’s novel.
Yes, I did find it intriguing for personal reasons … after all I’ve been working on my own novel for a fair amount of time with an eye to eventually seeing it published one day.  After my chat with Jilly that evening, I decided to introduce myself to the author and see if he’d be interested in doing an interview. We exchanged off line instant messages for several days before we’d finally made the arrangements to meet via an e-mail exchange.
Colin Bell (aka Wolfgang Glinka) hails from the United Kingdom. His profile in Second Life says that he's "A bit shy, a bit sensitive, a bit of a show off and way too passionate.  I am a wolf with a human form, a writer - novelist and poet in Real Life and here in Second life." He has worked as an executive produce and producer - director of arts documentaries for television in the UK and his credits include; Celebration, God Bless America, My Generation and It Was Twenty Years Ago Today. He has written children's books and also has seen his poetry published in both the UK and United States.
On the appointed day, I arrived in world before he did and left a message to let him know I was ready. A few minutes later, his reply came back with an offer to meet at his place. I agreed and a landmark from him soon followed. I noticed the location immediately and as it turned I didn’t travel far to meet him we’re neighbors on Book Island. When I arrived at his booth, he told me he’d been pleased so far with his presence there and said that, “I have a few other places in Second Life, but this is the main PR place.” There were two large red chairs in the center of his booth and he asked if I’d like to sit while we talked, I pointed clicked and sat on one. I fiddled with the animation to find a comfortable pose and we exchanged pleasantries while I did. We then began the interview.
“You've been in Second Life for over five years now, what was it that brought you in and what is it that made you stay?” I asked.
“Well, the first point is that I joined on the date on my profile but I had a really low-fi computer and it just didn't work for me here. I tried for a bit then gave up until I could upgrade. I really came into Second Life in the summer of 2008. I came in thinking it would be an amusing game. I was intrigued I guess. I made some friends ... and it was a kind of chat room with games. But then it got real in a number of different ways … that is why I stayed.” He replied.
My curiosity piqued, I asked. “Real, in what sense?”
“I came here as I said for a game ... more fun than war games and stuff ... I liked the idea of seeing what a second life might be. At first, well I think that is true, I wanted to see where it might go ... what a second life really would be if I had a free choice. So I dated a few girls, one in particular ... had a sort of repeat first life. But I found out about the writing groups ... got interested in the opportunities here ... and found that the girl thing wasn't what I wanted second time round. In real life I am married and have two sons ... in second life I came out as gay long before I did in real life. So second life probably did show me another way. As a writer too ... I had always done writing but my ‘success’ began here. I have loved it ... but found it a real life-changing experience.” He said in reply and then asked, “Is that too open?”
“Not at all, I’ve been in Second Life for a good while now and there aren’t too many things that surprise me here.” I replied.
“Cool. Well I did come out in real life about two years ago and I had a lot of help here before that happened. I came into second life as I say really in summer 2008 and in October that year I had a massive brain hemorrhage ... life threatening stuff ... this place really has been a second life.” He said.
“I saw that in your bio on the publisher’s web site … you were characterized as a miracle patient?” I asked.
“Yeah ... that is what the consultant said. She said they didn't expect me to live.”
“Were you conscious of what was happening?” I asked.
 “No, not at all. People often get fidgeting when I say this, but I was as fine as you or anyone else then I was unconscious. I was in a coma for about six hours, somewhere alone in my house.” He replied.
“I’m assuming that you had a lengthy recovery with physical therapy and all?” I asked.
“Yes ... I was very ill at first, recovering gradually over two years and now dealing with just a few symptoms which could still go in time. I was very very lucky. The physical therapy wasn't really medical ... I did my Kung Fu and Tai Chi, against medical orders and took a lot of anti-seizure drugs.” He responded.
“Are you still on medication?”
“No, I have been medication-free for just over a year. When I had my hemorrhage apparently I had two grand mal seizures, epileptic fits so violently that I broke my back ... so I had a lot of pain. The Tai Chi worked, I have never had physiotherapy even though there were two physiotherapists in my intensive care ward. But I really began writing poetry seriously in hospital and have done so ever since.” He replied.
“I saw that as well in your bio, that you hadn't written poetry before then.” I commented
“That's right, I did a bit at school but never anything until just before my hemorrhage. I had got interested in the idea of it but not done it ... I had been writing short stories and a novel.” He said.
“That’s quite interesting ... was being in Second Life also a sort of therapy for you as well?” I asked him.
“Yes I think so, a therapy but also a place where an invalid could lead a ‘normal’ life. It was, maybe more importantly, a place where writing is really nurtured, where there are a lot of opportunities to read your own work, get advice, meet like-minded folk all of that. I was very ill for a time and no one here needed to know that ... that was a kind of therapy definitely. I also developed a stammer as a side effect. Second Life was great for getting round that too.” He responded.
“Which of the writing groups do you belong to and I’m assuming here of course along with Written Word. Are there any others?” I asked.
“Written Word and Inksters at first. Then Milk Wood and then here. I also went anywhere where there were poetry reading sessions. I was too shy to read at first, but got a lot of encouragement ... then people actively asked me to read my new stuff, it was inspirational. “
“There is a bit of comfort in hiding behind the avatar. I've done a few readings in Second Life as well. I recall having been very anxious the first few times.” I commented.
“Yes ... like with the gay thing, I think I learnt how to do it in SL before I ventured there in real life.”
“I'd interviewed a couple of people who run an actor’s workshop in Second Life recently. They’d spoken about several folks who’d come into the workshops to first try out their acting ability and to learn ... all with the hope of taking it into their real life.” I commented.
“I can understand that but I didn't think I was rehearsing for real life ... like I said, in these early stages, I was looking to make a second life. It didn't need to go into real life and for a while I was very very cagey about sharing any real life information here and vice versa.” He said.

“Let’s talk about the book for a bit. Did you approach Jilly or vice versa with the manuscript?” I asked.
“I knew Jilly, she had been the first really encouraging writer I met here ... before I was ill in fact. She read one of my short stories and said I should try writing poetry. She saw something in my work, it was great. I’d consulted with her and she said she didn't know I had written a novel and asked to see it ... she loved it too! She was offering a full deal ... print, kindle etc.” He said in reply and after a slight pause he added, “I have been amazingly lucky publishing wise. I am thrilled that it is she who is publishing, she was my first mentor.”
“She has been a good friend and amazing lady.” I commented.

“Agreed ... totally. She deserves a lot of credit for what she does here and in real life. She is genuinely a writers' friend.” He said.

“I’d been very busy of late with work and hadn't spoken to her in some time. She’d made me aware of your book and of course her publishing endeavor. Is there a release date for the book yet?” I asked.
“Not yet, it will be after April next year (2012) ... and before the end of September. I think they will know in January.” He replied.
“I found the title intriguing, that it included ‘the summer of love’. By the way, I’m old enough to recall that year fondly. What was it about that year that inspired you?
“I was young in the summer of love, a teenager. Those teenage years are amazing whenever they happen but I was truly fortunate to be impressionable in that excited adolescent way at a time when the whole world seemed to be changing. I was very drawn into it all and was just too young to be a leader of it. I also had a double stroke of luck because I was asked to make a documentary film (It Was Twenty Years Ago Today) about the counter culture and Sgt. Pepper on the 20th anniversary of the album’s release. I was able to meet most of the main players and to relive and explore the things that really inspired the young me.” He said in response.
“That would be rather cool to have taken part in something like that.” I commented.
“It was, honestly Nazz, totally amazing … one of the best jobs in TV ever!” He said.
“I’d only read what was available on the web site, but I do have to ask, is there a little bit of an autobiographical flavor in the book?”
“Well, not deliberately, but there must I guess. My main character is the original young fogey ... I had elements of that but not as extremely as poor Stephen does. Maybe though, on a deeper level, I spent a lot of my life fumbling to find who I was. It is set in Brighton, where I did most of the things I have ever done for the first time!” He replied.
“Are there any of the characters that were inspired by people you've met in Second Life?” I asked.
“That's a difficult one to answer. No would be my first answer but thinking about it, I did meet someone here who inspired me ... does inspire me and he is probably in the later re-writes.” He said in reply.
“Will you be using Second Life to promote the book?” I asked.
“Yes, we have done some already actually. There was a big Second Life launch when the publishing deal was first signed. We did a reading session at the water stage on Cookie. There will be other stuff too I am sure when we actually get into print.” He said.
“I saw that in the note card Jilly had given me, I was sorry to have missed it.” I said.
“Second Life is very important for me and for Jilly. It was a lovely event, very supportive ... not full of people wishing me failure which might be the case in other worlds.” He commented.
“Hopefully there will be ones in the future I can participate in. I would enjoy hearing you read. Is there any possibility of your poetry being published?
“I have now been writing poetry for only three years and in that time I have had thirty poems published. I am just keeping going like that, but I would love one day to have a collection published. I really love writing poetry. I am a bit addicted but I still don't really know if I am any good at it.” He said.
“How long have you been blogging?” I asked him.
“One of my sons and his wife gave me the software for Christmas when I was just over a month out of hospital. I wrote my first blog on 28th December 2008 and haven't missed a day since.” He said.
“That is quite a record.” I commented.
“As you may have noticed, I am a tad obsessive! I can't stop it now, but it is also a great way to start each writing day.” He said.
“Is there a closing remark or comment you'd like to make for my readers?”
“If your readers want to be writers, then I can really emphasize the fact that Second life is an amazing place to find your nerve, gain experience ... and, maybe, find yourself.” He said.

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