The Byker Tapes - Pete Sortwell

Yes I know I'm late for the interview...

In my capacity as number one top banana at the global publishing behemoth (or foul-mouthed, gobshite press - you choose!) that is Byker Books I've broken bread with some of the more interesting people in the world of literature and it struck me that you might like to read some bits of my conversations with them... This time around it's top lad Pete Sortwell...

So, Pete, what’s happening?

Think we've all been there...

It’s all go, or half go, which is my new speed. I used to be a bit more productive but now I have a few more mouths to feed, I need to make myself more available to the said mouth for bouts of screaming now and again. I’ve just re-released 'So Low So High', which was the first novel I wrote. It’s been off the shelves for a couple of months after I initially signed a contract with a publisher, that just didn’t work. (I know, I know, I should have signed with Byker) It all got a bit messy in the end, but thankfully I was able to relate the problems I was having to the contract and with a few emails I was released and am able to use the knowledge I’ve learned self publishing to get it back out there, hopefully with a bit more success this time.

I’ve also been working on a book for a while, 'Arseda: the worlds worst customer service',  which is basically screen shots of me pretending to be a supermarket on Twitter, answering the actual supermarkets complaints for them, until the person complaining realised it was a wind up. It’s going to be out before Christmas, I’m also going to be releasing another one called ‘Live Shat’ which is a little similar to 'Arseda', but the shoe is on the other foot. Me pretending to be a customer and winding up genuine workers for various companies.
You're a bad man Sortwell! Who would you say inspired you to take up the pen initially?
Two people actually, One: my father, who wrote a Kids educational book about dinosaurs, which was sat in my school library.  I think it was seeing that that created an almost magical view of books, in that they last longer than the bags of blood, bone and water, that is the human race. Then secondly (and this has a link to Byker books) Danny King. He wrote The Burglar Diaries (fucking great book! So was it's sequel More Burglar Diaries...ahem - Rivs) Reading this book was a revelation to me, I didn’t realise you could write books in the fashion that you’d tell a story to a mate down the pub. I think I first read Danny’s work in 2002, it took me eight years to get the courage to have a go myself with So Low So High.

What are you reading at the minute then (apart from my new book ‘Special’ obviously)?

Latest? that was out ages ago.  You need to up your game Rivers. I’m actually going through a biography/ true crime period at the moment, I’ve just finished Mike Tyson’s undisputed truth and I’m now reading a book about the Tunbridge Wells cash robbery. These are the types of books I started out reading way back and it’s nice to revisit every now and then, more so since every other crime book isn’t by a taxi driver who used to light Ronnie Kray’s fags.  - Although i’m fairly sure there’ll be more of them, what with the new film out.
Do you find that your family and friends all reckon you’re writing about them and get arsey about it?

I’ve had a few people think so. I wrote The Village Idiot Reviews. I’m from a village and I’m told there’s been a few people buy the book to check out who they think they know in there. Sadly for them I wasn’t stupid enough to model any characters in that book on anyone I know. I can’t remember her name but there was a lady that did something similar, set a story in a village and basically just changed the names of people and pointed out their defects. I think it was done with the level of skill of calling the real Mr Smith - Mr Smyth or something. I can’t be sure but I don’t think she’s welcome in the village pub at Christmas these days.  There is always the temptation to make a character based on someone you really don’t like from your past. I don’t give in to it though, the arseholes in my past can stay there and they ain’t getting as much as a full stop from me, let alone a character.
‘So Low, So High’ is a bit of a page turner and the main character is very easy to relate to - how hard was it to write that?

Why would it be hard for me to write an easy to relate for character? Are you saying I’m some sort of social reject?


It wasn't that hard really, I made him a bit nasty in the beginning but slowly remove the curtain to show his real side.  If I've learnt anything in the last five years writing it is that I need to show a bit more of the nice side early on rather than wait to do it.
Any advice you could give the unpublished wannabe’s out there?

In the words of international inspiration, Floyd Mayweather: Just hard work. That’s the only thing that works. Some people might get lucky but the chances are it won’t be you so you have to work hard
Do you fancy a bit of ‘Strictly’ to raise your profile?

Piss off. You may be theatrical  but I’m a bit more reserved.  Big Brother is more me. (if they let me do it without sleeping there - that’s weird)
Who would play you in the film of your life? 

You? (You're not that lucky son! Rivs)
And what sort of soundtrack would you like playing?

In my head, the Streets, Audio Bullies or something. In reality, Jason Donovan, probably.
Finally, if you could have been in your favourite film which character would you have liked to have been and why?

Buster Edwards, I think. Except for the bit where he kills himself. That was a low point. I think being involved in something like the Great Train Robbery would have been good, but to act it would have been better as you wouldn’t have to do any time or actually kill yourself at the end.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Pete for his time and wish him further success with his writing career (like he needs my help there…!) and hope he writes a book about a fifteen stone, wisecracking, damn-handsome, skinhead from Byker sometime soon!

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