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Alex Martinez – “If you have something to say, you’ll find a way to say it. “

Exclusive Interview with Alex Martinez – Writer

Alex Martinez is the son of F.M. Ortas, a Spanish novelist who fought against Franco and
was granted political asylum in Britain in 1960 following the publication in Mexico of his
fiercely anti-fascist novel, Soldado y Medio. Alex’s first novel Kitchener Blue was published in 1996 and tells the story of a working- class family in Kilburn during the Great War.

Three years later he wrote his first screenplay, Lady Sod, based on his experience of raising
a child with a disability. The script, written for his daughter Francesca before she became a
stand up comedian, was optioned then acquired by Anthony Andrews’ film production
company.
In 2000, reality mirrored the fiction of Lady Sod when Alex’s daughter won a top comedy
newcomer’s award at the Edinburgh Festival and made the front pages. Alex worked very
closely with Francesca after that. In 2002 they co-wrote her sell-out stand-up show
I’mperfect. This was followed in 2007 by In Deep. Both shows opened in Edinburgh, received
5-star reviews, and toured internationally.
Alex was commissioned to write two episodes of a pilot sitcom for Channel 4, receiving
plaudits from the likes of Stewart Lee and Johnny Vegas – the latter agreeing to take on the
starring role. Alex and Francesca were also commissioned by the BBC to co-write two further
pilots for a project produced by Charlie Hanson, the producer of Extras.
Alex co-founded Theatre Ortas in 2009 with actor/director Kevin Hely, who performed in the
premieres of five of Conor McPherson’s plays.
Together, they staged Alex’s first play, Private Thoughts, at the Hackney Empire Studio
Theatre, directed by Kevin and funded by the Arts Council. The play prompted wonderful
responses from audiences and got the thumbs up from The Stage and the British Theatre
Guide.
His next play The Rose of Jericho premiered at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe to rave, 5-star
reviews. Since then it has enjoyed two London runs (Arcola and King’s Head) and played
in Brighton, Hull and Dublin, receiving further critical acclaim. Both of his plays have been
translated into French.
For more details: http://www.theatreortas.org.uk/Rose/

NY Glam: What projects are you currently working on?

Well, I’ve been working on a few recently. My screenplay The Book of Jobe has just been selected as a finalist in the International Screenwriting Competition so I’m hoping I’ll be more involved with that as interest (hopefully!) grows in the project. I’ve also written a novella called The Refugee about a young girl caught up in a war-torn region, and The Wanderer and the Tempter, a prose poem in the style of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. I’m looking to place both these books this year.

NY Glam: What is this book/project about?

The Book of Jobe centers around private eye Sam Jobe, who finds himself investigating the stereotypical nature of his own Chandleresque existence in a mind-blowing mystery laced with humour and romance. You could say, it’s a modern, surreal take on an old, much-loved genre in which no one is who or what they think they are. 

NY Glam Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do?

Sam Jobe is an affectionate spoof of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. He operates in a modern setting that gradually morphs into a surreal situation that forces him to question the clichéd attributes that make him who and what he is and the very fabric of the reality he inhabits…

NY Glam: What genre are your books?

I don’t write in any particular genre but I’m drawn to fusing existing genres with an overriding, modernizing concept that respects the original form but takes it to another level.

NY Glam: What are your biggest accomplishments thus far?

When my first novel, Kitchener Blue, was published it felt very satisfying after years of trying. Equally satisfying and exciting was seeing two of my plays performed in London. The Rose of Jericho had debuted at the Edinburgh festival and garnered 5-star reviews that left me pinching myself. Although another of my screenplays was optioned and then bought outright by a production company, it never made it to the big screen (as is often the case in the film industry!) However, I still regard the ups and downs of that experience as a big accomplishment.

NY Glam: What is your writing process like?

I like to say that I’m only a writer when I’m writing, meaning that if I’m not possessed by an idea or character or storyline that simply has to be written out of me, there is no compulsion to write. In other words, stories get themselves written by me – not the other way round.

NY Glam: What three social topics/theme do you care mostly about and why?

‘Social justice’ probably covers it all – how we treat each other individually and collectively. How we treat the planet that sustains us all is rooted in that. It’s all bound up: politics, power, media, vested interests, disinformation…and a little thing called ‘what’s really going on’.

NY Glam: What are your top three favorite books/scripts?

That’s tough! There are so many… I’m a huge Steinbeck fan so I’ll throw in The Grapes of Wrath. Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude is a delight. The film (and, of course, script of) Casablanca is a timeless jewel in my opinion. But I could go on and on.

NY Glam: As a writer, what is the most important aspect of building a character?

For me, characters come ready-formed, and it’s my job to channel them into existence just as Michelangelo channeled the figure he intuited within the block of marble. If I can hear their voice and feel their vibe, I can write them, discovering more and more about them as I do so.

NY Glam: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

To write work that entertains, hopefully enlightens a little, and reaches as many people as possible.

NY Glam: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

Dafne Keen would be great as the refugee girl in my novella, and also as the Wanderer confronted by the Tempter in the desert in my prose poem. An actor in the mould of a younger George Clooney would be perfect as Sam Jobe.

NY Glam: Do you express yourself creatively in any other ways?

I wish I could play an instrument but, sadly, no.

NY Glam: Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Stop banging your head against what you want to write… skirt around it… venture down unplanned paths, see where they lead you… let yourself be surprised and taken by the unexpected.

NY Glam: How do you market your books?

My ‘marketing’ experience is restricted to raising awareness about my plays when we’ve had a run (be it in Edinburgh, London, Brighton, Dublin). Basically, flyering, putting up posters, doing the odd radio interview and social media-ing the hell out of it!

NY Glam: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Same advice I gave my kids when they were little: if you have something to say, you’ll find a way to say it. (They haven’t done too badly in that respect. One’s a portrait painter, writer and documentary maker; the other is a comedian, playwright and actress.) As Raymond Chandler put it, there are those who want to write, and there are those who write. Getting your work placed is out of your hands; getting it done isn’t. 

NY Glam: What else can we expect from you this year?

Not sure but something is brewing! Hopefully, some of the works I’ve mentioned will see the light of day this year.

NY Glam: Can you share with us three favorite things about your city/culture?

I live in London, where the many parks and green spaces make life way more bearable. The mix of people from all over the world is also great, not to mention the cultural and culinary delights this brings into the life of Londoners.  And, of course, the theatres and cinemas and music venues…

NY Glam: Where can everyone keep up with you to learn more? …social media…website

http://www.theatreortas.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003771831718

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