The Next Big Thing - literary blog-tag question thing
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 4:24:35 PM
1) What is the title of your next book?
The next book of mine to be published will almost certainly be Defeated Dogs, a collection of short fiction that will be coming out through Eibonvale Press.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was slightly unsure which book to talk about as my 'next big thing', for various reasons. Defeated Dogs is definitely the next thing on my own horizon as a writer, but I know that the questions here are geared towards novels, and this is a collection, of course, rather than a novel. As such, it's not just one idea, but a number of hopefully very different ideas that all came to me at different times and in different ways. It looks like there will be ten (or possibly eleven) stories, in fact. (Best to assume ten, I suppose.)
I can say a little about the overall concept of the collection, however, though it's a pretty loose concept. Basically, a few years back I noticed I had enough uncollected stories - that is, stories that may or may not have been published, but which have not been collected together in one volume under my name - to provide material for a new collection. This was in around 2009, I think. I've kept on writing since that time, too, and some of the stories written since then - maybe one or two - will be included. I can't remember how I first struck on the title 'Defeated Dogs', but once struck upon, it stuck. It comes from a Japanese idiom, "the distant barking of the defeated dog". Defeat is certainly something that I feel to characterise my adult life. I do not look back on any vivid moments of triumph. I also feel, increasingly, quite close to dogs, in ways I can't necessarily articulate. As the saying goes, "The more time I spend with people, the more I like my dog." I don't have a dog, by the way. But I will say these three things about dogs, and what they mean to me:
a.) They are loyal (we know this).
b.) They have, in many ways, hard, unglorified lives (it's a dog's life).
c.) They are despised. Think, for instance, of how insulting the word 'dog' is considered to be. Many people seem to despise dogs precisely for their loyalty. I don't understand such people, and I don't trust them. How exactly do you trust someone who despises loyalty? They're clearly likely to stab you in the back whenever it suits them, and feel superior while they're doing it, too.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Despite the title, I hope it doesn't fall. I hope it stands its own ground firmly. One or two of the stories might reasonably be said to be genre pieces - SF and weird fiction - but for the rest I neither know nor care.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
This is a hugely difficult question, partly because there aren't any main characters as such (with there being ten or so stories), but partly because there are really hardly any actors that I admire. Sadly, I almost never see a screen performance that touches me in an individual and memorable way. Actors should, by rights, be artists, but for the most part appear to be air-heads. That we're living in a world where people think Keira Knightley is a reasonable choice of casting for Anna Karenina possibly says all that needs to be said about the overweening crassness of the film industry, and even when actors are talented, intelligent arenas for their talent are so rare as to be virtually non-existent, and therefore I have few very positive associations with actors... (except for those I know personally).
It's true there are one or two that I think are pretty good, such as Steve Buscemi and Lauren Ambrose, but I can't think of any roles they could reasonably fill in the stories in this collection. If the stories had to be acted, the cast should be chosen from amongst the patients of a secure mental health unit.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The synopsis would be a statement: "Kill me if you like, but you won't find the meaning of life without me."
6) When will the book be published?
Early in 2013, I'm told.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Well, there were, as we know, about ten or eleven first draft manuscripts. The earliest of these was or were (was, I think) written back in the twentieth century. The latest was written in about 2010. So, they span about, say 13 years of writing, possibly more. In terms of how many hours it took me, I'm afraid I haven't a clue, though it tends to take me about an hour to write 250 words (I'm very slow at everything), so let's say 492.784 hours, or 20.53 solid days, or 14 full working weeks... doesn't sound that much time, actually, come to think of it... If only I were left alone to write all day, I could have published dozens of books by now. Mind you, this is only first draft we're talking.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don't have a genre as such. There are one or two contemporary writers I feel akin to in subject matter and attitude, if not quite in style. Certain passages in Michael Cisco's work chime uncannily with my preoccupations, for instance. I don't really know who I can usefully compare myself to, though. In all honesty, I would say my work has an evolution a bit like this:
I wrote before I ever 'wanted to be a writer'. I was a young child, and enjoyed writing. I had no image of who or what a writer is in order to aspire to be one. I simply found the writing of stories to be the most wonderful thing in the world, and it seemed to me that I had my own imagination to draw from. Having said that, I was really quite a plaigiarist as a child (for a childhood similar to my own in this particular sense, please refer to Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Mots), and what I plaigiarised, apart from just anything and everything, was mainly comic books, fantasy and horror. However, I've never really identified myself as a fantasy or horror fan in a badge-wearing kind of way, as some people do, and, in fact, I tend not to have hobbies or join clubs or anything like this, and can't produce vast lists of 'my interests' for Facebook, MySpace and all the other internet profiles that now abound and demand such things. I've tried, and I find it difficult. In short, I don't think I construct my identity in quite the kind of tribal way that would lead me to care about genre. Nonetheless, what people call genre, and what I never thought about in those terms, has been there in my life, and has nourished the roots of the growing tree of my reading-and-writing. I think genre influences are, in this sense, readily discernible in my writing. I neither wish to disown them, nor to cleave to them. From about about the age of sixteen on, without even being conscious of leaving anything behind, I veered in my reading into areas that have had very little of genre about them at all, and where patterns are identifiable, they are that I seem to be very fond of Japanese literature, and that, very, very vaguely, I think I like what is called 'decadent', and I tend to dislike the clipped, punchy prose style that has been especially fashionable since Ernest Hemingway set about stripping prose bare. In this sense, my adult influences are 'literary' rather than 'genre', but it's not a distinction I ever made myself until relatively recently, having spent so much time in an environment in which such distinctions are emphasised and enforced. I rather resent having been made conscious of them. For reasons I can't analyse, 'the supernatural' seems to be an element with which I am at home in fiction, but I basically see the impulses behind all fiction writing as imaginative and the aim to add to life (if possible) rather than merely to reflect life.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My imagination and its conflict (and occasionally its symbiosis) with the world in which I live.
Some separate and specific sources of inspiration have been: dogs, fairies, dreams, inflatable things, secluded places, the smell of mildew, a sense of being unworthy in the eyes of the Buddha, plastic dolls, the David Bowie album Low, etc.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Honestly, I don't know. I'm not very clever in that sense. I simply write what I feel I have to write. Obviously, it's what piques my own interest (more than piques it, in fact), but I find it impossible to summarise, at least, to summarise on request, and I suppose that's why I write it. I really, truly have no idea whether the book will be of interest to anyone at all. Eibonvale have kindly taken an interest, and I hope this means that others will, too.
Dot dot dot...
I was not in the best of moods while writing the main bulk of the text above. I'm not sure my mood has especially brightened, but it's coloured a little in the last few days. And I don't know if the following will pique anyone's interest, but I feel like writing it anyway:
What is fiction? Is it merely a diversion, an ornament of the ego, escapism? It may be all those things, but for longer than my adult existence, and back into the mists of childhood, I have also felt imaginative writing to be the purpose of my life. I remember an ancient interview in which Morrissey said that, whether or not there was a backlash now, he had won - he had won when his first solo album, Viva Hate, had entered the UK album charts at number one. I can't imagine that Defeated Dogs will enter anything at number one. Moreover, I am a bit of an old hand now at 'post-novel depression' and its various permutations, including post-publication depression, which occurs when you realise that, after all, the world hasn't changed one flick of a feather of an insignificant whit just because you have unburdened your fevered soul in words upon its filthy ground.
Nonetheless, I feel quietly pleasant about the forthcoming release of Defeated Dogs, feel almost - virtually very nearly - a warm, wintery glow of irony about its title. It is not - I think - a spectacular book, but I believe it bears adequate testimony to the nature of my existence, as I have lived it actually and imaginatively, over the course of the last two decades. I hope I shall continue to feel so. To continue in such a feeling will be a victory of sorts.
I'll go a little further in this line of thought. I have a kind of fantasy that I would like to share with you. In this fantasy, some antiseptic messiah such as Eckhart Tolle has led humanity into a new, timeless-therefore-endless epoch of harmony, acceptance, satisfaction, peace and so on, and naturally, all creativity has come to an end, apart from what is necessary to sustain physical existence and the contemplation of how wonderful nothingness is. A few relics survive, however, from the older times of discontent and chaos. What comes next in the fantasy is a little like some lines from a song by Bowie (from memory): "I'll think about a world to come/Where some books are found by the Golden Ones/Written in pain, written in awe/By a puzzled man who questioned what we were here for." The eyes of one of the younger Golden Ones might have fallen on the cover of any among the decaying books in the old, neglected archive, but for some reason, they fall upon one with the curious title 'Defeated Dogs'. 'Defeated' has an archaic, almost an evil ring to it. S/he's never heard the word spoken aloud. S/he picks up the book, turns the pages, and enters a world no one ever told herm about, and which, until now, s/he had never imagined...
And now it's time for me to pass on the 'Next Big Thing' baton.
I wrote to a number of writers asking if they would mind terribly if I tagged them. Unless I've misunderstood the situation entirely, I am able to tag the following three authors (I may add more if I hear back from others):
Justin Isis, trenchant detournicator and author of I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like, whose blog this will hopefully revive a little.
Michael Cisco, an as yet largely undiscovered but growing literary micronation, who, I'm surprised to learn, has not been tagged yet.
And the unicorn-fabulous Luke Geddes, who made a very exciting debut earlier this year with the grittily glittery I Am a Magical Teenage Princess.
It appears I am also able to tag pyrotechnic logomaniac, Joseph S. Pulver, whose The Orphan Palace breaks all the rules and crosses the county line into kaleidoscopic lunacy before it can be caught.