Interviews I Never Took Part In...

Over at Serpent's Tail - one of my favourite publishers at work in the world today - there's a great interview with John Dufresne who has new book out called I Don't Like Where This Is Going, which has the best designed cover I've seen in months. It looks like this: 

I'll be cracking the spine on that later this evening. 

Anyway, I thought the questions were so good, I found myself reading his answers and then thinking about my own responses to the same questions. What better way to fill in a day when you haven't posted for a while...

Who was the first fictional character you fell in love with?

Aside from Anne in The Famous Five (does she count?) that has to be Emil from Emil and the Detectives. Probably because of his sense of right, wrong, justice and perseverance. Qualities that crop up time and again in all of my literary heroes as the years have ticked by. 

You’re throwing a dinner party for fictional characters. Who do you invite?

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Edgar Donahue and Mountain, Russ Tobin, The Saint, Charlie Parker and The Woman In Black. I'm sure we could all learn something at such a gathering.

Are there any books that still haunt your dreams, even years after reading them?

Clive Barker's Imajica. When I'd finished it, I knew I would never write fantasy as grand or sweeping as that and immediately put the idea of doing so out of my head. Forever.

Is there a book you wish you’d been the one to write?

Imajica for the reasons given above. Clive Barker has been tarred with the horror and fantasy brush forever now but for me, Imajica is high literature but there's only way to find out if the words I speak are true. 

Where do you write, and how do you feel about your workspace?

I like to write outside which is quite 'expansive' and is never the same surroundings from moment to moment. I feel privileged  to have 'outside' as an office, but I do also have the dining room table which has no distractions where I tend to do any work that needs tending to on the MacBook.

What is the most beautiful book you own?

William Blake: The Divine Comedy (Taschen). It reminds me what can be achieved when you ignore your surroundings and set your mind free. Everything is wonderful about it, from the paper it's printed on to the ribbon down the spine. I probably look at it every day to give myself a reality check.

Which author, living or dead, would you most like to spar with in a Slam-style literary death match?

Raymond Carver. Could be fun in the extreme - or not.

And which author would you grant immortality so their books never stopped coming?

John Connolly. He is my JK Rowling. On the first day of a new Charlie Parker hitting the shelves, I'm queueing at midnight for it - the next day or two are then abandoned along with everybody being notified of my intentions not to answer the phone or indeed, do anything else.

Who’s your biggest non-literary artistic inspiration?

Kiss took up a lot of my time when I was younger, they're a hard influence to shake off - not that I want to. In '77, they were The Infallible Gods... and then they fell. Hard. There's a valuable lesson right there.

You’re the coach of one of the teams in Monty Python’s Philosophers’ Football Match. Who’s your star striker?

Alan Watts: 

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.”

What fuel do you use to sustain yourself when you’re writing?

Tea, coffee, cigarettes (which is how I came to enjoy writing outside). I try to eat properly these days to make up for it. I don't write in silence. Music is always in the background and doesn't disturb me at all. I know some people can't concentrate but it's an important fuel for me.

Tolstoy famously wrote standing up, and Cormac McCarthy writes all his novels on an old Olivetti typewriter. Do you have any unconventional writing habits?

I handwrite almost everything with a Waterman or when I'm on the road, I write on my iPhone to keep the number of things I have to carry around with me to the absolute minimum.  I also like writing by candlelight but four years on, I still haven't finished the particular book I was writing by candlelight, so perhaps I should abandon that.

An English composer once said that a live orchestra generally gives a 40% accurate rendition of the symphony he hoped to write. How do the novels you actually write measure up to the ones imagined in your head?

I would like to think it was a better percentage than that. I have this conversation with writer friends far too often. The thing that finds its way to the page is never what's in your head - get used to it or get used to being disappointed in yourself.
*This question feels like a cheat being as very few people have read my novels yet but just rolling with the spirit of it.

If money were no object and you suddenly lost the desire to write, what would you do with your time?

Travel - though I would struggle with not writing about it. I guess writing is how I like to take photographs. 

What would be your menu for the last meal of your life?

There used to be a cafe in Whitstable called Olivia's where they made a toasted sandwich filled with bacon, brie and pear chutney. It was the best sandwich I've ever had anywhere on the face of the planet. Not much of a meal granted, but it would make my last moments worthwhile.
*See below. I took a picture of it - that's how good it was. 

If you had to spend the rest of your days in just one place, where would it be?

Again, all responsibilities aside, Keystone in Colorado but only when it's not in season for the skiing fraternity. During those months, I would head for Florence or Copenhagen.

The Last Supper...

The Last Supper...