A transgressive crime novelist (whatever that means) for All and None.
Author of The Elephant Tree and The Zombie Room. Now writing more books while getting older and more miserable.
1. Thank you for the opportunity to interview you. First, you describe yourself as a Transgressive novelist. Can you explain to our readers what that means exactly and what the difference is between Transgressive fiction and regular fiction novels? What drew you to this genre specifically?
Well I only became aware of the term Transgressive Fiction a few years ago, so it wasn’t something I ever set out to read or write. When I became aware of the sub-genre I found it contained so many of the books I’ve loved since I was a teenager, and as much as I’m not a fan of genre based fiction as a rule, this made it easier for me to discover some excellent books I was previously unaware of because of the classification, and famous contemporary novels from within this field. The website is building a real cult fan base and we encourage interaction with readers and authors and have a real group participation between all. It’s only just getting off the ground, but we’re always looking for readers to become involved.
The description that is widely accepted is as follows: “Transgressive Fiction is a genre of literature that focuses on characters that feel confined by the norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways. Because they are rebelling against the basic norms of society, protagonists of Transgressive Fiction may seem mentally ill, anti-social or nihilistic.” and famous contemporary novels from within this field are the likes of Trainspotting, Fight Club, and American Psycho, although it does span back right throughout literary history with books such as Lady Chatterly’s Lover, The Bell Jar, Lord of the Flies, Lolita, and many more.
2. When did you know that writing was something that you wanted to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Like many people I always felt I had a novel in me, but it was during a period of intense reading whilst serving a prison sentence for cannabis cultivation I was getting through a book a day and felt many of these best-sellers I was reading were pretty trite and formulaic, and the type of stories I was hearing from other inmates were a lot more compelling, so I decided it was time to begin writing. Put up or shut up, so to speak.
3. Can you tell us a little about your books and where our readers can find out more about them and you? What projects are you currently working on?
My books do tend to be rather dark, and as much as they are crime novels they aren’t like you’ll find in a Lee Child novel, or James Patterson. There is a misconception of the who criminals are and how they behave. Mainstream fiction tends to be very black or white, like when you watch a tedious crime show on TV, and the musical score tells you how you ought to be feeling in any given moment, so there is no room for contemplation or confusion over who is good and who is bad. Real life, obviously, isn’t like that. Good people do bad things, bad people do good things. Sometimes you don’t know who the hell is good or bad and there are conflicting emotions pulling you in different directions. That’s what I like, and that is the type of reality that is reflected within my books. You can find info about them on my website, and hear my inane witterings on my Twitter page.
Lately I’ve been involved with a project to bring Transgressive Fiction to a wider audience, and help readers discover some exceptional books from past and present that really do deserve higher acclaim. It’s a website called TransgressiveFiction.info. It has been a real struggle with many developers falling by the wayside for failing to deliver the ultimate image and aim for the site, but we’re off he ground now and gathering new readers and followers every day.
Apart from that my third novel A Darkness So Unkind is perhaps one final draft away from completion. It’s over six years I’ve been working on it now, but I won’t release it until I’m absolutely happy with the final version. Hopefully later this year or early next it will be complete and released out there into the wild.
4. What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Have you had to deal with rejection within your writing career so far?
Perhaps my proudest achievement was winning the Platinum Koestler award. I’m a huge fan of Arthur Koestler (Darkness at Noon) and being recognized by his namesake charity for my own work was a high point. A strange and unexpected turn was finding random comments I’d made on Twitter end up on sites like WiseBrainyQuotes or whatever.
As for rejection, no-one writes this type of fiction to be popular. I’m constantly criticized and hammered in reviews because I’m not like this author, or my book isn’t like that book. A lot of mainstream readers think that not writing like more popular authors is because of inability. They don’t understand that I dislike those novels and could never bring myself to try and replicate what I would never choose to read myself, just because I know it would be far more commercially viable.
5. Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
When I’m writing it devours me. I’m in that world all of the time, and don’t function in the real world for the duration. I have notepads everywhere and am constantly stopping whatever I’m doing to scribble notes. I’ll put the phone down in the middle of a conversation to scribble something that popped into my head. Pull the car over. Stop a movie. Wake up in the middle of the night and sit jotting away for an hour or more. I’m unlivable during this creative period, although many would say that isn’t too different from the rest of the time. As for the time it takes to finish, it takes as long as it takes. Prolific writers, in my opinion, have the least quality writing. Some writers have daily word counts, but I don’t do that. One day I might write 5000 words, then the next day I throw out 4500 of them. One day I’ll nail a particular paragraph, and that is a day well spent. If you like authors that churn out a novel or two every year then great, but the type of books I like aren’t ever sold in supermarkets along with canned ham and a bottle of milk.
6. Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I have life goals, but as for writing career goals I’m not sure I have them. If someone aims to write a bestseller then how do you know you are letting your true story reveal itself rather than making choices along the way because you don’t want to piss off your readers? Too many books these days are safe, don’t take chances, and feel overly Hollywoodified. Fiction should be daring and it should be prepared to annoy or confuse or alienate some readers. I’ll just keep doing what I do, picking up many haters and some occasional fans along the way.
7. Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry?
It’s definitely never too late to become successful, but I think the most important thing rather than age is defining to oneself what success really is. It’s a subjective term and no-one should allow anyone else to tell them what success is and what isn’t. Kurt Vonnegut, I believe, sums this up perfectly, “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”
8. What’s the first book you can remember reading and what kind of affect did that book have on you personally? What book are you reading at the moment? Do you have a favorite author?
There are some many books from childhood I absolutely loved that I don’t believe I could pick out a single one. I went back and reread everything I could remember from childhood when I was in my 20s to see what the impact would be with a, somewhat, more mature mind. Most still blew me away, and I strongly urge others to do the same. Right now I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk‘s Adjustment Day and I’m rather enjoying it, although it didn’t get a great press. I think my living favorite author is Rupert Thomson. He’s got more talent than a single being should be able to posses within a corporeal shell, but rather than use it to manipulate riches he only ever writes what he’s truly passionate about in any given time. Sometimes he’ll go years without releasing a new book, then when the next one is out I’m first in line to devour it.
9. Do you have any advice you anyone who is striving to become successful at writing or any creative field?
Yeah, unless you absolutely have to do it, unless there is a burning within your very core that whatever creative project once stirred will never, ever, let you rest until it is unearthed, go do something else instead.
10. I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
I completely agree that writing can be a very cathartic process, and it can help a troubled mind wrestle with the demons. I also think when you aren’t chasing popularity and commercial acclaim that your writing is a lot freer to become what it will become. In my opinion that’s where true authenticity lies. Don’t look at trends, forget about popularity contests, be prepared to be misunderstood, be prepared to be hated. Personally I don’t understand the hate, but I’ve come to terms with it. If you want to know exactly what you are going to get, then go buy a Big Mac, or watch a Tom Cruise movie. For readers out there that want to try something different then check out Transgressive Fiction.