Interview on ABC Radio’ ‘Nightlife’

one cover2

I recently spoke to Sarah Macdonald on ABC Radio’s ‘Nightlife’ program in Australia to discuss my new novel ‘One’, my writing career, my approach to writing (why I write)  and various other things.

If you’re interested, you can check out the interview here (from the 1:00:26 mark):

 

 

New interview

abc canberra

I got a chance to speak to Adam Shirley on ABC Canberra this morning about my new novel ‘One” and the inspirations and motivations behind it.

If you’re interested, you can listen to the interview here (at the 1:06:10 mark of the playback).

 

 

Moments

“Then the children went to bed, or at least went upstairs, and the men joined the women for a cigarette on the porch, absently picking ticks engorged like grapes off the sleeping dogs. And when the men kissed the women good night, and their weekend whiskers scratched the women’s cheeks, the women did not think shave, they thought stay.”

Weekend – by Amy Hempel

Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer

mud

 

Mud by Jeff Nicholls

“All the men like my uncle who had the boats stood around the edges of the barge away from the big green tarps, away from their boats they could not look at, and as far away from each other as they could without falling over into the boiling water. They stood watching for faces of boiled-over people to come up to just below surface like they sometimes did, like they just wanted to sneak a peak before slipping back under.”

On the Rope by Mark Richard

Requiem for a Dream by Darren Aronofsky

“Trousers rolled to the knee but still they got wet. They tied the rope to a cleat at the rear of the boat and rowed back across the lake, jerking the stump slowly behind them. By then it was already evening. Just the slow periodic rack and shuffle of the oarlocks. The lake dark glass and windowlights coming on along the shore. A radio somewhere. Neither of them had spoken a word. This was the perfect day of childhood. This is the day to shape the days upon.”

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

underneath the roses

Underneath the Roses by Gregory Crewdson

Happy Go Lucky by Mike Leigh

Release

one shop

Today is the culmination of an eleven-year journey in writing my second novel ‘One’. It’s been a massive challenge – as all major writing projects are – but this one has also made me question myself, my ability, and my capacity to reach the levels to which I aspire.

I’ve had to question not only how I write, but why; not only my physical process, but my mental one as well. And most importantly, I’ve had to establish what it is I’m trying to achieve with my writing.

I feel like I’ve moved closer to all these things – whether you can ever meet, or exceed such, is probably an unanswerable question. But I’m very happy with the result, and I hope it connects with readers.

I’m so happy to be finally sharing ‘One’ with a wider audience, and happy to be contributing to the greater literary landscape once again. And I do feel that ‘One’ does that, it contributes something different, something to consider, to entertain as well as provide a point of contemplation and perspective.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported me along the way – and if I can ever answer any questions, drop me an e-mail (details on the ‘About’ page).

You can find more details about ‘One’, including ordering info, here, or check out your local bookstore (in Australia and New Zealand)

[musical interlude]

albums4

I’ve heard and read a lot of different theories about the relationship between writing and music. Some people say they write better when listening to specific songs or styles, while others (myself included) need general silence to concentrate on the job at hand, and build the scene in their head.

But even then, there are various ways that music informs my writing, and there are specific albums and tracks that have helped spark my imagination.

Of course, it’s not just the music itself in such cases, it’s often the situation you were in when you found it, where you were in life, in your creative process, etc. For me, there are some albums that always awaken a level of recognition, which trigger something in my mind, and can often help kick-start my imagination.

Here are four albums which do that for me – you’ll no doubt have your own list of inspirations, but if you’re looking for a new source, these may be worth a listen.

  1. “Mezzanine” by Massive Attack

Okay, so most of my picks are going to be a little older because – well, I’m old. “Mezzanine” was released in 1998, and it’s the perfect mix of musical creativity and mood-setting pieces, which, for me, is a great combination. I wouldn’t say Mezzanine has inspired so much of my writing directly, but it helps open up my mind by showcasing what can be done with subtle shifts and changes, and what art – even in a more popular form like music – can be. For me, Mezzanine reminds me that you can do different things, you can adapt different styles and you can make them your own, and that attention to detail is the difference between ‘good’ and ‘great’.

  1. “OK Computer” by Radiohead

I imagine almost every late-nineties teen would have some recollection of “OK Computer”, the genius of the album simply can’t be overlooked. And while it’s not for everyone, much like Mezzanine, OK Computer showcases the depths of creativity within an established art form, looking at pop music from an entirely different angle. I think what really inspires me the most about both albums is that they’re so different, that a group of creative people have got together and just let themselves go, thrown everything out there and moulded it into something amazing. It’s the fine-tuning, the editing, the refinements that make OK Computer so special – which, in a writing sense, comes back to editing, and polishing your experimentation to capture the mood of your work.

  1. “Untrue” by Burial

And speaking of mood, nothing sets the scene better than Burial’s ‘Untrue’. Burial – a one-man band from the UK (in fact, all of these picks are from the UK – wonder what that says about me?) – records his tracks in the dead of night, and he has an uncanny knack for capturing the feel of those moments when the rest of the world is asleep. Again, this is not a direct influence on my writing, I don’t think, but it’s another album that opens my creative thinking and leaves me pondering the stories I want to tell.

  1. “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” by The Streets

And then there’s The Streets. Mike Skinner, who is himself, ‘The Streets’ came to prominence with his first album ‘Original Pirate Material’, but it was his second, ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ which both made, and in many ways, destroyed him. A Grand Don’t Come for Free is a concept album – it tells the story, track-by-track, of Skinner’s developing relationship, eventual end, and hints at what’s to come next. The great thing about this album is that it showcases just how powerful and resonant a simple story can be. Skinner’s tale is entirely relatable, it’s run of the mill stuff that almost everyone has experienced. The album shows that you don’t need an elaborate plotline or a complex idea for it to be powerful.

As noted, everyone will have their own musical touchpoints, but these ones speak to me, and always help me get my mind moving if I need.

Review – ‘Annihilation’ by Alex Garland

annihilationI’ve been looking forward to Alex Garland’s ‘Annihilation’ for some time, and the film does not disappoint – though I can see how its broader commercial could be a concern.

I’ve personally been a fan of Garland’s work for some time – his novel ‘The Coma’ is one of my favourites, though it’s far less well-known than his breakthrough hit, ‘The Beach’. Since moving on from novels, and into screenwriting, Garland has penned the films ‘28 Days Later’, the under-rated sci-fi epic ‘Sunshine’ and the most recent movie adaptation of ‘Judge Dredd’.

But it was his last film, ‘Ex Machina’ which truly elevated Garland in the wider public consciousness. Garland also directed the AI-themed story, which is an impactful, slow burn of a film, and a resonant and disturbing experience.

That then leads to Annihilation. For this film, Garland was given final cut, based on the faith studio execs had in him follow Ex Machina. That, as it turns out, lead to some complications with the film’s release, as producers reportedly voiced concerns, and asked for changes to the cerebral plot after initial test screenings. Garland refused, which then lead to Annihilation being released via Netflix, as opposed to in cinemas, in most countries.

I, for one, can say I’m glad Garland stuck with his initial vision.

Annihilation is a challenging film, for sure, but all great creative works should be. Sure, there’s a place for quick-hitting comedies and fast-paced action movies, but great cinema, as with any art, raises questions and forces you to consider them in a wider context than what you’re seeing on screen. Annihilation achieves this, but it does so in a complex manner which may alienate some viewers. But if you’re willing to absorb those questions, and ponder the various elements at play, you’ll find a hugely rewarding, haunting work, full of great performances and amazing scenes.

Great science fiction doesn’t use its setting as the key story element, it uses the form to tell a human story. Consider, in this respect, ‘Arrival’, which uses the backdrop of an alien invasion to examine human nature and the essence of why we do what we do. Or consider something like ‘Under the Skin’ as another modern example, which also raises moral questions through a foreign observer. Annihilation is in the same vein as these films, drawing viewers into a compelling story, that’ll not only leave with something to think about, but will also likely teach you something you didn’t know, further sparking your response.

In some ways, it’s sad that we (in Australia) won’t get to see it on the big screen, as a lot of effort has clearly gone into the amazing set design and effects. Garland has noted that, while he’s fine with Netflix distribution, he likely would have made different choices if the focus had been on smaller screens. But regardless, the film looks amazing, and as noted, definitely raises deep, intelligent questions – and will haunt you, not only for the disconcerting roar of the creatures contained within ‘The Shimmer’, but also as you ponder its meaning in your own thought process.

Thematic inspiration

come near me

With One set for release very shortly, I’ve been working on my third novel, ‘Control’, and it’s reminded me of the input/output of the creative process – i.e. what you create is a result of the content you consume, and will be influenced by what you read, hear and see.

This is why most writers will say you should read as much as you can if you want to write, because it informs your stylistic choices – the more you learn about the flow of words and different ways in which you can communicate through prose, the better off you’ll be.

But that’s not all you need to know. In my experience, it’s not so much that you need to read everything, but it’s important to fill yourself with the inspirations and styles that you want to re-create, or are within the themes of the story you’re trying to tell.

For me, I can remember specific writers – prose and poetry – songs, films, even images that have inspired each scene in my stories. When I’m writing, I have them up around me – I have photos and printed out pages of text from certain novels and quotes all around my desk and computer screen to help keep me focused. I’ll watch the same things over and over, listen to the same music – in this sense, it’s not so much that I’ve read everything, but I’ve latched onto the themes and ideas that have resonated with me, and having them present keeps the story fresh and active in my head.

Of course, in order to do this, you have to have read enough in the first place to find the right inspirations, so in that sense, you do need to read as much as you can. But I do think it’s worth clarifying that while reading a lot is important, holding your inspirations closer, the things that speak to you on a deeper level, is what helps me better explore the ideas and elements I want in my work.

Everyone’s different, there’s no prescriptive formula for writing. But I find that staying on theme greatly helps provide more consistent inspiration and drive.

(FYI the top image is from the film clip for Massive Attack’s ‘Come Near Me’, which serves as an inspiration point, of sorts, for elements of ‘Control’).

In reality

one books

Years of mental energy, months of keyboard tapping, countless hours of introspection, self-assessment and research. And there it is.

Available April 2nd – more info here.

Nick Flynn

bs nightThe following is an excerpt from Nick Flynn’s ‘Another Bullshit Night in Suck City‘, which is an intriguing memoir about his search, and subsequent discovery, of his long-absent father.

This piece has been analyzed by many others, but I think’s it’s worth highlighting as a relevant example of how to capture something so obvious, yet so easily overlooked.

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Same Again

The usual I say. Blood of Christ I say. Essence. Spirit. Medicine. A hint. A taste. A bump. A snort. A sip. A nip. I say another round. I say brace yourself. Lift a few. Hoist a few. Work the elbow. Bottoms up. Belly up. Leg up. What’ll it be. Name your poison. Mud in your eye. A jar. A jug. A pony. I say a glass. I say same again. I say all around. I say my good man. I say my drinking buddy. I say git that in ya. Then an ice-breaker. Then a quick one. Then a couple of pops. Then a nightcap. Then throw one back. Then knock one down. Working on a scotch and soda I say. Fast and furious I say. Could savage a drink I say. Guzzle I say. Chug. Home brew. Everclear. Moonshine. White lightening. Firewater. Antifreeze. Wallbanger. Zombie. Rotgut. Hooch. Relief. Now you’re talking I say. Live a little I say. Drain it I say. Kill it I say. Feeling it I say. Slightly crocked. Wobbly. Another dead sailor I say. Breakfast of champions I say. I say candy is dandy but liquor is quicker. I say the beer that made Milwaukee famous. I say Houston, we have a drinking problem. I say the cause of, and solution to all of life’s problems. I say ain’t no devil only god when he’s drunk. I say god only knows what I’d be without you. I say thirsty. I say parched. I say wet my whistle. I say awful thirst. Dying of thirst. Lap it up. Hook me up. Beam me up. Watering hole. Hole. Knock a few back. Pound a few down. Corner stool. My office. Out with the boys I say. Unwind I say. Nurse one I say. Apply myself I say. Tie one on I say. Make a night of it I say. Dive. Toasted. Glow. A cold one a tall one a frosty one I say. One for the road I say. A drinker I say. Two-fisted I say. Never trust a man who doesn’t drink I say. A good man’s failing I say. Then a binge then a spree then a jag then a bout. Coming home on all fours. Rousted. Roustabout. Could use a drink I say. A shot of confidence I say. Steady my nerves I say. Drown my sorrows. I say kill for a drink. I say keep ‘em coming. I say a stiff one. I say as fast as possible. I say the long haul. Drink deep drink hard hit the bottle. Two sheets to the wind then. Half-coked then. Knackered then. Showing it then. Holding the wall up then. Under the influence then. Half in the bag then. A toot. A tear. A blowout. Out of my skull I say. Liquored up. Rip-roaring. Slammed. Fucking jacked. The booze talking. The room Spinning. Primed. Feeling no pain. Buzzed. Giddy. Silly. Glazed. Impaired. Intoxicated. Lubricated. Stewed. Tight. Tiddly. Juiced. Plotzed. Potted. Pixilated. Pie-eyed. Cock-eyed. Inebriated. Laminated. Stoned. High. Swimming. Elated. Exalted. Debauched. Rock on. Drunk on. Shine on. Bring it on. Pissed. Then bleary. Then bloodshot. Glassy-eyed. Mud-eyed. Red-nosed. Thick-tongued. Addled. Dizzy then. Groggy. On a bender I say. On a spree. On a drunk. I say off the wagon. I say gone out. I say on a slip. I say in my cups. I say riding the night train. I say the drink. I say the bottle. I say the blood bank. I say drinkie-poo. I say a drink drink. A drink a drunk a drunkard. Swill Swig. Faced. Shitfaced. Fucked up. Stupefied. Incapacitated. Raging. Seeing double. Shitty. Take the edge off I say. That’s better I say. Loaded I say. Wasted. Looped. Lit. Off my ass. Befuddled. Reeling. Tanked. Punch-drunk. Mean drunk. Maintenance drunk. Sloppy drunk happy drunk weepy drunk blind drunk dead drunk. Serious drinker. Hard drinker. Lush. Drink like a fish. Boozer. Booze hound. Absorb. Rummy. Alkie. Sponge. Sip. Sot. Sop. Then muddled. Then maudlin. Then woozy. Then clouded. What day is it? Do you know me? Have you seen me? When did I start? Did I everstop? Slurring. Reeling. Staggering. Overserved they say. Drunk as a skunk they say. Falling down drunk. Crawling down drunk. Drunk and disorderly. I say high tolerance. I say high capacity. I say social lubricant. They say protective custody. Sozzled soused sloshed. Polluted. Blitzed. Shattered. Zonked. Ossified. Annihilated. Fossilized. Stinko. Blotto. Legless. Smashed. Soaked. Screwed. Pickled. Bombed. Stiff. Fried. Oiled. Boiled. Frazzled. Blasted. Plastered. Hammered. Tore up. Ripped up. Ripped. Destroyed. Whittled. Plowed. Overcome. Overtaken. Comatose. Dead to the world. Beyond the beyond. The old K.O. The horrors I say. The heebie-jeebies I say. The beast I say. The dt’s. B’jesus and pink elephants. A hummer. A run. A mindbender. Hittin’ it kinda hard they say. Go easy they say. Last call they say. Quitting time they say. They say shut off. They say ruckus. They say dry out. Pass out. Lights out. Blackout. Headlong. The bottom. The walking wounded. Saturday night paralysis. Cross-eyed and painless. Petroleum dark. Gone to the world. Gone. Gonzo. Wrecked. Out. Sleep it off. Wake up on the floor. End up in the gutter. Off the stuff. Dry. Dry heaves. Gag. White knuckle. Lightweight I say. Hair of the dog I say. Eye-opener I say. A drop I say. A slug. A taste. A swallow. A pull. Sadder Budweiser I say. Down the hatch I say. I wouldn’t say no I say. I say whatever he’s having. I say next one’s on me. I say match you. I say bottoms up. Put it on my Tab. I say one more. I say same again.