“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For Those About To Write, We Salute You

Over at the Guardian blog, AL Kennedy has a word or two of advice for her creative writing students – and wannabe writers of all hues, your humble correspondent included – during the course of which she hammers quite a number of nails just above the cuticle. To wit:
“They want to write, they have application and vigour, they’ve all come on since I read them last and yet ... it would be unfair not to remind them of how horrible their futures may become. If they’re unsuccessful, they’ll be clattering through a global Depression with a skill no one requires, a writing demon gnawing at their spine to be expressed and a delicately-nurtured sensitivity that will only make their predicaments seem worse – and yet somehow of no interest to anyone else. If they’re successful, they still may not make a living, will travel more than a drug mule, may be so emotionally preoccupied that they fail to notice entire relationships, will have to deal with media demands no sane person would want to understand and may well wear far too much black …
  “Naturally, I don’t believe anyone will be deterred by my mad-eyed rantings. Once somebody wants to write it’s almost impossible to stop them without also killing them to some significant degree … And if you think you might actually be doing some good, amusing someone other than yourself – making them less lonely, more alive, more informed – well, you’re just not going to chuck that over in favour of crafting, long walks and a quiet life. Hence the number of regimes and leaders who have discovered that killing writers until they are entirely dead is a highly effective method of slowing literary output. And may angels and ministers of grace preserve the students and indeed myself from any shades of that. We may feel hard done by, but we’re not doing that badly – for individuals trapped in a society intent upon eating its own tongue.”
  With two books published, a sequel to the second novel declined, and a fourth novel currently under consideration – which is a lot like sending your child along to an audition for Perverts on Ice – I’m about half-a-rung up from the average creative writing student. Which is pretty close to the floor, on a ladder half-inched from the Seven Dwarves.
  Will I stop writing? Well, right now I’m getting up at 5.30 am to get 90 minutes worth of genius prose written, this so my head doesn’t explode during the rest of the day while I rush about trying to fend off the Hydra-headed monster of Recession. At this point I so badly need the escapism that I’m about 30,000 words into a story set on the south coast of Crete, tentatively working-titled THE GODMAN OF LOUTRO, during the course of which the hero – who is, in fact, your humble correspondent – goes to Crete to research a novel and becomes said godman. About five thousand words ago, accepting the reality that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of the story ever being published, I decided to give the hero – YHC – amnesia, just so he can forget a few salient details, the most relevant one being how dire are the straits in which the publishing industry finds itself, so that YHC can continue scuffling about the Cretan mountains in search of a story, despite the fact that there’s a good chance it will never be published.
  In effect, I’m reduced to writing a novel about the fact that the novel I’m writing will never see the light of day.
  Will I stop writing it? Can I stop writing it? And what would it matter in the grand scheme of things if the answer to both questions was yes?
  At 5.30 am, “crafting, long walks and a quiet life” – perhaps even an extra 45 minutes of comatose oblivion – is a very tempting alternative to what amounts to shouting down a well. I’ll keep you posted.

6 comments:

Uiscebot said...

For what it's worth - Your writing, your blog, and your 'down these mean streets a man must walk' type writing attitude inspire me to keep going. Apparently success is not only about money, but excelling in a chosen field and from where I'm standing (was it half a rung down?), you're at the very least, doing that.

bookwitch said...

Well said.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Success is about keeping yourself from going nuts and giving your readers a chuckle. I wish you success!
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

John McFetridge said...

We see Perverts on Ice a lot on Canada.

All I can say is I hope you keep writing because I really want to read. I think you're onto something really special with this book.

Declan Burke said...

Much obliged, folks ...

Oh, and John? Ta for that. No pressure, like ...

Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

You could get up at 05.00 instead... Just for John.