I’m not the most coherent person on Earth. It helps.
My day job requires me to be organised, on top of things, alert and in charge: I’m the Arts co-ordinator for a city of more than 100 000, responsible for public art, cultural events, large scale exhibitions and the like. Fuck up and we all look stupid, so I’m wired up and focussed and generally busier than Henry VIII’s bridal registry. And then I’ve got three kids at home between the ages of 19 and 7 who have different demands and with whom I want spend time and be a good dad, and my wife is lovely and I want to spend time with her and encourage her in all her pursuits, and we’re trying to sell our house right now so I’m patching and painting and weeding and hanging curtains and moving furniture about……
Yesterday I edited 15 pages of my upcoming novel in a food court.
Actually, that wasn’t a bad thing to do: frankly, there’s no greater motivation for putting my head down over my work and not ever looking up than the sight of a whole bunch of strangers eating around me. Seriously, people: if my seven year old knows not to eat with his mouth open or talk with it full, maybe you and your wife and your kids could think about it? That cheap-arse potato curry didn’t look that good when it was still in the bain-marie. Your masticating hasn’t improved it. I’m already tipping over into misanthropy. Don’t push me into outright whole-scale revulsion. I hate guns and I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who went mad in a food court and tried to choke a whole bunch of people with napkins. “It was awful! We were just eating our lunch and the next thing we know this fat guy is jumping on our table screaming something about Emily Post….”
Not until I need the publicity, anyway.
But it’s the mental space I live in, at least, when it comes to my writing. I’m time-poor, like my-available-time-lives-in-a-double-wide-and-thinks-NASCAR-and-Garth-Crooks-are-the-shit-maaaaan poor. So I fill it in whenever I can, in the most productive way I can. Which is why the whole “Where do you get your ideas?” newbie thang makes me giggle. Because I can’t afford to go traipsing through fields of daffodils looking at shapes in the sky and waiting for my muse to float down and gift me with golden droplets of shiny wisdom. (Rambling; pareidolia; Calliope, I guess, though the way I write it’d probably be Thalia. Played by Kate Bush. In a bikini; golden showers. Eww.) See, I have to know this stuff. I have to absorb it. I don’t have time to plough through endless tomes looking for the one inscrutable minor reference that will thrill and delight the six other people on the planet who might get it (Thomas Pynchon). When it comes to creation I freewheel like crazy, drawing in influences I’ve absorbed from over thirty years of obsessive geekiness—started in earnest when I was nine, do the math—and whenever I have the chance to watch TV or read a book or absorb some sort of popular culture it behoves me to use it to expand my weird nobody-cares knowledge base because sooner or later I’m going to be halfway through a story idea and something I read three years ago will bubble to the surface and bang! Instant connection.
I couldn’t point out an X-Factor winner in a line-up of two. But ask me something about the establishment of the magnificent seven cemeteries. Ask me about the Mary Rose. Ask me about the physics of unicorn horns, rhino horns, triceratops horns... I have a head full of this stuff. I have to, because when it comes time for action I have to be ready from the git-go. It’s why I tend to be a pantser, rather than a plotter. I can’t legislate for what my unconscious might throw up, and if I had umpteen months to plot something out I might as well use the time to actually write, because the results are far more feverish and fun and the laundry needs painting.
I’m hardly the only one, of course, who has to harness a swirl of mental chaos in order to create. Hell, I’m hardly the only one in the room. But as long as the world is filled with open-mouthed chewers and game shows for the mediocre, I’ll always have corners in which I can lurk, clutching a biography of John Dee while I watch a documentary on death art of the Andes, waiting for them to merge with something I saw about seal skins and zeppelins a few years back. So thanks, slobs of the world. You make it easier.
About The Corpse-Rat King
The Corpse-Rat KingThe Corpse-Rat King 1
Angry Robot Books, August 28, 2012 (US/Canada)
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages
September 6, 2012 (UK/RoW)
Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.
Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.
And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.
Just as soon as he stops running away.
File Under: Fantasy
He lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, with his wife, writer Lyn Battersby and an increasingly weird mob of kids. He is sadly obsessed with Lego, Nottingham Forest football club, dinosaurs and Daleks. He’s been a stand-up comic, tennis coach, cartoonist, poet, and tax officer in previous times, and he currently works as Arts Officer for a local council, where he gets to play with artists all day. All in all, life is pretty good.
Website : Twitter
What: One commenter will win a copy of The Corpse-Rat King from The Qwillery. Please note that the winner will not receive the novel until after the publication date.
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