Here it is: the first ever Indie Author Interview (IAI) on Indie Revolution! I’m thrilled to share this with you and many more Indie Author Interviews in the future; so keep your eyes peeled!
Recently, I had the chance to interview grassroots author from Northern England, Rupert Dreyfus, about his first novel Spark and his collection of short stories, The Rebel’s Sketchbook.
Here’s the Q&A:
LM: While most indie authors can only dream of quitting their day jobs, they continue to pursue writing and self-publishing because they are drawn to create. When did you experience your “call to write” and why is story-telling (particularly the stories of indie authors) important to you?
RD: I began to write stories about ten years ago, but they were pretty awful for most of this time. I then found myself writing Spark about three years ago. It was the first story I’d ever attempted in the first-person and something just clicked. From that point on I realised I could write about socio-political issues in a way that suited me.
To answer your other questions: storytelling is important because it allows us to convey serious ideas while entertaining people. You can also capture something of the world around us which, over many years, will become unidentifiable to future generations.
The indie scene is particularly important right now because it’s making a slow transition to being a credible movement when once upon a time it was universally frowned upon. As you’re probably aware; until the rise of digital platforms, the traditional publishing world basically dictated what the rest of us could read. This would largely be determined by commercial interests. However, the internet came along and now all these fringe voices can find an audience. From my point of view this is an exciting time for free expression and indie authors should make the most of it because we’re the most creatively free.
LM: Who are your primary creative influences? Writers and non-writers included.
RD: It’s a good question because we always think that influences should be other writers when we know from our own lives that we can draw influences from a lot of different places – some even abstract. The writers who I feel have influenced me on some level are Orwell, Patrick McGrath, Kafka, Burroughs, Palahniuk, Carl Sagan, Bakunin and Chomsky even though he can be boring as fuck to read. Non-writers who have influenced me in some way are endless: Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Witold Pilecki… basically anyone who takes a stand against oppression on any level. Then there are film directors such as David Lynch and Werner Herzog who go against the grain. Music has been important. Too many to even name here. I love everything from sacred minimalism to harsh noise artists and pretty much everything in between. Without a shadow of a doubting Thomas my lifelong favourite band has been Radiohead. Both of my books contain a reference to Radiohead.
LM: You describe your work as transgressive fiction. What does that genre embody to you and how does your work fit into that category?
RD: Transgressive fiction tends to explore darker subject matter while using a simple first-person narrative voice. I’d say my own writing takes from transgressive fiction, but I’d be reluctant to say that it’s representative of transgressive fiction. I only write in the first-person and I often write from the perspective of marginalised characters who are trapped in a hopeless existence. I also try to tell a story as if the reader has just met a character on a long train journey and the character is babbling some anecdote at them.
LM: What was the inspiration behind your first novel Spark?
RD: The London Riots of 2011 was the biggest influence on Spark. I wanted to take a disaffected character and demonstrate that even individuals can exert massive influence on the world. Anonymous and computer hackers generally are a big influence on that story. I think I’ve said this before but they’re like modern day guerrillas.
LM: Despite the fact that the general public is now aware that our governments illegally spy on us and that corruption is saturated in our politics and big businesses, it would seem that most people ultimately feel powerless against these forces (I know I do). Do you think it’s really possible for the kind of changes in our society to happen that your character Jake attempted to create?
RD: I actually think a shift away from the present system is inevitable at some point in the future, but in which direction is anyone’s guess. The reason I think this is because all scientific evidence indicates that climate change is going to drive our species to extinction unless we make drastic changes to the way in which we organise ourselves. We know that neoliberalism is unsustainable, but those benefiting from it are going to cling to it at all costs which is what we’re seeing at the moment. However, what’s making this easier for our leaders is that privileged countries in the West can pretty much ignore what’s happening to poorer countries in the rest of the world, but this isn’t going to be the case forever. We’re one major catastrophe away from having to look in the mirror and face up to what sort of world we’ve created. Those leading cosy lives in Western countries will be forced to look at solutions to the very serious problems we face.
LM: Your collection of short stories, The Rebel’s Sketchbook (my favorite), has a much darker tone than Spark. Three stories in particular: Sentenced, Eat Nasty, & Growth, seem to hint at a public complacency with absolute ridiculousness (e.g.; grafting a penis on your forehead for fashion) effectuated through social media & fame. Compared to the characters in Hotel Scum and Mo in Mo’s Lesson, it also seems like the further away from the internet you are the less screwed up you are too. In an age of immediate and nearly infinite information, is social media making us dumber?
RD: I’d first like to state that social media is an almost Orwellian term: there’s nothing social about millions of bored people sitting in their homes, posting mundane statuses about how average their lives are. Secondly I place a high value on free expression and while I’m critical of people’s behaviour, I’d defend people’s right to behave however they want. Besides; in the grand scheme of things a lot of what we see on social media is relatively harmless. From what I can see it’s also just a reflection of how people behave in the real world. Take Twitter for example: I’ve seen people use it to report on serious developments happening in the Middle East in real time and then I’ve seen people use it to tell a substandard fart joke which nobody bothered to Retweet. So it’s not much different to real life.
Either way we have to remember that social media is ran by large corporations so it’s always going to have its limits. Until there’s a non-profit alternative, it’s going to serve the interests of big business which is going to serve the interests of neoliberalism which is going to serve authority which is going to serve the interests of big business and so on.
LM: When can we expect the next collection of short stories and/or novel? What themes will you be working with in future projects? Any non-fiction, perhaps?
RD: At this rate another release is probably going to be either late 2016 or the first half of 2017 because I need to spend more time riding the endlessly frustrating ghost train of self-promotion. There will be shorter releases in between, but an actual finalised longer work is going to be at least a year from now. As for themes: one novel I’m working on is called Cain and the central themes are immigration here in the UK, crime and British street slang. The immigration theme will be a postwar history lesson for white people in the UK who have been failed by our racist education system; the crime angle will be asking who the real criminals are in this world and the street slang is purely my love of language spoken out there on the streets. I’m in love with the series The Wire so it’s an ode to that – only set in the UK and nowhere near as good.
I’ve also had this council estate kicking round my head for a few years and I want to use that environment for writing about life on a British council estate because that’s going to be a good way to say something about the world.
I’m also penning a surreal noir-type story which will probably go out under a pen name. It’s going to be nightmarish and pretty fucked up, and will be a nod towards my love of hardboiled crime fiction and film noir.
As for non-fiction: I’ve been meaning to do some experimentation with drugs and creativity but I just haven’t had the time to plan it properly. There are other things I’d like to write about, but there’s only so much we can achieve in a lifetime. If I was to ever do this as a living then I’d be way more productive, but right now I’m not so lucky and have to prioritise projects.
LM: When do you write? Day/Night? At work?
RD: I write whenever I have an idea on the go and I get the chance. It’s normally evenings while at home on my own because then I can get into the groove for a couple of hours.
LM: You have 10 seconds (count ’em) to come up with the most creative insult you can think of. Go!
RD: Your mam is the missing link between a lettuce and a
LM: Any recommendations for curing a pesky hangover?
RD: When I was a kid, an older friend once said to me: ‘Son, I’m going to give you some advice that you can call upon whenever you’re feeling your worst: the best hangover cure known to humanity is a pie and a good shit.’ And since that day I’ve treasured those words and have managed to keep the hangover demons at bay.
LM: And in the words of modern-day philosopher Jerry Springer – final thoughts?
RD: As for final thoughts: I’d just like to give a shout out to everyone who’s read my stories and who have helped me to spread the word. Feel free to get in touch through my website or through social media. Thanks also to Lorie for this ace interview.
Support indie authors my friends!!