Yola mis amigos! I present to you an interview with my fellow dancer-when-nobody-is-looking-like-nobody-is-looking comrade and indie author, Jay Spencer Green. He is the author of Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s and Ivy Feckett is Looking for Love: A Birmingham Romance.
Jay is so frickin’ classy you guys, just look at him!
First off, congrats to Jay for single-handedly lifting my romantic novel embargo. Ivy Feckett was the FIRST romance novel that I have ever read in my 30 salty years on this planet. And as my first, Jay, I will never forget you, *sniff* 😉 Seriously though, this was actually kind of huge for me. I never ever thought I could “stoop” into romance territory, especially as a female when those types of story lines are always being flung at us, only served to make me even more resistant.
But whaddya know? Turns out judging something before you know anything about it first-hand isn’t the greatest approach to life, or making reading selections in this instance. I have to say, thanks to this very positive first experience, I’m now willing to try out other romance novels. My strict diet of gore, trash and angry polemics will now be supplemented with bacon bits of romance; and just as with any balanced diet, I’m sure I’ll be better off for it.
However, the true test of y’alls friendship will be to call for a welfare check if I ever update my status to Currently Reading: “Twilight” or 50 Shades. There will never be any excuse for that shit.
Enough of my foul mouth. You can find Jay on his Website, on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. Thanks to Jay for taking the time to answer my questions with such thoughtful responses. Please enjoy the interview!
IR: Let’s cut to the chase – your Goodreads bio says you were once a stagehand for Chippendales. Please explain everything related to this in detail.
JSG: Yikes, that’s nearly three decades ago. Well, following the impulsive decision to quit my well-paid factory job to be come a full-time writer, an act that was in equal parts bravado, optimism, and stupidity, I found myself working a number of part-time jobs, including one alongside a friend of mine as a glorified scenery shifter in Manchester’s theatres. I worked on a number of shows with him, including several nights when the Chippendales came to town. They were charming, pleasant, and surprisingly short young men. They also afforded me the opportunity of seeing what gangs of women get up to when given licence to misbehave. Very interesting. Some years later, I read Christopher Hitchens’s notorious article in Vanity Fair in which he advanced the view that women are not funny. My immediate thought was “Fucking hell, Hitchens, you’re an idiot. Don’t you realize that they wait until you’ve left the room?” It was an insight born in part of those nights watching women cut loose.
That period of precarious work also yielded three first drafts, happily, although two of them were so shite that they’ll never see the light of day again. The third was rewritten around ten times to become Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s.
IR: What movie can you watch over and over and never get tired of?
JSG: I think it’s in The Tao of Jeet Kune-Do where the legendary Bruce Lee paraphrases Mae West thus: “You should try everything three times. The first time to see if you like it, the second time to make sure, and the third time to see if you tire of it easily.” This rule applies to most things in life—except bestiality, murder, and golf—and especially movies. But I tend to find I’ve sucked the marrow out of a movie after three viewings, four at most, so I rarely watch a film more often than that. Life’s too short.
If I’m honest, though, in some ways this lack of ready enthusiasm for movies is a defense mechanism. The German social theorist George Simmel, writing in the early 1900s, argued that one of the symptoms of modernity is the adoption among city dwellers of a blasé attitude. Urban residents are so bombarded with information and “entertainment” that one of the few ways to survive psychically is to adopt a detached, casual approach to everything, a neurasthenic jadedness, a kind of “seen-it-all” attitude that functions to protect them from a permanent fugue state of enthusiasm but which also—and this is important—prevents them from responding appropriately to suffering and injustice. I think Simmel’s analysis is even more relevant today, in the internet age, and it’s one of the main messages of Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s, a book in which I try to distract the reader so much that they literally lose the plot—and simultaneously any sense of value, of the relative importance of the events being described. I wanted the reader to experience directly what Joe Chambers experiences: distraction in the service of deception.
But having said all that, let me give a special mention to Joe Angio’s film Revenge of the Mekons, which I’ll watch any time I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. I’m a big Mekons fan, and I chipped in a few quid to Joe’s Kickstarter campaign to make the movie. I highly recommend it. I’m biased, of course, but it is ace.
IR: Your favorite book and why?
JSG: Steve Aylett’s Bigot Hall. Language gorgeously distorted, ideas leaping off every page like popcorn fireworks, electrocuted grammar scampi pinging against your eyeballs at angles suspected of existing only in other dimensions. Diogenes with synesthesia. Takes my breath away.
IR: What are your hobbies?
JSG: Dancing like no-one’s looking. Dancing when no-one’s looking.
IR: What’s something that people do in public that really annoys you?
JSG: I really wish they wouldn’t dangle their penis over the balcony while watering the pot plants on the terrace (#notallmen).
IR: What’s the most frustrating/rewarding thing about self-publishing for you?
JSG: I don’t find anything frustrating about it. I’m finally free of frustration, if anything. For more than ten years my first three novels were stuck with an agent who, despite being one of Ireland’s best, simply couldn’t place them with a publisher because they didn’t fit into any one particular genre. Of course, I understand entirely how the industry works, but I feel a fool now that I didn’t trust my own judgement and go the indie route earlier, particularly since all the bands I love had done exactly that. Indie publishing has enabled me to get my books into readers’ hands without having to wait for someone else to say that they’re worthy of being published. And when readers’ comment that the books are just as good as those published by the legacy houses—not just in terms of plot but also design and editing—I feel vindicated. There are some amazing indie authors out there, by the way. Not that I have to tell you!
IR: Which one of your novels is your favorite and why?
JSG: What a horrible question! That’s like asking me which of my children I love most: The big, bold, extroverted, loud, sweaty, hairy, vulgar kid, or the timid, gentle, thoughtful, quiet, conformist, intellectual kid. Each has its own virtues and likeable features, so it would be an act of betrayal to pick one ahead of another. I like Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s for its sheer take-no-prisoners ballsiness. I knew it was a risk to launch my career with a novel that deliberately attempts to confuse the reader; I was relying on the sheer number and quality of the jokes to overcome the hostility that that would engender. Happily, most of my readers seem to have understood what I was trying to achieve. There’s a really lovely review at Goodreads by Rebecca Gransden in which she says that reading Cannibal Joe’s is like sitting down next to a high-functioning savant who seems to be spewing out all manner of bizarre ideas and images but, once you’ve acclimatized to his verbiage, you begin to realize that there’s something else going on, a signal in the noise. It means a lot to me that so many people were ready to give the book a chance. I heartily recommend Goodreads as a place to meet adventurous, open-minded, and sophisticated readers.
But I love Ivy Feckett too. What can I say? It isn’t in-your-face like Cannibal Joe’s is, but just as much effort and thought went into making it. She’s a sweet-looking child with a potty mouth.
IR: Where is the strangest place you have ever been?
JSG: Singing “Danny Boy” with ballet dancer Wayne Sleep and his partner late at night in an otherwise empty restaurant in Havana, Cuba, was pretty strange. It didn’t hurt that the restaurant resembled the Red Room from Twin Peaks and that Wayne is on the small side. He may have even spoken backwards at some point.
IR: What childish thing do you still enjoy?
JSG: Sports. I still enjoy playing tennis and soccer because they’re a way to keep fit that is less boring than just doing exercises, but I’m not a big fan of watching sports, and I think that in general they have a pernicious effect on society. If I remember rightly, the Ulster nationalist Kennedy Lindsay wrote in The British Intelligence Services in Action, “Criminals, sportsmen and senior government officials are the most conservative groups in any society”, and I think that’s largely correct. The dedication to physical competition means, for one thing, that athletes don’t have time to read many books or to develop a great deal of political sophistication. I suspect that they also tend to universalize from their own experience—“I became a winner through hard work and outperforming my rivals, and therefore society’s winners must be those who worked hard and outperformed their rivals, proof that competition brings the best to the top of the tree.” Society’s love of sports is also accompanied by a glorification of the athletic body and, tangentially, of nationalism, militarism, of physical strength. Even team games: What better totalitarian message could there be than “We’re all on the same team”? Such an ethos doesn’t always lead to fascism, but the consequences are similar in respect of its suspicion of learning and non-conformity.
IR: Any future projects that you would like to tell us about?
JSG: Sure. I’m working on the penultimate draft of my third novel, Fowl Play, a kind of Rollerball for the austerity generation, which I hope to have out in the summer. I’m actually looking at the “society as team” metaphor in that, among other topics. An anonymous reader at Hodder & Stoughton said of an earlier draft that it was the funniest dystopian comedy (s)he had read in a long time, but that was 10 years ago, so I have to hope that it will meet with similar approval today. I’m researching Book 4, Manuel Estímulo’s Fascist Book of Everything, which is the sequel to Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s and a kind of hybrid Don Quixote/Bouvard & Pécuchet. I have about 70,000 words of that down but it needs a complete rewrite. I’m gathering material for Book 5, the third in the Cannibal Joe’s trilogy, Stiveley’s Story, set in Paris. There’s also Book 6, The Big O, an experimental novella that’s already written but which needs radical revision before I inflict it on humanity, and I have an idea for Book 7 but with nothing fleshed out yet and about which I shall say nothing more in case someone nicks my idea and writes it before I do.