Jack is the most famous rock star in the world... he's just not from this planet.
Before joining NASA's space programme, Jack had dreams of a career as a professional musician. When a deep space mission goes awry, he crashes on an alien planet. Jack discovers that his new world is inhabited by a race of humans that have evolved in parallel to those on Earth. He picks up a guitar and performs the most wondrous rock songs of his home planet. Neil Young. Leonard Cohen. Bob Dylan. Superstardom beckons as audiences around the globe revere Jack and his apparent songwriting abilities. He basks in the boundless glow of a hedonistic dream world. But Jack soon learns that his lie will have sinister consequences.
This remarkable debut novel by renowned Australian entertainment journalist Nick Milligan, is a thrilling ride through a nightmarish, darkly comical and highly original tale that combines elements of horror, science fiction, music industry satire and erotica.
Some of you know that I love music. I grew up in a house filed with music of all genres, but especially classic rock. So, for me, reading Enormity was a wonderful experience. Science fiction, a little bit of erotica and a huge dousing of mystique make for the most unique novel I've read in a while!
Mr. Milligan was a music journalist, which gives this book the authenticity it needed, because he knew the stars, experienced the stories and has an appreciation for great music! No one else could have written this book or a story like it as well as he did.
The characters run from typical to "what the eff", and each of them plays a critical role in the novel.
As the story unfolds, the readers are brought into a strange new world of sex, drugs and rock and roll!
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I have written stories since I was in kindergarten. Even my earliest tales tended to be morbid. Throughout high school I wrote the occasional short story and poem, but writing was not a main focus. Then in my first year of university, in 2002, I took a creative writing class and started work on a novel. That particular book has been shelved, but it gave me the desire to finish writing a longer piece. In 2009 I started work on the book that became Enormity.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
When I was young I was a big fan of Roald Dahl. I also really liked the short stories of Australian author Paul Jennings. I also loved the Goosebumps books when they were first released, and I’ve been inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s work since I was a teenager.
As an adult I discovered Bret Easton Ellis’ books and all of his work has had a profound influence on me. Especially Lunar Park. He is a brave writer with a wicked sense of humour. That is something I aspire to.
I struggle to read other people’s work when I’m writing my own, so I have to squeeze in some books between my projects. Some novels I enjoyed recently were 1984, The Catcher in the Rye, Gone Girl, The Man in the High Castle, and A Place for Sinners by fellow Australian author Aaron Dries. I also read and loved Kinky Friedman’s Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Enormity?
The book was intended to be a satire on the music industry. I’ve seen the music industry in Australia from a number of different angles: entertainment journalist, band manager, booking agent and promoter. Enormity’s protagonist, Jack, was going to be a fictional famous Australian musician who was at a crossroads in his life and career, and returned to his small home town to try and rediscover a part of himself that seemed gone. His story was to be influenced by my own experiences and anecdotes.
Then, from somewhere out of the ether, appeared the idea that he should actually be on an alien planet and passing off other people’s music as his own. For this idea to work, the planet had to be inhabited by another race of humans. It was an insane idea that seemed too bizarre to not attempt. I think I’m just a sucker for punishment.
4. Why choose rock musicians as your main characters?
There’s two main reasons. One was that I know lots of musicians and I have interviewed hundreds of artists, from Alice Cooper to Ice Cube. So I’ve had many insights into their creative processes, their way of speaking and their thoughts on life and legacy. So I had a lot of personal experience to draw on. The other reason is that I can’t play an instrument, so writing Enormity was a nice way to fantasize about being a musician.
5. Was there any intended symbolism behind the behavior of Jack and his partying and plagiarism in your book?
I see Jack’s behaviour as being typically male, but also very understandable given his circumstances. I went through a period a number of years ago where I partied very hard, so I’m sympathetic towards hedonistic people. I’m also interested in how particular scenarios affect human behaviour, as most writers are. When traditional social boundaries are stripped away, like the need to hold down a job and make money, how do we choose to behave? Jack’s story is one example. I saw Jack as being heroic from the outset, but he was not behaving like a hero. So it was fun to slowly alter the way the reader views him.
Jack’s behaviour and his plagiarism are a part of the satire in Enormity. Here on Earth we worship the celebrity lifestyles of people like Jack and certainly waste our time doing so. It is one of life’s great oddities that we might spend a second coveting someone else’s life over our own.
Most readers will spot the symbolism of the plagiarism in Enormity, in terms of the modern music industry’s desire to push sounds we’ve heard a thousand times before.
6. Will we ever see these characters again in the future, or a story similar to this?
Yes, I believe so. I’m working on a sequel that takes place on Earth during the events of Enormity. Its finale will potentially feed into a third book that follows on from Enormity.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I would like to write detective fiction, but I’m put off by the level of research required. I would want the story to be accurate, obviously. I will get to it some day. In Enormity I feel like I’ve tried my hand at science fiction, horror, erotica and comedy, so I’m not too sure where to go next!
8. If you wound up on another, Earth-like planet, what would you do?
I think part of me would want to follow Jack’s indulgent path. But I can’t play music, so I would have to steal and be dishonest in some other way. I think most people can relate to, or at least understand, that temptation if there will be financial benefit. But, hopefully, I would be honourable and try to notice what that Earth-like planet lacked and what innovations I could offer them that might aid them in some way.
9. Who are some of your personal favorite musicians?
There are so many, but Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Freddie Mercury, James Dean Bradfield, Paul Kelly, Gaz Coombes and Leonard Cohen are musicians whose music I spend a lot of time with.
10. Would you like to see Enormity in theaters? If so, what actors would you like to see play your characters?
Absolutely. A lot of people have individually said to me that they think Enormity would make a great movie. I totally agree. It is a very cinematic book and I wrote it with strong visuals in mind. In that sense, Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch both had an influence on Enormity.
Some readers have offered suggestions about who could play Jack on screen. It might come as no surprise that Johnny Depp has been one name mentioned. But I’m a big fan of Tom Hardy, who strikes me as our modern Brando. He would have the intensity to play Jack.
When I wrote the book I actually visualized Jeff Bridges in the role of Martin Brannagh, so hopefully he would sign up.
As for the main female characters, I’m not too sure. I could live with Mila Kunis in the role of Jennifer Fox and Scarlett Johansson as Natalie. If the film was made in a few years’ time then perhaps Chloe Grace Moretz could play Laurie. She’s a fantastic actress.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
The dream is to be making a living from creative writing, so I can do it fulltime. I would also like to move into screenwriting. So I’ll keep writing books, stories and scripts until that happens.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I probably would have pursued entertainment journalism a lot more than I have. I was writing for national magazines here in Australia, but decided to take a sideways career move to work at a small rural newspaper so I could have more time and energy to focus on creative writing. That decision has paid off.
People have always told me that I have a good voice for radio, so perhaps I might have found my way on to the airwaves. I’ve just started a podcast with two of my friends, so it still might happen!
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I’m working on a collection of short stories which is about half complete. It is a really eclectic mix of tales. Some are realistic and others are quite weird and abstract. I am also making excellent progress on my second novel.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
It would have been awesome to work with Edgar Allan Poe or Oscar Wilde. Hopefully some of their genius might have rubbed off on me. I’d like to work with Bret Easton Ellis.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
This is a really tough one, because I think I’m an open book.
People might not be aware that I often cry during movies. Which is why I mostly watch movies on my own. Moulin Rouge is one of my favourite films and the finale gets me every time. But I guess those two facts count as one surprise.
I came extremely close to dying when I was a two-year-old. It’s a long story, but the simple version is that I got very sick from an undiagnosed bowel obstruction and had to have immediate life-saving surgery. Will that surprise anyone? Maybe. Perhaps I have the demeanour of someone who has cheated death.
A third thing that might surprise people is that I don’t like plotting my stories. So I didn’t have a plan for the plot of Enormity before I started writing it. I made it up as I went along. This has surprised people when I’ve mentioned it, because it seems like Enormity has such an intricate narrative.
I hope those three things suffice – any other surprising facts might be too incriminating.
Find Mr. Milligan online via:
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