1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I began with writing songs in my late twenties, having learned to play the guitar. This moved on to writing poems and stories, attending some evening classes for writing, and joining a local group of writers in my home town. I think the ‘why’ springs out of the enjoyment and consolation I have from reading, and wanting to see if I can make a poem or song or find a story that readers/listeners will care about and enjoy. The freedom of letting one’s imagination go where it may, to experience the lives of the characters that you write about, that is a delightful thing.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
As a child, my reading would have been chiefly comics (Marvel / D.C.). As a young man I gravitated to horror and ghost stories (Pan used to do a fantastic series of anthologies). Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft spring to mind. Then, whilst training as an actor, I read mostly plays and poetry: Shakespeare, Chekhov, Miller, Brecht, Philip Larkin, Brian Patten. As I gradually became interested in writing, writers like Jean Rhys, Raymond Carver, and Chekhov again (for his stories) inspired me greatly, as they do today. Today, I find myself reading quite a lot of independently-published fiction, which might be from any genre. Some books I have recently read and enjoyed very much include: Friendship and Afterwards by Daniel Gothard, Dreamcatcher by Beverley Jones, Gone Fishing With Willie Nelson & Norah Jones by Austin Roarers, and a poetry collection, To the Lions by Claire Meadows. I am currently reading Venetian Cousins (It’s brilliant!) by Stephen Carroll, and am about to start The Syllabus of Errors by Ashley Stokes.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Blue Box?
It started off as a short story really, or at least I had no idea it would become a novel. It just grew, and I followed where it led. A man being woken up late one night by a knock on the door was the only idea in my mind at the time. I’m so glad he opened the door and allowed the story to develop from there.
4. Will we ever see any of these characters again?
That’s a fascinating thing to ponder. I have no definite plans at the moment. I know that some writers, such as Stephen King, have characters that crop up across his different novels. That’s a nice idea, even if they are in just one or two scenes, it would be lovely to meet them again. In The Blue Box, the characters of Daumen and Peter, the truck driver, are strong possibilities for this, but potentially, any of them could make a return.
5. What was the intended symbolism behind the miniatures of the characters?
I am fascinated by the concept of the Doppelgänger. In The Blue Box, these entities start small and grow into the shadow-selves of their counterparts. Miniaturisation is also fascinating, and as with the double, I believe engenders a feeling of the uncanny, or the Unheimlich, as Freud termed it. The uncanny is a quality I find irresistible in fiction, from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s tales to a novel like The Glamour, by Christopher Priest.
6. Were any of the characters personalities or emotions taken from real life?
The characters in The Blue Box are wholly fictional, albeit the quest for purpose and self-actualisation upon which many of the characters embark has clear resonances for me in my life, and hopefully for other people.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I would really love to try writing a play, perhaps a radio or stage play in the first instance. Writing a screenplay would also be very exciting. I will definitely make an attempt.
8. What would you do if you were Thomas?
I feel that Thomas did what his underlying nature compelled him to do. The concept of character being revealed under pressure holds true for him. I hope I would have done the same as him, given his circumstances.
9. Why a theater, in the end? What was it about performing that made it such a central point in the book?
Perhaps, for me, writing about the theatre and acting is inevitable in some ways, due to my previous training as an actor, and my subsequent experience of working in the theatre for a number of years. I do feel that the novel deconstructs and explores ideas about character, persona, and performance, both in real life and on stage. The theatre is a very limited space in a physical sense, but it contains worlds. I felt the stage setting acted as a crucible to bring together the major themes of the novel, as well as being a suitable venue for the novel’s denouement.
10. Would you like to see The Blue Box as a film? If yes, who do you want to see play your characters?
I would absolutely love The Blue Box to be a film. I have started making some moves in this direction, in respect of writing to potential directors. Turning the novel into a screenplay is also a possibility. I have a sense it will be a film one day, by some means or other.
With regard to a possible cast, I love the Austrian actor Bruno Ganz (from Wings of Desire, the Wim Wenders original), and think he would make a fabulous Daumen. I wonder if the younger characters would be better played by as yet ‘unknown’ actors. They are all in their early twenties, so this would seem a good idea. For Reynard, just thinking about this now, I would love a younger John Hurt, or perhaps Javier Bardem.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I hope to have written at least two or three more novels, as well as collections of stories and poems. I have recently published three long stories on Kindle, which are getting some very nice reviews (Sliding, Walking Man, and Is it the Cleaner?), and next year I aim to publish a first collection of stories, and a collection of poems. As per a previous question, I would love to have written a play and seen it produced. Writing songs is something I will always do. I have a few up on Soundcloud at the moment, here: https://soundcloud.com/pumpstreetsongs and shall be recording more in the new year.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
Currently, I need to do other work to pay the rent and bills, and I am grateful for that work. I believe writing is my vocation, and it’s taken a long time to feel secure about saying that. I hope one day that I may earn my living wholly by writing. That would be a wonderful position to be in. I think it will happen, eventually.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I’m putting together a first collection of stories, and also a first collection of poems. Many of these have been published in magazines and anthologies, or broadcast on radio, over the years. I am also developing an idea for a novel – incidentally, this began as a short story as well, so you never know where things will lead.
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
Jean Rhys, Chekhov, Hermann Hesse, Raymond Chandler, Brian Patten, Raymond Carver, to name a few.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
· I played a creepy guy who steals underwear in an episode of the TV police drama series, The Bill.
· I’ve probably had over a hundred different jobs over my working life so far. Some didn’t last very long.
· Dustin Hoffman came to speak to us at RADA while I was a student there. He was appearing as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in the West End.
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