Sunday, September 19, 2010
Interview with Gordon Reece
Scott recently caught up with Gordon Reece, author of the new novel Mice for a chat about this exciting book.
Thanks very much for your interest in ‘Mice’. Hope these answers below are okay – let me know if you need more.
1) When did you decide to write a more serious style of book? Your work as a previous graphic artist has been for children’s books.
My degree was in English literature and it was always my ambition to be a novelist. Back in the 1980s I had an agent in London who regularly received hair-raising horror short stories from me. When I started writing full-time in 1999, I thought it would be easier to get published by combining writing with my illustrating – which meant doing children’s books. But as soon I had my first kids’ book published in Spain I wrote Mice – I actually finished the first draft in 2003. My plan went awry when I couldn’t get Mice published. So I carried on writing and illustrating for children. In the seven years it took for Mice to see the light of day, I wrote and illustrated another thirteen children’s books! I wouldn’t say the kids’ books were by default as I’ve had a lot of fun doing them, but it wasn’t my Plan A.
2) How different was the experience for you writing Mice compared to your previous books?
Writing Mice was hard. It was my first attempt at a novel and I was appalled at how slow the progress was. After a whole day’s work I might not have added anything to the word count (on my web site there’s a manuscript page from Mice and you can see me obsessively writing down the word count in the margin!). I don’t know of anything harder than writing – to find the right words, to say exactly what you want to say – it’s like solving an endless column of abstract equations. Writing and illustrating for children is a party in comparison – you can listen to music or talking books while you work, and usually when you finish for the day you’ve got some concrete results – a picture that you can actually show people!
3) Tell us about a typical day of writing for you? How many hours/pages would you work per day?
I usually work from about 8am to 4pm. I live out in the country and rarely get disturbed so there’s no excuse if I’m not productive. I might go for a run at lunchtime if I’m feeling energetic or crash out on the sofa if I’m not. I wanted to be like Graham Greene and get out about a thousand words a day, but in reality if I can get out two hundred or so I think I’ve done pretty well. My motto is ‘without haste, without respite’ which I came across in Anna Karenina and which I think works well for writing. You need to throw huge amounts of time at fiction, time is the writer’s friend as Tobias Wolff says. I have trouble switching off and often fret about problems I didn’t solve when I’m trying to read or watch TV in the evening.
4) Do you plan on writing more YA novels or will you venture into the adult market with your next book?
I’m under contract with A and U to write another YA/adult crossover. I’m working on that right now and I’m about ten thousand words in. After that, my plan is to write three adult novellas – all of them horror thrillers. One, called ‘The Dentist’, is my first attempt to write something set in Australia - sinister goings on in the fictional rural town of Jemimaville.
5) Who are your favourite authors?
Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov, Graham Greene, George Orwell, WH Auden.
6) What are your five favourite novels?
The Comfort of Strangers (McEwan), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Orwell), Lolita (Nabokov), The Cement Garden (McEwan), Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates)