Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged by poet and Magma secretary Jennifer Wong to give this interview for an expanding blog project called The Next Big Thing. You can read her interview here. The idea is to say something about the process of writing a forthcoming book or manuscript. I am supposed to post my thoughts and then tag other writers to do the same on 23 January 2013, although this date is flexible. I am a week late myself.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The idea emerged mainly from the process of writing it. In the second half of 2011, I placed all the better poems I’d written since my first collection (The Opposite of Cabbage, published in March 2009) side-by-side on the living room floor. I read them all, juggled them around, threw some away, and realised that most of those left were about happiness, the struggle for it and its accompanying discontentments. There was also a sequence on autism, but that seemed mainly to fall under the dominant ‘happiness’ theme. After that, I wrote more on-theme poems and a book, The Good News, was born.

What genre does your book fall under?

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It will be co-directed by David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch. Woody Allen will convert the disparate poems into a screenplay. For lead actors, I’ll resurrect Humphrey Bogart and Greta Garbo to star alongside Tom Waits and Helena Bonham-Carter. A choir of one hundred Scottish poets will act as a liturgical chorus. Amanda Palmer and Yo La Tengo will team up to provide the soundtrack. The Smiths will reform for one night only to play a brand new Morrissey/Marr track during the closing credits.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
That happiness comes from a deeper and stranger place than any ‘Ten Steps to Happiness’ self-help book or article will ever admit (one honourable exception is A Rough Guide to Happiness by Nick Baylis, which is a most thoughtful book).

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About three years, but many poems had been through countless drafts before they ended up in the manuscript. A ‘first draft’ of a poetry collection is often at quite an advanced stage, I’d guess.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It’s quite a personal book, although it’s not ‘confessional’ poetry. My daughter was an inspiration, but these are not traditional ‘father-daughter’ poems. I have read poems about autism, some astonishingly brilliant (such as Les Murray’s remarkable It Allows a Portraitin Line Scan at Fifteen), but I haven’t read any that quite take the approach I do. And I was also inspired to write poems of place, political identity, faith, travel and love because these all felt important to me in regard to happiness. I wasn’t always in a particularly happy state of mind when writing the poems, but I was striving to touch on something hopeful, on a future with meaning attached.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’d hope most of these poems will reward being read several times. They aim for that. They also aim to be humorous and entertaining without sacrificing depth and mystery. It’s a tall order.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The Good News will be published by Salt Publishing in the second quarter of 2013.


I asked several people if they wanted to be tagged to do this, but either they were already doing it or were too busy or couldn’t for other reasons. So I have only one person to tag and that is Helen Mort. Check out her blog around 23 January. I am now also going to tag Peter Daniels as well.

If anyone else wants to do it, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to tag you here.

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