Alex Taylor, whose debut novel will be reviewed in a raving 5-star writeup tomorrow, gives us a slice or two of his brain. Hang on! Like his novel, this interview will blow your mind!
–How would your advice for new writers differ from advice you would offer writers who have been in the game for a while?
I wouldn’t presume to give advice to writers who are already publishing unless they asked for it. As for novitiates, I hope they are aware that there are so many other and more productive ways to spend a life than writing. If they understand this and still feel compelled to write, then I am afraid they are terminal and nothing I say will cure them. All I can do is possibly put a tourniquet on the bleeding so that they suffer less.
Once a writer is diagnosed, the best avenue of treatment is that they recuse themselves, as much as possible, from the contemporary world, particularly contemporary literature. It is a swamp of dross. Occasionally, a work of genius glimmers forth, but this is the exception, not the rule. They should immerse themselves in the classics. Because they are difficult, in every sense of the word. Because they have endured. Because they will continue to endure, if there is any justice, which I have my doubts about.
Secondly, I would advise them to be prepared to live in obscurity. Writing helps no one but the writer. It will not save Syrian refugees, but it may help you to survive and somehow transcend certain problems endemic to 21st Century life and modernity. One must not be adverse to monkritude. One must be able to love a few and hate many.
–When you take a break from writing, is it a full and total break or is your mind constantly parsing the world for fodder? What does that parsing look like? How does it make you feel as an artist? As a human being?
–From your perspective as an author, what do you feel is the biggest challenge to the publishing industry today? Is there a way to solve that challenge?
The biggest problem with the publishing industry is to be found in the phrase ‘publishing industry’. Bestsellers are manufactured, major prizes awarded to hackneyed books because they espouse correct politics. Implicit therein is much evil. Not that commerce is bereft of virtue. But it diminishes the artist. His soul is compromised, and thereby so is his ability to speak the truth. The writer can’t concern himself with such. He must write and hope that he will be given bread.
–What books are you currently reading?
I just finished John Fowles‘ The Magus, a tremendous and tremendously erudite book that is ghostly and haunting. I am currently reading Njal’s Saga, an Icelandic Saga from, I believe, the fourteenth century. Plenty of ruptured skulls in this one. A delight.
–Which authors do you think are underappreciated in the current market, and why?
–Which new writers do you find most interesting, and why?
I don’t have time to read many new writers. I’m stilly catching up on those who have gone before me. Donna Tartt is good, though not new. She deserves every award she gets. Likewise, Jeffrey Lent.
–Which “get writing” techniques are most effective for you?
The only ‘get writing’ technique I have is to wake up. That and guilt. If I do not write, I know the angels of my agony will demand an answer. I rarely have an adequate one.
–Can you give us a sneak peek into your current project?
I have completed a novel set between 1799 and 1830. It involves a duo of murderous brothers and their wives (they are polygamists), all of whom happen to be sisters. I am fifty pages into a second novel that is also historical. It centers around a bear, a dog, a woman and a widower.
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