You use whatever works at the time. Mood, environment, memory, it all plays a role. And I just try to respond to that confluence of stuff swirling about in my skull. If you or anyone has a method that works every time and gets consistent results then I applaud you.
Ashley Borodin – 25 November 2017
The Back Flap
Forced from their collective comfort zone, all three members of Martin’s family come face to face with the realities that underpin their urbane way of life. Each is faced with a paradox that will test their belief in themselves and their image of the tolerant, liberal society they believe they inhabit.
An epic in miniature, The Jealous Flock takes readers from the cloistered air of Professional London through the harsh realities of the Middle East and on to the culture war simmering beneath the surface in Australia.
Through their interwoven narratives each character tries to grapple with change as they question their authenticity and value as individuals amidst The Jealous Flock.
About the book
What is the book about?
The Jealous Flock is about unique individuals dealing with the hypocrisy and trauma of the modern world.
When did you start writing the book?
About 4-5 years ago.
How long did it take you to write it?
Approximately 1 year from beginning to final edit. Though it’s lost to the mists of time as to when I actually started or finished. When you’ve carried these observations and ideas boiling within you your whole life, it’s very hard to say they had a beginning or an end. The best I can say is the book occurred somewhere in the middle and the story continues in me, and in you every day of our lives.
Where did you get the idea from?
From myself with many refinements coming from life, the news and other authors I met along the way. As I was forming these ideas, this narrative, into a book I was observing several distinct undercurrents in world events. These were being studiously ignored or deliberately misrepresented by the mainstream of the time. And still are in many respects. That sort of arrogance from mainstream society, indeed ignorance, always gets on my goat. It provides the catalyst for me to delve deeper into what’s going on, what’s important and what’s taboo.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I can honestly say I struggled with most of it. A good portion was drawn from my direct experience so that was more a case of transcribing notebooks or expanding on observations and ideas. That was the easy part. Imagining how happy, successful people go about their lives – that was nearly impossible.
What came easily?
The pain. The insights.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I’ve based at least one character almost entirely on myself and an amalgam of my grandfather. The others are all aspects of me with various tweaks of background and circumstance that caused them to neglect their principles or generally turn out very different.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I diverge from this belief. It’s important for writers to experience, to think. Above all to process their experience. Which is all thinking really means. I don’t read. I mean, well, I have to to get by, but I do it grudgingly and I’ve never enjoyed it. So I certainly don’t feel malice towards anyone who can’t or doesn’t read.
On the other hand. I’ve watched active reading transform my wife in the last 3 years. By active, I mean she began to really think of her self-interest as a reader, as a thinker. She went out of her way to look for better authors and better books and inevitably found them. Her vocabulary alone has easily doubled. She comes from a studiously ignorant family and I say that as a plain fact. Her mother was convinced I was in fact the Devil incarnate at one point. Not in a metaphorical sense mind you. The Devil. El Diablo in the flesh. Reading actively, voraciously has helped her break free from that stultifying background.
But though I come from similar stock, it’s made little difference to me one way or the other and my eyes are crap so it’s rarely worth the bother.
I have to pretend to have influences for the sake of convention. Just like I might pretend to acknowledge the existence of genre-fiction for the same reason. In actuality neither is the case.
I said earlier some authors influenced my writing – what I meant is that they influenced or refined my thinking but not my writing. Unless you think I write like Desmond Morris, Alice Miller or John Fowles in The Aristos. I would say, probably not.
Do you have a target reader?
Nope. Although, I imagine this book appealing to professionals, politicians, students and anyone placed to effect change in themselves and the world. Anyone who likes Zombie books need not apply. That’s been my experience – they get most upset.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I like to use a variety of approaches. Speech-to-text is great for dialogue and furtive, impulsive scenes and detail. So that involves really getting into character, dimming the lights, imaging the scene. Perhaps watching a documentary about the Middle East or something pertinent to the scene I’m immersing myself in. And then I start describing what’s going on. If there’s a wall, I simply tell the computer: “a wall stretched out before me, narrowing into the haze. It was parched where the sun had eaten into it and cracked where the mortar should give one confidence it won’t fall down. This place held no pretence of safety. I was in danger and the wall itself was an imminent threat.”
That sort of thing.
I also write just like a normal person at times. I prefer to look down at my hands and away from the screen and just bash away till something intelligible comes out.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I never learned to write properly, so to give a clever answer to your question I would need to look up what you’re actually talking about instead of revealing my ignorance as I am doing here. So no, probably not.
Except when I do. I write down ideas and settings. I use Scrivener and make endless lists and stacks of cards. I collect pictures and bookmark news stories. And sometimes I just improvise. I think it’s like music, like anything. You use whatever works at the time. Mood, environment, memory, it all plays a role. And I just try to respond to that confluence of stuff swirling about in my skull. If you or anyone has a method that works every time and gets consistent results, then I applaud you. That’s never happened to me.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Both. But I prefer to get my wife to edit.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Can’t afford it, so no.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Again, sometimes. I discovered ASMR recently and though it still seems pretty weird, I’ve found that someone brushing my hair and whispering in Korean helps me find that calm, entranced state.
I also have my Foobar playlists tagged by Mood. And Anxious was one I used a lot whilst writing The Jealous Flock. It has a lot of modern classical and unsettling ambient music in there. Chase scenes from films, atonal strings, bowed cymbals and stuff like that.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I tried a dozen or so, probably all the wrong ones and then just collapsed from exhaustion. They didn’t seem terribly bright if I can be blunt. Or very genuine. I was looking for someone who actually cared about books, not a kind of hawker who just needed celebrities in the bag to make a quick buck. That’s all they seemed to be interested in. Certainly not Literature. I’m not against agents in principle. I could really use one now because all this publicity crap is doing my head in, but such is life.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
It was a failure to connect with anyone decent in the industry. Either through their predisposition or my own ineptitude at finding and relating to people who will act in my interest.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
Don’t look too closely is all I will say in answer to that.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have some semblance of an idea. But I’m also winging as I go. Fail early, fail often and don’t tell the wife what it costs. If I could have that in Latin it would be pride of place in my writing den.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Or if that fails, make sure you are being read by an active reader – which is like an active listener. Someone who leans in when you’re talking and asks pertinent questions. Be interviewed, interrogated by your reader/s, and get that in place from the start. That will ensure you are telling stories rather than just writing. Anyone can write. 3 year olds do it. Monkeys can and probably dolphins too.
Although I believe bees can tell stories, so that kind of throws a spanner in my narrative there… but the point is to become a storyteller, not just a writer. I couldn’t tell stories. I still struggle with it. Having a reader helps you to relate to the bees, or humans, if you haven’t got any bees. It makes your stories count. It’s not about writing to a genre or the lowest common denominator. That’s not storytelling anymore than a car commercial is. Which of course it can be, but hopefully you’ll aspire to do a little better than that.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I grew up a Fundamentalist Christian in a very poor, single parent family. I was surrounded by women with a hatred of aboriginals, ibis and Islam. So naturally I’m quite fond of all those things. And as you’d expect, I have a fairly unromanticised view of women as a group. Though I don’t tend to think of groups if I can help it. I don’t have any illusions about people in general. It’s taken me awhile to get to this point, a great deal of disappointment, but I can now indulge in a thoroughly healthy pessimism about humankind free of ideology for the most part.
If you watch this conversation between a secular gay-married Jew and a Traditionalist Catholic bishop – then throw a drunk Bukowski in there saying ‘I’ll take on any o’ you girly-armed losers’ – that’s basically what my head looks like.
The decor is wonderful, but basically none of these people should be in a room together. But they are and they can’t get out, so they have to make it work. That’s who I am and that’s more or less my entire worldview.
What are you working on now?
I’m trying my best to market The Jealous Flock and build my author platform so that someone, somewhere will take me seriously.
I’m also tinkering with two new projects – one is a coffee table book of my best poems and the other is a novel set around the 1930’s in Australia, and focusses on the life of a runaway farm-school orphan.
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