First of all, I’d like to know some more about the author. Where did you grow up, what did you study, what brought you to writing?
I was born in London and grew up in the midlands. A small town in the midlands. Then I went to art college. I can’t remember what I studied …
I started writing because I suffered from misplaced creativity. Then I found that I liked writing more than drawing or painting, and the language and form was far more amenable to the themes I was interested in. But I wasn’t born to write. I didn’t get a typewriter for my fourteenth birthday.
What do you do now, apart from writing?
For a job? A job is just what I’m doing when I’m not doing other stuff. If your job is unimportant then the other stuff is really, really important. I do occasionally come out of retirement and draw or paint. But it’s for fun. Honestly. It is. Fun.
The book’s protagonist has a very low opinion of the London art scene, he often criticizes its obsession with appearances and glorification of mediocrity. Does this come from your personal experience at all?
I don’t think Jonathan has a low opinion. I think he understands it all too well. And he finds it funny. Like Goya’s Black paintings. For some, mutual celebration and glorification of mediocrity is all they have. But no, I don’t have any personal experience of the art scene (or myself) being obsessed with appearances …
Jonathan was obviously a brilliant artist, yet he decides to leave that behind him completely. His story vaguely reminded me of Rimbaud. Do you think there can be something draining, exhausting, in such shining artistic minds?
Yes, there is.
Take the concept Jonathan offers regarding brilliance and mediocrity. If you construct a process of enquiry where there is only one or the other then you are setting your standards very high. Jonathan asks the question: “Do you know what it takes to do something brilliant?” For some, they fall at that question. For others it’s a challenge, a pursuit of truth. And that’s where brilliance lays. Through the pursuit of truth.
What would you say are your literary influences?
Process is a far more accurate word to use. What literary processes interest me? Ideas interest me. And themes. Authors I have enjoyed reading are: John Fowles, John Berger, Thomas Bernhard, Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Heller, Charles Bukowski, Nikos Kazantzakis. And others.
Are you currently working on the second novel of the trilogy?
King of the Jungle is the second in a thematically linked trilogy. It turns out that I wrote a second novel first, a first novel second, and now I’m writing a third novel third.
Will the sequels involve some of the characters of_ King of the Jungle_ or will the complete work be more of a descriptive triptych, elaborating on the themes introduced in the first novel and/or exploring new ones?
Types and themes repeat, but the stories, and the characters, change.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring young writers?
Writing is difficult. But it’s also a fantastic way of learning. Work out what you want to learn, about yourself, about life, and then write. Don’t worry about getting published. Just write a book.