DOAS conducted a fortnightly interview series from some of the authors of ISSUE #3: Space.
Interview V: Anthony Graham
The observations/ philosophy in your writing seems reside somewhere ‘between bottomless empathy and complete contempt.’ ‘By standing still’ you say, ‘the fisherman is still moving against the current.’ What inspires such nihilism?
I don’t know if it’s nihilism. A read a line the other day that said something like, “never hope but do not despair”, and I’d like to think I’m somewhere around that. As for what inspires this, I think it’s because every belief system is incomplete, granted, some are more completely absurd than others, but they’re all fucking wrong. So it comes from not trusting anything except “I’m here now and one day I won’t be”. It’s like a greyhound chasing a fake rabbit; once you see a real rabbit, it becomes hard to chase the fake one. And then you also realise that the fake one is just going around in circles. And that it’s designed to never be caught. And that it’s only there to keep you racing the other greyhounds. Perhaps it is nihilism.
Someone commented that your writing style reminds them of someone else’s who they can’t quite put their finger on. Any clues?
No idea. I can tell you the writers I admire and that inspire me, however. Camus, Sartre and Kierkegaard are all brilliant, and Louis Ferdinand Celine has at least one breath-taking phrase or sentence per page. Stylistically I really like Murakami and Milan Kundera and that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is some kind of genius. Some of Bukowski’s stuff is incredible. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books. These days I mostly read classics or philosophy, so hopefully I reminded him or her of someone great and not, I don’t know, Andrew Bolt or something.
What do find most difficult about publishing your work?
Finding someone who trusts the writing. I only want to write to what I want to write, you know? I’m not interested in “pursuing a career” in writing if it means I have to do 800 words on how fucking twee some café in Clifton Hill is.
The observations in LBD can be pretty bleak. Do you embellish at all for aesthetic purposes?
If you’re asking if I actually believe the shit that I write, then yes. This is the stuff that rolls around in my head after 31 average years of living. But, as I try to say in these things, nothing is forever and this thought or that has existed at some point but may not now. The anecdotal things all happened, like that girl wriggling her toes at me or looking at some villager in a shitty 3rd world country and wondering what the fuck they do all day. But, you know, I’m happy enough just to wake up each day. Trent Reznor is into water-skiing, you know.
We love the ‘ Life between drinks’ the series you write for us. Great concept behind the title too. Have you published it it elsewhere?
Well, thanks for saying so and thank you for publishing it. The LBD thing started when The Old Bar and the now defunct Afterdark Bar were releasing their own zine. It was run by a guy called Rene who was kind enough to give me some space and what started out as a 200 word “bit” eventually morphed into something a little more philosophical. Trying to express anything beyond a drink order in under 200 words is a good learning curve; every word has to count.
Interview IV: Rich Warwick
From humble Mars bar beginnings, Rich Warwick, creator of the contentious Boys Issue centrefold has come far. These days, Rich actually gets paid in real money for pursuing his passion.
Working as a freelance illustrator, designer and cartoonist, Rich makes the main chunk of his cash designing graphics for the skateboard, surf wareand snowboard industries. But he will consider any job that involves drawing monsters or is in incredibly bad taste. www.richwarwick.com
DOAS: The freelance graphic artist scene is a tough one. You’ve had to persevere to get to where you are now. How do you keep going?
RW: As a freelancer you are only as good as your last paid job. As soon as you stop, so do the pay cheques. The name of the game for me with my freelance work is building up a stable of regular clients – in other words, repeat business. If I know that a skateboard company I have worked for in the past has a new collection coming out, they will hopefully be using my services again…but there is no guarantee that they will. A client that uses you frequently one year may not use you the next. There are an awful lot of us freelance artists out there and companies can pick and choose. And if you don’t already have another job lined up while you are working on the current one, you ain’t doing it right. Maybe “Fear of starvation” would be more succinct answer to this question?!
DOAS: Someone found the centrefold in the BOYS issue offensive. What’s your take on that?
RW: There were a few angles to the centrefold I did. It is firstly a bit of a crack at what is meant to be desirable and sexy, why shouldn’t you have real people celebrated? She was a big girl but more representative of the general population than Kate Moss or someone like that. I find the pencil thin and then airbrushed models offensive because your average
person in the street thinks they are real and there are a lot of issues for people attached to that misconception.
But also it was a dig at the fast food culture and how it has taken over so many people’s lives. The pin up was the ultimate poster girl for the fast food and the now generation…if you (society) want everything right now, you have to accept the consequences. I deliberately mentioned she has a husband in the piece to show she isn’t meant to be a tragic figure, she is perfectly happy with the choices she is making… i.e. eating nothing but junk food at every meal and far from being ostracized for it, she is happy. She probably won’t live a long life as a result of this but…hey.
DOAS: Tell us your favourite personal success story
RW: A success for me in my line of work is always tinged with the feeling of ‘Great, but I really, really, really hope they give me some more work down the line. Or even immediately, before I’ve even invoiced them for the last bit’. So it is probably better I tell you about one of my first successful freelance commissions which isn’t tinged with feelings of uncertainty. Way back in 1982 I was asked to produce an illustrated treasure map for a local church fete,so children could stick pins in it and win whatever the treasure was. Mrs Western the Sunday school teacher gave me a Mars bar as payment for my ‘graphics’. And as she handed it over, she said to me “But don’t expect that every time.” And it has proved firm advice. I’ve never been paid in chocolate since.
DOAS: Which illustrators inspire you?
RW: My drawing style is heavily influenced by the British kids comics I used to read growing up in the seventies, and to this day I tend to enjoy cartoon based art over anything else. So old influences from that era would include guys like Tom Patterson and Ken Reid. Obvious choices like Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton are also up there along with lesser knowns like Basil Wolverton and Harvey Kurtzman. I think Daniel Clowes of Ghost Town fame is brilliant and funny, I love the super realistic twisted oils and radical stance of Ron English, and Coop’s sexy devil women. In more general terms, grafitti, sticker, t shirt and skateboard art all appeal to me, there is a lot of good stuff out there.
DOAS: What’s the one piece of advice that you would give your younger illustrator self?
RW: You have to be in it to win it, so stop thinking about being an artist and just be one. Oh, and change your haircut, that style isn’t really working for you. This is actually two pieces of advice but both would have proved very useful to me when I was starting out.
Interview III: Jo Sandow & George
Jo and George met as misfits in an economics class at Adelaide Uni in 2005. Living in entirely different countries, they produce deliciously surreal images accompanied by text. Their work is featured in both Issues 1 and 2. George’s illustrations are what he terms ‘facilitators of dialogue;’ on most days he masquerades as an Engineer based in Auckland. Jo’s text is characterised by musical qualities, quirk, fantasy and unusual characters. She is Melbourne based – working in publishing by day and writing music by night.
DOAS: Your work has an acutely mysterious simplicity about it. Do the both of you naturally come to this effect?
Jo: It’s true. Right now, I have no idea where George is… so mysterious.
We’ve been pals for a long time but only just started joining art-forces in the past year. I guess a kind of delicacy comes from that.
In our work we naturally avoid being too explicit and avoid saying too much… I believe because we are equal parts opinionated and changeable. As we work together more, it will be interesting to see if we need to become bolder. George wants to illustrate children’s books so I predict he will work less with genitalia.
George: I can’t speak for Jo’s work but I really try not to intellectualise what I draw, there is a difference definitely though between the type of work that ‘We Are Fathers’ represents and the type of work ‘Miles the Monkey’ represents. I can understand where the mysterious simplicity idea comes from because the thought process is quite minimal and not necessarily from an overly conscious place. Yeah, I will be interested to see what happens with the next issue…
DOAS: Which comes first the words or the pictures?
Jo: It goes a little something like this: idea, bit of picture, words, bit of picture. I send George the text and he writes it in his own hand-writing too.
The idea usually belongs to one of us and the other falls for it. ‘We Are Fathers’ from Issue #1 was predominately George. ‘Miles the Monkey’ from Issue #2 was a story I wrote, which then became pictures and the very final step was to make it a rhyme. Also George actually completed the poetry for that piece.
DOAS: What is the hardest thing about doing a collaborative piece?
Jo: Right now, I find working with George easy because he is ridiculously talented and I love his work. But to answer the question properly… the practicality of collaborating via email makes for slow progress. George is presently of no fixed address and we haven’t lived in the same city for more than three years. Come to think of it, we have never worked on our art together in the same room. On the other hand, I like that I delivered the end product with no way to make changes. It’s completely honest.
George: I agree that there is a large degree of mutual respect for each others crafts as well as who we are as people and the work that we produce is just an extension of that and so in this sense, the coming together to make an idea work isn’t difficult at all. However, I am a little bit shit at managing life and getting things organised… I imagine this can be stressful for Jo, and I know that it is stressful for me, but it all seems to be apart of the process, and I do get very excited about everything we do, it just works!
DOAS: Do you have any writer/illustrator teams inspire you conceptually?
Jo: John Lennon. He was his own magnificent team.
George: I couldn’t really say… but there are definitely a lot of people and things that play their part.
Interview II: Nina Gibb
Issue 2: Boys’ author Nina Gibb discusses her penchant for a rather tricky genre — the short horror story. When not bleeding prose at her typewriter, Nina works behind the counter at a bookstore near you.
DOAS: Where did the inspiration for your short horror story Barkin’ in Issue 2 come from?
NG: I was reading a bit of Noir and also trying to find a way to vent a lot of stuff that would otherwise have settled in and festered in my unconscious.
I think the idea of human motivation being something potentially monstrous is pretty interesting. The old metaphor that something can ‘take us over’ and compel us to behave in ways we would otherwise find repellent is fascinating, as is the sense of freedom from blame. Anyone (everyone) who has ever done something a bit questionable in anger, lust or misery will know all about it. It’s comforting to feel something is out of your control and horrible to look back and wonder how you could ever have behaved so badly.
I’d also been trying to put the hours in; to do some concentrated practice hoping that (in the same way your swimming or cooking technique gets better if you do it a lot) I might break through some old problems. I was working on getting better at applying the old ‘iceberg’ principle- where only the most essential part of the story is left and the rest has to rely on suggestion (and on the warped minds of people reading). I hoped the story would kind of hang together even though the narrative was pretty spare, that the reader might piece things together, or not, but still feel (even if they couldn’t put their finger on it) as though something really creepy had just happened.
DOAS: Do you dabble in horror much? What does this genre afford you?
NG: Horror is my true love. Or maybe not so much my true love, but the thing I can’t help doing. I read a whole bunch of stuff by Stephen King a while ago and he often prefaces stories with short essays about his writing practice (which I think is so generous). He said people used to ask him when he was going to write something serious and he came to the realisation that horror was what he did. That was it, his whole thing, and it kind of resonated for me. I’ve been writing nasty stories about alien abduction and mutations and things in the dark since I was a little girl.
I have a real love of speculative fiction. I think, in a funny way, that the only literature that really lasts is speculative writing. If you go to the ‘classics’ section of any good bookshop at least a third of the titles will be ghost, haunting or generally eerie/weird tales and the ones that are left over will have something creepy as a central motif anyway- think Dante, The Odyssey, any of the Bronte’s. I think the stories we re-tell (and how we tell them, what we include and leave out) are fundamental to the way we see ourselves. The contemporary emergence of un-dead mania says a lot about cultural and personal anxiety (gender and sexuality politics, the politics of disease, of ‘otherness’ and the fetishization of the exotic) where in another time vampires etc had a different slant: the ‘return of the repressed’ and anxiety around cultural and industrial change were huge factors in the reception of classics like Dracula and Frankenstein. I’m fighting the urge to write a massive essay here.
DOAS: What do you find is the hardest thing about putting words to paper?
NG: I don’t remember who said it, but there’s a great quote that goes something like ‘anyone can be a writer, you just sit down at the typewriter and bleed’. I find writing the first draft- the no-holding-back part- totally intoxicating.
Editing and re-reading the thing I loved six weeks ago is excruciating. Horrible. I have a backlog of about 15 stories that I print out and then read one line of and groan inside and just can’t bear the come-down of realising my perfect baby is in fact incoherent, adjective-ridden and devoid of plot. I go through stages of writing compulsively though, so I’m learning to force myself not only to do a good couple of re-writes, but to actually send the things out into the world; even mal-formed and self-indulgent, they’ll do better in the wild than on a hard drive.
DOAS: You have a readers and writers group called Typeset. How is it different to the writers group next door?
NG: Well, the readers group thing was a crazy experiment to just do something instead of wondering about ‘what if I…?’ At the moment the whole thing is morphing and I’m looking at getting a bunch of people involved in the blog I’ve been writing this year. With any luck we’ll continue the book-groups in collaboration with the blog, so you can come to the group (no joining fee or real formality, it’s usually at a bar) or if you’re not in town or not up for ‘group’ read the book and check in for links, a review and possibly some kind of forum. It’ll take a while, but hopefully by mid 2011 there’ll be a kind of magazine-vibe about the blog, and a writer’s group will have joined the book group also. The blog’s athttp://typesetgroup.blogspot.com I’m on holidays from it for a few weeks but there are masses of old columns and goodies there to check out.
DOAS: What is the most common misconception about readers and writers groups?
NG: I’m not sure there are so many? I know women come a lot more than men. Like, A LOT. And that sometimes people feel like it might be kind of painful (and like homework) but maybe they-all are just reading the wrong books? While I was doing the 6-week intensive boot-camp book-club thing it was really a highlight of the week and such a lovely, easy way to hang out with people and talk about things you would never think of getting into if you were just having coffee. One of the most satisfying things I’ve done in years. I also really enjoy having a reason to do a more intensive reading; to do some low-grade (wiki) research about the book, it’s reception and place in the world and to sit still and let the things that struck me kind of percolate in my brain for a while. Just having someone to talk to about a book with can make things click in your head.
There’s also the great challenge of learning to be constructive about something. I think the most valuable thing that uni taught me was the difference between a good book and a book I like (and vice versa). Sometimes it’s heaps more fun to pull apart something terrible than to mutually congratulate an author. As long as you can see where to pull. I have a friend who has pretty much opposite taste to me and a conversation with him is never complete without a ‘what have you been reading’ section, complete with ‘god, I HATED that!’ and plenty of friendly abuse. I still secretly read the things he recommends though- you never know.
Interview I: James Hawthorne
‘Issue 2: Boys’ author James Hawthorne confesses to his weakness for fictitious heartbreak. Hawthorne is a Bar Open based writer who also happens to have snaffled a Premier Literary Award along the way.
DOAS: What are you reading at the moment? Is it any good?
JH: Currently revisiting Raymond Carver. It’s always good. I was flatteringly compared to Carver a few times back in the day but had never read any. So I bought a copy of “Cathedral” and never looked back. I see myself as a pale imitator.
DOAS: Where and when did you publish your first story?
JH: I was lucky in that my first short story also won a prize, so it was published in Aedon, which is/was a Melbourne University thing.
DOAS: What do you find is the most difficult thing about putting words to paper?
JH: Strangely, the representation of women. A lot of male writers tend to write female characters with a fairly tedious internal monologue – noticing details about things, remembering their grandmother, and being neglected by oafish men. They are hardly ever raucous or fun. But in reality, women aren’t really that different from men and I try to reflect that in my stuff. Most of the delicate little flowers I know are men. And lots of the hardest-drinking sexaholics I know are women. Plus women are often blisteringly funny and this is often overlooked in literature in order for them to be lumped with the burden of the masculine crisis. I would like to read a woman’s heartbreak story. I am terribly attracted to heartbreak.
DOAS: Your short story ‘Getting On’ in Issue 2: BOYS looks at a relationship break-up from a rather bleak male perspective. Does your writing often place the male protagonist on the back foot?
JH: The protagonist in that story is in the middle of the realisation that he has given up on life. He knows he has tried to fill the void with a young woman, and is painfully aware of how ridiculous it makes him appear. I like characters to be in the middle of a change – admittedly they are usually changes for the worse. I’ve had a male protagonist build a nail bomb as a Kris Kringle for his boss’s son through fear of being exposed as a former juvenile delinquent. Another one reneges on a suicide pact with his cancer-riddled second wife. Yeah… the back foot is a good place for a man.
DOAS: ‘Getting On’ has a distinctively Melbourne feel but refrains from using any specific references. Is this story even set in Melbourne? Why the lack of reference to place?
JH: It’s set on Brunswick St, Fitzroy, but there’s no need to know that. I stay away from naming specific bars or areas. There was a second part to ‘Getting On’ and it was set in Bar Open. But a few pages in I realised I had turned the bartender, who is a friend of mine, into a grotesque parody of himself. I felt insulted on his behalf and threw the story away. Reality bums my fiction out. It stops it dead in its tracks.