Just a quick one today – I’m over at the delightful Cathy’s place today, talking about my experience of working with illustrators. Of the four books I’ve had published, all of them have been illustrated, and it’s been fun to think about the different ways those illustrations have happened.
It’s with great pleasure that I welcome the brilliant Dan Holloway here. Dan’s an author, journalist, poet, and all round good egg. His latest book, No Exit (published by Pankhearst Singles on May 5th), sounds rather good. Here’s the man himself to talk about it…
A room with no windows
It’s something we all fantasise about, alone at night in an empty bedroom as the clock ticks relentlessly towards another dawn and the misery it brings.
A room with no windows. No consequences.
And yet something that surprised me when I ran a regular interview column that contained the question “Which would you rather – dinner with the person you most admire or 5 minutes alone in a room with no windows with a person of your choice” was that pretty much everyone opted for the former.
It made me wonder what was going on. Are we really that benevolent and forgiving a society? Are we afraid of being found out by those we want to like us? Or are we afraid of going to a part of ourselves we would rather keep in that unlit part of the night?
Those are essentially the questions I set out to explore in No Exit, at the centre of which is just such a room. A room where torture and killing can take place without consequence at the hands of the most normal members of society. I wanted to avoid the Dexter-style easy moral compass. The victims in No Exit don’t have to be (though one of them is) mass murderers or paedophiles. They can be the people who make yours and my lives miserable every day. People who also have a good side. People who are fathers and mothers and lovers and even philanthropists. But who are also the ones who make the vulnerable reach for the razorblade.
There are three complicating factors in this scenario that I don’t want to begin to answer, but which I am hoping to use to ask provocative, uncomfortable questions. Questions I want readers to ask themselves in the name of honesty.
The first has to do with subjectivity. It’s the bullet the likes of Dexter always seek to dodge in the name of moral simplicity. I want this person dead. Those they love may want them alive, may even be willing to die for them. What right do I possibly have to claim that my position is more important than theirs? But also, what right do they have to claim theirs takes more priority over mine? Do we really believe in the sanctity of life in a godless world? Really? Or is it that we believe in the sanctity of the wishes of those who do not make us uncomfortable, those at the centre of the moral bell curve? And if so, what kind of implied violence does that do to those who outlie?
The second centres on the issue of blame. As a society we are getting used to the idea that in order for something to be condemned and stopped, the perpetrator does not have to have intended harm. This was a cornerstone of the MacPherson report following the Met’s mishandling of the Stephen Lawrence investigation – prejudice is in the eye of the person against whom it happens, not in the intention of the perpetrator. As our thinking about sexism, racism, sexuality and privilege in general gets more nuanced, it is something that is becoming more widely accepted – “I didn’t mean…” is neither a defence nor a vouchsafer of immunity from criticism. “The fact is you did…” has become the marker. And the debate is moving online, to take in those who troll for giggles and a relief for boredom rather than malice against a person. What is the truly appropriate way to treat these people?
Finally, the most difficult question of all, one which has its roots for me back in studying the doctrine of utilitarianism, the notion that we should promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Is this a principle that, as well as promoting the things that makes life good, can seek the eradication of those things, those people, that cause misery?
I am not proposing answers. And I’m certainly not proposing readers reach their own conclusions and set out on a vigilante spree (though, of course, my intention may be irrelevant…). What I am wanting to do is for readers to ask the question. I want people to feel deeply uncomfortable about they way in which the scenarios in the story are presented and to ask themselves why they feel that discomfort. I want to start a debate that’s not cut off at the root with a quick “you can’t go there.”
Because we do go there, in the pre-dawn darkness. And maybe it would be healthier for society as a whole if we were allowed to go there in the light.
No Exit is published by Pankhearst Singles on May 5th.
First off, here’s the brilliant Sue Guiney’s review of Beautiful Words. I love (and feel really rather relieved) that people like it. That they get it. That makes me happy.
“Nik Perring is an incredibly creative and innovative writer whose work I’ve been following for years now. I first wrote about him here when I discussed his collection of short stories called Not So Perfect. At that time I wrote:
Not So Perfect is a masterclass in flash fiction. Each story is a small gem and I found myself sitting and staring into space in amazement after each one.
Well, now it has happened again as I read his latest collection, Beautiful Words.” Read the rest here.
And I am judging a flash fiction competition for my publisher. Simply send in 4 – 8 flashes of under 1000 words by May 22nd and you could win your stories as a book, for sale on amazon and Roastbook’s site, with 50 free copies for you. CLICK HERE for all the details. And get scribbling – I’m really looking forward to your entries. Go to it, folks!
On Friday I emailed the winners of my Beautiful Words competition. I ended up picking them at random, mostly because pretty much all of the entries would have been worthy winners, so that felt like the fairest thing to do. A huge thanks to everyone who took part – there were far more than I’d expected and that’s a brilliant thing because it shows just how much people like words. You are all, very definitely, my kind of people.
(And I’ll remind you that you can still be in with a chance of winning a copy by telling me what would be in your ideal bookshop.)
And the winners are:
‘Ecclesiastical’ – which carries for me a hint of something fantastical, and ‘eccles’ cakes eaten after Sunday Service and in a dimly lit church hall and eaten off a grand china plate; and ‘don’t drop the crumbs on the floor’, my mam scolded me before I ever did. And the minister ruffled my hair into un-neatness, which I didn’t like, and he laughed a hearty laugh loud as the word of God, and his breath was like dragon’s breath, and his hands were heavy as wet towels on my head. And my mam said I should feel blessed for the attention he showed me.
Apocalyptic is fun to say. So is rubbish. Go ahead say it. “That’s rubbish.” Makes you feel crotchety and entitled.
Verisimilitude. Or susurration. I like the way they roll off the tongue
Macaroon, because I could never say it correctly. It always came out ‘racamoon’.
Elbow. It’s such a lovely word. Say it again and again and it sounds lie something exotic and lovely. I also like sarcophagus.
Loree Westron Bumbershoot. Ah, yes, why. Mostly, I just like the sound of it. It’s easy to pronounce, but it sounds a little bit rude. I also like that it refers to something most people have, but is a word few would be familiar with today.
Your books will be in the post just as soon as my envelopes have arrived.
The brilliant (and very talented – check out her work) Sara Crowley has interviewed me Smash Hits style. If you’d like to know what I think of rude ghosts, tofu v bacon fights, conscious uncoupling, and see a poem about tonic (and much, much more) you should have a click here. Big thanks to Sara. It was a lot of fun.
I’m over at the fab Talli Roloand’s place today, telling you to jump in puddles. It’s true. We should all be jumping in more puddles.
And also, it’s the equally fab C.L. Taylor’s The Accident’s publication day. My postman was good enough to bring me my copy this morning and I’m looking forward to reading it very much.
So it’s the day after publication day. And it (aside from the very, very sad Peaches Geldof news) was lovely. A huge thank you to everyone who made it so. And a huge thanks, too, to everyone who entered the favourite words competition. I’ll announce the winners either later today if I have time (there were SO many entries and I think pretty much all of them were brilliant so I’m tempted to put them all in a hat and select the winners at random) or tomorrow. I want to read them again first though because it feels like each of those tells its own story. They were ace.
Yesterday I was over at the super talented Carys Bray’s place, talking about Beautiful Words and a little about Beautiful Trees too (which is almost done and which is exciting too).
And here’s a round-up of where else I’ve/Beautiful Words has been. With excerpts.
Natalie Bowers reviews it here.“When we finally grow up, my little sister and I are going to run our own shop, and in this shop we are going to sell coffee, cake, stationary and books like this – books that are a pleasure to hold, a joy to read and a wonder to look at.”
The lovely Jessica reviews it for The View From Here mag. “I know that’s easy to say that you enjoyed a book and you would probably read it again but I can genuinely say this with Beautiful Words. I actually started again straight away and picked up more details that I had missed the first time. This is one of those books you can gobble up in one sitting or nibble away, saving the experience for as long as possible. Trust me, you’ll be going back for a second, third and forth serving of this book. Perring has a way of captivating the reader, coaxing them and on occasion pulling the reader into a darker part of the story.”
Australia’s, and writing’s, Jodi Cleghorn reviews it here. “Perring mainlines emotions in a way that compels the reader to open their heart to weep bittersweet tears into. He delivers with such ease single sentence gut-punches then switches back to offer promises of love when all hope has fled.”
Dan Powell tells you why you should’t read it here.“All of which should explain exactly why you should not read this book. You should lie back and imbibe it. You should stroll through it with you fingers. You should leap back and forth across the whole span of the alphabet, make bold connections between the entries that are furthest apart. Most of all, once you have visited each and every one of the twenty-six words, you should not consider this book as having been read. You should keep it on the coffee table, by the phone, or maybe put it in the glove box of your car, slip into a friend’s bag, or place it by the bedside of a loved one, so that either you or someone else can be surprised by it later on, return to it, stroll again through its words and images and meanings and declarations.”
Lies Ink reviews it here. “Like most of Nik’s work, there’s an undeniable charm to the writing, yet there’s a darker edge lurking in the background (perhaps best summed up by the fact that F’s word is Fuck – “beautiful because of its power”). Miranda Sofroniou’s illustrations complement the writing perfectly, with just the right amount of what I’d describe as a kind of naive whimsy.”
The brilliant Scott Pack shares his thoughts on it here. “It is a fine concept and the book is a handsome volume. It only takes a few minutes to read from start to finish but if you like it you are likely to return to it and dip in and out from time to time.”
Here’s what Vulpes Libris had to say about it in their thoughtful review. “I enjoyed reading this book, looking at it and found myself pausing over it and getting more from a second reading.”
And that, I think’s that. Again, thank you. More anon, I imagine.
And to celebrate I’m running a competition. I’ve a handful of copies I’ll give away, signed and personalised (and with a secret extra treat) to anywhere in the world, and to be in with a chance of winning one all you have to do is tell me what YOUR favourite word is and why. You can do it by leaving a comment here, by tweeting me, or by posting something on my Facebook wall.
In the meantime, here’s the kind of thing you can expect to find inside…
“Smart, funny, and very very beautiful, Nik Perring shows us twenty-six new ways to fall in love.” — Robert Shearman.
“Combining brevity with an overarching narrative, Nik Perring’s unusual storytelling is touching and captivating. His Beautiful series follows the lives of Lucy, Lily, and Alexander through their words, trees and shapes.
In the first of the series, Beautiful Words, fact and fiction interplay within the context of their three lives.
Accompanied by rich, playful illustrations from Miranda Sofroniou, these 26 story-gems invite us into Alexander’s world, telling us of his love, his loss and some of his favourite words too.
Beautiful Trees and Beautiful Shapes, the second and third books in the series, are due to be released later in 2014.”
I’m over at the lovely Writer’s Little Helper today, talking about imaginary bookshops and why one sort of cake is never enough. And outside bits. You can read the whole thing here.
Let me know what would be in yours. My favourite wins a signed copy of Beautiful Words. You have a week.
And the lovely Jodi Cleghorn has posted a wonderfully thoughtful review of Beautiful Words here.
Beautiful Words is published on Monday. Things seem to be hotting up. And the butterflies in my stomach are breeding.
I can be a bit dopey at times. Well, a lot of the time. One of those times was last week, when I completely missed the brilliant Scott Pack talking about Beautiful Words.
And the equally brilliant Rosie at Vulpes Libris had some interesting things to say about it too, here.
Right. Back to the writing. And being dopey where nobody can see.