Astonishing, Magnificent, Challenging and Beautiful..
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the honour of interviewing some of the brilliant authors behind my favourite books of 2012.
Going through my list today, I soon realised that all of my choices consisted of books released as self-published titles or by non-mainstream publishers. I have been blown away by the the wealth of talent, quality of writing and depth of originality that the indie market produces – something that the mainstream industry consistently fails to deliver.
One fabulous example of this cutting edge originality is my novel of the year, the critically acclaimed A for Angelica, by Iain Broome, ublishers Legend Press. Iain’s magnificent and compulsive microscopic dissection of life in the suburbs was a joy to read from cover to cover, and is not only the best book I’ve read this year, but is also on my books for life list too.
And I am delighted to be joined by the man behind the curtain, the talented Mr Iain Broome.
Hello Iain and thank you for stopping by to talk about your fabulous book.
Man makes endless notes on his neighbours to help him cope with his wife’s second stroke in 18 months, which he keeps to himself. Terrible idea. Angelica arrives. Secret unravels.
Your novel is set within the claustrophobic confines of a suburban nightmare, and presents a very dark portrait of life in the semi-detached nether regions of urban Britain. What’s your beef with suburbia?
No beef at all, I just find it fascinating. I grew up in one of a small cluster of towns where everyone knows each other and the biggest news is always something seemingly trivial. I also believe that we all have our stories. We make snap decisions about people all the time without any thought for what they might be going through, or where they’ve come from. These silent stories are always far more interesting.
Your central protagonist, Gordon, is a wondrously complex creation. Did you encounter any challenges writing from inside the head of an obsessive compulsive anti-hero?
Gordon cam worryingly easy to me, actually. He means a lot to me because it’s through him that I found my own voice as a writer. And I don’t think he’s all that bad, personally. The point of the book is really to get the reader to first judge Gordon, and then later think shit, actually, I’m not sure what I’d be like in that situation.
Is Gordon based on anyone you know (or regularly avoid)?
Not at all, although many of the minor characters have names, or bastardised versions, of people that I know. Friends, mainly.
I removed at least three penis-related jokes once I realised the novel was going to be a little heavier than I first thought. The key word for me was always plausibility. There are things that happen in the novel which you may think a little far-fetched, but I was very careful not to stray to far from the realms of reality. And I really didn’t want to trivialise a serious subject with endless jokes, so getting the balance was indeed important. I guess the answer is careful editing and a determination to get it right.
Throughout the book, Gordon struggles with a number of mental health issues. How did you approach this difficult topic?
You see, I’m not convinced he does have mental health problems. It comes back to what I said earlier, ‘What would you do in his situation?’ Can you honestly say you wouldn’t go off the rails and start behaving in a way that you never imagined you would? Gordon is clearly a bit of an odd guy, but before Georgina’s strokes, I think it’s quite possible that he would have seemed entirely normal to most people. Who knows, though!? That’s the beauty of fiction. It’s up to each of us to take from the story whatever we choose, the author included.
The style of the novel is terse, taut and economical. Do you normally write like this or did you alter your style to reflect the voice and personality of your central character?
A bit of both. I’m a copywriter by trade and I’m a specialist in plain English, so I’m naturally keen on being economical and telling it like it is. But at the same time, I don’t enjoy novels that overdo the writing. I think the simplest of sentences can be beautiful. Writers often try to show off with their long words and overwrought descriptions. It’s rarely necessary. I try and get out of the way wherever possible.
Is Gordon a metaphor for all that’s wrong with modern life, or is he just a bit of an arse?
He’s definitely a bit of an arse but he generally keeps himself to himself. There were some things I wanted to say with the novel, about faith, friendship and illness, for example, and there is definitely social commentary of sorts, but the main thing to me was always the characters and the story.
Despite a range of personality flaws that could fill a football stadium, somehow Gordon remains quite likeable Was this something you deliberately worked at, or am I over empathising with the guy?
No, I rather like him too. If something awful happened to any one of us, like it did to Gordon, we could be him in an instant. We have no idea how we will react to extreme situations until we’re in them. And who doesn’t have personality flaws?
Do you think there’s Cressington Vale in every town, and a Gordon (or two) in every street?
I really do. And not just towns. Like I say, we all have our stories. Our parents were different people before we were born. We only know even our best friends in fragments and shared memories. It’s the things we don’t know about people that are usually the most interesting.
Although the book is set somewhere in England, for me A for Angelica is more akin to the great North American suburban narratives of writers such as Raymond Carver, John Cheever and Richard Ford. Was it your intention to create a very un-British British novel?
Well, I adore Carver, for a start. I purposely didn’t set the novel in a particular place, because I didn’t think it needed the baggage. And I never describe Gordon’s appearance, even though he is the narrator and main protagonist. I wanted the novel to have a certain everyman and anyplace quality to it.
Finally, what’s on the cards for 2013?
First and foremost, being a father for the first time (I have 10-week old identical twin boys), but I’m working on a second novel too. I’m also working on a screenplay, which is something new for me. All very exciting.
Oh my.. twins, a second novel and a movie.. now there’s a challenge. Thanks again Iain. I wish you and your five- a- side football team family a Happy Christmas and the very best of success for all your writing adventures in 2013!!
A for Angelica is available in digital and print formats from all good book shops and online stores GO BUY A COPY NOW