Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An Interview with Ed Briant

Ed Briant is the author of the novels Choppy Socky Blues and I Am (Not) the Walrus, which is reviewed today here at Guys Lit Wire. I had the good fortune to ask Ed the Guys Lit Wire "Five Quick Questions". Here they are, with Ed's answers:

1. What do you do for a living and what do you like best about your job?

When I’m not writing I teach a class in creative writing at a university, and when I’m neither writing nor teaching I write and illustrate a weekly comic strip.

In the days before I was a writer-comics-creator-teacher I was a saxophone player in a number of rock bands. Most musicians are late-night people, I was no different, and even when I stopped being a sax-player I never really got the hang of working during daylight hours again. So, for me, one of the best things about writing and comics is that because I do them on my own at home I can work on them in the middle of the night, and I think I often do my most creative work in the small hours of the morning.

Naturally I have to teach classes during more conventional hours. The students have to learn during the day because they need their nights to go and see the very same kind of rock bands that I used to play in when I was their age. I view it as the karmic retribution of rock-n-roll. I love teaching though. I love reading the students’ stories. I love finding what’s good in the stories and encouraging the students to do more of the same.

The best thing of all about being a writer-comics person is the same as the best thing about being a musician. It happens when I stop work at about 4AM on a chilly night, and I climb into bed next to my wife. I’m freezing, she’s fast asleep and hot, and I just wrap my arms around her until I warm up and fall asleep.

2. Besides for simple information, why do you read?

I love reading, so mostly I do it for fun. I like nothing better than to lose myself in the imaginary world of a good book. I read fast, and I can easily read two, or even three, books a day when I’m on a reading binge, but I can also be fairly selective. I have a sixty page rule. I’ll read any book for sixty pages. If I don’t feel it by page 61 it goes out of the window.

3. What did you read when you were a teen?

I was at high school in England, so I read the usual suspects from the English Lit syllabus: Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Chaucer, Defoe, Golding, Orwell, Huxley, Laurie Lee, Ford Maddox Ford, Dylan Thomas, CS Forester, EM Forster, and of course Shakespeare.

We read plenty of American authors as well, such as Salinger, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Kerouac, Joseph Heller, and Larry McMurtry who wrote The Last Picture Show––which now I think about it was probably a bit racy for the syllabus, so I probably read it at home.

I also took a French Lit class where I read Jules Verne, André Gide, Victor Hugo, Jean Paul Sartre, and Henri Alain-Fournier, who wrote one of my favorite books of all time, The Lost Domain. Sadly it was the only book he wrote as he was killed in the First World War.

One of the best things was when our Latin teacher finally gave up on trying to teach us to conjugate irregular verbs, and read Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales out loud to us instead, so I got to know and love the Greek myths and legends.

At home I got into the trashier stuff. When I was thirteen I discovered a hidden cache of my parents' paperbacks and read a lot of thrillers (Ian Fleming) and one or two romance novels (Harold Robbins). I assumed that the thrillers were my dad’s books and the romance novels were my mom’s, but I may have been mistaken. I think I mostly read them in search of the smutty parts, which is why I think the books had been hidden.

When I’d exhausted my parents' library I read Lord of the Rings about five times, got hooked on sci-fi and fantasy, and plowed through the works of Isaac Asimov, Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and John Wyndham among others.

I really liked short stories, especially horror short stories. I liked Saki (Hector Hugh Munro, also killed in World War One) and Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

Outside of horror, scifi, and fantasy, I enjoyed the war memoirs of Spike Milligan, a British comedian, plus I liked Marvel and DC comics, which we got printed in black and white in the UK. I was a big fan of Spiderman, Batman, and The Fantastic Four.

4. What book(s) do you wish you had read when you were a teen?

I really wish I’d read more books by female authors. I grew up in a very male-dominated world. My siblings were all male, and I went to all-boys schools, and I think that reading some books by women would have given me a much more balanced world view. Works by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, George Eliot, and Mary Shelley could easily have been on our school syllabus, but weren’t. The book I most wish I’d read might be Jane Eyre.

5. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m midway through a young adult novel about a graffiti artist, but I’m also collaborating on a graphic novel for younger readers with my wife, who’s also a writer. She’s written the stories, and I’m working on the illustrations.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting the interview. Looks fantastic.

Anonymous said...

It was my pleasure, Ed!