It's a great time to be a writer. In fact it is a great to do anything artistic and creative. First, you really didn't plan to make a tremendous amount of money so the economic concerns are not affecting you in any way. Second, there are communities and outlets and research and places to sell and places to buy all over the internet. You can blog, you can create a website just for your book, you can instantly submit pieces all over the world, and you don't have to step too far outside your daily box. Now more than ever, the writer has the ability to share their words and thoughts with the world.
Manchester’s Chris Killen is brilliant young writer with a novel due from Canongate Books in January. However, if it wasn’t for his blog, his clever video, his homemade and self-distributed chapbooks, I would have never found his work. In fact, Chris contributes to several blogs, and comments on many others. One of the chapbooks he has created this year is a story about Paul Simon, his deep loneliness and dreams of being in the band Yo La Tengo. It is hilarious and at times touching, a great sample of his writing, and something he mailed out for free. The idea is that through a series of small acts you can build a network of friends and fans, and hopefully when the time is right (January 2009) have an audience for your work.
Recently, Chris was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): You debut novel, The Bird Room, is being released in January by Canongate Books. What can you tell us about your novel?
Chris Killen (CK): It’s quite short, but somehow it stretches out to 200 pages. The font is nice-looking and medium sized. Most people I know who’ve read it read it in about 2 hours or so. It’s about a relationship falling apart, due to jealousy and paranoia. It has a bit of internet porn in it. It’s aimed at ‘young people’, maybe. Joe Swanberg has read a copy.
OA: The cover is quite attractive. How much input did you have in the design process?
CK: Not that much. Well, nothing really. I actually didn’t like the cover when it was first emailed to me. I was surprised at how ‘slick’ and ‘sexy’ and ‘photographic’ it was. The designer, gray318, did things like Everything is Illuminated – that black and white text design – and the Faber Jonathan Lethem covers, so I was expecting something more text-based, I guess something a bit more ‘odd’ looking. But when I received the proof copies and held one in my hand, I liked it a lot more. It’s grown on me. I won’t cringe when I see it on the shelves.
OA: I really enjoyed your chapbook "Paul Simon", and it seems to have made a little splash. Are there any plans to reprint it or have it published?
CK: Thanks. ‘Paul Simon’ is currently under consideration by a medium-sized UK literary magazine called Succour. If they don’t want it, I might try and submit it somewhere else, or do another free edition myself. Maybe just put it online. People seem to like it a lot. My other idea was to do an ‘audio book’, with crappy keyboard cover versions of the songs off Graceland between the chapters. And then just give them out as CDRs.
OA: There seems to be a community of writers/bloggers forming that all appreciate each others writing, but have never met each other. Do you feel writers are connecting and sharing ideas and stories in ways that had yet to be fully utilized? Do you value the ability to connect with a writer from London and a writer Boston all in a matter of seconds?
CK: Do you mean, ‘Do I think something else about to happen’? It sort of always feels like it is, like the writers I like who all link to each other are going to publish books, soon, hopefully. Well, a lot of them have now or are due to. I don’t know. For me, it goes through waves of ‘excitement’ and then waves of ‘hopelessness’. I’ve sort of unintentionally dropped out of that stuff for a bit. I don’t know why. I’ve not been enjoying going online as much recently. I’ve not been commenting on other people’s blogs, really, or sending as many emails. I feel a small amount of panic, usually, as my inbox is loading. But yeah, it is really good to have the opportunity to make quick, easy contact with writers I’d never normally meet or have heard of, you know, without the internet. You can find out about someone’s stuff easier, and get a better idea of them and their work, than if, say, you just read one story in a print magazine and that was that. I’m not sure if that answered the first bit of your question, though. I’m not sure what else could happen apart from books published.
OA: Word Association: Give me a word or phrase
CK: Tao Lin – ‘Single’
Zachary German – ‘Single’
Colin Bassett – ‘In a relationship?’
Sam Pink – ‘Single’
The Bird Room – ‘January’
Ellen Kennedy – ‘Single?’
OA: What's next for Chris Killen?
CK: A second novel, which is coming along, but very slowly. I’d like to have the first draft done by the end of the year. It has awkward teenagers and spontaneous combustion in it. It’s set in 1992. Apart from that, more short stories. I don’t know. A tattoo, maybe. A roomy, reasonably-priced flat with a plastic human-shaped clothes model in it. Fairy lights. A clean bathroom. Someone to walk around a park with, holding hands. That is my ‘wish list’.
OA: It's been said you have musical aspirations. What type of music do you enjoy, and who are a few of your favorites?
CK: Right now I’m waiting for recorded music by Witchies, which is Chad Jones and Nadia Moss’ (Frankie Sparo) new band. I think once there’s recorded music by Witchies, they will become my ‘all-time favourite band of all time’. In the meantime: Frankie Sparo, Les Savy Fav, The Shins, The Smiths, Wolf Parade. Just the usual ‘indie rock’ things, I guess. I like Bruce Springsteen, too.
OA: Why cats? Why is the first thing I see on a blog called "day of moustaches" a cat and not a moustache?
CK: I don’t know. I just like cats a lot. I think if I was going to start my blog now, I’d call it something different, but probably not anything cat-based either. I think cats just seem funny to me; they’re so serious-looking. I find that very ‘endearing’ and ‘amusing’.
For more information on Chris Killen you can visit his blog, and for more information on The Bird Room go to thebirdroom.org.