Monday, August 15, 2011
Jon Bauer - Author Interview Series
Jon Bauer's first novel, Rocks in the Belly, was published this time last year and received endorsements and accolades from other writers, such as J M Coetzee, M J Hyland and David Malouf, and literary critics alike. Rocks in the Belly is certainly a book not to miss.
What authors/books did you read as a child? When did you first discover your love of books?
The Secret Seven is the first book that grasped me. I’d been afraid to read before that, having found myself without the mettle to sustain interest to the end. I still struggle to do that.
When did you first realise you were a writer? What do you hope your readers will take away with them from reading your books?
I owned the title of writer long before I was published. It’s a verb more than a noun, and I was certainly doing it. What I want readers to take from my books is some small reunification with themselves. A lost memory, pain, or love. Something of a reconnection with self and with their place as not alone in the world.
Do you find it difficult to read purely for pleasure? Does everything you read come under your ‘writer’ microscope?
Reading is largely ruined yes. I wonder about chefs and gynaecologists too. What happens to their leisure time as a result of their work? There are times when a book can burst my need to analyse, but that’s rare. Film still works on me though, it’s kind of my literature these days.
Do you have to avoid reading certain types of fiction while writing your own? Does what you read while writing have an effect on what you write? In what way?
I tend not to read fiction when I’m writing. Not out of choice, it’s just the way I feel. I read non fiction though. I don’t worry too much about things affecting my work though. It doesn’t feel fragile or finite to me that way it does with some people. I’m the same with discussing my work-in-progress. Some are deeply superstitious about that, as if they’ll scare their novel away. But I think discussing it helps me, plus it opens others up to making offerings. They tell stories that relate to mine, and that takes me in new, richer directions.
Name five authors or books that have influenced or inspired your own writing in some way.
Carver taught me to be sparing – to allow the reader space. Even if he also annoyed me as a writer. Greene spoke to my need to write with a gentle melancholy. Salinger inspired me to work hardest on my dialogue. Brett Easton Ellis reminded me how glorious it is to allow your prose to crackle and play. And Iain M Banks spoke to my imagination. Anything can happen. One more: Ray Bradbury as well as Stephen King wrote books on writing that agreed with everything I had found out myself, or aspired to in the way I approached creativity.
If you were travelling and were told you could only take one book with you, what book would it be and why?
The book I’m working on. Sorry, but nothing keeps me company like writing. Reading is less of a comfort.
What makes a book ‘too good to put down’?
To attempt a summary: a book must be complete – offering narrative; a sense of momentum; language to savour; a sense of place; pace; a tendency to offer insight or some solace that your struggle is a common struggle; the space to project your own feelings and ideas on characters and plot… I could go on and on.
What makes you put down a book without finishing it?
A book where the brushstrokes are more obvious than the image depicted.
Do you have a favourite author? Who is it and what is it about their writing that draws you to them?
Graham Greene. I just reread The End of The Affair. It's almost perfect. I love his honesty in that book, his delicious prose, his bravery, and the way he blends narrative with language with, well all the elements. He has a quiet melancholy and a cold insight that is addictive.
If you had to list them, what would be your ‘top ten’ reads of all time (excluding the classics) and why?
Asking someone for their favourite books is like asking someone for their favourite country. I just like to travel. Don’t make me choose.
What was your 2010 ‘best read’? What was it that made it number one?
Reading By Moonlight, Brenda Walker. A searingly brutal yet beautiful depiction of the comfort that reading brought Walker while she faced cancer.
What do you think of the non-traditional publishing methods – eBooks etc? Do you think the new technology will encourage more people to read? Do you think there’s a future for print books?
I don’t think any of us can predict what will happen, but I think story will always be a part of our culture in some form. Content will always be needed, on what platform, who can say. I plan to lie down and let the wave come.
Jon's short fiction has been broadcast on national radio; performed at Melbourne’s Arts Centre; featured in The Daily Telegraph UK; The Sleepers Almanac (Aus/NZ);Torpedo Literary Journal, and had repeated success in The Bridport Prize – the world’s largest open writing competition.
Find out more about Jon here.