Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Alex Metcalf interview: Where The Sun Don't Shine

Where The Sun Don't Shine by Alex Metcalf
£2.15/$2.99

Alex Metcalf has done a lot of things. Washed dishes. Hammered Gold. Run an elementary school and acted on stage. Mainly what he’s done is write and teach.


Can you sum up Where The Sun Don't Shine in no more than 25 words?

Marley’s offered one last chance to get his life back. He tries. And fails. And ends up with something that might save him after all.

What was your motivation for writing it?

I love crime novels. Always have. After years of feeling boxed in with the myriad rules of screenwriting, I knew I had to do something different. This was it.

How long did it take you to write?

About six months.

Who designed your cover?

Jeroen Ten Burge. A Dutchman gone to ground in New Zealand. He rocks.

How much difference does a good cover make?

For an e-book I think it might be the most important selling point you’ve got. You can’t pick the book up, flip it open, weigh it in your hands. There’s no there there. The cover is the single visual hit you’ve got, the moment that forces the reader to click that button to see what the book’s about. Without a great cover, I think you’re dead in the water.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Keep writing.

What's the best piece of business advice you've been given?

Keep writing.

What's your favourite part of the writing process?

Finishing the first draft. There’s nothing quite so perfect as typing “The End”. In that moment, your work is perfect. And it remains perfect…until you start to read it again. Then the demons of plot, consistency, clich√© and bad dialogue leap from the page and try to rip out your eyes. It’s not pretty.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Since this is my first novel, I’m just dipping my toe into the whole world of e-publishing and self-marketing. I like this interview. After all, no one can interrupt me.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I like soul. Usually dark and damaged. Too often a procedural will whisk you down the rabbit hole of specifics, from blood-spatter to ballistics. What matters to me is the “why” of things rather than the “how”. Early Ellroy, Rankin, Crumley, Hader…damaged characters trying, and usually failing, to make things right.

What are you reading now?

I just finished The Informant, by Thomas Perry. Who is a master. In the Butcher’s Boy trilogy, the Jane Whitefield novels, even one-offs like Island, Perry’s a guy who drops you right into a world and then sets things on fire, sucking you down a rabbit hole of energy, violence and desire. If you haven’t read him, do it now.

If you had to re-read a crime novel right now, what would you choose?

Killer on the Road by James Ellory. Might be the darkest crime novel I’ve ever read. Just thinking about re-reading it makes me feel…complicit. Dirty.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Having been a screenwriter for over a decade the question should really be: Why did you try your hand at novels? Mainly because screenwriting is a thankless business. You can make a lot of money. And get movies made to acclaim or derision. Or, you can spend months, years, on a project only to discover that no one wants it, that it doesn’t have whatever Hollywood happens to want at the moment. And it’s not a reader’s market. You’re selling to, maybe, a hundred people. So if they don’t like it…you’re out of luck.

And, of course, the singular terror of screenplays is that you sell them outright. At which point they are no longer yours. Whoever bought them can do whatever they’d like to your labor of sweat and love. So yes, money can be good. Money combined with ripping out your baby’s heart and replacing it with corroding clockwork? No so much.

What's the book you've recommended most to friends?

The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith by Peter Carey. It’s phenomenal. An angry dwarf struggles up the ranks in a South Africa-like country where the most popular mass entertainment is the Circus. It’s a comment on everything from the practice of Revolution to the cultural oppression of Disney to the pain of being different. Sadly, no one seems to like it quite as much as I do.

How do you feel about awards?

They’re great…if you win.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Always. I’m currently working on another Marley novel. Less about Venice and more about the inland cesspools of Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Murder for hire. Necrophilia. The lack of affordable child care. It should be fun.

And, of course, screenplays. The silver screen is still so enticing…


Where The Sun Don't Shine by Alex Metcalf
£2.15/$2.99

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