Friday 16 March 2012

Doug Johnstone interview: Hit & Run

Amazon UK
Can you sum up Hit & Run in no more than 25 words?

You hit. You run. But what if you have to go back?’ It’s J.G. Ballard’s Crash meets Shallow Grave. Set in Edinburgh.

Do you bear the reader in mind when you're writing? If so, how does that affect the way you write?

You have be your own ideal reader, don’t you? Otherwise, what the hell is the point? I began writing fiction primarily because I didn’t recognise the world around me in the books I was reading. And that made me furious. It seemed like my experience wasn’t worthy of literature, which is bullshit. In the end, I always write something that I would want to read. The irony of that is, it’s really hard to read your own work without being hugely critical of it – all you can see are the mistakes and shit bits.

Provide a YouTube link to a song you'd like to be the title track to the movie adaptation of your book.

Boards of Canada: 'Dayvan Cowboy'

Why anyone would want anyone else to do the soundtrack for their movie is beyond me. The first time I ever heard them I felt physically sick with emotion, like they were tapping into something I recognised, but on a subconscious or purely gut level. Genius.

If you were able to co-write a novel with any author of your choosing, who would it be?

Raymond Carver. Although I get the feeling he was never a writer to collaborate on anything, very single-minded and driven. Imagine trying to harness that weird black magic he had, his ability to say so much with so few words, and work it into a novelistic plot, that would be something, huh? He claimed he never had the patience for writing or reading novels. I’d like to have had the chance to change his mind about that.

Put these in order of importance: language, character, plot, money.

Does anyone ever put money anywhere but last when they answer that? If they do, they’re dicks. For me it’s probably character, plot, language, money. Having said that, I agree with that thing Stephen King said, about how no one ever asks him about his use of language. Just because a book is easy to read and uses simple language, does NOT mean the writer didn’t sweat over every single word in there. At the start of his poem ‘The Blue Stones’, Carver quotes Flaubert: “If I call stones blue it is because blue is the precise word, believe me.” That quote says it all.

What do you do when you're not writing?

When I’m not writing fiction I’m hustling for journalism work or teaching work, when I’m not doing that I’m being a househusband, doing the school run, the nursery run, cooking the tea, cleaning the house, separating the squabbling kids, when I’m not doing that I’m trying to make music, when I’m not doing that I’m trying to find time to chill out with my wife, when I’m not doing that I’m drinking whisky and playing guitar and watching shit films and tweeting about it to wind down.

What are your ambitions for the next year?

To still be alive and writing by the end of it.

Which author should be much better known?

Willy Vlautin.

What question would you most like to be asked in an interview? What's the answer to it?

Which author would you most like to bare-knuckle box with? There are too many to choose from. Doris Lessing, maybe? Not because I don’t like her writing, I just reckon I’d have a pretty good chance of getting a result against the 92-year-old Nobel Prize winner. Although I bet she was a scrapper in her day. The real answer is Martin Amis. Because I want to punch him.

How do you feel about reviews?

I feel like I’m gliding through the fucking Matrix, and all the lowlife quisling fucks cannae touch me. Not really, but I have got pretty Zen about them in recent years. I genuinely don’t give a shit either way. I’m quite surprised at myself about that, I have to admit. I read each one once, then throw them up on my website for others to look at. I gave up reading newspapers a few years ago, and the increase in my mental health was huge. It’s just people’s opinions, after all, and like my granny used to say: ‘Opinions are like arseholes, everybody’s got one.’

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