James Lovegrove is an extraordinary writer of novels in every respect imaginable.
His novels are in turns surreal, life-affirming and bizarre.
He has written a number of acclaimed novels such as The Hope and The Foreigners,
and his latest masterpiece in Provender Greed has recently been published to rave reviews.
He is also the author of Wings, a bewitching short story aimed at children.
Fortunately, from his home in the south-west of England, James was kind enough
to take some time out from work to chat with Steve Rudd about - amongst other
things - time spent in the States and his latest work...
Hi James, how are things?
Blustery today. Atlantic gales are battering north Devon and it feels like my office -
a shed in the garden - is about to get ripped off its foundations and blown away,
taking me with it. But apart from that I'm well.
For those people who might not be familiar with your type of writing, how would you
best describe the type of novels that you write?
I'm published by an SF imprint, Gollancz, but my books aren't in the trad - SF mould.
I'm not really into spaceships, aliens, high-tech gadgetry, all that.
My books are more at the weird, slipstream edge of the genre, shading into
fantasy and mainstream fiction, with even a tinge of horror.
In fact they're easier to define by what they're not than what they are, which
makes me an awkward proposition for publishers and booksellers.
Which section to stock my work in? How to promote it?
Basically, I write about ordinary people in extraordinary settings, facing
abnormal, incredible crises and resolving them in a normal, credible way.
You have won numerous awards over the years for your work. Does any one award
in particular mean the most to you above all others?
I haven't really won that much in the way of awards, which I think - hope -
has something to do with the unclassifiability mentioned above.
You know, you're not going to win Best Strawberry Yoghurt Producer Of The Year
if you make yoghurt that looks strawberry-flavoured but turns out to be
blackcurrant and lime instead. If that analogy makes any sense.
But I was very pleased and proud to be short-listed for the 1997
Arthur C. Clarke Award for my novel Days.
I was told afterwards by one of the judges that I was supposed to win and
would have, if the book had been just a little more like SF.
In the event, I was pipped by Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, a book which is a lot like SF.
Looking back at the first book that you had published, The Hope, do you
feel that you have consciously experimented with your writing style over
the years in order to more effectively aspire to writing the type of books
that you have always strived to produce?
The Hope was an experiment in so many ways, not least because I was
just 22 at the time I wrote it and hadn't attempted a full-length novel before,
so writing one in the form of twelve interlinked short stories seemed the logical approach.
It also allowed me to test out a dozen different styles and emulate (and
at the same time exorcise the influence of) many of my literary heroes,
including Stephen King, Philip Larkin and Ray Bradbury.
Since then, with each successive book I've worked towards refining and defining
a prose style that is uniquely mine, as any halfway decent author should.
Whether or not I've succeeded is for others to decide.
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It's amazing having people asking me to do promotion!