You can read the full introduction to the series here. In short The Conversations with the Bookless series is designed to raise the profile of and increase the exposure of some of the emerging writers we knew were out there.
In this installment we talk to Nigel Bird
After the jump check out the full interview.
Where are you, right now, as you’re writing these answers?
At a desk surrounded by half-finished pieces, notebooks, novels, pens, pictures. In organised chaos, I guess.
Who are your influences and what is your unlikeliest influence?
Early influences were old movies – Cagney, Bogart and Edward G, the Thin Man, Sherlock Holmes and Westerns.
Teenage years were taken up with rhythm and romance – Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs. Music also played a huge part, the high-living and heavily-fallen – Charlie Parker, Hendrix, the Velvets, Chet Baker, Jim Morrison, Piaf, Joplin, the whole of the Blues.
Punk was vital – my first gig at 14 seeing Elvis Costello and Richard Hell supported by wordsmith/poet John Cooper Clarke. It was a movement about creating and doing it yourself as far as I was concerned, whether it be music, fanzines, poetry or painting, the idea was to make things happen – better than going with the flow.
Cities – wandering about in the unfamiliar, the rich and the poor, the safe and the breaking down: Berlin, Budapest, London, Paris, Prague, Hamburg, New York, New Delhi, Venice, Washington, Edinburgh…all places with underbellies so heavy they practically drag along the floor.
The obvious – Chandler, James M Cain. The more pretentious – Paul Auster, Alexandre Dumas. The contemporary – Allan Guthrie, Helen Fitzgerald. The holiday read – Mike Stocks, George Pelecanos. The others – a hell of a long list, but Salinger, Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Kafka and Pushkin need to be there.
Unlikeliest influence – Probably fairy tales. The Brothers Grimm full of murder, terror, adventure and intrigue – highly recommended for all, especially the under 8’s.
Why do you write?
I’m either blessed or cursed with a need to do it. Once the idea or the line is there I have to turn it into something. When I have a spark I want to give it life; it’s a bit like reading a page-turner in that I have to keep on to find out what happens.
What issues or ideas about fiction have been foremost in your mind of late?
The demise of independent bookstores has made it difficult for new magazines to take off, I think, because the big stores aren’t interested in the same way.
The online world intrigues me, but I’m yet to explore it fully in terms of its potential. I guess the sooner I can get involved with it as a writer the better – I certainly enjoy it as a reader.
When did you start writing and what prompted you to do so?
I probably started with diaries to help me come to terms with who I was and to help overcome some of my loneliness way back when. The end of a relationship kick-started my poetry. A screenplay (unseen by all but me) came from an idea I had when decorating. The prose came as a natural progression and is where I’m most content these days. Moving in and out of depressions has driven me to get things onto paper.
What do you most value in the fiction you love?
The chance to escape. The opportunity to safely explore hopes, fears and ideas. The help it gives me to see into the minds of others. To feel the rush of a roller-coaster without having to leave my seat. To be able to tune in whenever I want, wherever I am. To find beautiful and perfectly distilled imagery.
How would you describe your style?
Dark and sad. Simple tales with gentle touches of humour that should make the reader laugh at things they shouldn’t. I’d like to think there’s a poetic turn of phrase every now and then. Of late, violent stories set in everyday places seem to dominate – I’m loving them.
Where can readers check out some of your work?
‘Sea Minor’ appeared in ‘The Reader Magazine’ issue “Emotional Surges” alongside Seamus Heaney and Vanessa Hemingway. It’s just become available as a free download.
“An Arm And A Leg” is in the current issue (34) of ‘Crimespree’, or at least it’s supposed to be – I’m still yet to see a copy.
Earlier work can be seen in the magazine I produced with my brother, “The Rue Bella”. The magazine had a good reputation, but we couldn’t afford to keep it going in the end. We went out with a bang, releasing 3 collections of poetry. The stories there are older and are probably in need of an editorial haircut.
What are you working on now?
I’ve been working on a novel for a while. Collared is set in a world where dog-fighting and dog-showing cross over to create chaos in the lives of a number of families. My main character is Smokey Arbroath, a man I’ve been desperate to bring to life for ages.
Ed. Note: Nigel has graciously allowed Spinetingler to run a small excerpt of Collared.
[Mikey and Smokey have collected an enormous Kangal fighting dog to take home. It’s crapped in the back of the van and they’ve been trying to work out how to clean it up with ‘The Count’ unwilling to let them near.]
As they headed to the pub, Smokey had one thing playing on his mind.
“Why on earth did you call him Count?”
An elderly couple passing by caught the stench as Mikey wiped his boots on the grass. Soon set off in a different direction to get wherever they were going.
“Tranquilisers,” Smokey said to break the silence.
“Great idea. Wait while I pop into Boots and pick up a gun and a couple of darts. Want anything else while I’m there? Beer can that fills back up as soon as it’s empty? A couple of blonds and a water bed?” Mikey could be a real prick sometimes.
“I remember when my mum couldn’t sleep. We used to get herbals over the counter. Swore by them.”
“We could give Count a dose.”
Mikey threw his boots at Smokey’s head. Missed by inches. “I suppose I’ll be the one holding his jaws open.”
“In his bloody food. We put in the pills and wait. Soon as he drops off, you go in, sort out the crap and off we go.”
“I go in?”
“My idea.” End of….
….“Count. Like Dracula,” George had said. “Always goes for the neck.”
The three men had been sitting round a table inlaid with half-pennies, two pints each set out for them by the barmaid.
“Nice one,” Smokey said.
“Those vampires aren’t as tough as people think, you know.”
“How’s that, Mikey?” George asked.
Mikey took a sip of his beer and wiped the foam moustache away with the back of his sleeve. “You can kill them with onions.”
“Garlic,” Smokey corrected.
“Aye. And beef.”
“The hell are you talking about?”
“Heard it somewhere. If you meet a vampire, you can kill him with steak.”
“Better get another beer in, Smokey,” George had laughed, “Something tells me it’s going to seem like a very long way home.”
How do you plan to rectify your booklessness?
By putting my obsessive-compulsive traits to good use. Hard work, lots of reading and writing, entering competitions and sending off stories until they find homes. I’m also resolved to overcome my shyness and my self-deprecation so that I can put myself out there. I wouldn’t sell my soul for a book deal, but I’d check out what I could get for renting it out.