Monday, September 26, 2011

Interview with Greg Johnston: author of Consumption

Welcome to The Wormhole!
It is my pleasure to introduce Consumption and the author Greg Johnston!

Book Blurb from author site: 
Who can a girl with a broken heart rely on if not her gay best friend?
Sara Sexton and Martin Blake are besties so it was natural for her to flee to him after breaking up with a Greek lover. But Martin has changed, preoccupied with his new business. In Hong Kong, he’s a high-profile, high-dollar interior designer.
When Sara meets Andy Harris, a romantic with a bubble-butt, Martin’s still on the market and not happy. Seems Martin’s only happy when Sara’s alone and miserable. Got any ‘friends’ like that? Now Sara has to juggle a consuming old friendship and a blossoming romance… And how does a girl do that? And what happens when she’s forced to choose between the past and the future?
Now...on to the interview!
? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

I'd have to use "writer" in a broad sense.  When I was very young I remember loving music.  I had a toy piano until my parents got me an upright.  I remember wanting to get "inside" the music, to understand how it was put together, into the matrix.  And I remember wanting to "make" music well before I understood enough of it, scratching out chromatic melodies with no idea of key.  In my teens, playing in a rock 'n roll band was an acceptable male form of creative expression and I began to write songs for the band.  I went on to write songs till I was in my 30s but then I felt I wanted something a bit bigger, more complex and able to discuss more.  It was around then I started writing short stories and novels. 

? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer? 

As yet, I don't really earn a living from writing.  So I worked/work at a number of things to support my habit. 

? How long does it take you to write a book?

CONSUMPTION: A Novel took me a long while to write.  During that time I was also working on something else but by the time the editing was done and dusted, it would have been five years.  It then took another two years before I published it with Kindle.  The novel I'm working on now has taken a little less time, about three years to write, but I've had the idea for a long while but could never find the way to write it which stopped me starting. 

? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

From writing song lyrics, I think there's an economy and a rhythm to the prose.  On a more macro level, I hope there is a balance between a fast-moving plot, depth of characters and humor. 

? Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write?

It depends on the part of the writing cycle.  I used to write in the early morning, first press of the grapes, but now paid work seems to spill throughout the day.  So I just write with the fragments of time I have.  So to make it easier to get into the groove instantly I have to set goals, both short term and long.  I try to start with a grand plan of the narrative; what has to happen by what point.  I work with the idea that the first draft will be 80 000 words.  So by the 20 000 word mark, the "drama" of the novel has to be setup, the next 40 000 develop and creates problems, the last 20 000 is climax, resolve and conclusion.  This works well for a first draft but the neatness of the structure is often gone by the final draft, but working on 20 000 word quarters is much more do-able than sitting down to a bank page and thinking I need to drum up 360 pages...  At that point it's easier to go and put a load of washing on. 

On a more short term goal, in that first-pass phase I try to write 2000 words a day, even if that means there are some very rough sketches. 

At the moment I am thinking about a new story so that involves a lot of dog walking and imagining - what would happen if I took this point of view or that, used these characters or that. 

? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters?

Anywhere and everywhere.  I think the stories that have worked the best have been based in a factual story, a natural narrative arc, that I've been able to take and shake into something.  I've found stories out of a paragraph in another book or something I've found when researching something completely different.  One of the first ideas for CONSUMPTION: A Novel came from a phrase in Alain de Botton's Status Anxiety, that the need to have an expensive car was really a sign of early childhood trauma.  That got me thinking about how we construct the public and private images of ourselves by what we can buy and consume. 

? How do you decide what you want to write about?

First there has to be a spark, an idea or situation that ignites my imagination.  Usually this is along the line of two people drawn into an unusual situation which creates a poignancy.  In CONSUMPTION, it was the realization that two old friends had started to head in different directions.  Sara's aiming for simplicity but Martin has become more and more complex with exaggerated purchases and haute lifestyle.  Once I have something like this, then I needed to flesh this situation and decide what the hell will happen as a consequence.  If by the time I've done all that and the idea still excites me, then I'll think about writing.  In some ways as life is busy now, I don't get to start something without a lot of commitment to it.  In the past I think it was easier to start writing and just see what happened but that led to a lot of lovely words left lying on the floor of my work room. 

? What books have most influenced your life?  Reading Eco's The Name of the Rose and Byatt's Possession were big ones for the mix of imagination and intellectual rigor.  At school I remember writing an essay about 1984 and getting a good mark and thinking, "maybe I understand all this better than I thought".  Better than algebra, anyway.  It was a bit of a shock.

? What is the first book you remember reading by yourself? 

That's hard.  At the moment, I'm cleaning out my parents' house and found all manner of books from UK authors like Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter.  At that time, Tasmania was a chip of England that sailed to the South Pacific.  But I'd say the first book I read myself was Harry the Dirty Dog which I remember borrowing from The State Library of Tasmania. 

? What are you reading right now? 

The line edits of my new novel, The Skin of Water, Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks and A Thousand Glass Flowers by Prue Batten.  All keep me up at night. 

? What do you like to do when you are not writing? 

Watch movies, walk the dog, cook and chat. 

? What is your favorite comfort food?

Red capsicum slice thinly and smelted in extra virginal olive oil, garlic and chilli and served with pasta and a mound of grated, hard, salty, pecorino sardo cheese.  And a glass of Pinot Noir.  And a chat. 

? What do you think makes a good story?

That it tells me about a character(s), a place, a time and a situation that I know nothing at all about.  Differences between people is the main thing that's interesting about humanity. 

? Who would you consider your favorite author and why? 

Hmmm... there are so many.  Jane Austen still makes me laugh and thrill at her delicate expertise. 

? What book, if any, do you read over and over again? 

I recently re-read again 1984 (what clear vision) and I feel a need to re-read To Kill a Mocking Bird again, and again, almost just for that syrupy southern language.  

Fun random questions: 
·        dogs or cats?  Both.  I love all our children equally. 
·        Coffee or tea?  Two macchiato as the sun ascends and herbal tea as I work. 
·        Dark or milk chocolate? - Neither - White chocolate  (yeah, I know, it's not really chocolate but it's a lovely masquerading substance)
·        Rocks or flowers? - Flowers.  What's in a rock?
·        Night or day? - I used to come alive at 10 o'clock at night but now I find if I'm not in bed by 10 o'clock I burst into tears. 
·        Favorite color? - blue. 
·        Crayons or markers?  crayons because they're like oil paints. 
·        Pens or pencils? pens.  

For more information about the book or the author please check out the
Author website:
***Stay tuned - tomorrow I will host the book review!***

Thanks Greg for the interview - and thanks to all those who stopped by!  Happy reading.