Wednesday, 31 July 2013

THE RICHARD GODWIN INTERVIEW - PART TWO

Richard Godwin

I recently interviewed author and playwright, Richard Godwin. Part One of the interview can be found here



I.A. I'd like to pick up on the point you made in the previous question, Richard, about entertainment being the opiunm of the masses, the buffer between who we are told we should be and who we really are. It is this reality aspect of writing, writing from a place of truth, a place where reality cuts with a sharpened blade and feelings bleed, a place where the reader is dared a glimpse of their darkest fears. Not spidery, monstery, ghosty type fears, but fears of a deeper kind - the fear that they are not enough, the fear that they may never be enough, the existential truth that they are, and will always ever be, alone. 

If it is a writer's duty to clear the cobwebs from the darkened windows of the reader's perception of themselves, does the writer have the same responsibilty to himself? To this end, Richard, how much of your writing, thematically speaking, is a reflection of the search for your own inner truth?

R.G. I don't think a writer has a duty to do anything other than to tell the story he has to tell and listen to the narrative. It is a popular subject of debate whether we have a moral responsibility as writers and no doubt we do inherit our cultural position while also at times challenging it. To the extent that our actions and thoughts may reflect us then our writing does too but identity is fluid. I also know that I make things up, I fictionalise and as such I create paradigms for the lives of others. 

Truth is a tricky business and we live in an age where paradigms are treated with undue respect. Science is one and it has usurped the place of religion, revered as if it has some profound insight into matters it still fails to understand. Writing challenges the paradigm. Writing predicts new forms.

I.A. I love the idea of a writer creating paradigms for the lives of others. In essence, I take that to mean that not only are we inventing paradigms for our fictional characters but these paradigms then shift and evolve depending on the nature of the reader who is exposed to them, thus creating a paradigm filtered through the eyes of each particular reader. A sort of literary version of quantum mechanics, or something.

I want to take up what you said there about writing predicting new forms, challenging the paradigm. An example of this would be the birth of the novel in the early eighteenth century. I know, Richard, you are a published playwright, a published novelist, a prolific short story writer, and a fantastic poet. Which one of these forms comes to you most naturally, and which do you find the most challenging?

R.G. The pursuit of truth is the pursuit of self and all illusory forms. Tristram Shandy is one of the most innovative novels in the history of literature and an eighteenth century novel. It was a child of the Age of Enlightenment. I think poetry set within dramatic dialogue perhaps transposed to the novel form that is adapted to poetry that lends itself to prose akin to drama and epics are most natural to me. The envelope is always there. It deceives and defies and us. The trick is to see the envelope while licking the letters into place. 

Paradigms defy time. Philip K Dick was a paradigm maestro, he lived in the future which may also be the past.

I.A. Love  Tristram Shandy. One of the maddest, funniest books I have ever read. You are obviously a well read man, Richard, with a wealth of knowledge about the craft of writing. Although your novels delve into the deepest reaches of horror, and as we discussed earlier, have a lyrical, poetic style, they sit pretty firmly within the crime genre. What is it about the crime genre that attracts you to it?

R.G. Well, the truth be told, many of my fictions are not crime fiction. I am best known for my crime novels since they are considered commercially viable by the publishing industry. I think crime is interesting because you can explore the strange anomaly we call the legal structure. If you examine Martial law and juxtapose that with civil law you can find out some interesting facts about the social structure we inhabit. You can also find out a lot about the propaganda we are being fed.

I.A. I suppose if you juxtapose Martial law with civil law, and then add personal morality to the mix, it's not difficult to see why crime fiction is so popular.
You have written such a range of material, Richard, in so many different formats and style, I'd be really interested to know how you transpose the ideas in your head onto paper. Does the idea come first, then do you choose a format and style, or does the idea find it's own style and form? And with your novels, do you plan them or do they write themselves, so to speak?

R.G. We live in an age of juxtapositions and the truth is some of us may inherit the a prirori and others the randomness of time.
Melville's stories Benito Cereno and Billy Budd are great dramatisations of the differences between the two legal situations. Crime fiction is a highly versatile form that allows a writer to explore both human motivation and social conditioning.  

I plan novels out but you have to allow the writing to breathe. That means going off plan at times.
  
I.A. Mr Melville certainly puts it beautifully. I'd like to talk finally, Richard, about your latest novel -ONE LONG SUMMER. How did the idea for the story come about?

R.G. I was thinking about identity and the extent to which we can know anyone, even ourselves. I was also thinking about the fact that we live in an age of surveillance. The two ideas must have bred. I sat down to write a love story and out came the Noir erotic hybrid that is One Lost Summer.

It is very much a summer novel, it is also in many ways a Noir novel.  Rex Allen loves star quality in women. He moves into a new house in a heat wave with few possessions apart from two photographs of his dead daughter. His next door neighbour, beautiful Evangeline Glass invites him over to one of her many summer parties, where he meets her friends and possessive husband Harry. Rex feels he knows Evangeline intimately. He starts to spy on her and becomes convinced she is someone other than who she pretends to be. When he discovers she has a lover, he blackmails her into playing a game of identity that ends in disaster.

One Lost Summer is a novel about obsession, love, memory and identity, and much more. It explores the things that make us feel we have an identity and what happens when those things are removed from us, as well as the extent to which we can know anyone, even ourselves. It also about how much we understand the irrational impulses that drive us. 

Rex Allen, the protagonist, might say it is about what happens when you forget. Evangeline, his beautiful next door neighbour, might say it is about being trapped and the things you do to escape. Coral, the character around whom much of the drama revolves, might say it is about reality and how easy it is to manipulate it. Harry, Evangeline’s husband, might say it is about lies and liars.


I.A. I can't wait to get stuck into One Lost Summer, Richard. It sounds riveting. It's interesting how the fluidity of the answers you have given in this interview on the nature of people, of time, and of writing appear to resonate so strongly in your description of the novel.

I'm going to be a bit cheeky here, and wonder if we could leave the final word to Rex, and get a glimpse at the world through his eyes via an extract from the book  . . . ?

R.G. Thanks Ian! Rex films Evangeline with a movie camera called the Mysterium X. He is aware of his obsession, and sees how it lies beneath the surface of so many everyday things, as this passage shows:

'Obsession is not a modern disease. Its roots lie deep inside humanity and may be the reason we’re here. You don’t know you’re obsessed until you can’t move, until all you see is the one thing. By then the tendrils have wrapped themselves around your unsuspecting heart. They’re delicate at first in their unfolding, touching you in the dark, like the soft caress of a lover at dawn. Then you know they’re squeezing the blood out of you. And you realise you will have to hack them away, and with them some living beating part of yourself to be free.



I held the camera and captured her image again and again that intoxicated summer when music filled the gardens of Broadlands Avenue, and Evangeline was high forever.



Stars have a rare quality, an ability to take away the smallness most men feel. They’re more corrupt than us, but the corruption is better hidden, and their appeal is a lie, the biggest drug you will ever know.



 Evangeline was a complete balance of all the qualities famous stars have. She knew she was a rare flame.



 All that summer I watched her. I caught her laughing, smiling, looking away from Harry, alone, contemplating her day. I took her with shopping bags on the empty drive next door, and I filmed her sunbathing by the pool, her body tanned and glowing in the unnatural sun that seemed to set that time apart. For she seemed to exist outside time. And I captured her and made her mine.



I spent my evenings with a glass of Montrachet chilling my tongue as I sipped her image from the Plasma screen in my living room. I fed on her. The X bridged the space between us. I zoomed in on her, caressing her skin with the lens. I entered her world like a hummingbird penetrating a flower, my heart beating like rapid wings. She existed in my watchfulness and awoke my desire. When I wasn’t filming her, time was static. There were no clocks in The Telescope. I felt erased when I wasn’t watching her image. My house had no past and no future.



I tidied away unpacked boxes, placing them in cupboards. I never used most of the rooms, existing in solitude, with only the films I took. And I felt more and more that I was part of a plot, and my only defence against it was the camera, as if Evangeline and Harry knew things that they were keeping from me and the X would find them out. I felt chilled, as if some lost piece of knowledge was frozen inside me. Sometimes at night as the Glenfarclas wore off I could hear icebergs breaking in the distance, and then the notes of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” would stab at my brain like shards of glass against a nerve.'  


Having now read ONE LOST SUMMER I can honestly say it was one of the most intense, disturbing, brilliantly written books I have read in a long time. I'll post my review here on the blog on Friday. 

Richard's previous two novels are APOSTLE RISING and MR GLAMOUR both incredible reads.



It remains for me to thank Richard for a most stimulating interview.

Thank you, sir.

 

4 comments:

  1. Super interview on both sides! Thanks, gents. And, thanks to Richard for one of the best reads in a long while.

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  2. Les many thanks to you too. I have to add Ian has come up with some great questions.

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  3. A great dig into the murky mind of Richard Godwin.

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