Friday, February 15, 2008

We'd Better Start Working Now


as reality hits home that the shop is actually going to happen, we're becoming blurs of activity. We're off to Ikea again today, to sort out delivery of the bookcases and other gubbins. I'm a keen supporter of gubbins, so today's trip should be worthwhile. It's public transport for us. Our carbon footprint isn't going to get any bigger today. Hopefully the bank has sorted out the £60,000 mistake they made, so that we can afford to pay for it.

The sign has now started being made, and the telephone/broadband connection date is being finalised.

For those who've asked for a photo of the shop, i'll take one or two over the weekend, to give you an idea of the size of the job we've got. It's great knowing we have the facebook army on call to give us a hand, and I hope they know what they've let themselves in for.

I'm now the online book reviewer for Artrocker magazine, the best music magazine in the world. This makes me happy.

On Monday I will be posting a review on this here blog of one the best books i've read in ages. It's being published next week, but is already in the shops. Oh, sod it i'll do it now.

This book is very special. I don’t say this lightly. The more I think about it the more special it feels. Bloody Books (for this is the name of the publishers) have introduced us to an author that I think will be massive. Huge. Gargantuan. His name is Joseph D’Lacey, and he is seriously talented. His book is called Meat, and it’s published on 21st February.
I was given a copy of this book ages ago by the lovely Candice who was then working at Turnaround Books in wonderful Wood Green. She thought I might like it. I stuck it on the shelf, and continued to try and open a bookshop. As Christmas arrived, I had some time to catch up on some reading and I pulled it off the shelf again. I’m very pleased I did.
It starts with Richard Shanti running home from work. He’s in pain, his body tells him to stop, but he keeps on running. He’s punishing himself, and thinks that by pushing his body beyond reason will help rid him of the guilt he carries.
Richard Shanti works at the slaughterhouse in a slowly decaying town called Abyrne. His main duty is manning the stun gun. His are the last pair of eyes that the animals at the slaughterhouse see before they are turned into meat. He’s known as Ice-Pick for the seemingly cool way he dispatches the creatures at the slaughterhouse. The town of Abyrne survives for and because of the meat that’s produced, and their religion dictates that they eat the meat in order to survive. But there’s a small but significant group that suspect that those who control the town (the meat baron and the church leaders) are rotten, and prepare to sacrifice everything to get to the truth. But what is the meat that’s being produced at the factory? What exists outside the town? What secrets are discovered as the inhabitants of Abyrne get hungry?
This book is horror at it’s most horrific. But more than this, Joseph D’lacey conjures up an almost Orwellian dystopia, where futility seems to be accepted without question. If you had any idea how much I love George Orwell you would realise that this is praise beyond praise.

I’m not going to tell you any more about the book, because I want you to buy it and make it the bestseller it deserves to be.
So thrilled was I with the book, I contacted Joseph and he kindly agreed to be interviewed by The Big Green Bookshop.
And here it is

Simon; Hello there Joseph and thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s your first full length novel and it’s about to be published. How are you feeling?

Joseph D'Lacey; I’d like to say ‘that’s difficult to describe’, Simon, but I suspect I’m unlikely to get away with it.

Truth is, I’ve been working towards this for some time – about eight years, I suppose. So, for it to suddenly start happening, actually occurring, you know, to me, for real in reality and stuff is, like, just totally difficult to describe.


Okay, last try: I feel stunned, like an observer, it can’t be me this is happening to, the good lord must have made a clerical error. I expect I’ll feel the same when they tell me I’m terminally ill – only less ecstatically happy and utterly vindicated.

S.How would you describe Meat to the unsuspecting public?

J. Well, the first thing to say is: if you’re ‘unsuspecting public’, don’t read it. Trust me and just don’t. It’s a bit distressing. Conversely, for those who like such things, fair enough, tie your bib on and devour it with your fingers.

Meat is many things. It’s allegory. It’s fantasy. It’s comment. It’s exploration. It’s grim dystopian horror with a conscience. Most of all, I hope, it’s entertainment.

Horror, Fiction, Religion, Self Help, Cookery? Where should people look for this book?

Without wanting to give too much away, there appears to some fairly dark yet high profile marketing in the pipeline. Borders have ordered 1000 copies already and we expect other large booksellers, like Waterstones, to follow suit. So, mooch around in the horror section but also look front of house.

S.Have you ever played Monopoly and if so, what piece did you want to be?

J. I played a lot of Monopoly as a child. I always wanted to be those pieces associated with power and speed – the racing car or battleship (hell, was it a battleship or a cruise-liner?). Even the top hat had a little grandeur to it. However, I invariably ended up with the boot and losing. I have zero business acumen.

s.You’ve written short stories, poetry and screenplays in the past. As this is your first published full length novel, did you find writing Meat needed a different kind of discipline, and how did you go about it?

J. My main areas of endeavour have been short fiction, novels and the nebulously-lengthed things in between. Meat was my sixth novel. Quite frankly, things like poetry and scripts have increasingly become exceptions over the years. The discipline of novel writing (and you’re right to refer to it as such), is something I’m still developing. Everything I write is practice for something better.

With a novel, you have the opportunity (if not the inclination) to write at length. You have space to move around and to grow your characters and ideas. This is a sort of (painful) luxury that you don’t have in shorter work. What I do is set a daily word quota and start as early as possible in the morning. Around seven, say. It might take me forty-five minutes to hammer out my quota or it might take three hours. It might take all day. At that point, if I want to continue, I allow myself to. If not, I stop and start again same time the following day. Once engaged on a ‘long project’ I will write every day or, at the very least, six days a week until the first draft is complete. I tend to build up steam, writing more each day the longer the project goes on. I then shelve the first draft for three months before the first edit.

The elation of completion is rapidly followed by the unshakeable knowledge that I’ll never be able to write another word. When I’m not writing, I’m a miserable sod. When I’m writing, I’m a slightly less miserable sod.

Thankfully, my wife is an angel and takes all my nonsense in her stride.

S It says on your website that you get your inspiration, amongst other places, by God whispering to you at 7.23 in the morning as you sit on the lavatory. It must have come as quite a surprise the first time this happened.

J. Never should have mentioned it, should I? Everyone’ll be doing it and I’ll be out of a job. Actually, it wasn’t that surprising – when I’m on the lavatory is the only time the phone rings or my mother in law pops round. God had to join the back of the queue.

Ideas are not a problem for me. I’ve notebooks full of them. It’s turning them into stories that poses the challenge.

S.You must have done a bit of research, by your obvious knowledge of slaughterhouses. What was that like?

J. Nasty business.

The more slaughter footage I watched, the more disturbed I became. Thinking about the numbers is the most chilling thing; the never-ending lines of chickens, pigs, horses, cattle – even dogs. Some of it was meant to show ‘best practises’ but mostly it was undercover footage of abuse and dimly lit production lines where terrified animals met cold, rushed unmaking.

About thirty thousand words into the first draft I was so freaked, I stopped writing and didn’t start again for several months.

S. Are you really 100 years old and 242 cm (7 foot 11 inches) as it says on your
Myspace page?

J. As everyone knows, the CIA gathers great swathes of information on potential dissidents and miscreants from sites like Facebook and MySpace. I think it’s only proper that they know my correct vital statistics.

Also, I’m really looking forward to people spotting me in the street: “Hey, look, there’s that tall, ancient writer going into Burger King. I thought he was a vegetarian. What the hell was his name?”

That kind of thing.

S. What are your favourite authors, and what are you reading at the moment (and what’s it like)

Over the years I’ve enjoyed James Herbert, Stephen King and Clive Barker. No surprises there, I suppose. I’m very badly read in terms of ‘literature’ and classics, but who cares? What I like is a good story. Story is everything, isn’t it?

I read as widely as possible but still prefer bizarre to straight stories. Recent top reads have been Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

I adored Douglas Adams’ hitchhiker books and read them in rotation for years and years. These days, I’m so panicked about catching up on my endless reading list I rarely read the same author twice.

Right now I’m into Spares by Michael Marshall Smith. It’s got great pace, a cool story and plenty of hardboiled irony. Definitely a good read.

S. Are you doing any events or talks that we might be able to catch you at?

J. I’m speaking and reading from Meat at Cambridge Uni on the 16th Feb and Oxford on 2nd March. There’s a live interview on Radio Europe Mediterraneo at midday on 22nd Feb too. I think there will be other launch events but my publisher hasn’t told me what they are yet! As soon as I know, I’ll tell you

S. So, what’s next for Joseph D’Lacey

J.The next job is a re-write of the novel we hope to release in ’09. After that I’ll be pulling into shape a rough draft I completed last year, before giving Bloody Books an exclusive peek at it. I’d really like to write one more new novel, something dark and claustrophobic, before summer ends. Then I’ll have a break and be miserable again.

S. Thanks for taking the time to do this Joseph.

J. Thanks to you, Simon. I’ve enjoyed it.

Joseph is a really nice guy, his book is awesome, and if you're lucky you may see him being driven around a town near your in the 'Meat Wagon' over the next couple of weeks. Buy the book for heaven's sake willya


moo said...

Just the thing I need to stop me from eating bacon sandwiches! It'll probably give me the willies, but I've ordered it from Amazon. How come they say they can deliver it to me tomorrow when it's not out yet? We shall see...

Simon Key said...

Hello Moo,
publication dates are odd things. Books like Harry Potter are strictly embargoed until the published date, but most 'normal' books are available as soon as they arrive at the shops (or warehouse in Amazon's case). I hope you enjoy it as much as me.

moo said...

Cheers Simon - looks like that's my weekend's reading sorted then! (I love Amazon Prime.)


Anonymous said...

Nice review and while horror isn't normally my thing I'm tempted.
Wouldn't you prefer it if we bought it from you?

Simon Key said...

if you don't mind waiting for a few weeks, i'd much prefer you buy it from us. Joseph told me he'd come and see us during the refit, so I'll get some in for him to sign while he's there.

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Angela Young said...

Congratulations Joseph. (We share a publisher - different imprints - but they're just the best aren't they?)

I wish Meat every success ... although I'm more than a tad squeamish so I might have to read it through my fingers. But may it sell and sell ... and I so agree about the miserable old sod (soddess?) when not writing. There's only one cure ... .

Akasha Savage said...

What a great interview. I will most definitely be buying Meat, it sounds just my sort of book. I'm always on the look out for a new writer of dark fiction, so thanks for bringing Joseph into the light.
(Can I buy it from you too?)

J D'L said...

Thanks for that, Angela. I really think you'd better not read it. I mean really - even through your fingers.

I'm in London this week promoting Meat and heard you are around too doing something similar with Speaking of Love. Might see you at the office. (As long as you're not in your soddess phase... I'm definitely in the guilty sod phase. Can't write a thing 'til this tour finishes so I can cure myself.)

And, yes, Beautiful are the BEST. I can't tell you how relieved I am to be with them and not some of the others I've encountered.

moo said...

Wheee! What a book! Finished it last night, and had to have a bit of a sit down afterwards. Even though I was already sitting down. I don't want to give away any details, but I was expecting it to be horrific in the gory sense. Yes, there was some gore (hardly surprising given the title), but personally I found it less disturbing, in that sense, than a Val McDermid crime book. The horror is more mind-based than viscera-based. And Joseph writes a *damn* good villian.

This is definitely a book I'll read a second time - there are parts early on where you just do a bit of a double-take, read back a paragraph, carry on, shake your head, then *whump* you realise...

Highly recommended.


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