As a nice Sunday afternoon treat for you all I speak to the inspiring poet, scriptwriter and novelist Gareth Spark, who released his debut novel, Marwick’s Reckoning, earlier this year. Alongside this intense and exciting novel, Gareth also talks us through his various other works, and the issues around being a writer in the digital age.
Please talk me through the various styles (poetry, prose, screen) that you write in. How do they differ and which do you prefer and why?
I’ve written poetry for a long time, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing it as it allows me to craft something immediate on a direct hit to the emotions. Prose is something else, prose is architecture; it’s planning a building and then spending several years building it, whereas poetry, you know, it offers an immediate and perhaps more honest reaction to the world. Screenplays, or at least the kind that I write, have more in common with a poem than they do with a novel being that they’re compact, a reduction, a condensed meaning. Also, you can write them faster.
Tell me about Marwick’s Reckoning. What made you choose to go into the thriller genre and how has the book been received so far?
The book started as a way to express the experiences I had in Spain, the land, the culture, the vibe I got from the place. I wanted a character to embody the journey and came up with Marwick; it’s been compared to Graham Greene (thank you, by the way!) and I get that, in that it’s a moral book; it’s a book that tries to deal with the impact of a terribly violent life upon a man with some degree of morality/ spiritual understanding.
What books do you personally enjoy reading and how does your taste impact on your own writing?
I read everything, every genre, from science fiction to Victorian novels to underground literary stuff; it’s hard to say what influences my writing, Hemingway, definitely, was a huge influence in the lyric way he had of capturing a scene, a sense of place. I prefer reading older literature because so much contemporary commercial fiction has been strongly influenced, almost infected, by the rigid structure of movies. That whole ‘save the cat’ screenplay ‘heroes journey’ thing is terribly unyielding when it comes to allowing a writer room to experiment with alternative modes of narrative, of story. I prefer my fiction to be complex, subtle, without being overtly ‘crafty’.
From where do you take your inspiration? Do you have any particular focuses when writing which help you to create the style you aspire to?
I try to capture something fleeting, the sense of time passing, perhaps, something beautiful. I would like to make the novel expressive of a certain kind of beautiful, bittersweet nostalgia. I sometimes feel I’ve set myself an impossible task, taking a form such as the novel, which is an epic mode, a story, a journey, and trying to impose on it something of the lyrical mode…trying to make the novel sing. I’d like to have these little passages in the narrative that stand outside of it, that transcend it. However, trying to give the novel some of the effect of music, or another non-narrative media, is like trying to square the circle…but it allows for some interesting poetry in what is an otherwise literally prosaic medium.
If you could collaborate with any writer, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Ooo, good question. It would have to be Alan Moore, whose ideas about the nature of fiction are, quite literally, magical and have been a huge influence on me.
How do you feel about the current literary market? Why do you believe it can be so tough for new writers?
Simply because the market is over-saturated. There are countless, digital books being produced. The vast majority of them, yes, are terrible, but how do you stand out among all that noise? The difficulty these days isn’t in the struggle to ‘get published’, it’s in creating a profile that might stand out against the howling multitudes of soi-disant writers producing ‘content’ rather than Art. I think the answer is to go the traditional route, trad publishing is still the only real way to have any kind of impact -the odd freak occurrence aside- then one doesn’t have to worry too much about distractions such as marketing, branding, and all that horrible business. You can concentrate on your Art.
How do you feel about the notion of ‘exposure’ and the idea of providing your services for free which has come about with the rise of the internet?
It’s vital, at least at the beginning of your career. One needs to build a profile, and the best way, however iniquitous it may be, is to publish on-line for free. You need to have something out there for people to read, to have your work in people’s lives. Build a presence on-line and try to translate it into publishing books traditionally. That’s the key.
What does the future have in store for you as a writer? Are there any exciting new projects or collaborations that you would like to share with us?
I have a story coming up in an anthology produced by Zelmer Pulp, a kind of alternate future thing, and I’m working on another novel.
Within the wider literary market are there any new books or projects coming up by other writers that you are particularly exciting about?
Scott Robinson, author of The Hard Bounce, is a writer to watch, and I’m looking forward the next book from Benedict Jones, as well as Brian Panowich’s sequel to ‘Bull Mountain’ and anything Paul D. Brazill’s got in the works.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Support the small presses, that’s where you can find the most exciting work being done today, and check out crime fiction sites such as Near to the knuckle, Shotgun Honey and Out of the gutter.
Thanks ever so much to Gareth for taking the time to speak to me, it has been a pleasure and it is fascinating to hear your insight.