Thursday, November 03, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Lochlan Bloom

Lochlan Bloom is a British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer. The BBC Writersroom describes his writing as ‘unsettling and compelling… vivid, taut and grimly effective work’.

He is the author of the meta-fictional novel The Wave as well as the short fiction pieces - Trade and The Open Cage. He has also written for BBC Radio, Slant Magazine, Litro Magazine, IronBox Films, The Metropolist, and Calliope, the official publication of the Writers’ Special Interest Group (SIG) of American Mensa, amongst others.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
The writing process and the publication process were both quite distinct. Writing a novel definitely changed my approach to editing and certainly helped me develop my writing style but there was no great epiphany the moment I finished the last page.

Finding a publisher and seeing the book to print was a very different experience and quite a learning curve. It changed things to the extent that it made me ‘a published author’.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
I have written non-fiction and worked as a journalist before but I always wrote fiction alongside so it never seemed an either/or choice.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
I tend to jot down ideas all the time and these can be anything from a relatively well-formed plot concept to a half-finished sentence with no context whatsoever. There’s not exact length of time it takes to start a project but at some point these ideas start to coalesce around a particular theme and I find the notes I am writing are getting longer and longer.

4 - Where does a work of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I generally have a good idea of the rough form of a piece before I start writing it in earnest - whether it will be a short story, novel, script etc – but sometimes that can change as I start working on something.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Its something very separate from the writing process for me. I don’t mind doing public readings and occasionally enjoy them but it feels quite separate from writing or reading which are much more private activities for me.

Having said that I think reading text aloud or to a small writing group is an excellent means of stress-testing a piece and finding the areas that need improvement.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Having trained as a physicist, I am interested in how we as readers take information from the world around us and construct an understanding of reality.

The way we combine and interpret not just stories but mathematical theories, philosophies, face-to-face interactions or beliefs in the supernatural to justify our actions in the world is a fascinating subject and one I try to explore in my writing.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
I think that’s a very interesting question as it has without doubt changed dramatically in the last thirty or so years.  The internet has made everyone a writer and commentator (even if its only writing a facebook post) and this in turn has diluted the role of the ‘writer’ as a cultural diviner.

I don’t think its possible to say what the role of the writer ‘should be’ but for me it is about exploring the edges of the lived experience in ways that are inaccessible through other mediums or approaches.

The thing that separates writing from other forms of expression such as music, dance, film etc for me is the essential inscrutability of the written word. We learn this bizarre process whereby we encode and decode hieroglyphs on a page and from this somehow this hallucinatory mental space opens up.

As a writer I think the challenge is to try to capture that luminous quality that great literature allows us to experience.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
For the most part Ive had great experiences working with editors and I think the process can really add to the finished work but it very much depends on the editor.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
You can always give up

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to screenplays to the novel)? What do you see as the appeal?
Very easy. I think I would struggle if someone said I had to be confined to one genre as the boundaries can be so arbitrary.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
I think this is something that writers can fixate on too much. Certainly when I was starting out I put a lot of emphasis on trying to understand what kind of routine other writers kept and to follow something similar. In reality Im not sure it  is too productive to know other writers routine any more than to know what they ate for lunch.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I normally go for a walk.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Cant think of one in particular.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I think books come from books in the sense that the raw materials of literature are shaped by what has come before. The way we use language, the way we structure stories, the way we understand a sentence all depend on the books we have read. But what we write about is absolutely influenced by all these forms and more. I think there are a lot of parallels between natural language and mathematics in the way we use these to describe the world around us. Both have an abstract, theoretical quality that academics can discuss between themselves but the real reason they are so wide spread is because they give us insight at a deep level at how we understand the world around us.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Too many to list.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Write a bucket list.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I’ve always written things down and I guess the number of words has just grown and grown.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I enjoyed Satin Island by Tom McCarthy recently and The Third Reich by Roberto Bolaño

20 - What are you currently working on?
Its under wraps

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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