The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature
1- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
To enjoy writing. Seriously. I want to have fun doing things. I’m not terribly good at that and I’m planning several interventions after I move interstate next week that will force me to have fun. Like buying a pet, so that I have to look after it. And I have someone who gives something back. At the moment writing is all a one-way street. Marketing doubly-so.
I’d like to get into a writing lifestyle. Cos I tend to binge-write and it’s not healthy.
I’ve started on another book that will stretch my ability to create characters. That’s my greatest flaw as a writer. It’s going to take me a while.
2- How has Autism influenced you as a writer?
This is really what I was alluding to in the previous question - my ability to empathise and relate has been severely stunted. I’ve spent my life concerned about ideas. I have compassion for people. I’ve stepped in when people were dying. Animals too. But I don’t relate to them. That’s changing as I persist with the Autism diet I’m on at the moment. For those who came in late it’s called GAPS, or FODMAPS (the more extreme version) and there’s little research, but tremendous allegorical evidence of its efficacy. If you search for GAPS on Youtube or Autism/Asperger forums you’ll quickly discover what I mean.
3- Would you please give an example of what makes you more liberal or more conservative?
Just as an aside, the conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal party. And I notice a lot of Liberals in North America these days are defining themselves as Classical Liberal or anti-Progressive. I’ve always found those labels irrelevant.
I’m a Gelato Centrist. I don’t care what flavour you are as long as you can hold a conversation and cede some ground to reason from time to time. That’s all we need for a perfect society. We already live in utopia, it’s just that several people don’t realise it.
A good example is this interview between Dave Rubin and Glenn Beck:
Like Rubin, I believe in the conversation. To me conversations about issues are more important than what side you take. A side is almost animalistic. A defensive reaction to perceived threat. You see this a lot with the current climate surrounding refugees on one hand, and the rise of the Right on the other. The reactions to these on the corresponding side are typical of frightened animals. The fear is real, but often they fail to prove the threat is equal to their reaction.
And that’s bad politics, it leaves you open to ridicule and ultimately being dismissed from further engagement. Over-reacting, as so many people do on social media, leads to ghettoisation. The other side simply ignores you and you retreat to your irrelevant echo chamber and remain useless in the real world. Only to emerge some time later and discover to your horror that the world has moved on without you. This culture shock is what we’re living through at the moment. The Left is waking up to reality, to the consequences of their actions, of straying from their own noble ideals. Even the Guardian, the Guardian! Today it published this:
If the Guardian are finally acknowledging what everyone else has been saying forever, if even they can get their head out of the ideological sand and remember The Working Class - if they understand Trump finally - that means they know what trouble the Left is in. The Left has lost the moral high ground.
So you could say I’m a Liberal. Like Sargon of Akkad and others wanting to bring the Left back to the centre. I want the Left to re-engage in the good fight for the underclass, for Liberty and all that.
Honestly, the people I identify with most are Catholics. Because they are the ones taking on the big issues and whether you agree or not, you have to admire their principles and courage. I’m a Catholic Liberal. But it’s ok, I have no character to assassinate and no career to sabotage, so I can afford to say things like that. Because that’s the world we live in.
Here’s Sargon talking about that world and The Skeptic community:
4- Who is currently your biggest fan and what does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
My wife was an early detractor. Three years ago when I finished the novel, which she’d been tirelessly editing, she pretty much dismissed it. It was the character development, which I agree with.
But now, after many books have gone under the bridge on her side and she’s become a competent translator and editor in her own right - now she is my biggest fan. Perhaps it’s just a book you need to read twice. It should be twice as long, but at the time I was severely ‘autistic’; I did the best I could. And still now I would struggle to do much better. I envy writers whose first novel is perfect. But in my case I have drawn uncommon wisdom from the startup field.
Here are two useful quotes::
“Fail early, and fail often”
“If your first draft doesn’t embarrass you, you’ve launched too late.”
I won’t be forgiven for being a Moderate, but I might be forgiven for being an amateur.
5- What does your Twitter handle 0rWouldUrather mean or where did it come from?
I wish I knew. I think it comes from a song that a guy in my high school physics class made up, it’s a parody of something:
“...or would you rather be a fish?
A fish is an animal
With big fuzzy feet
It eats pineapples
With it’s beak..
So if you can’t tell
A big pond
From a dish
To be a fish.”
Genius. By the way, I don’t know if it was ‘big pond’ or ‘Bigpond’ which is a broadband provider in Australia.
(*Interviewer Note: I solved some of this mystery for Ash.)
6- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?#
I think it still needs improving. But starting to overcome autism is the one thing I can say helped. Which means putting your health first.
There was a study of entrepreneurs (I can’t remember the citation) that showed the most important element of success was personal health, putting that first. Every entrepreneur has some crazy, eccentric health routine they swear by. And they’re all different.
7- Does #RRBC stand for (https://twitter.com/rave_reviewsbc) Rave Reviews Book Club? If so, where do you review your books at?
Your research is correct, it’s Rave Reviews. I’ve joined as an author and so far I have been very slack with Goodreads. Or rather so overwhelmed with Twitter and everything else involved in launching that I haven’t really developed a routine with Goodreads yet. I’m also having trouble with the site, so I need to get on that.
I’ve done a few reviews on Amazon and I’m thinking of perhaps doing a few more. I’m not a great reader so I’m not really the best person for the job, though as a writer I understand the tremendous demand.
If I did review regularly, I’d like to focus on stuff like ‘The Leshy’ by NC Stow. You can read my review here.
And poetry and perhaps well-written essays. Basically the stuff no-one else wants to read. Rather like my book.
8- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?
The nearest thing that comes to mind is Poe's Law. Perhaps there’s a better category for things that I can’t tell whether they are a parody or the real thing.
When I started The Jealous Flock I used to be a bit like that. I was never a progressive, because for one I’m not American so the term means nothing to me, but also I’m not a joiner or a populist. I’d heard of people ‘fighting racism’ online and I’d heard of ‘elevatorgate’ and I took them at their word. I assumed it was true.
I think the first facadal fissure began to occur when I saw an interview with one of these anti-racist crusaders (self described) on SBS, which I used to watch a lot. The thing that caught my attention was a picture of Gene Wilder, the American actor in his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory garb. It’s one of my favourite films, so I was interested right away. I didn’t know what memes were at the time, and I didn’t care about Facebook, but I couldn’t quite make the connections between racism and Gene Wilder. Nor Willy Wonka for that matter. Perhaps the Oompa Loompas were typecast and that was the issue. I couldn’t figure it out.
I think the camera actually showed a glimpse of one of the memes, and it was Willy Wonka saying something like, ‘So tell me again how white people are all racist.’ And I thought, that’s funny. That’s really quite funny. And perhaps a year or two passed, and somehow I discovered Sargon and the sceptics. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to memes. And there he was, Willy Wonka saying some really funny shit. All over the internet. It was about as un-racist as one can get.
Anyway, back to your question. I basically took home the grand prize. I don’t know how Bingo works, but I definitely won. Plus I added a whole new chart, so I won next week as well.
I am a fan of diversity, but not systemic conspiracy theories. For as one progressive (I believe he’s called Aids Skrillex by the cool kids) put it : "You’re *^cking a white male." And if you know someone in the West at least who’s more underprivileged than me, I will relinquish my bingo takings. Both weeks. I’m that confident.
9- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?
I don’t know. Is this a writing school question? I never went to writing school, but it sounds like a formula. I don’t use those. Or genres. Those people sound mental. I’m mental, so I know the signs.
10- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
I read as little as possible. Especially these days. The book industry is crap, it just churns out things designed to piss me off on purpose, I’m sure of it.
But also I have too many impediments to reading. It’s just too painful. The amount that I have to do in writing and using the internet is way beyond my pain threshold. Adding reading for pleasure is just impossible.
11- How will you measure your publishing performance?
A good question and one I can’t rightly answer. I think the quality of the conversations I have with readers is my honest answer. I’d quite like to make back some of the money I spent on marketing so I feel like less of an idiot, but there’s no guarantee of that. So far it’s not looking good. I’m told if you switch to romance you can clean up in a month, no promotion whatsoever. The demand is off the chart. It’s a woman’s world.
12- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
Desperation and obscurity. No one wanted me. And I wanted this to be the one project I saw through to the end, give it the best chance of life. So ‘self-published’. Which is the industry equivalent of leaving my book on the nature strip and hoping the right person will find it.
13- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I honestly don’t know. But as long as it’s well-thought out they can say what they want. I’m more interested in free thought than free speech. There’s a reason tourrettes is considered an illness.
14- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
No, I think I’ve just about ruined my chances with your audience, but if they want a proper fight they can try to get me banned from Twitter, I hear that’s all the rage these days:
You’d be doing me a favour. I hate Twitter, but I endure it because I’m really trying to make a go of this book. I really would like to eventually talk to people about it, about things that matter. I’m thinking of eventually starting a Youtube/Minds/Facebook video thing where I try to bridge the gap, the gulf rather, between the progressive mindset, actual liberals and other moderates.
The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature