Monday, 21 May 2012

Words with: David Antrobus

Thanks to David Antrobus, author of Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip,
for this interview. Happy reading!

What is your day job or are you lucky enough to write for a living?

My day job is editing, but it is very feast-or-famine, and can only end in complete and utter disaster unless something changes.

What books have you written so far?

Just the one: Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip.

What works in progress do you have?

Its sequel – a ten-year anniversary account of my return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. 

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

Way, way too long. Everything I write takes way, way too long. If the rest of my life moved as slow, I’d still be, like, eleven or something.

Do you write linear, or jump back and forth? Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants? 

Mostly by the seat of my pants and jumping around, which makes me sound like a hyperactive child, which kind of works with my last answer.

Why do you write? 
To repay a debt with something awful that visited me when I was a child. You know, I’m gonna let that answer stand as it has the creepy ring of truth.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was probably around… ha, eleven! Not even kidding.

Where and when do you write? Do you have set times?

No, but I ought to. I need to. I get caught up in the peripheral stuff – the marketing, promotion and social networking we’re urged to do, as independent writers – and writing takes a back seat far too often. I am working on tweaking that ratio. No, not tweaking it; slapping it around, making it mad, getting a reaction, wrestling for a while until the glow from the great make-up sex helps me rediscover a better balance. Uh, what?

Which character from your books do you like most / are most like? 
I have a dark fantasy novel that I swear will be awesome if I could only ever get to it, to even think about completing it. Anyway, not that he’s like me in many ways – some, perhaps. But the protagonist – a 16-year-old (not eleven!) kid – is one of my favourite characters I’ve ever generated.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

Other writers and my mom. I’m being serious, too. My mother is a reader, has been all her life, and gave me both source material and then encouragement with my own writing. That latest edition of the Pan Book of Horror she strategically left in my room after she’d read it was my first introduction to the genre I love the most.

Other sources of inspiration, probably too numerous to mention (and I always leave authors out and kick myself mercilessly and violently afterward): Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Ian McEwan, Ted Hughes, William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Clive Barker, John Farris, Peter Straub, Dan Simmons, Milan Kundera, Sylvia Plath, Cormac McCarthy, Andrew Vachss, Louise Erdrich, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Roberto BolaƱo…

What do you think is the ideal recipe for a good novel or story?

Disturbing, odd, equal parts character- and atmosphere-driven, with a poetic sensibility, yet not too flowery. That treats language as something physical or musical. That can go in deep and pull out emotions I’d not thought reachable by any story. Something both disquieting and enchanting, with identifiable yet un-stereotypical characters. I don’t ask a lot, do I?

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? And did you tell them?

Really, I think they all are, but honestly, that process is subconscious for me, so I’m not able to tell them as I don’t actually know myself.

Fave things: animal? food? drink? film? colour? band? song? place? item of clothing?

Wolf; Italian; Mulholland Drive (today, at least); something dark or autumnal; New Order (today, at least); Uptown Top Ranking by Althea and Donna (today, at least); English Bay in Vancouver; and an old T-shirt, long gone to wherever T-shirts go to die, which read ‘One day, something snapped… and I liked it’.

When you were a kid, what did you want to do/who did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be Spiderman. And I also wanted to be the first astronaut on Mars. Hey, have Marvel Comics come up with that one yet? Spiderman on Mars!

Would you say that your dreams have come true or are you still working on them?

Still working on them. Actually, I kind of accepted I wouldn’t be Spiderman pretty much ever (okay, alright, never, way to rub my face in it), and the Mars thing is probably a wash, too. I guess it’s theoretically possible, but I’d have to get in shape way more than I am and my mental faculties have probably deteriorated a lot… but if you’re reading this, NASA… *waves*

You’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

Wow, that was strange; I swear I didn’t read ahead! 
Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Stand by Stephen King
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Saturday by Ian McEwan
I cheated, I know. But I figure a Martian, with a different physiological and evolutionary path, may well use an alternative counting system due to a different array of digits, so I could probably sneak six past him or her.

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

There are too many, way too many. If I start to answer, I’ll be here for hours! Maybe I’ll think about this and write a blog post based on this one question alone. I will say the very first character that popped into my sorry mind was Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, which is kind of interesting in that she’s young, female, southern and likeable; everything I’m not, really.

Who is your hero/heroine? 
No one. I don’t mean that in an arrogant sense. Just that we’re all flawed, even the well-known icons, and for me the people most deserving of being called heroic are generally the unheralded and unknown – those working with addicts in the Downtown East Side area of Vancouver, for example, who show up for work in an extremely stressful environment, get paid very little in a comparative sense, and are not armed or in any way able to protect themselves physically other than by using their compassion and people skills to actually connect with and engage a volatile and hurting population. I mean, it’s a lot easier when you’re packing, you know? Those 6 o’clock news stories of ‘hero’ soldiers or ‘hero’ cops really ring hollow to me that way. Wow, I got all serious there, for a minute, didn’t I?

Which book do you wish you had written?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Such a simple premise, so heartbreaking, so lyrical and so bleak, yet not entirely.

Which three authors would you like to take to the pub?

Shakespeare. Because how cool would that be, showing up at your local with the actual Bard, the original alpha dog himself?
Dorothy Parker. Because she was raunchy and funny, and completely irreverent.
Hunter S. Thompson. Because his addition would now complete the wildest of wild parties. It would be a riot, perhaps even literally. I would buy plenty of alcohol and take lots of notes and photos.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience?

Self-published. The extraneous stuff is hard. The mechanics of self-publishing itself were relatively easy, a bit of a learning curve but doable, but the subsequent promotional work is all-consuming, exhausting and not all that enjoyable. Except for one important aspect: meeting and befriending fellow writers turns out to be a happy corollary to the otherwise tedious and unsatisfying business of selling oneself on the indie writer’s low track stroll. Not johns, but fellow whores, in a sense. Maybe that explains the camaraderie. Who knows?

How do you find the marketing experience?

Ha, see previous answer.

What advice would you give other writers just starting out?  

Write for you and for no one else, and learn the business yet avoid being consumed by it all. It can be overwhelming, but if you are good and you leave time for the writing itself, you will be okay.

Do you have a blog? What do you blog about?

I do. It’s called The Migrant Type and can be found at It’s probably my fourth or fifth blog, and I really want to maintain this one and nurture it, and help it find a niche in the world of writing blogs over the long haul. It’s almost entirely about the world of writing and features reviews, short fiction and my occasional musings about some aspect of books or other. It has yet to find its feet, and tends to lurch back and forth a little jarringly at this point, but I hope to continue building it, and attracting thoughtful and interesting followers.

What other hobbies do you have?

Music, music, music; both to listen to and to play on my guitar… at which I am relatively talentless yet enjoy anyway, even to the point of risking eviction by occasionally employing a singing voice that sounds more like it belongs somewhere within the genus Corvus (Google it) than in a human throat.

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I want people to read my books. I want to become more prolific. I want that to translate into greater sales so I can at the very least supplement the editing work I do, if not surpass it. I don’t tend to attract money –having worked with abused kids in a previous career and done odd jobs like delivering the mail, cleaning up tables at a Butlins holiday camp (oh, I have stories) and stacking shelves in a grocery store – but if, as appears likely, I have to support myself beyond retirement age one day, why not figure out how to do this now so it can save my sorry ass then?

If you won the Lotto or a major publishing contract, what would you do with that dosh?

Breathe a sigh of relief, help out some people close to me who also need it, and then keep doing what I’m doing.

Complete one of these stories in 100 words or less… 

Choice 2. In the deep and darkest reaches of the dank forest...
…something unnatural thrived. Countless centuries it had squatted there, gathering the bile and hatred of generations, feeding on the worst excesses of humankind. Soon, it would be ready. To burst from its underground lair like a blighted fungus dripping infection onto the surrounding villages, bringing ruin to the towns and then the cities… but there was one thing of which it was unaware: whatever cosmic event had birthed it, to settle into the mulch of the world in its youth, had also let fall another, a twin of sorts, that itself pulsed in a nearby mountain cave, absorbing the good and kind deeds of those same men and women, that would stand as the other’s antithesis, allowing a final hope; a foil for the coming apocalypse.
(I would title that one Our Choice.)

What question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

I wish you’d asked ‘What question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?”’
And the answer would be: this one. Whoa.


Editing service:

Website and author pages:

Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip:


  1. Enjoy your interview style so much, Vixie! And David Antrobus, I like your writing style! Going to check out your book!

  2. Really enjoyed reading your interview. You've a great sense of humor!

  3. Great stuff guys, though personally I'd be afraid to go to a pub with Hunter Thompson. That sounds like the kind of night after which you wake up in Guatamala, no matter what continent you started on. ;-)

    1. Yeah with some strange fruit poking out from somewhere!
      Thanks for reading ;)

  4. In Guatemala with something inexplicable and unsettling hanging around your neck, too. Yeah, good point, Ed.

    Just want to repeat what a fun interview this was to do. Great questions and sort of weird how my answers flowed with later questions as I *swear* I didn't plan or read ahead. Now something significant will happen in my life involving the number 11 and the planet Mars.

    Thanks for the comments, but special thanks to Vickie.

    1. Thanks David!
      Although your answer to 'why do you write?' has me flummoxed - I need to know more !
      I also love The Road - I read it after watching the film, and it's great. It's even more grim that the film and does get you thinking. His books are superb.

    2. Yes! I love his writing style and I swing between seething with envy and pure gobsmacked admiration whenever I read one of his books.


Thanks for commenting - have a groovy day! :)