By E.R. McTaggart
To celebrate the publication of our new book, Heathers, we profile a number of the writers involved in the project. Today, Ben Brown, author of “Talent”.
Brian Willis is a bastard, the scratched-in, biroed-over table graffiti claims and, deep down inside, he’d probably agree.
~ Opening sentence of “Talent” by Ben Brown
Your story, ten words or less.
Angry girl gets intellectual revenge on preening peacock boy; backfires.
Sounds like a good one. Let’s hear about you: three places and spaces that changed you and made you.
The Gower peninsula in Wales is simply my favourite place on earth. I’ve been going there a couple of holidays a year my whole life and spent two years living very close to it. I think its landscape – all winding rivers, vast sandy beaches bordered by green mountains helped shape my imagination growing up.
I walked across Spain on the Camino de Santiago for 32 days from the French border to Santiago de Compostella. It’s an amazing thing to spend so long doing one focused action and a good way to let your mind wander as you do.
I could also add other beautiful places I’ve visited, my wife and I did the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu on our honeymoon, but I think more significant for me is simply having my own home, my own space to live and write. After living for the last seven years in the centre of Barcelona we recently moved to the countryside in the north of Spain and it feels amazing to have so much space of our own.
I’m planning my next vacations based on those recommendations. Now, on writing: what got you started, when will you stop, and what is happening in between?
As a child my parents really encouraged my brothers and I to be creative – to the point that our mother would drag us along to activities of every kind from dance and drama to creative writing and art exhibitions. Writing was always something I enjoyed but I started trying to write my first book on New Year’s Eve 1999. Everyone was sick with flu and so, instead of going to a party as I’d planned, I stayed alone in my room (probably feeling very sorry for myself as I was still a teenager) and started writing.
Since then I’ve done a Masters in Creative Writing and, more or less written a book a year. Hopefully each one is better than the last and I learn and improve all the time. One of the reasons I moved to Spain was to have time to write alongside my job as an English teacher so, assuming eventual parenthood and full-time work don’t get in the way too much, I can’t imagine ever stopping writing.
A book a year? Do you keep them? On that note, imagine that your house burns down and, in a moment of horrifically poor prioritisation, you save your books. As it so happens, your house is in the remotest part of The Serengeti where they have no bookstores. What five books were in your house, that you were so desperate to save, and will now accompany you as you make the long trek back to civilisation? Keeping in mind, of course, that you may not survive.
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – because it’s simply an incredibly real and beautiful novel.
- Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – The funniest book I’ve ever read and one of the reasons I (try to) write comic fiction.
- Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – The book I normally claim to be my favourite and the one book I reread regularly. His technique as a writer is astounding and reading this book helps to remind me not to give up on things, especially my writing. It’s also the saddest book I’ve ever read and deserves a far wider audience.
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – A divisive book but a real work of genius and I love it. Plus it’s really long so it would keep me entertained on my way back to civilisation.
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. My twin loves are literature and music and this book is practically a song in itself. I hope it is a future classic as it deserves to be. An incredible discussion of love, music, personal responsibility, the environment, relationships and humanity. I hope to one day write something with such epic goals.
This isn’t your first rodeo, but how have you found the Pankhearst Process?
Y’all are lovely people and incredibly easy to work with. Except that Lucy Middlemass girl, she’s tough.
Is this your work email, Puppyface27?
Totally, though I’ve had it since I was thirteen and it’s too late to change it now. And no, I didn’t choose it myself.
You inherit 5 million dollars the same day aliens land on the earth and say they’re going to blow it up in 2 days. What do you do?
Urmmm… bribe the aliens not to? Failing that I guess, in the unlikely scenario that I’m the only person who knew and airlines and the like were still functioning, I’d pick up my loved ones from around the world and get them altogether to see them one last time and tell them I’m splitting all the money with them. Think how happy they’d be, and then boom! Game over.