Why I write.
If I could have an artistic wish, it would be to be musical. I love music from punk through to many of today’s acts, but I’m about as melodious as a group of howling cats. The thing about music, is that it’s instant. When you write a novel it takes so long that sometimes you forget what it was you were writing about in the first place. After that you have to wait for people to tell you what they think. That’s a tough one if you wait for a year to hear it’s rubbish. It’s different for music. You can share music right away, and feel the impact it has on an audience. But I guess art is art. Whether you’re Banksy, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, or Ernest Hemmingway, or a child doing a painting, or even me slogging at a laptop, it’s still art. It’s a form of innate expression, a way of interpreting and examining the strangeness and wonder of the world. You see art is everywhere. It’s how you decorate your home, shape a garden, the clothes you wear. It’s a statement that you can’t necessarily articulate in words alone.
For a long time I didn’t think of writing as an art. I was using words already created, rearranging them into an order that makes a point. A bit like Lego. But of course, music does the same thing, only with a predetermined set of notes. I realise now that it’s what you do with those words, those notes that make it magical. Like life I guess: it’s what you make of it.
I write fiction probably to hide the fact that I don’t know enough about one single subject to write a definitive text book. Unless it was on motorbikes, and there are thousands of those. Fiction though does have a role in conveying facts. People want to be entertained, carried along by a story. Why not. In that story though, it is possible to talk about things that people ordinarily wouldn’t show interest if it were on the news. My last book ‘Bread for the Bourgeoisie’ uses the back story of human trafficking and corruption wrapped up as a thriller. It is about the lengths that people will go to protect their family and their loved ones. It is in part a love story, but I hope brings across the message that these things happen not so far from our own families and homes, and they are horrific.
Fiction therefore has a job to do in telling not just stories, but within them, facts that we might not otherwise face. Not an easy job. Bernard Schlink the German writer does it brilliantly in his book- ‘The Reader’. The story focuses on the relationship between a young boy and an older woman who once worked as a guard in one of the Nazi concentration camps. It doesn’t dilute the gravity of what happened, but it does prompt the reader to think about the holocaust from other perspectives, whether it rests easy or not. Another is ‘The Road’ by Cormack McCarthy. It is the story of a young boy and his father making their way across post-apocalyptic America. The story is harrowing, but nevertheless it galvanises the truth about parental love, and moral dilemmas that hopefully we will never have to face, unlike many people in the world who do so on a daily basis. In short, fiction from around the world can provide if we want it, a worldview. It can get inside the reader’s head and sometimes if we are lucky, change the way they see the world for the better.