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Interview James Lovegrove VO

Interview James Lovegrove VO

Actusf : How came the main idea for Gig, a story about a rock band and one of its fans?  
James Lovegrove : I was in a band myself from the age of 18 to 22. We weren't very good but we had fun while we were together, recording and performing (I still compose, but only on the keyboard in my office and it's not intended for anyone else's ears!). I guess Gig is my way of turning my fantasy of being a rock megastar into a reality, making something out of the dream I had of being rich and famous and touring the world and pulling groupies. Also, I've always wanted to write a "rock novel", because everyone says it can't be done, or at least it has never been done well, and I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I like a challenge.  

Actusf : And the idea of giving a palindromic form to the two novellas forming the novel?  
James Lovegrove : The idea of a palindromic novel came to me after I'd been reading a lot of Georges Perec, as you might be able to guess. The thing about Perec and all of the Oulipo gang is that they had great concepts but didn't always manage to make readable books out of them. Also, I'd just published a novel, Provender Gleed, that was based around anagrams, so I was looking around for another way of creating a book based on wordplay. I'm a fan of cryptic crosswords, and have even set a few of them for the Independent newspaper, and in general I love puns and word games. Then, a short while earlier, a novella of mine, How The Other Half Lives -- which Bragelonne published in their Faux Reveur anthology -- had been republished in a flip-book format along with a Graham Joyce novella. All of these factors fed into the idea of doing two books back to back and writing those two books so that they could be read in either order. It was something that at the time I didn't think anyone else had done, although I later learned that Philip José Farmer did it with a pair of novellas featuring characters very much like Tarzan and Doc Savage (it's a good, fun book). Anyway, once I set myself the challenge of doing this, I just got on with. I was terrifically excited by the whole idea, and worked out the entire plot while I was out on a run in the countryside. Three weeks later, the book was done. 

Actusf : Are you a fan of rock or another music style? Of which bands or singers?
James Lovegrove :  I love rock and pop, although as I get older and crankier I find there's less and less music around that I find original and exciting. A lot of the new stuff that everybody raves about sounds, to my ageing ears, pretty much the same as the old stuff I was listening to when I was a kid. I'm into David Bowie first and foremost (the man is a true genius and his records saw me through adolescence and helped fire my SF imagination), The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon is a brilliant composer, with an amazing voice), eighties electro bands, Prefab Sprout, The Waterboys, Keane, Kate Bush, Kirsty MacColl, a-Ha... Nothing very trendy or cool, just arty rock that has some brain behind it. My favourite new band is a Norwegian group called Black Room.  

Actusf : In Days, you used an alternation between two characters. You go further with Gig because it is a double novel. What is the meaning of this dichotomy that characterizes some of your works?   
James Lovegrove : I've long been fascinated by duality, the two sides of the same coin, the balance of opposites, yin and yang, all that. It's definitely there in Days and in Untied Kingdom, but Gig is, I reckon, my fullest and most direct expression of it. The interest was stoked by reading a lot of Colin Wilson's philosophical and literary-criticism works when I was in my twenties. Wilson with many of these concepts in a straightforward and unusual way, whether discussing the bicameral human brain or likening the twin halves of the conscious and subconscious minds to the partnership of Laurel and Hardy, the one influenced by the other's moods. Plus, as an author I'm always intrigued by how the two mental aspects of my job -- my ideas and my ability to express them -- work together, how I take the raw stuff of a story-concept and turn it into words.  

Actusf : Do we may read Mik or Kim first?  
James Lovegrove : You may read them in any order you like. The book was expressly designed that way. There is no "right" or "wrong" way. I even wrote both halves simultaneously, alternating a chapter at a time, so that I wouldn't favour one of them over the other or feel that one was the proper story and the other the back-up. It's interesting, because everyone who's read the book says he/she feels that the order he/she read the two halves in was the correct one. The whole point is that the two halves are complementary, while at the same time each half tells a rounded, complete tale that could stand on its own.   

Actusf : As well in Days, United Kingdom or Gig, you say a dark future waits us. Is the no hope for our society?
James Lovegrove : Not much, I'm afraid. I'd like to feel more cheerful about the future, and sometimes I almost am, and I'm also coming to appreciate the need for, and value of, positive thinking. Positivity can change you, and the world, for the better. But that said, I fear that it's too late for the human race. There are too many of us, and not enough in the way of resources, and greed and acquisitiveness and self-interest are such ingrained habits that we're not likely to be able to change them, at least not in time to save ourselves and pull the planet back from the brink of destruction. As a species, we're just too successful at ruining our environment and killing one another for our own good. I'd like to be pleasantly surprised, though. That's what's so satisfying about being a pessimist. If you expect the worst all the time, you can never be disappointed.   

: In France, Gig has been published by a small editor, Griffe d’Encre. Have you ever work with this kind of structure before in UK?
James Lovegrove :  How The Other Half Lives, not to mention Gig itself, were both originally published in the UK by a small-press outfit, PS Publishing. I'm very happy to work with such companies as they almost invariably produce beautiful-looking books. They take time over the product, which the larger companies can't always afford to do, and they take care over the tiny details as well. Yes, the money isn't great, but such publishers are prepared to take risks on books that are not commercial and are sometimes even completely mad! The small-press industry is precious and valuable and should be supported, especially in these days when most publishing houses are chasing after a quick buck, turning out awful books by awful writers (many of them celebrities who barely know how to switch on a word processor) and desperately trying to copy whatever has just been a bestseller. They can't care about originality or craft any more. The profit margins on those are too narrow.   

Actusf : What are the projects you are working on?
James Lovegrove :
I'm currently writing the follow-up to The Age Of Ra, which has just been published in the UK and the States and is doing rather well for itself both in terms of sales and reviews. The follow-up is called The Age Of Zeus and is a cross between The Dirty Dozen and a superhero comic, with Greek gods thrown in. I'm nearly at the end of that, and the third and final book in this trilogy, The Age Of Odin, is up next. At the beginning of this year, however, I wrote a book specifically for the French market, commissioned by Bragelonne and due to be published next year. It's called BetterLife (although I'm not sure if that will be its French title) and it's a satire about reality television as well as a meditation on the nature of luck and celebrity. It's the closest thing to Days that I've written in a long while, with a similar combination of near-future social commentary and bizarre action plot.

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