Back story: Last week To Hell with Publishing held a very cuddly David Vann reading event, which I wrote up here (and didn’t at all brag about Florence Welch being there and stealing one of my event posters). Bloggers, writers, and publishing folk filled their little shop and I parked myself conveniently near the tub of free Becks, handing them out like I owned the place and keeping an eye out for people I thought I recognized from the internet – first-time meet ‘n greets included kimbofo, Savidge Reads, dovegreyreader, Evie Wyld, and Stuart Evers. One of my networkees was Gavin James Bower, a stone-cold ex-model fox and author of Dazed and Aroused and Made in Britain. We chatted for approximately 60 seconds but made a deal to take our burgeoning friendship to the next level with a gmail chat, which he’s reproduced in full here.
The next day, Emma Young sort of jokingly (sort of not) came up with The Twitsbury Set, a young people literary circle jerk. Why not?
Not surprisingly, Gavin and I are both interested in the idea of how important networking is for young authors, publishing people, etc, in this scrappy little industry. I don’t even think we need to be too cynical about it – finding like-minded people who may (or may not) help you out down the road, encourage you to do something interesting, or foster new ideas, more than makes up for a few awkward moments at a party. Do I sound too crunchy granola?
Here are my highlights from our chat today:
On writer’s pets…
me: Am I right in thinking you’re too cool and cosmopolitan to own a pet?
Gavin: i think owning pets is cruel. eating them on the other hand… i did once have a cat, called top cat – or ‘tc’ for short. i like cats. but i couldn’t eat a whole one
On writers who don’t get around…
me: Do you feel like you know a lot of the young writers in London? Is there a sort of supportive community?
Gavin: probably not. i only know a few young writers in london – the ones who, like me, get around a bit – but i imagine there are plenty sitting at home, just…oh i don’t know…writing…or something
me: Just writing! How passé.
Gavin: i know! not on twitter, not in a clique – not even trending. if i ever see one of them i’ll shout ‘where’s your hashtag gone?’ in football chant style. they won’t get it, of course…
me: It’s all fun and games until some no-friends writer wins an award!
Writing is easy, everything else is hard…
me: How much of your time do you actually spend writing? Is it something you have to consciously set aside time for, or is it more haphazard?
Gavin: if you don’t count blogging, twittering…and, um, texting – which i’m assuming you won’t – i don’t spend a lot of time writing at all. i seem to be always writing, insofar as working on a project like a novel or screenplay, say, but the actual stream of consciousness writing thing comes quite naturally and takes up very little time. it’s the planning beforehand, the note-taking and the procrastinating, and then the editing afterwards that takes up the real time. and that’s forgetting the self-promotion that goes with it, which takes up more time than everything else combined
me: I think that sounds promising though. Way too many people say they want to write and never get around to actually giving it a try.
Gavin: my two least favourite ‘types’ to meet at networking events are people who talk about wanting to be a writer without actually having written anything…and close-talkers
me: My least favourite are the ones who don’t smile. Please give me some clue as to whether you hate my guts or not!
On the necessity of self-promotion…
me: Do you think self-promotion is just a part of any writer’s job nowadays?
Gavin: it’s not just a part. it’s THE part. for young writers anyway. unless you can pay a pr company to promote you/your writing, you’ll have to do it. there are exceptions – some big publishers support young writers – but it’s collaborative at best. meaning, a writer can’t just sit and write from an ivory tower and expect to be read and known and liked
i think that puts pressure on writers to be more than writers, and to develop other interests and projects, which is no bad thing
The part where I get all sappy…
Gavin: we’ve established why i go to networking events. (to sell my soul.) what’s a result for you when you go to one?
me: Seeing that the publishing world isn’t quite as scary as I thought, figuring out which aspect of it I’d really like to be involved in, and being around writers. I think it makes me more creative by association or something.
Gavin: i like that
me: Book blogging and going to book parties has also sort of gotten me back to my reading roots. What do I REALLY enjoy, what makes some books amazing and some books just ok (and if others loved it, why?)
Gavin: i sometimes hang round outside gyms, to get buffer by association. so you’re trying to find yourself at book parties? how bold
me: Hah, apparently finding myself involves slurring, “I’ll DM you later!” as I stand on a couch and explain the difference between my fancy glasses and my casual glasses.
What he’s reading and whether his favourite books match his own style…
Gavin: for work I’m reading Colin Bacon’s Vivian & I, which is ‘the real Withnail & I’ and due to be published soon. for pleasure I’m trying to read David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide because of all the hype generated by Joe The Publicist Pickering.
i tend to read short novels and radical, single premise-based non-fiction – so yes!
[ed: Then he made some jokes about being the best Gmail chat I’ve ever had. The interview ended on a sour note.]