Interview with David John Griffin
David John Griffin recently submitted a short story for my Halloween event. Since then his novel, ‘The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb’ has been published. I asked David some questions.
I have really been enjoying ‘The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb’. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about your book please.
The first draft of The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb was written over 40 years ago when I was a student at Medway College of Art & Design (as it was called then). It took two years to write the first draft. As it was written on a mechanical typewriter, the second draft meant typing the whole lot out again! No computers, cut & paste, etc., in those days, of course. Over the years, it has undergone another 2 or 3 major revisions, and many minor ones. I’m not sure now where the ideas came from though I was highly influenced in style at the time by Mervyn Peake’s books The Gormenghast Trilogy. The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb has been described by one reviewer as “Dickens with a dose of the psychedelic”. It’s published by Urbane Publications, a dynamic and up-and-coming indie publishing house.
Here is a description:
The turn of the last century and Theodore Stubb’s manor house resides in the quirky village of Muchmarsh. A renowned entomologist, he is often within the attic adding another exotic specimen to his extensive collection of insects. But Theodore is also a master hypnotist, holding the household in thrall to his every whim. Theodore’s daughter-in-law Eleanor – returned from the sanatorium two months before – is a haunted figure, believing that her stillborn child Alastair lives and hides in the shadows. Then she falls pregnant again, but this time by the hypnotic coercion and wicked ravishment of Theodore. A dreadful act begets terrible secrets, and thirteen years later the boy Alastair Stubb begins to lose his identity – it is not long before mystery, intrigue and murder follow gleefully in his wake. The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a gothic terror of the highest order, delivering a dream-like and hallucinatory reading experience that promises to reveal secrets both disturbing and astonishing.
Is this a genre you are particularly interested in?
It’s strange that with The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb I had no thoughts of its genre while writing it. It was only ten years ago or less when a reader described it as gothic. I realized then, oh yes, so it is! Also the aspects of magical realism weren’t consciously added with any thought of “I’ll add magical realism” – I wrote it with the sheer love of creative writing. I’m not sure if I’d ever write another gothic novel. I’ve visited that genre and that’s satisfying enough, I think.
Though I’ve realised that magical realism is important to me and has found its way (and will) into future novels.
I see that you’ve also got a novella out which I’ll be reading soon. Are you planning to write any more?
I enjoyed the novella form very much. The original idea for Two Dogs At The One Dog Inn was for a short story but once I started writing it, I realised it needed more pages than that. Although I learned a lot, in as much as pushing my imagination to the limit then pushing some more, I don’t think I’ll visit the novella form again – though we wait to see. I prefer the novel form (with all its complications and headaches) even over short stories.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m half way through the first draft of a fantasy novel. It’s turning out very strange indeed. Again I’m pushing my imagination – I only hope its not too strange even for my readers! The title of the novel is secret at the moment! I hope to have it finished, final draft, by mid-2016.
Here’s a work in progress description:
Stave Swirler is lost in a nightmarish dream. Or is he? His given mission is to save his Realm before it’s too late. A fantastical journey of strange discovery, in conflict with the malevolent agents of Tremelon Zandar. A surreal and imaginative tale of fantasy and love that will captivate you from beginning to end.
Do you have a favourite place to do your writing?
I write mainly in an upstairs bedroom which I call the studio. I used to compose electronic music and had my own recording studio in a spare room so any creative space now with a computer is called the studio.
I also have a writing desk in the corner of my garden shed where I write, during the summer months, on an iPad. If it gets dark, I light candles so it’s very atmospheric.
Did you always want to be a writer?
From the age of five! I remember way back then, in class at primary school, when the teacher gave us a piece of paper and a pencil each and asked us to write a short story. After I had filled the first page, I went up to the teacher and asked for another sheet of paper. She replied, in a delighted tone, “Another piece of paper?” I must have asked for at least another three sheets and the encouraging remark with a smile was always the same.
I knew I wanted to write. Though towards the end of this first story, my writing became half inch high letters – despite the thirst to write instilled in me then, I was too young to know what I wanted to write about.
At the age of fourteen, I wrote a 100 pages in longhand at my parents’ dinner table, an unusual science fiction story. Reading it recently, I was struck as to how surreal and naive it is! But that’s to be expected, I guess.
Which leads me up to the ‘70’s when I wrote Alastair Stubb at art college, the urge to write strong within me.
Despite that, my second novel wasn’t started until another ten years after, in the mid 80’s. (Called Infinite Rooms, due to be published May next year by Urbane Publications).
How has social media helped you?
Twitter has been the main help – I found my publisher via Twitter and many nice people, all to do with writing mainly. Goodreads and Facebook are fine too and have offered some good contacts and friendships as well.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?
When writing a novel first draft, or even a short story first draft for that matter, keep going from beginning to end without looking back. Don’t read what you’ve typed, don’t correct or revise, just plough on to the end. Revision and correction happen in the 2nd and subsequent drafts.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Walk our two dogs, Bullseye and Jimbo, spending time with my wife Susan, occasionally the cinema or out for a meal. The usual really! I also create apps for the iPad as a hobby.
Who are your favourite authors?
I have many favourite authors, new and old, but I’ll only mention the ones who have had the greatest influence on me and who I have admired and tried to emulate in certain aspects of creative writing: Charles Dickens, Mervyn Peake, Leanora Carrington, Angel Carter, Jorge Louis Borges, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, John Wyndham. I could carry on, but leave it there!
Website – http://davidjohngriffin.com
Twitter – @MagicalRealized