Lookout everyone. Literati incoming!
Time once more, clutching decadent mini lobster roll in one hand and trusty **Tequila Mockingbird cocktail in the other, to hobnob with the ridiculously talented creme de la creme of the literary world. And exactly where, you may ask, are the household names? They’re here, it’s just I’ve caught them on the up before the outrageous-success/blistering-sales-figures-train has fully left the station. It’s more interesting that way, anyway. Today we’re meeting Brisbane-raised, Melbourne-based author Iain Ryan.
As someone who’s written both flash fiction and full length novels, what would be your advice to an Usain Bolt-type track sprinter (analogously speaking) who dreams of one day running a full marathon? I heard the Sydney novelist Caroline Overington www.carolineoverington.com respond to a similar question and say that one approach might be for the would–be 80 000 word novelist to think of the task as simply composing 80 or so thousand word flash fiction stories that each had some connection. Somehow I have a feeling there might be more to it than that.
That’s not bad advice. If you outline a novel – and I outline mine – they become a long sequence of short pieces. You can tame the idea of the novel as a Herculean task by going about it in this way. The flash fiction I wrote was about keeping a hand in and working on craft. I tried to write three novels and all three of them were failures. Despite the ongoing failure, I wanted to keep writing. Figuring I couldn’t write novels, I was fishing around for some sort of alternate organising structure for my writing and stumbled upon flash. I wrote a story a day, five days a week, until I had a hundred. Through flash, I eventually built up a repertoire of things I felt comfortable enough writing and took that into my first novel.
Your most recently published novel THE STUDENT has been described as gritty, ‘regional noir’ and is set back in the year 1994 amidst the semi-rural town of Gatton (86km west of Brisbane). Have you been happy with its sales since from back in July last year when it was released? (Are you even aware of its sales figures and if you are aware how do you come by this information?)
Publishers send their authors sales reports. THE STUDENT has sold better than anything else I’ve written but I’m a long way from giving up my day job.
Genre-wise, The Student can be considered a ‘Campus novel’ as it is set around a university campus. Have you read or are you familiar with any of these other campus novels?
I’ve read the Wonder Boys. The main two influences for THE STUDENT – in terms of campus novels – are THE SECRET HISTORY by Donna Tartt and THE RULES OF ATTRACTION by Bret Easton Ellis.
Your next novel THE BARBARIAN, which you are currently writing, is also a campus novel. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
It could be called something else by the time it’s published, if it’s published. I’m not under contract for another book at the moment. It’s a book set in Brisbane, 10 years after THE STUDENT. I’m no good when it comes to talking about the themes of my books – I often don’t really know why I’m writing a particular story – but in brief, THE BARBARIAN is about a researcher who investigates the disappearance of a series of students on campus.
You obtained your PhD at the University of Queensland examining ideology in rock music. You currently live in Melbourne and work as a music lecturer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. You’ve also played bass guitar in a number of bands. For the fun of it, last year I compiled a list of my Top 50 all-time favourite songs HERE Could you list a half dozen or so songs (from any era) that would make your ‘Favourites’ list.
Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones
Zero by The Smashing Pumpkins
Theory of Machines by Ben Frost
The Diamond Sea by Sonic Youth
Loose by The Stooges
I Know by Helmet
Lastly, would you class yourself as a late-night, early morning or ‘anytime’ writer.
Early morning for sure. I have a young daughter so my mornings are a mess at the moment but given a choice, I will always opt for working first thing in the morning.