J F Derry is one of our Unbound authors who is in the funding stage for The Dissent of Man - a book that will explore the influence of Darwin on everyone: atheists, Christians, biologists, entrepreneurs and many more.
We recently chatted to him about his reading and writing habits:
What is your favourite book and why?
As much as I try to substitute another, it remains Animal Farm, ably defending top position since my childhood. I’ve probably only read it in its entirety once since then, but I know the story and characters inside out, and even without repeated readings, I continue to better understand the allegory Orwell constructed: his insights seem to emerge as teachings from our everyday life, an education in humanity. As a writer, I am jealous of Orwell’s ability, which understandably qualifies it as my favourite because it is also the book that I would most liked to have written.
Who is your favourite author and why? Which book of theirs would you recommend someone reads?
I’ve ‘found’ William Golding recently. I read Lord of the Flies to my eldest daughter a few years ago and on the back of his beautiful prose, decided to read his other books. I would recommend, and do so frequently, Pincher Martin, which is fairly difficult to do, and has to be somewhat a matter of trust, as describing too much of the plot gives it away. Suffice to say that the writing is jaw-droppingly brilliant, and there is no other with such mastery of the language. Stunning and an immediate top 5 read. I also spending a lot of time with David Foster Wallace at present. Such a way with words.
Is there a book that you feel changed your outlook on life?
It’s a book by me; I’m not being immodest here, although it is quite well written, even though I say so myself. Writing Serial Killers however was so fraught with horror that I haven’t been the same since. Three months of nightmares and the most horrendous crime scenes etched into my memory has fused something in my brain. I’m only just now getting over it, and continue with the healing process; probably why I’ve ended up empathising so much with David Foster Wallace. Read Serial Killers by all means to know what people can do to each other and to discover the extremes of humanity. As vile a thought as it is, such things do happen in the real world, all too frequently, and we should be informed about them. Working on this book changed my outlook on life entirely: I am a lot more afraid than previously. Not for the faint-hearted.
Which book would you say is your ‘guilty pleasure’ read and why?
Where’s the guilt in reading? I switch rapidly from writer to writer, genre to genre, from Asterix to Zola. I’ve probably spent too much time on everything written by and about Hunter S Thompson, given his dubious personal views and gun toting habits, but his Gonzo style, acerbic wit and disdain for authority were exemplary. I used to not read much fiction, but I kick-started a return a few years back by embarking on all of Ian Rankin’s books; I’m about half-way. It wouldn’t be right to call them low-brow, but I guess that’s as mainstream as I get.
Where do you write your book?
We’ve just moved and the dust, (actual real, not metaphorical, but the dirty and clogging, cobweb-clingy type), is just about settling. I’ve throw up some pictures on the wall, pride of place is Unbounder Adrian Teal’s caricature of Unbounder Terry Jones, signed by both, of course.
Please describe your typical day writing and your top tip for getting into the flow.
My flow has been broken by moving, but it’s generally hell-for-leather to meet a deadline. I’m hoping to have more civilised and relaxed working hours in the future.
Do you listen to music as you write, and what do you recommend to aspiring writers to listen to for motivation / inspiration?
It has to be instrumental, although non-English opera (Mozart, Wagner, Bach) works for me because my grasp of other languages is so poor: English is challenge enough! I’ve just ‘discovered’ Joseph Martin Kraus who is incredible and like unearthing another Mozart. Lots of jazz is good too but not too discordant when writing: an unobtrusive, familiar melody. However, I have found my capacity to work to anything has diminished with age.
The Dissent of Man is now 51% funded and by pledging your support you can help make his excellent idea into a beautiful book.