Friday, 22 March 2013

Getting Lost With Clive Scully: Part I

CLIVE SCULLY is a journalist with lady fingers, but he's a good guy.  He has sat down with me over the last few weekends to poke holes in my inferiority/delusional narcissism complex and get to grips with writing, fears and why all I want to do it get lost.

CS: You’ve written a very unpopular book…
DL: Thanks Clive, you’re a lovely man…
CS: Ok, so unpopular isn’t the right word.  How about unmainstream?
DL: Is unmainstream a word?
CS: Would you prefer if we stuck with unpopular?
DL: Unmainstream it is.
CS: You’ve written a very unmainstream book.  Why don’t you tell us what Lost Angeles is about?
[Clive pours a drink]
DL: It’s about a drunk.  He’s beaten down by life, been dealt a few shitty hands and he’s gone off to Los Angeles to…well to kill himself.
CS: Sounds fun.
DL: It’s cheerier than it sounds.  When you’re at the bottom of a bottle you find humour in places, and a freedom that comes with a conscious decision that you’re no longer going to live by social conventions.  That you’re going to suck every moment of life out of it and enjoy it till it kills you.
CS: You’re clearly a big fan of the beat writers, did you channel any of them in writing Lost Angeles?
DL: I channelled the style.  I like the roman á clef style of writing and when you’re writing from experience it’s not entirely possible to channel another writer but when I was finished I started reading some Bukowski again and I could see a similarity with Women.  I was aiming for a confessional style of narration, one that would perhaps have the reader wonder “what’s he done to get him to this point” and with each confession think “was that it”?  I wanted each chapter to feel like a mile marker on Doug’s journey off the edge.
CS: You spoke of experience, is this all?
DL: No, not all.  Some, but not all.  There’s a lot that's real.  I spent a lot of time living in hostels and it’s interesting to see how people forget the rules of the real world.  After a while they stop applying to anyone with a backpack.  It gets a little wild if you’re in the kind of company that are willing to take the hands off the wheel just to see what happens.  And a lot of the stuff tied into the Belfast and Los Angeles relationships are real but it’s about finding that thread to sew through the narrative to make it one story, and that thread is fiction.
CS: Why this book?
DL: Honestly, I don’t know.  I never intended to write it, it just happened.  Suddenly forty thousand words were eyeing me from the typer and I wondered how much work it would take to finish it.  So I did.
CS: How’s it doing?
DL: Well it’s unmainstream as you said.
CS: I did.
DL: …and I’m a little too lazy to be ambitious so it’s not doing great.  I mean it was never going to be a book that would sit at the top of best seller lists, it’s doing ok in recent months.  I’ve been a little gun shy of late and haven’t been pushing it in ways that I probably should but that’s on me.
CS: Why haven’t you been pushing it?
DL: I don’t know.  I’m hyper critical and I’ve got this guilt…
CS: What guilt’s that?
[Clive pours a drink]
CS: Do you want one?
DL: Three fingers, let’s make it deep enough to paddle in.
CS: So what guilt’s that then?
DL: The part of Belfast I come from is very working class, very old fashioned.  You leave school, you get a “real” job that’s about punching a clock twenty times a week and don’t give a second thought to all that “artsy-fartsy” shite.  It was something that was drilled into me, and it’s caused a lot of guilt in me, a lot of guilt I can’t really quantify.  There’s a shame to wanting to do something artistic, and I find myself hiding away.
CS: Why do you think that is?
DL: Bad heritage Clive.  A lot of people in that area are forced to push the real self down and it shows by the amount of suicides that take place in those streets.  I know it’s bullshit but it keeps coming back.
CS: So why bother writing if it’s doing that kind of stuff to you?
DL: Because if I don’t, if I don’t I get a little crazy, and depressed, and on edge.  It’s something that I love but can’t love in public.  A sordid little dream.
CS: That’s a lot of conflict.
DL: You’re not wrong.
CS: So what’s this all about then?
DL: What?
CS: Me and you, and this.
DL: I’m trying, I’m pushing myself to be a little more confident in what I can do.  I’m growing as a person Clive.
CS: So do you think you’ll pull the finger out and start pushing Lost Angeles?
DL: I will, I will.  I’m writing at the moment, but I will.  There are a few people currently reading it on GoodReads and the reviews coming back have all been positive so I think I’m going to need to.
CS: Looking forward to seeing it.
DL: Me too.  When I was being proactive a bookstore had agreed to pick it up.  I liked the idea of seeing it on shelves, representing the Ls of literature.
CS: And then you bottled it.
DL: Epic amounts of bottling.
CS: You’re a little fragile aren’t you?!
DL: I’m a god-damn child Clive.
CS: So what’s the new thing you’re writing?
DL: It ties in perfectly to the bullshit we’ve been talking about.  Working class guilt, writing aspirations and bad heritage.  I’m naming a character in it after you.
CS: So another unmainstream offering then.
DL: I prefer to think of it as unpopular.
CS: I’ll drink to that.