ONE THING FOR ANOTHER

Now that all the dust has settled, so to speak, on my first book, The Ottoman Motel, I have moved on to writing the next one, about which I can only say that it is about a man falling off a mountain (I know, great, right?), but what I want to talk about is the things I’ve come to realise only after answering endless questions about the book. Now over the numerous interviews I’ve done I have tried desperately never to duplicate an answer, preferring instead to reward anyone masochistic enough to read more than one Ottoman Motel interview with at least originality.

What the interviews have given me (apart from a bunch of embarrassing quotes cached forever on various websites) is a really interesting set of themes. As is often the case after I finish a long piece of fiction, the themes that I have been manfully working towards have disappeared, and others seem to emerge quite on their own. In this case, after being forced to actually think about the book (while I wasn’t in the act of writing it), I realised that this book wasn’t about disappearance (despite the conceit about two people disappearing) but instead about replacement.

Recently, while waiting at an airport for a flight, I wandered into a bookshop/newsagent (to first check if they had my book. They didn’t. Thanks, Brisbane airport!) to buy something to read on the plane. What I really wanted was a magazine which told me about the new Assassin’s Creed videogame, but what I bought instead was an issue of Harper’s Magazine. Some $18 later, I had in my hand a barely readable smart person’s magazine, which I was forced to flick through while waiting for the plane to taxi out to the runway. One article, however, took my eye. “Video ergo sum” is based around an interview with the wonderful Oliver Sacks, and deals with “the plasticity of perception”, i.e. the way our often mind often physically and psychologically adjusts itself to what we “see”. This particular quote took my eye:

In the eighteenth century, Swiss scientist Charles Bonnet described certain individuals with a partial loss of vision in which the gaps (holes or scotoma) in their visual fields were filled by so-called Lilliputians—little people, little birds, and little animals. These apparent hallucinations are of neurological origin, and are fundamentally a manifestation of the same perceptual function all human brains perform: the invention of a stable environment. (Israel Rosenfield, Video Ergo Sum: Oliver Sacks and the Plasticity of Perception, Harper’s Magazine, April, 2011, p. 82)

In The Ottoman Motel, one of the main things I wanted to explore was not “What has happened to these characters who have disappeared” as much as “What effect does this disappearance have to the people they leave behind?”. My main character Simon, an eleven year-old boy, must adjust and adapt his mind to the sudden disappearance of his parents. His view of the world has almost instantaneously had to flip from the comfortable confines of his childhood imagination into the “reality” of an adult world, where the “untruth” of imagination is replaced by something far more layered: the hypocrisy, irony and falseness of what happens when adult humans interact. Simon himself sees Lilliputians (tiny figures in a carved table) and hears his mother’s voice out of nowhere while searching for them at the lake where his parents supposedly disappeared. These, I suppose, are examples of a young boy’s brain trying to “right the balance” in his newly skewed world. And yet I did not write these scenes with any theme in mind.

This does feel a little bit “20/20 in Hindsight”, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s nice to be able to trust your judgement that all these words you’re stringing together to form a narrative add up to something else as well, that apart from telling a simple story it carries with it other meanings, ideas that can be teased out and thought of after the last page has turned. And for as long as the world continues to be unpredictable, this will keep being a really awesome thing.

THE KING’S SPEECH

Despite launching my first novel last Friday night, without doubt one of the biggest highlights for me was Matthew Condon’s brilliant introduction which, due to overwhelming demand, I present to you in full. Please enjoy. And send all baked desserts to the usual address…

THE OTTOMAN MOTEL
Christopher Currie
Avid Reader
Friday, May 6, 2011

YOU may well ask why a quote by me appears on the cover of the brilliant debut novel The Ottoman Motel by Christopher Currie.

Tonight I can reveal to you that it was put there to avert costly litigation. That matter has now been settled.

You see, when I first saw a bound proof of Christopher’s book and I read the first chapter I was apoplectic. For the previous three years, I had been labouring over my own new novel that I had provisionally titled The Sofa Bed Hotel. Uncanny. My lead character was not Simon, as in Christopher’s book, but actually Christopher. And as I read that fine-looking proof of his, with trembling hands, it became apparent that Mr Currie and I had been mining the same shaft, as they say in the classics.

The works were almost identical, save that his was a stylish, dark, page-turning thriller with subtle undercurrents and piercingly astute psychological insights into childhood, and mine was about a washed up and prematurely grey journalist and novelist who spent his life in the reception of a seedy flophouse full of stained Ikea fold-outs, hoping to be invited to launch talented young writers’ first books and thus re-entering the literary firmament via the back door, as they say in the classics.

I was incensed. So incensed I wrote, in a rage, an acknowledgement in my unfinished manuscript:

MY THANKS (it began)

And finally, if it’s possible to fall more out of love, in an envious literary sense, with someone every day, then that’s what I do. To the reason I had to trash my masterpiece, Christopher Currie, who, if he reads this, I hope will settle in mainland China and take his ingenious talent with him, despite the number of communists in this sentence.

Text Publishing agreed to put my name on the cover of Christopher’s book as part of our confidential court-ordered settlement. The other clause stipulated I could read the surviving fragment of my aborted master work, lost, as it is, in the glare of Mr Currie’s prodigal debut.

FYI, my three-page manuscript will be available from tomorrow as an ebook.

*

Christopher’s cheek stung. Krissy Kneen’s motorbike had followed him all morning, he tripped, fell, and scraped his usually idle skin. He was badly grazed beneath his “I Love Ben Law Even If He Published His First Book Before I Published My First Book” T-shirt.

He was on his way to work at Avid Reader. He passed some trees. He smelled, suddenly, the tang of new books.

He’d arrived. He went inside and took his place behind the counter. His mother’s voice floated down from upstairs. He peered through his eyelashes.

“Stand up straight and be a good boy, Christopher,” she said. (Sorry Judy, I know you’re out there.) He didn’t move. It was painful, the grazing beneath his “I Love Ben Law Even If He Published His First Book Before I Published My First Book” T-shirt.

Christopher’s mother came downstairs and stared past him, out the front window.

“Can we have the police pull Krissy Kneen over? She’s a menace,” she said.

Late afternoon now. The sun drawing lower. Christopher picked a crumb from the pocket of his shorts. A stale crumb left over from the two-metre high bombed Alaska they’d set on fire to celebrate the launch of bloody Ben Law’s first book years earlier. Christopher was hungry. He
ate the crumb anyway. It tasted good.

Wait until my launch, Christopher said. A packed Avid Reader. Plaudits. Bonhomie. Fresh crumbs, not stale. And he relished the thought of wearing a new T-shirt, the one he’d had made last week. The “Ben Law and Krissy Kneen Might Have Been Published Before Me with Their Non-Fiction Memoirs But I’ve Written a NOVEL and My Name is Christopher Currie, So Stick That up Your Bombed Alaska” T-Shirt.

It was a big shirt. It had to be.

A man was standing where his mother had stood. He had on dirty yellow overalls, slung up high around his armpits. It was the bloke he was getting to launch The Ottoman Motel. He was old – Christopher thought nearly grandpa’s age – but his cheeks were ridged red with ill-conquered newspaper book section editors and reviewers.

“Is this reception?” the old man asked.

“It’s a counter,” Christopher said.

The launcher laughed, rather too hard. “Where is it you need to get to, Christopher?”

“A future in letters,” the young man said.

The launcher rocked on his heels. “I can push you in the right direction, then it’s up to you,” he said. “I’m still trying to get there myself.”

“This future,” Christopher asked, “does it have ottomans? My mother keeps telling me to stand up straight all the time and my legs are tired.”

“I’m told a future in letters is ripe with ottomans.”

“Good,” Christopher said.

He followed the old launcher into Boundary Road, both of them narrowly avoiding being struck by a motorcycle ridden by someone with an uncanny resemblance to Krissy Kneen.

“Come,” the launcher said.

“Where to first?” asked the young novelist.

“The T-shirt printery,” the wise launcher said.

“What for?” a bemused Christopher said.

“We need to change your launch T-shirt. It should read -“Ben Law and Krissy Kneen Might Have Been Published Before Me with Their Non-Fiction Memoirs But I’ve Written a BRILLIANT Novel and my name is Christopher Currie, So Stick that up Your Bombed Alaska.”

Christopher smiled. Somehow, this trip was going a lot better than he’d expected it to.

*

BON VOYAGE, BRISBANE!

Finally recovered from The Ottoman Motel Brisbane launch, held at Avid Reader last night! I just wanted to sincerely thank everyone who came along last night, and those who couldn’t but sent well-wishes anyway. I couldn’t have asked for a better launch for my first book: great venue, great hosts (the wonderful Krissy Kneen, and the hilarious Matt Condon) and plenty of books to sign! A special mention must also go to Marco Ransom-Hughes, the winner of the Avid Reader/Text Publishing Ottoman Motel Book Trailer Competition. Did I mention he is still at school? Here is his awesome trailer:

It was so nice to see Marco receiving his prize (a $100 Avid Reader voucher and Text Publishing book pack), but he also had something for me: the turtle keyring that features in his trailer (and which also features in the book). It’s a really great memento of the night. Thanks, Marco!

Here are some other photos of the night.




Thanks again to everyone for coming. Next stop, Melbourne on May 23!

A BIT OF INTEREST

So it’s been a bit quiet again of late on Furious Horses, but I’ve been a little busy. In addition to preparing promo for my upcoming book, my recent proposal to my partner has met with some unplanned attention. Which has been, needless to say, absolutely surreal, but very exciting. I’m in love, I’ve got a book with my name on the cover and I’m pretty sure I’m going to eat a chicken parma tonight, so what more could a boy possibly want?

As the book isn’t out until May 2, you can wet your whistle with a couple of recent publications I’ve been published in. The first being the new edition of The Lifted Brow, wherein I’ve rewritten one of my favourite early stories, 1969. I also can’t begin to tell you how many other great people are in this issue. So much good reading.

My other piece of writing is nonfiction: a little essay on the Queensland floods in the new Dumbo Feather which, under the new guidance of Patrick Pittman and Jessica Friedmann, is looking fantastic.

Apart from that, I’m just waiting for The Ottoman Motel to be released, at which time I will be both very anxious and very proud. If you’re in Brisbane, come along to my book launch at Avid Reader Bookshop on Friday May 6, where the wonderful Matt Condon will be helping me send my little story into the world. You can book a ticket here. It’s free entry, and there will also be FREE WINE.

For my Melbourne friends, I will hopefully see you at my Melbourne Book Launch at Readings Carlton on Monday May 23. More info to come.

Until then, don’t forget to keep hassling your local bookshop about The Ottoman Motel. Asking questions like: “When is The Ottoman Motel published?” “I saw The Ottoman Motel on a blog, why don’t you have a copy?” and “I need The Ottoman Motel by April 21. Why is it not here?” will only endear you to bookshop staff, and guarantee that the book will be fresh in their minds when they unpack it from a box of May New Releases and squeal with delight. Trust me.

IF YOU NEED ME, I’LL BE IN MY (BOOK) TRAILER

I know it’s been a while since I rapped at ya, but I’ve been busy preparing my book for publication (should be at the printers now), moving house (thanks, floodwater!) and generally being devoid of ideas (…).

But here I am again! Why? Well, I just wanted to let you know about a great competition that my lovely employer Avid Reader is running with my lovely publisher Text, where you can win a bumper book pack from Text and a $100 voucher from Avid. All you have to do is create a book trailer for my book, The Ottoman Motel. It’s up to you what’s in the trailer, the only restriction is that it must be under 2 minutes long. You can read a sample chapter of the book here for inspiration, but otherwise go crazy!

Email your trailer (or a YouTube/Vimeo link) to events@avidreader.com.au by April 15 to be in the running!

Because I like you, and I want to give you the best chance of winning the great prize, here is a secret list of things I enjoy in book trailers:

Exploding Cosmic Polar Bears

Energetic Shrimp

Alcoholic Vervet Monkeys

Get to it!

If you have any questions about the book, please send me through a comment here, or at the Official Ottoman Motel Sanctioned and Verified Facebook Page(become a fan, why don’t you?)

PUBLIMACATION

Well, it’s been a while since the Furious Horse has raised its head, but I thought it was time, seeing as I’ve got a book coming out soon, and this blog seems to be mentioned quite prominently in the promotion. Maybe there should be a sign saying “OKAY, SO THERE’S NOT MUCH HERE NOW EXCEPT A DUDE RAGGING ON BOOK COVERS, BUT ONCE UPON A TIME HE POSTED A SHORT STORY, LIKE, EVERY DAY. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? CRAZY, RIGHT” but that sign seems a bit aggressive and we all know what happens when you use too much capitalisation.

Anyway, here is the cover to my book, which I really like (which is a surprise, as I have pretty strong views about book jackets), and which was designed by the incomparable W. H. Chong.


Stay tuned as I get back in the upside-down saddle for some more book-themed blog posts soon!

DELAYS

Sorry it’s been a while between posts, but I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy stuff. No, only kidding, I’ve actually been signed to Text Publishing, who will be publishing my novel From the deep end table in the first half of next year. Even though I’ve told everyone already, I wanted to wait until I’d signed on the dotted line to, you know, make it official by, like, totally blogging it.

So now the hard work really starts, as I attempt to knock this dastardly narrative into shape. The story has been with me over five years, and I’m really looking forward to working on it with an editor or two. Hopefully an elegant, tense literary mystery will emerge! Anyway, more as I know more.

But just to say that Brisbane authors are totally, absolutely kicking arse this year. Long may they reign!