5/27/2015 1:49:07 PM
In which we interview Abe Rooten, author of The Private Rage of George
The Private Rage of George, by Abe Rooten
Description: This is a dark, comic novel about one man's rage. Bad language and bad behaviour throughout.
Your writing process
After almost three decades of writing very little other than academic texts or emails, returning to writing as a delicious, creative passionate affair was like slipping on a pair of comfy old slippers after a hard day at the office. My ‘process’ has little to do with routine sadly; as a father and coffee farmer I find inspiration as I go about my daily business and frantically search for paper and pens to scribble down ideas before they evaporate. I have no internet where we live in the Peruvian Cloud Forest so I’m surrounded by nature as I write, even if it’s about a dreary day back in the UK. I write when I have ideas, when I’ve regained a fresh sense of perspective after a period of frustration and sometimes because I feel I ought to. Nothing makes me happier.
I’d like to find my audience. I would like to find that band of special, strange people who will appreciate my view of the world and who ‘get it’. I know they’re out there somewhere, wearing unfashionable clothes and laughing at their own jokes. These are my people. If I wanted world stardom I’d be writing about elves or doing romance novels.
I need total silence when I write. If I’m listening to music I get caught up in the melody; it’s the same with anything, I’m a bit annoying when I’m in the car and trying to navigate a new city for the first time. The radio goes off, nobody can speak and I’m awash with signs and nothing else. ‘Tunnel vision’ I call it. ‘Annoying’ is my wife’s translation. When I write I’m often thundering paragraphs off one after the other and then re-reading them, fine-tuning. I often write a couple of chapters at once, one idea sparking another. My overall story is always in my brain, but mostly the middle parts are fluid and I make a lot of changes to order during the ‘process’. I write on my laptop, either at a desk, or in a comfy chair with the battery warming my knees.
South America defies schedules and has taught me to grab opportunity whenever it presents itself. I write when I can, and if I could I would write every day. Many writing websites scoff at people who only write when they can…clearly they don’t have families or bills to pay. I get up every day at 5:30am as we’re farmers and if we haven’t got people staying at our hostel I may get a break in the afternoon to scribble down a few ideas that came to me as I was picking coffee or eating my lunch overlooking the tropical valley.
How do you define success as an author?
Recognition is what we’re all after according to psychologists; I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bothered about being published for example. However, I’d rather a million people read my book illegally, loved it, and told me so, rather than making a million pounds for a book nobody read and thought was just OK. Success for me is about improving the transition between my brain and the written word. I’m constantly striving to get that mental picture from inside me into words that recreate it perfectly in someone else’s mind. The formula.
Why do you write?
I honestly write because I want to share some of the wacky thoughts I have about things with others, to find out how many people are thinking the same strange thoughts. Writing is therapy, it gives an outlet to frustrations, joys and the entirety of human experience. When I read books as a child I was transported to other worlds; I want to be the one creating the worlds now. I’ve got so many worlds inside me bursting to get free.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
Life is a pain in the arse. I’ve had my fair share of wonderful moments but I’ve also been frustrated at things and people. Being a respectful member of society I have refrained from shouting at people in the street and punching rude shopkeepers so I decided to let my MC do it for me. Actually, this is an exaggerated version of many conversations I’ve had with friends over the years about how fragile our adherence to social norms is. We’re all keeping a lid on our personal demons, hoping nobody finds out we’re boiling away like a tiny kettle. This book is an attempt to take someone from calm to kaboom and back again.
"George hated taking the bus to work, but his car was having pointless routine maintenance done to it and he had no other option. The car worked fine, but apparently the government didn’t care about that and preferred to have him pay through the nose annually for some young prick in overalls to remove the working parts and present him with damaged alternatives that would cost him a small fortune or they would refuse to pass the vehicle. Whilst snapping the neck of the little wanker at ‘Dayton’s Auto Parts’ and shitting on the forecourt was his preferred method of protest, he chose to smile meekly and hand over his keys as he did every year. Spineless pussy."- Abe Rooten, The Private Rage of George
What authors have influenced you?
As a child Roald Dahl was my hero. I read all of his books after having heard them read to me by my parents for years. Danny The Champion of the World is still my favourite, but the Twits holds a special place in my heart as does George’s Marvellous Medicine. During my teens I devoured Tom Sharpe and was lucky enough to meet him whilst working at the Hay on Wye Festival of Literature. His dark humour was the inspiration for me to break a few social norms and take my MC to the edge of decency.
What is your favourite book?
So tricky to choose between so many books, but if I absolutely had to at gunpoint I would select Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. That book did something to me, I read it hundreds of times and it was more influential than I realized in bringing me back to writing at the ripe old age of 37. The excitement of the speeds described felt real to me and it made me wonder how two-dimensional words on a page could bring the wind and sea alive in my mind.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
The Hulk. I’m a big comic book fan and this character is incredible. A genius, nice guy who can smash anything if he so chooses. Comics are only recently being taken seriously as literature, but they have all the same hooks and bases as your Dickens and other ‘proper’ novels and they do it with fewer words. I’m attracted by the fantasy characters as they have limitless storylines and can easily move from extreme to extreme without it seeming contrived. Imagine Mr. Darcy with an Ak-47 running down Kensington High Street popping caps in asses; comics can do that. Hulk could be a raging maniac, but they’ve given him a tender side which makes him even more powerful. I also admire the fact he’s strong without ever needing to go to the gym and manages to keep his pants on despite expanding in size.
Does your book fit into any existing fandoms? For example, who would it please? Fans of Stephen King? Donna Tartt? George R. R. Martin?
Sadly not, sadly that is for my bank balance. It would please perhaps fans of Tom Sharpe, and I’m paying myself a huge compliment there as the man was a genius. It’s not fantasy, it’s not overly romantic although it does have a romance; I guess I’d like it to make fans of what doesn’t yet exist happy. There are far too many book ‘genres’ already doing very nicely for themselves without me adding to the mess. I’d like to find a new audience that is looking for quirky, oddball humour that unveils our darkest, innermost thoughts. I admire many authors, but I want to believe that my own style is worth sharing, so I’m resisting the temptation to mimic anyone else. If you’re going to do something, it has to come from the heart.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t block people out, I did that for a long time, jealously hiding my work, believing it to be divine. It doesn’t help. Write, get a feel for your story then start sharing sections with online writing communities to get a feel for other people who are doing similar things. Avoid the temptation to show your writing to your friends, very few of them will give you an honest critique. Even online, you will get a lot of people saying nice things, but you’re really looking for those people who are honest enough to criticize you and suggest what you might want to change. It’s a wonderful thing to allow someone else’s fresh eyes to look over your baby, it forces you to accept certain things you’ve been wondering about and not admitting to yourself. If you can, take all of what they say and filter it a little. If ten people say your MC is rubbish then you’re in trouble. Remember that even published authors have to go through an editing process and many were rejected several times before getting a deal.
What did you learn while writing this book, and how will you use those discoveries to help you write your next book?
I have learned that a first draft is just that. Countless revisions will undoubtedly follow, each bringing something new and hopefully burying something problematic. Keep a copy in the cloud which backs up automatically so if you lose your hard drive to spilled wine failure you won’t lose your writing. I also learned how to sit back and give the story time to develop in my mind. Sometimes, leaving a piece of writing for a few days or even weeks can give you fresh perspective and purpose. I’ve gained a lot from sharing ideas and reading other people’s work online; I will continue to use online forums and websites to hone my skills. I’ve also learned how to disable the US English spellchecker on Microsoft Word; that was a good day.
What was your favourite scene to write?
It’s generally true that you have to love everything you are writing because if you’re filling large sections of your work with pointless fluff that you’re not that bothered about, then it’s not going to read well. But, if I had to choose one scene I would pick George’s accident in the bathroom. This isn’t perhaps the funniest scene in the book but it epitomises George’s problem in life; shit happens, but George thinks it’s personal. I get frustrated by all sorts of inanimate objects that I regularly trip over or stub my toe on, but George’s wedding tackle being glued to a bath, that for me was fun to play out on the page.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Anything involving tying plotlines together. Every time I knitted two segments together it threw up opportunities to expand the book. It’s long as it is, but I had to struggle to keep it down to size. I wanted to do a lot more with George at his place of work and also follow Heather and Dick’s story a little more closely. Having to cut down on other character’s storylines was the hardest part. Ending the book was also tricky, I have lived with these characters in my head for years and I didn’t want their lives to end just because I stopped writing about them.
How did you come to be a writer? Is it something you’ve wanted to be all your life?
I wrote my first proper story aged 8. It was 24 A4 pages long and saw myself as the hero in a world where everyone but my best friend and the girl I fancied had disappeared (think ‘I am Legend’ but with raids on sweetshops). I was lost in the writing for weeks. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, I’m only just starting to get myself on the road to becoming a decent one. For me, the chase is as exciting as the prize. Each piece I finish brings me more inspiration so I’m just happy being able to tell stories to share with people.
What is the most important thing a book should have or do? And what do you want readers to take away from reading yours?
A book should definitely have a front cover, and possibly also a back one, this stops the pages from falling out and getting jumbled up. A book should do whatever it is you’re hoping it will. If you want a page turner then you need suspense; if you want laughs then you need a bit of crazy, but as long as you get out of it what you hoped you would, everyone’s a winner. I hope readers of my book will take away a sense of being infinitely better off than my MC and I also intend them to be better, more generous human beings with a love of kitten calendars and incense sticks.
Why did you choose to upload with Readership?
Allowing readers to judge a book seems fairer somehow. If someone likes something and recommends it, it should logically find itself in the hands of others who feel the same way. Publishing houses have wonderful editors and readers who do an amazing job of sorting out the crap from the crafted, but readers do the same thing. This way it’s direct, and the readers will apply the same filters to weed out the books that wouldn’t have made it past the editor’s desk anyway. Readership is going to take the written word straight to the reader and let them be the critics. Why not have Mr. H. from Dorset’s quote on your dust jacket? After all, he’s the one who enjoyed it first, and he’s your target audience.
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