TPQ: What are you currently reading?
Now Star Wars is back, and everywhere, the content is never ending. Some for the better, others for the worse. But Star Wars was my entry into adoring cinema and world-building and writing. Envisioning and creating my own worlds. Like pulp/sci-fi/space opera, it showed me that anyone can dream, imagine and make art out of it, that we can tell many stories, that don't have to be contained in our reality.
I love Star Wars and George Lucas, I always wanted to be him. George Lucas for me was the first time I realised what a creator, director, writer and artist truly was. I attempted Darth Plagueus, by James Luceno, I believe his name is, but I gave up in 2015. I wasn't in the mood. Also, I didn’t feel that Star Wars should be set in the literature realm/that medium, as it is such a visual world.
Well, I was proved wrong by Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray, which I finished not a few days ago, and I had to put my hands up and say, I Love Star Wars Fiction. I loved it. I was in Star Wars, but in a medium I both adore and basically relate and work within myself. The writing was stellar, and I adored the narrative. I'm a prequel baby, I was 3 when I first watched the Re-released Lucas cut Special Editions, and then saw The Phantom Menace in 1999 aged 4. It has always meant a lot to me. The world and lore mean a lot to me.
So, at the moment I'm caught in Star Wars realms. Taking a break from heavier, more integrity driven, artsy fartsy, experimental stuff. I have found my reading of Indie Press books has taken over my life, as a reader as much as a publisher as well. And I'm growing fatigued, and resentful. My issue, not the work. So, it is unwind pure escapism time. Neal Asher is someone I've always adored, so I'm reading him a lot too.
ZF: Oh boy, so many great ones and so many bad ones. I focus in the now, as to my likes, so I like works that inspire me personally, as in, in the moment. I don't get wanky about not reading people as I write. I need that as a writer. As controversial it may seem, I've read a lot of Jim Goad, recently, and his book The Bomb Inside My Brain I really loved, as I did his other books, The Headache Factory, The New Church Ladies. Whiteness The Original Sin, was an uncomfortably astute read.
I like harsh, raw, controversial material. It just appeals, not fetishistically but, it's okay to like writing and points and opinions made by a supposed outsider, or, a public enemy, without being scared of one's own morals being put into question. Which happened as soon as I admitted I was reading him. But that's their issue, not mine.
Neal Asher's recent standalone novel set in
his Polity Universe called Jack Four, blew me away. It put me in the mood for
good old fashion escapism.
Indie Side: Heck, Texas by Tex Gresham was something I wished I wrote. Tucumcari by Patrick Parks is a standout, it was so trippy and naturally surreal and experimental without any form of push to make those experimental tendrils standout, it was a natural exhumation of weirdness.
Liarmouth by John Waters was very funny, chaotic, and pure Waters, whom, I think needs to focus on writing fiction more, now he can't get films made. It's funny, back in 2014 I started writing a book called Bullshitting Bertie (now being edited and altered) that tackled cosmetic surgery but in dogs. When I read this, I blew my lid, as he covers that extensively, and I just shouted, "Fuck! You Have A Good Idea, And If You Don't Get It Out There Somebody Else Will Take It!" but, I'm happy that it was John Waters and not some blowhard wannabe.
I really liked All the Living and The Dead by Hayley Campbell which is a non-fiction book that has stayed with me. About death, dying, the after-aftee ripples from a death. The death industry and such. Strandings by Peter Riley was a book I'd never have picked up a few years ago, as non-fiction is a recent discovery, and obsession, but the beautiful cover and the tackling of the material was unique enough to grip me for a day, where I tore into it. A symbolic, deep, introspective look at Whale Strandings and the black market of their blubber and carcasses is both hilarious, sad, and compelling.
Bad books? Oh boy. So many, that don't stay with me, title nor author. Fuccboi by Sean Thor Conroe was a book I struggled with, as there was so much nonsense and envy and pettiness surrounding the author, I went in with a mindfulness going, I am going to like this because it's mere existence pisses off the status quo of the supposed indie lit community. But, on second thought, it is not a good book, and not something the big Presses should have been bidding for either. I read a book called Underexposed, about the greatest films never made, and, for all of its glossy print images and original artwork made, the guy did a copy and paste job and it pissed me off. Lazy, with little to zilch he added. No personal takes or imbuements of self, just cold hard Facts, I could have and have read on Wikipedia.
One book I do hate is, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride. After twenty pages I threw it in frustration. As a writer that tries to capture the autistic mind and non-neurotypical people, with my repetitious, obsessive, hyperbolic prose, I can't be this judgmental, but this book wasn't accessible nor good. A great idea poorly conceived. I loathed it. The Institute by Stephen King I abhorred. The guy was, well, retreading old territory, but not insightfully nor for all I know with any actual clue that he was ripping himself off. And I love King.
Also End Of Watch was just a vomit and shit spray combo, to end his Mr. Mercedes series on. Awful. James Patterson, I read as a young teen, his Maximum Ride books, then as I got older, I realised what a hack he was and is. I don't think he has ever written a book of his own since the late 90s. Anything that guy puts out is a joke.
TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?
ZF: The Edge Chronicles: Beyond The Deep Woods, by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell. For the same reasons as my infatuation with George Lucas. This was the first book I personally ever picked up and read. It taught me how to read. It also told me, hey, you think Star Wars as a visual medium is good, look, things like this, goblins, trolls, Gloamglozers, Sky Pirates, Banderbears, they exist, in this thing called a book. It isn't meant to be a chore, it is there to escape, experience and emote. My choice was that book. My first choice. I got Fergus Crane first, liked the pictures, but it was discovering their first ever book series that they did together, which was BTDW, that gripped me. So inviting, so dangerous, was the work by Chris Ridell. An access point. To encourage you to read. Even to this day the prise, the smells, textures, environments conjured are still heavily imprinted on me. Riddell's unique linework and beautifully grotesque creatures are never anything a kid can't adore and be bowled over by. I loved it. Still do. Enraptured. I am still to this day obsessed with Riddell and Stewart. Both lovely, lovely, supportive men, great to their audience and fans. I love those two dearly. As I do Terry Pratchett. Same sentiments, though Pratchett taught me a lot about humour, and being silly.
TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?
ZF: Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell. Next to them is Pratchett.
TPQ: First book to really own you?
ZF: I could be repeating myself but Beyond The Deep Woods, but, my maturation, as I got older was Filth by Irvine Welsh/Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, both read consecutively and left a deep impression. Again, inspiring and offering different modes to A: entertain, B: fuck with you on a visceral level.
ZF: Nicola Barker, everything I have read of hers has inspired me. She is wonderful. A real treat. So unique and singular. Again, she changed my vantage on how to write characters and situations. Also told me it was okay to be weird and warped and emotional.
Terry Pratchett, because with each book I read, whether again, or newly, I will taught a lesson, in life and the craft of storytelling. Pitted in a fantasy world, yes, but layered with different genre's, whilst all folded into his Discworld novels. Layers upon layers to dig into.
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?
ZF: The most recent is Fight! Thirty-Years Not Quite At The Top, by Harry Hill, another staple of childhood, due to his ITV show Harry Hill's Tv Burp. I love slapstick comedy and wackiness. I like the freedom to laugh over stupid shit and feel guiltless over it. Hill is that. A fusion of many things. I like his props, aesthetic, style and analytical eye. And as I got older, I sought his other work. Seen him live. And he has many different ranges of humour and comedy. Not many people can say that. Also...The book was just also brutally fucking honest and quite sad.
TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?
ZF: None. You can't judge unless you read or try them out. I'm not gatekeeping and telling people who to read or who not to read. Unless you're James Patterson. (Winking face).
TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?
ZF: This is awful, but, my Interiors For? book series, and my novel Texturess, to get to grips with what and who I am as both person and artist. If not them, then anything as mentioned above.
ZF: Usually, it is books I buy for my fiancé and partner in publishing crime, but they're from her wish list. But a book as a gift, to bestow one’s scope and vision, was Naked Lunch, and everything by Burroughs to a person I'm no longer friends with. And they didn't read him. Bastard.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
ZF: Anything by Neal Asher.
ZF: Mein Kampf. So, at the end I knew my actual troubles meant more than Shitler's.
⏩ Zak Ferguson is a co-founder of Sweat Drenched Press and the author of books like Soft Tissues, Dimension Whores and One Of These Days