Good to Know
In our interview, Brooks shared some interesting facts about himself with us:
"I used to work in a crematorium."
"When I was young, I fell out of a window and landed on my head. B-b-b-b-but I'm all right now...."
"I have six guitars and a banjo."
"I like: reading, walking on the beach with my wife and our dog, losing at chess, playing guitar, sleeping, thinking, wearing hats, watching TV crime dramas and The Simpsons, feeding my goldfish, eating sandwiches, making funny noises, and much, much more. Most of all, though, I love writing: it's what I do, and I adore every minute of it."
"I dislike: worms, mustard, and anything that hurts."
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In the summer of 2004, we asked authors featured in Meet the Writers to give us a list of their all-time favorite summer reads. Here's what Kevin Brooks had to say:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
For Esme, with Love and Squalor by J. D. Salinger
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Goalkeeper's Revenge and Other Stories by Bill Naughton
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
Talking God by Tony Hillerman
Free Fall in Crimson by John D MacDonald
Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard
The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick
The Best Short Stories of Ring Lardner by Ring Lardner
A very American list, I've just realized -- but then I've always liked American writers.
In the summer of 2003, Kevin Brooks took some time to talk with us about his favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
The Catcher in the Rye -- I read this when I was about 14, and it was the first time I'd read a book that felt as if it was written for me, and me alone. It's so real and alive, and so intimate, that reading it was like finding a friend, someone who understood me, someone who trusted me with their secrets. And, to me, that's what a good book is -- a friend... and that's how I try to write mine.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?For Esme, with Love and Squalor, by J. D. Salinger -- Short stories that stay with you forever.
Hombre by Elmore Leonard -- Great story, great hero, great Western.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy -- Beautiful prose, dark and savage, the real Wild West.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler -- Classic detective story, full of loneliness, corruption, violence, humour, morality, sadness, and broken hearts. What more do you want!?
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck -- Brilliant characters and setting, a story about nothing and how good nothing can be.
The Hell-Bent Kid by Charles O. Locke -- Short and simple, fantastic Western.
A Dance at the Slaughterhouse (and others in the Matt Scudder series) by Lawrence Block -- As good as anything by Raymond Chandler, if not better.
The Neon Rain by James Lee Burke -- Great writing, great atmosphere, nice and sleazy.
London Fields by Martin Amis -- Clever, funny, English.
Any dictionary -- Lots of lovely words.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
I don't go out to the cinema much, but I'll watch films on TV if I'm in the mood. Some of my favourite films are:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Bad Day at Black Rock
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Lost Weekend
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I like Joy Divison, The Clash, The Fall, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Westworld, Velvet Underground, T-Rex, Cockney Rebel, Beck, Galaxy 500, Iggy Pop, Public Image, Senser, Primal Scream, The Damned.... But I don't listen to music when I'm writing.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading -- and why?
Westerns -- I think the Western is a sadly overlooked genre. The stories are simple, yet mythical, and I think we can all learn a lot from them.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I like to give cheap books and get expensive ones.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
No, I don't really have any rituals. My desk is quite small and empty -- just a computer, printer, desk-lamp, and a skull. But I have loads of shelves packed with books and toys and stupid little animals, and I like to surround myself with my special things, such as guitars and paintings and cowboy hats and plastic hyenas.
What are you working on now?
My fourth book for The Chicken House, which is about love and intoxication. Also a short novel for reluctant readers, and -- perhaps -- a screenplay.
Many writers in the Discover program are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I've spent all my life getting where I am today! I started writing when I was young, and have never really stopped -- stories, poetry, half-finished novels. But during my 20s and 30s I spent most of my time concentrating on music and art (and working, to earn a living). I decided to commit myself to serious writing about six years ago. I received lots of rejection slips, but after getting nowhere with music and art, I was used to them, so I just kept going -- writing, sending stuff out, getting it back... writing, sending stuff out, getting it back, writing... and so on. Until one day, instead of getting it back, I got a phone call from Barry Cunningham at The Chicken House -- and that was that.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be -- and why?
Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, a brilliant story.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Keep writing, keep reading, keep sending stuff out. Never give up.
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