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‘I prefer characters that are human with flaws and strengths’

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Q&A
Unbound author, Dave Pickering, talks where he writes ('there is no one place') and his favourite character in fiction ('it might be Snufkin from the Moomin Books'), among other questions.

Where do you write?

I do have a desk area in my flat that’s set up for writing, but really there is no one place where I write. I like to change spaces regularly, from sitting on a wall outside in the rain, to writing in bed, to writing in coffee shops. I find changing location regularly and writing both in busy spaces and quiet ones useful to the way I process and absorb things. I also like to vary how I write, sometimes on a computer, sometimes in a notebook, sometimes on my phone.

What’s the last really good book you read? And the best film or theatre production?

The last great fiction book I read was The Power by Naomi Alderman. The non-fiction book that has influenced me the most in recent years is The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love by bell hooks. The best films I saw in the cinema recently were Black Panther and The Shape of Water. And the best films I saw outside the cinema recently were Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Babadook.

What book marked you as a child or teenager?

There is no one book that marked me. Some of the many that did are: the Moomin books by Tove Jansson, The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolan, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and Maus by Art Spiegelman.

What book inspired you to become a writer?

Again there isn’t really one book. When I started thinking about writing books (in addition to the poetry and plays I was writing) I was reading Iain Banks and Irvine Welsh. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino was also a big influence on my early work. In terms of poets, Sylvia Plath and William Blake were big influences. In terms of playwrights, Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller and Sarah Kane were all very influential.

Pen and paper or laptop?

Both. For me they are very different ways of writing. Ideas, poetry and lyrics I generally write in notebooks using a pen or pencil. When writing prose, typing is generally best for me, although I do write prose in notebooks when it erupts from notes I am writing.

Do you reread books or is life too short?

I would reread books; I used to reread books all the time. However, I currently find it hard to make time to read at all, let alone find the time to reread.

Who is the best fictional hero and villain?

I don’t really like the hierarchies that ideas like ‘best’ and ‘worst’ create. I’m also not really into the idea of heroes and villains; those concepts come from a very binary place. I prefer characters that are human with flaws and strengths. If I have a favourite character it might be Snufkin from the Moomin books or Easy Rawlins from the mystery book series by Walter Mosley. But as soon as I wrote those suggestions I felt so many other characters clambering for my attention, saying why have you missed us out, and I’m sure at a different moment in time I’d give different answers!

When did you last visit your local library?

I worked in various local libraries across the UK for over ten years. Since my last job was cut four years ago I’ve spent a lot less times in libraries, but I will always pop into a library when I’m in a new town or area to see how that library does things. I’m a supporter and believer in what libraries can be, and I am watching in horror as they are slowly ripped apart by the ideological attacks on public services that have been enacted by successive governments.

What classic have you lied about reading?

I haven’t lied about reading any classics, apart from possibly during my A-Level English Literature exam when I wrote about the awful book Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy despite only managing to read half of it in advance of the exam. However, I’ve probably implied I’ve read lots of classics, as I’ve read lots of writing about classics, so I can often answer quiz questions on them despite not having read them.

Finally, what’s the elevator pitch for the book you’re working on/you’re publishing? 

This book will help more men to ask questions; to reassess and decode ourselves; to strive for liberation; to feel and express emotions freely and respectfully; to be safe from violence; to help other people to be safe from violence; and to support and love consensually and without shame.

 Dave Pickering’s book, Mansplaining Masculinity, is currently funding. Click here to pledge.