James Higgerson is the author of The Almost Lizard, published 1st March 2013.
1) What inspired you to write your novel?
I wanted to tell a full life story, but lacked the life experience to tell the story of anything but a life cut short, so that was starting point. I'd previously started on a story about someone who started creating incidents in their adult life out of boredom, but I lost the first 20,000 words in a computer disaster and didn't have the heart to start again. I kept with the idea of creating incidents, but brought in some of my long held thoughts on how people are prone to imitating television, and generally the influence of television on my generation (which was the first to be bombarded with a lot of channels, and also with wall to wall soaps in the evening). Lots of observations were brought together to create Danny Lizar.
2) When and why did you first start writing?
I first wrote some books in my teenage years - nothing particularly serious and nothing I kept hold of. Lost forever, I'm pleased to say. Then I went to college and fell out of love with English (thanks to my language and literature A-level), to the point where I stopped reading for a bit. There's something about analysing the hell out of a book as good as Frankenstein that kills off the joy of reading. Then uni and Psychology sidetracked me before I moved over to Manchester and found a house with a couple of musicians. They inspired me to do something more creative, but I'm tone deaf and completely without rhythm so I wasn't going to be starting a band with them!
3) Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
This changes over time, but I should note John Irving as an influence on The Almost Lizard because of how he tells generation spanning life stories. He's certainly an inspiration for writing big, elaborate novels. John Updike is another long-term favourite, just for the level of detail and how real he makes the worlds he creates. In particular the Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy was a series that said so much about America in the second half of the 20th century. I have a long-term plan to create a set of characters that I'll revisit at intervals in the future. That could be the next but one novel. Current other favourites are Haruki Murakami, Will Self, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Joe Stretch and Toby Litt. All of those authors have/had the power to surprise with every new work, and that's something I hope can be said of myself in the future.
Beyond that, I've found many musicians (particularly lyricists) to be influential over the years. Lupen Crook, who also did the cover art for The Almost Lizard, is one of note, someone who writes genuinely novel songs full of depth and character. Likewise, Jarvis Cocker is a master of words - Pulp's songs are like short stories, John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) are other influences.
4) Do you have a writing routine or place where you always write?
Not at all. Last year was dominated by work and I was lucky enough to travel a lot over the course of 2012. I've had notepads with me at all times and have been writing bits and pieces whenever I got the chance. Planes are excellent for getting lots done, but also cafes and outdoor places in unfamiliar places. My ideal life would be doing that all the time! At home, I write in a bar near work at lunchtimes, or just at home. I write when I want to and when I can. I took four months off writing whilst I finished my PhD, so I'm just getting back into things again now. I'm having to re-read the beginning of the new novel at the moment as I'm sure I've forgotten lots of details.
5) Apart from writing what are your other passions and interests?
Music has been a major passion of mine for a long time - gigs and festivals are my favourite thing to do. I'm also very enthusiastic about certain television shows - particularly comedies like The Thick Of It, Parks and Recreation and Nighty Night, and quality drama series like Treme and Breaking Bad.
Now my PhD is out of the way, I'll be turning some of my attentions to photography this year. I've just bought a new lens that I need to go out and test (I'm dying for some snow). I think my cats are getting bored of being 'papped,' so I definitely have to go out and find new things to snap.
6) What was the last book you read?
Yesterday I finished reading 'Lost Memory of Skin' by Russell Banks, an excellent author who has written such a variety of engaging books. It was a fascinating book, because I had no idea where he was going with things at any point. It changed direction quite suddenly and so many times that it was always unpredictable. Special.
I'm about to start reading 'You Have to be Careful in the Land of the Free' by James Kelman. I have high hopes.
The Almost Lizard is available to order by clicking here