by Claire Main

#102, 27 August 2007

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

UK Bookselling

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So it must be time to meet this dazzling duo of the Fantasy Fiction world. But how to approach them? I open a box of finest milk chocolates to assist thought, its amazing how chocolate does not put on weight. Perhaps I am in fantasy fiction land already! I prepare to suspend reality, open my mind and start to expect the unexpected. Where shall we meet, an inter-galactic cafe accessed through the back of a toy shop, the court of King Henry the Eighth or a graveyard at midnight?

I settle for the Macondo Cafe in Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, London at 10.00 AM on a Saturday morning and stride off purposefully in that direction. Rod had waxed lyrical about their banana and yoghurt smoothies and I couldn't wait to meet the authors and try them out.

BOOKTHINK: So where are you from, Rod and Brian?

GORDON: London and Norfolk, or somewhere in between.

WILLIAMS: Do you mean mentally or physically?

BOOKTHINK: Tell us your latest news?

GORDON: Well, we're published, finally!

WILLIAMS: And not before time.

GORDON: We often wondered if we'd ever make it.

WILLIAMS: Not sure if we have ...

BOOKTHINK: When and why did you begin writing?

GORDON: Ever since I can remember, but until relatively recently without any real direction, conviction or the experience to make it meaningful.

WILLIAMS: It all depends on what you mean by "writing."

BOOKTHINK: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

GORDON: I still don't, and neither do some reviewers, apparently.

WILLIAMS: I never have. Writing is simply one more tool in the box.

BOOKTHINK: What inspired you to write your first book?

GORDON: Frustration with myself.

WILLIAMS: Frustration with others.

BOOKTHINK: Who or what has influenced your writing?

GORDON: Where do I start?

WILLIAMS: Many, many things, too numerous to list.

BOOKTHINK: How did you come up with the titles The Highfield Mole and Tunnels?

WILLIAMS: The Highfield Mole - "Highfield" is an amalgam of places in London - Highgate, High Barnet, Enfield, etc, and it was also the name of RG's primary school in north London. The "Mole," of course, refers to Will Burrows, and was influenced by "The Edge Hill Mole," namely Joseph Williamson, whose network of tunnels beneath Liverpool was a great inspiration for the book. We thought it was a memorable title, but Chicken House wanted something with a more modern feel that reflected where the series of books will be leading. And we all felt it was important to have a fresh name for the re-edited book. Barry and Imogen from Chicken House came up with the first alternative, which we all kicked around and finally Tunnels was chosen.

BOOKTHINK: What books have most influenced your life most?

GORDON: Far, far too many to list, but a series of thirteen paperbacks called the Pan Book of Horror Stories, which I sneaked from my parent's shelves when I was nine or ten years old, and were so gruesome they made me feel sick. Lord of the Flies by William Golding and also his book, The Pyramid, which blew me apart when I read it in the early nineties - I thought it was so blindingly brilliant, it stopped me writing anything at all for almost a year afterwards, and I haven't looked at it since!

WILLIAMS: Dickens, of course, Golding's Lord of the Flies, all Edgar Allen Poe, all the short stories of Hemmingway, "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck, Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac, the poems of Allen Ginsberg, Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, Lautremont's Les Chants de Maldoror, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Ubu plays of Alfred Jarry, Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly, Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G.Ballard, The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien, every play by Samuel Beckett, The Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, the short stories of Dylan Thomas, Atomised by Michel Houellebecq and, of course, every single book by William S. Burroughs, etc., etc.

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