I knew I wanted to write about a boy who's led an uneasy life

from a conversation with Kevin Brooks
 
Q: Let's start with the basics...where'd you grow up? What was it like?
A: I grew up in a little place called Pinhoe, near a town called Exeter, in the south west of England. In an unfinished novel about growing up, I describe Pinhoe as — "a crossroad gall three miles from town ... seven shops, a garage, two inns, a school, a hall, a church, a bank, a river, black hills, and gypsy woods."

What was it like ...? Like a million different things.

Q: And would you like to tell us a little bit about your family?
A: Two brothers, one older than me, one younger. Dad died in 1979, Mum still lives in Pinhoe.

Q: How did you choose Martyn Pig as your main character's name? You have to admit it sounds a little bit funny...
A: Having an unusual name can be a terrible experience, especially for a child. It marks you out as different, and 'being different' can sometimes be the worst thing in the world. As Martyn says, it can make your life unbearable. When I first started thinking about the story, I knew that I wanted to write about a boy who's led an uneasy life. That was the starting point, really — take a boy who's suffered a lifelong burden, make things happen to him, and see how he deals with them. And what better burden to start off with than a name like Pig?

Q: Martyn Pig is obviously not a "humorous" story, but yet you avoid being overly dramatic in the telling of his story. Was this difficult?
A: No, it's not a humorous story ... but that doesn't mean it's not funny. I think there's a difference ... but I'm not sure what it is. Probably something to do with humor being light and funny being dark. Drama-wise ... I wanted to convey the idea that "when things happen in real life, extraordinary things, there's no music, there's no dah-dah-daaahhs. There's no close-ups. No dramatic camera angles. Nothing happens. Nothing stops, the rest of the world goes on."

Q: If there was one thing you could tell people about Martyn Pig that they may not know, what would it be?
A: When Martyn's in town in the early part of the story, he hears a 'beardy old busker singing the same depressing song' — "When I'm old with only one eye, I'll do nothing but look at the sky ..." The lyric is from a song I wrote and recorded called 'Funny To Me.'

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm not very good at describing my books, but ... the one I'm working on now is about an overweight boy called Moo Nelson who witnesses a fatal stabbing in a road rage incident ... and then all sorts of stuff happens. It's about strength, truth, spite, revenge, loneliness, choice, the law ... and some other things.

Q: Do you have a writing routine?
A: I try to write for at least 6 hours each day, usually 3-4 hours in the afternoon and 3-4 in the evening. If it's going well, though, I'll just keep going till my eyes drop out.

Q: Now, on to some fun questions! Who are your literary influences?
A: I think the easiest way to answer this one is to look around the bookshelves in my room and tell you what's there. OK, let's see ... we've got J D Salinger, John Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy, Martin Amis, James Lee Burke, Raymond Chandler, John D MacDonald, Lawrence Block, George P Pelecanos, Robert Crais, Dashiel Hammet, James Joyce, Philip K Dick, Ray Bradbury, John Fowles, Jack London, Graham Greene, Harper Lee, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, William Shakespeare, Arthur Rimbaud, Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, Stephen King, Norman Mailer, Anthony Burgess, J T Edson, Jack Schaffer, Charles O Locke, John Updike, Ken Kesey, Tony Hillerman, Jack Kerouac, James Jones, Dennis Lehane ... plus loads of books about physics and brains and animals, etc.

Q: How about musical influences?
A: Joy Division, The Fall, Velvet Underground, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Clash, Elvis P, Cockney Rebel, T Rex, Iggy Pop, Young Marble Giants ...

Q: If you had to pick a quote to fit your life right now, what would it be?
A: "Do anything you wanna do" — Eddie and the Hot Rods

Q: Finally, I've heard you've had some very odd jobs — would you like to tell us about them, and how do they compare to being a writer?
A: For most of my adult life I've been trying to make a living out of music, art, or writing. Until now, I've been mostly unsuccessful, so I've had to take on lots of 'proper jobs' in order to earn a living, all of which, to varying degrees, I've detested. Jobs such as - crematorium assistant (sieving the ashes and listening to Dougie the Burner's corpse stories), refreshments vendor at London Zoo (selling cold hot dogs, fleecing the tourists, drinking warm beer, watching the penguins while the sun goes down), civil servant (staring in bewilderment at pages of housing statistics, wondering what I'm supposed to do with them), post office counter clerk (shirt, tie, datestamp - thunk), customer service person at the railway (aaahhhhhhh!!!!) .... and many many more.

In comparison to all these horrible jobs, being a writer is absolutely wonderful. I love writing, it's what I DO - thinking, writing, creating new worlds, it's fantastic. For the first time in my life I get up every morning looking forward to going to work. There are also lots of lovely little perks, such as:
I can get up whenever I like.
I can wear whatever I like.
I don't have to shave every day.
I can go out for nice long walks with my lovely wife and our dumb dog, whenever I want.
When people ask me what I do, instead of mumbling 'Well, I'm in customer services, but ...', I can proudly announce, in my best literary voice - 'I'm an author, you know ...'