Chaired by Peggy Hughes
Richard’s novel The Kills was a digital first and with the digital downloads you can restructure how the novel is presented to you. You can read it character by character or day by day. The Kills is 4 books, one a crime novel and the other 3 are more political thrillers but all the novels are interlinked. With the digital edition you can also choose what order you want to read the novels in. After this brief introduction we were treated to a reading from The Kills.
Sergio’s novel A Naked Singularity was originally self-published and just won the PEN/Robert W Bingham prize. It is set within the Manhattan criminal justice system but it is not a liner or traditional criminal justice system novel. Sergio then read from his novel, he reads with such passion that you can not help but hang onto every word that he is saying.
Peggy then started the discussion by asking both authors to explain the publishing journey that they have went through with their novel.
Sergio had to pay to make his writing into a book, after it was self published he was done with it. However his wife was not, through her hard work she created a buzz about the novel through various literature lovers. It was then picked up by University of Chicago press and has just been picked up MacLehose Press and is being published internationally. It will be available in the UK from the 29th of August. It is a book that would literally not have existed if it was not for the internet. Richard had a different journey, his novel was first published digitally, one novel being released a month. With the digital copy of the book you get extra videos and audio press which stretches the book. However all the digital pieces are designed to stand alone.
Where did the idea for your novel come from anh how long did it take to write?
Sergio is a public defender in New York and he was always interested in the notion of a public defender breaching the line and becoming a criminal themselves. The novel was the perfect platform to explore that idea, the novel took about five to six years to write. He added that this is painful and embarrassing to say aloud. Richard started out with two images, what is it like to be socialised with an event and what if what someone says ultimately is not what happened. The three main volumes of the novel took three to four years to write.
What are you literature influences as a writer?
When reading The Kills you can sense that there has been a Roberto Bolaño influence on the novel. This is very true, Richard states that 2666 opened up many possibilities and showed that there is a way to play with form when you go beyond the traditional 70,000 word novel. Sergio’s response could not be more different, he states that as a reader he is more likely to pick up a book from 100 years a go. It is really a question of it you are truly aware of these books being influences when you are writing. The 19th century Russian classic are a huge influence, as well as Moby Dick. Literature to me is a form of religion, one of the ways I choose to worship it is through writing.
Was there a certain aspect of freedom attached to writing A Naked Singularity? As when writing it you did not have a publisher.
Sergio responded with I hope not, cause if the freedom was the only way I could write then I have lost that freedom. You ultimately have to resist the temptation to think like that. Sergio plan to continue to operate like the only person who is going to read his work is himself and maybe his wife if she got curious. He believes it should be mandatory by law that everyone has to write everyday, doesn’t matter if you are no good at it. Art forms are a siren song for a reason.
Talk then moved onto the art of writing a bigger book. Richard described the long novel as a canvas and it is ultimately a suspension of ideas. Sergio added that the long novel is its own thing and is separate from the short novel. It has a certain demand to it and you rarely hear people complain that a novel is too long. When they do complain it is because the novel does not work. A novel should transport you to another world and make your own life seem very boring. The long novel requires a higher attention span than the short novel and he added that he gets a pay off much quicker through reading Dubliners than reading a 19th century Russian Classic. (Personally I love the fact that he considers Dubliners light reading, as people who know me will know I am a great fan of Joyce’s work)
Time for some audience questions
Would you recommend self publishing?
Yes but you need to be careful not to be taken advantage of. Get other people to read your work before you go down that route as it is very expensive to self publish. If you find that you are the only one that likes it, you have already found your perfect reader. Richard added that he shot most of the material that is available digitally. All this was done on an extremely low budget.
Do you understand the power of the reader?
The best thing you can hope for when writing, is that your book will linger with the reader long after they are finished it, like a good scent. He likes books that treat you like you are intelligent and treat the reader with a bit of dignity.
A Naked Singularity is a very unique title, how did you think of it?
The title is explained in the book near the end and when it is explained you will realise that it has in a way formed nearly every sentence within the book. It was a cool phrase and he ultimately just wanted to use it. A naked singularity is a gravitational singularity without an event horizon. In a black hole, the singularity is completely enclosed by a boundary known as the event horizon, inside which the gravitational force of the singularity is strong enough so that light cannot escape. Hence, objects inside the event horizon—including the singularity itself—cannot be directly observed. A naked singularity, by contrast, is observable from the outside.
Do you think that non-mainstream ways of publishing will become common?
Sergio started his answer by saying that as a writer you need to feel like an outsider. The novel has to be something new, it has to emerge from the margins and then that idea becomes mainstream. The writer that are madder are normally better. He added that he read the description of Richard’s novel and got thrilled, as it hadn’t been done before. The novel will never die, if writers refuse to accept the status quo.
With that final thought an hours discussion was brought to an end. I have to add that this event will probably be one of my highlights of this year festival. There are certain events that you know are going to be good and this one did not disappoint me. It was lovely to hear the amount of passion that each man have for the written word. It was also lovely to see that Sergio got his copy of The Kills signed by Richard at the singing after the event, this just goes to show how much this man does love literature and I look forward to see what each of these writers does next.