Ben Myers is a great writer. I feel lucky to have been reading him for a few years now. I'm convinced that he's one of those reliably brilliant and subversive writers that will develop an audience for years to come. I'm also convinced that, at some point, for one reason or another, one of his books will explode into the public consciousness and the rest of us will be here telling you we've been reading him all along. Maybe it'll take someone making a Pig Iron film with a Brad Pitt or Ewan Macgregor to get the ball rolling.When I went to the Northern Writers Awards in 2015, someone announced that ‘past winner Ben Myers’ was in the room. I started looking around and clocked a guy who I was pretty sure must be him. I weighed up going over to talk to him, but couldn’t really think of anything to say apart from how much I liked his books, so I decided against it. I figured nothing would make it more obvious that I'd clearly been invited to the awards through some sort of clerical error than loudly gushing like an excitable child.
One thing that’s striking about both Pig Iron and Beastings is how much the context, both social and environmental, plays into the character of each book. What tends to be your initial spark of idea for a novel? Is it the location? A character? An event?If I had to pick one, I would say it’s the location and landscape that comes first – or at least the feeling that specific places evoke within me. I knew I wanted to write about Durham – my home town – at some point as it’s so under-represented in fiction, so that is where Pig Iron began. With Beastings, which was inspired by a tiny old press clipping that I read several years ago, I had the plot first but as it developed I knew that Cumbria was the perfect setting for it. The raw, barren screes and dramatic peaks seemed to parallel the characters that were emerging.I’m going to assume that you’re a Manic Street Preachers fan. I was wondering whether the process of writing Richard changed your relationship with their music at all?Fundamentally. I became so immersed in the subject matter that I can barely listen to them now. But that’s often the case with bands anyway. One’s tastes are continually changing aren’t they? I still dip into their Richey-era stuff from time to time as that reflects my teen years perfectly - I will never tired of ‘Motown Junk’...It would probably seem surprising to people who have only read your more rural novels to find out that you were so involved in the music scene for a while. Was there a point in your life where you tired of city life? Do you think you could write the novels you have if you still lived in London?I lived in London for 12 years, but made regular forays into the countryside. They kept me sane. Being amongst the mountains or in dense woodlands or up on the moors in a storm is something I need. London began to drain my energy and finances and left my psychically fried. Just being in the music business can do that to you anyway; it’s a surprisingly artless place for a creative industry. Or it’s a place lacking poetry anyway. I do love London – how could you not? – but it feels like it is run by the wealthy now. Moving to rural Yorkshire at the age of 33 felt like a new phase, a re-birth, a changing of the mental gears. I certainly couldn’t have written my last two novels as they were had I been in the city. Then again, I feel a writer should be able to create wherever they go and London has seven million stories still to be told.I’ve seen you mention on Twitter that you’ve finished at least one other novel. When can we expect a new Ben Myers book? How many have you got up your sleeve?I have a new novel coming out this year. Late 2016, I think. I’m literally working on the cover for it today. And then one in 2017. Actually, maybe two in 2017. Or three. Shit. I don’t know. I’m announcing details very soon.Finally, what was the last thing, book, song, artist, place etc that you totally fell in love with?‘The Vile Stuff’ by Richard Dawson. It’s a Homeric epic set to haunting discordance. It’s a poem, a film, a farce, a novel, a nightmare:[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQVlNt6DAxY[/embed]There’s further reading on Richard Dawson here: http://www.caughtbytheriver.net/2015/11/11/im-being-haunted-by-richard-dawson-ben-myers/
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