The OF Blog: Interview with KJ Bishop

Friday, July 14, 2006

Interview with KJ Bishop

Below you can find an interview with KJ Bishop, an author who wrote the novel The Etched City. I hope these questions will help you understand her better, and if not yet, make you interested in her works.

Tell us a bit about yourself - how did you become the person and the writer that you are today?

That's rather hard to answer. Wishing to be not just one person; to wriggle out of the confines of one flesh, one gender, one set of social circumstances, the thoughts of one mind only. A lifelong desire to shapeshift. I did this all my life, but it manifested in writing comparatively late.

Who were some of the authors you were reading growing up and what influence, if any, did they have on your decision to write the types of stories that you write?

As a kid I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I read things that made me want to write--M. John Harrison's 'Viriconium' stories, Jeffrey Ford's 'The Physiognomy', and a bunch of decadent 19th century books that I got into at university. Those books opened my eyes to the wider possibilities of fantasy. And Michael Moorcock - I hugely admire his work, especially the way he marries mature ideas with adventurous stories.

What is the story behind the writing of The Etched City and are there many, if any, differences between the Prime edition and the Bantom reissue a couple years later?

The differences between the two editions are all small stuff – words here and there, a couple of paragraphs; the Bantam edition had some extra copy editing.
The book grew organically out of a pile of other things. I'd been writing bits and pieces about Gwynn, but the book didn't get legs until Raule appeared in my head. But even then, it was my third or fourth attempt at writing something about her. (Originally she was a somewhat different woman, called Odile, who still lives in my head and should have a book of her own one day.) She brought the Copper Country with her and guided me into the novel - then sort of wandered off, leaving me to deal with the sordid complications of Gwynn's life!

How did you come up with the characters of Gwynn and the Rev and is there any chance of us seeing them in other works of yours?

Gwynn was in my mind for a long time. I think he started out as a cross between David Bowie, Alice Cooper, and Richard E. Grant as Withnail. He went through a lot of cosmetic changes before he became the character in the book, but he's always been basically the same guy at heart. In fact, I don't think I did come up with him; he came up with himself – probably thousands of years before I was born.
The Rev also pretty much came up with himself, although physically he somewhat resembles the priest at my old school, who was a former wrestler and had a rough-around-the-edges look.

Seeing them again? Never say never. Both of them are still in my mind, and I think they were a good sort of odd couple. Maybe one day I'll do a sort of 'Closing Time' featuring Gwynn as the feral old rake he's probably doomed to become.

What are you working on at this moment and is there a chance you could tell us a little bit about what to expect form you in the coming years?

I've learned not to talk about it - talking about current work always seems to jinx it. But I hope I'll do a lot of different things, both fantasy and mainstream.

You've worked as a graphic design artist in addition to being a writer. To what degree is there a synergy between those two fields?

I don't do commercial art anymore, but I still draw for my own pleasure. Sometimes things draw themselves, and some of them give me ideas for my writing. My drawing-brain seems to go places my writing-brain doesn't, and vice versa.

Your website states that you are currently living in Thailand where you are teaching English. Has your experience in Bangkok influenced your perceptions of the world and perhaps infiltrated into your fictional writing?

Thailand's a very interesting place. Although it's becoming a more secular country, there's still plenty of belief in gods, spirits and magic. And Bangkok is a kind of cheerfully decadent place - at least, expat life here is a bit that way. I don't think it has so much influenced my perceptions of the world as provided me with a physical environment that gets along rather well with my imagination.

There's an adage that states that no writer is writing in a vacuum. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement in regards to your own writing?

In my case it's completely true. I'm like a sponge. I'm aware that I soak things up and use them - sometimes changing them, sometimes not. I don't think anyone does anything in a vacuum - and I don't know how anyone could imagine that any artist could work in a vacuum. The Author has been dead for quite a while now. I've always felt that my ideas, and characters, come from somewhere outside myself. That may or may not be true, but the feeling certainly precludes any sense of being in a vacuum.

The last question is the traditional question of the OF: If you were to own several monkeys and/or midgets, how many would you own, and what would you name them?

I would own a hundred monkeys, give them a hundred typewriters, and let them go for it. I would name them all William Shakespeare. I would own seven midgets to look after the monkeys, and I would name them Wrathful, Horny, Greedy Guts, Jealous, Vain, Lazy, and Capitalist.

Well, that is it for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice interview. Etched City is a cracking, genre border-bending read, btw, IMHO.

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