11 March 2019

Patrick Edwards: ‘There can be no fiction without tea’

Patrick Edwards, author
by Curtis Brown 120 Author Interviews, Curtis Brown 120

Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.

This week we catch up with debut novelist Patrick Edwards, who is represented by Curtis Brown 120 team member Catherine Cho! His debut science fiction novel Ruin’s Wake will be published 12th March 2019 by Titan Books. Read on to discover everything from Patrick’s publication journey to his reading recommendations and writing tips …

Ruin’s Wake is your debut novel, tell us the process about of writing it and finding your agent.
At the start of my 30s I needed a change-up, so I cobbled enough of a portfolio together to earn a place on the creative writing MA at Bath Spa (no one was more surprised than me that I got in). The final assessment and culmination of the year was a 45K manuscript, and that’s where Ruin’s Wake was born. By the end of that year I’d polished it up enough to think an agent might give it a second glance.

I fired the book out to a few people and heard precisely nothing back. I filled the time (I wasn’t working) by writing a bit of short fiction for periodicals and competitions. More cavernous silence ensued.

Just as crunch time was approaching and the prospect of returning to a regular job became more and more real, I got a call from Catherine Cho at Curtis Brown – she was looking to build her list and had picked out my stuff from the MA course’s anthology. There were some drinks that day.

What did it feel like to hold your book for the first time?
The road to publication is a long one, or at least it felt that way for me. There was a gap between getting an agent and finding a publisher and though there were some lovely rejections (my favourite oxymoron) I was, towards the tail end, feeling the dread creeping up on me. After the deal was struck with Titan Books I was deep in edits for a year, not to mention getting a second novel written, working a full time job and dealing with a wonderful but headstrong toddler (thank goodness my wife was there to keep me grinding away).

After all that, getting an advance copy of the book was, of course, wonderful, but also a little surreal. Frankly, it still feels that way.

What’s your favourite debut novel?
I’m going to cheat here and mention two. The Wasp Factory is a firebrand of weirdness and genius that seduced my teenage mind away from Iain Banks’s top-drawer science fiction and revealed his secret identity: that of a brilliant literary novelist. It made ‘proper’ books cool for me.

The second is The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières. Looking at it now, I can appreciate its wonderful aping of South American magical realism and its use of subtle, local colour; when I first read it I just loved the peasant revolts, the miraculous jaguars and the debauched English public school boy who never grew up.

How do you start your writing day?
When I have the luxury of a full day’s writing I always begin with tea. There can be no fiction without tea. I might watch an episode of something or play a videogame, something to relax me before I sit down at my desk. I’m aware of how flouncy that sounds but once I’m there I’m there for several hours and I barely feel the time go.

That’s the ideal, of course. I’m still working full time, so most days I write for a couple of hours after dinner. I won’t produce anything near the word count of the full days but it’s important to keep chipping away.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about what people think of you and remind yourself of that when you’re older. Also, sort out those eyebrows.

What tips would you give to aspiring novelists?
Consume everything. Doesn’t matter what flavour of book you’re writing, always go beyond: read history articles on Wikipedia, take books on serial killers to bed (don’t expect to sleep) and stream series about people going to Mars. Feed as much material into the cocktail shaker as you can.

Share your work with people you trust and challenge you. It’s not, despite appearances, a solo effort.

Celebrate every milestone. Whether it’s a finished 1st draft or a publishing deal, do something to commemorate it. During the long silences, when you’re waiting for agents or publishers to get back to you, it helps to be able to look back on how far you’ve come.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
Perfume by Patrick Süskind. It’s a wicked delight of a book about a gruesome little man who can manipulate perfume to make himself anything he wants to be. It was recommended to me by a friend, who heard of it from a man pushing a shopping trolley across Australia (possibly for charity, likely just because) and if that’s not a reason to pick up a book I don’t know what is.

How do you relax when you are not writing?
I like to cook: standing at the stove after a hard day is my happy place, especially if there’s a fine glass of beer involved (berliner weisse, if anyone’s offering).

I’ve been a gamer since I was old enough to hold a controller and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. As far as I’m concerned, games are an art medium that’s come of age and offers an immersive story experience like no other.

…oh, and reading. A lot. Obviously.

Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Wolverine. It’s a close-run thing between him and Barry Allen, but I have to go with Mr Logan. He’s a man who’s over a hundred years old, who’s fought in wars, lived and trained in Japan, lost his memory, regained it and had to watch his loved ones grow old around him even as he endures. His constant struggle with his primal self is the human condition laid bare and his perseverance is boundless; he might not run that fast but he’ll always get where he needs to go.

What was the last book you read?
Rosewater by Tade Thompson. It’s a stonker of a book and an acid-fresh bit of science fiction. I can’t wait to read the follow-ups.

What book is totally overrated in your view?
War and Peace. Mainly because Leo’s not around to set his Twitter followers on me, though I also found it overtly didactic to the point of being patronising, woolly in its pontification and unduly concerned with the downy upper lips of teenage girls. That said, I was a terrible student of Russian and am committing the heinous crime of judging a 19th century book by modern standards.  I’ll likely re-visit it one day.

Do you have any writing rituals– and can you tell us what they are?
The aforementioned tea, of course. Otherwise, I tend to crack on with it – my dad’s an engineer and he’s passed down his pragmatism to me.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
The closest I get to ‘guilty pleasure’ is my Warhammer 40k books. That said, they’re as much on display as my ‘clever’ books and I always enjoy them, so guilt doesn’t really come into it!

Find out more about Curtis Brown 120 here.

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