Until fairly recently this blog was anonymous, and now here I am inviting your questions! The encouragement I’ve received here on WordPress has been instrumental to me publishing Fragments of Perception, so I thought perhaps it was time to open the doors a little more. Apologies in advance for the length of some of my answers; I’m not so good at small talk…
Phil Huston asks:
Fragments of Perception, as a title. While the content is not episodic, it is thematic as most stories involve an experiential or borderline academic form of self-awareness. Regardless of the literary form the antagonist takes, the stories all involve some sort of, for lack of a better word, “education” for the protagonist. Whether it’s resolution or simple awareness of another point of view, all involved between the covers of this title are enlightened by their experience(s). Was the title deliberate? And if so, did it develop with the content, was it a “finish it first and then we’ll name it” or was it conceptual all along?
The ’Fragments of’ titles have been with me since I started writing fiction in this form. The first grouping was Fragments of Dark, which was an illustrated, hand-stitched zine I made in limited edition to raise money for a local mental health charity. It was a selection of ‘inside looking out’ perspectives on depression. I kept the style and moved onto other loose themes: Fragments of Light was about the parallels between madness and magic, Fragments of Void was about Nihilism and Unconventional Spirituality, Fragments of Future was about the impact advancing technology might have on the psyche, and Fragments of Heart was about hard-hitting love and obsession.
When I decided to put the collection together, I used pieces from all of these as well as some others that complimented the overall concept. I had this idea that the stories should come across as pieces of separate jigsaw puzzles slotting together to make a whole new picture. None of the titles I already had quite described the whole, but I didn’t want to lose the ‘Fragments of’ identity I’d built up. Luckily the answer was staring me in the face, because the two-part story that bookends all the others contains the line: “how could those of us with no high-tech implants and only fragments of perception be considered anything but inferior?”
What philosophies/philosophers have inspired your work the most?
I have a triangle of philosophical inspirations that I never seem to tire of because the interactions and overlaps between them are so plentiful.
Firstly, there’s a definite undercurrent of existentialism in everything I write. Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra made a big impression on me quite early on in life, and the novels of Satre, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka a little later.
Although not known foremost as a philosopher, Carl Jung’s ideas about the way we experience the world have been a profound inspiration to me. The unconscious mind is a recurring theme, both in my visual art and my writing, as is the path to individuation. Oh, and I also use his personality types to understand different viewpoints and interactions between characters.
Thirdly, I have studied a lot of mysticism. The philosophies of Thelema, Yacqui Shamanism, Chaos, Kabbalah, and Hermeticism all come together and feed into my work.
Carlie Nooka Martece asks:
Who are your biggest influences?
Since I’ve already talked about philosophical influences above, I’ll mention some fiction writers here. Steve Erickson was the first author to really amaze me, to make me think *this* is how I want to write. All of his books, particularly his early ones, have a dreamlike quality that seems to come from somewhere between the words. His stories and characters have synchronous connections across time and space, and magical metaphors seep into the real world…
I’d also say J.G. Ballard has been a big influence, even though I have a love-hate relationship with his work. He has an admirable way of dragging things up from the unconscious and making the reader feel uncomfortable and exposing hidden parts of human nature.
Apart from literature, I’m influenced a whole lot by abstract or surreal visual art, dark music (Blut Aus Nord are my favourites), and bizarre animation like that of Jan Svankmajer.
Paul Marcroft asks:
You write a lot of short stories. Are there any themes that you feel run through all of them?
As Phil alludes to above, the theme that runs through them all is psychological and spiritual growth. I try to show the ways people’s minds adapt, or in some cases fail to adapt, to an evolving world in which the rules are ever-changing. I also like to blur the lines between insanity and magic; fantasy and reality, to hopefully bring about questions of boundaries in the reader’s mind.
Although all the stories in Fragments of Perception are self-contained at first glance, beneath the surface there are other layers that often spread across multiple stories. There are ‘easter eggs’ and hidden links all over the place for those who wish to look deeper.
One of the oldest bits of advice with regards to writing is to write what you know. What aspects of yourself do you feel you put into the characters?
As a Jungian psychology fan I think all the traits we project onto others are really reflections of ourselves, at least until we are far enough along our path that ego and neuroses no longer play a part. That goes for characters, too. I think there are aspects of me in them all: the madmen, the oppressors, and the outsiders alike. Even some of the fantastical creatures have been moulded from real meditations and dreams.
Angela Diplock asks:
What situation are you usually in when you’re at your writing best?
My best ideas invariably come to me when I’m supposed to be doing something else! Driving, in the shower, about to start my day job… Usually I’m writing *something* in near enough every window I can find; it’s just what I do. But I suppose to really get a good imaginative flow of words going I need to be in a place I can dream. A comfy chair, not at a desk. Headphones on, no people chatter.
Do you have a favourite character from anyone else’s work?
I actually found this question quite difficult. At first I could think of none, and then too many… My favourite character of all I think has to be Dream from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. He is many-faceted, driven yet ethereal, and just so wonderfully imagined. I am also a big fan of Don Juan Matus from the Carlos Castaneda books – whether he is fictional or not has never been proven – and the Discordian anarchist prankster from The Illuminatus and Schrodinger’s Cat trilogies: Hagbard Celine.
Thank you everyone for taking part in this open interview, it’s been a lot of fun! Now, time to banish my ego back to its cave for a while…
A big thank you to all the lovely people who have bought Fragments of Perception and Other Stories in its first month! If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, please head over to my books page to for details of where you can get one.