Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rohan Quine to my blog. Rohan’s novel The Imagination Thief was published by EC1 Digital and the Firsty Group in 2013, as an ebook that includes film and audio and photographic content in conjunction with the novel’s text: click here for more information and some nice reviews in The Guardian and elsewhere. The Imagination Thief will next be published by EC1 Digital as a paperback, which will be launched at Authoright’s London Author Fair 2014.
Four novellas by Rohan, entitled The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong, will also be published by EC1 Digital and launched at the London Author Fair 2014—as four separate ebooks, and collected into one paperback entitled The Platinum Raven and other novellas.
Like me, Rohan grew up in South London. There the similarity ends. He spent a couple of years in L.A. and then a decade in New York, where he ran around excitably, saying a few well-chosen words in a handful of feature films and TV shows (see those-new-york-nineties), modelling in a few places, and drinking deep in many more places. He’s now living back in East London, as an Imagination Thief, with his boyfriend and a rabbit named Clytemnestra. He aims to push imagination and language towards their extremes, in order to explore and illuminate the beauty, horror and mirth of this predicament called life, where we all seem to have been dropped without sufficient consultation ahead of time. Further tales are in the pipeline.
Q: Rohan, What genre do you generally write in and have you ever experimented with other genres?
There are five tales so far, and I’m looking forward to beginning a sixth one later this year. I was chuffed that The Imagination Thief was awarded a place in Awesome Indies’ ‘experimental’ category, which is reserved for the best new original fiction. But if I had to make a more precise stab at categorisation, I’d say all five are Literary Fiction, with elements of Magical Realism and a dusting of Horror, celebrating the darkest and brightest possibilities of human imagination, personality and language. For me there’s huge scope within that particular “cross-over” of categories, so I don’t believe I’ll be running out of material any time soon. If I were sensible, I’d be writing something more commercial. Not being sensible, however, I have to say my writing passions are sparked only by creating what my imagination is most fired to write, rather than what I should write from a sales point of view: that’s where the fun lies, for me. It’s meant to be fun, after all – as well as being deathless prose, of course!
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Just staying awake and alive, with eyes open and brain engaged, provides more material than I could ever exhaust. At this point we’re all so deluged with information and imagery, having such access to every type and voltage of feeling all around us, in real space and/or online, that getting inspiration is taken care of. The relentless challenge is instead constituted by practicalities and finding the time to channel that inspiration. When pockets of practical opportunity and windows of time are forced into being, always against the odds, then it’s a pleasure to bring that material in, break it down and fully process it, in a way that could best be summed up (retrospectively) by three questions or guidelines:
- How can I illuminate the world, to the best of my abilities, using language in new and old ways, and thereby leave the world infinitesimally better than it was before I did so?
- How can I aim and attune my ears as clearly as possible to whatever my/our highest artistic potential is, then bring down the richest results from that place, then give those results the truest and most beautiful form I can create?
- How can what I write take an honest account of the darkness and pain in the world, while at the same time being a vote for life (maybe even an absolute blast of fun, along the way)?
The results of that mission should flow smoothly, and sometimes humorously; but I don’t think I’d be interested in the mission if it were any less serious than that, or if those guidelines were to be accompanied by other guidelines that sought to bully the output into any greater contingency or fashionability or commerciality than the above three can attain by themselves.
Q: Your books have a very distinctive look and feel about them. Who designed them? And, if you used a cover designer, what brief did you give them?
A lovely job was done of all five, I’m happy to say. The cover of The Imagination Thief was designed by Andi Rivers at the Firsty Group; and Jane Dixon-Smith at J D Smith Design designed the cover of the paperback The Platinum Raven and other novellas, as well as the four individual covers for its four constituent e-book novellas, The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong. In each case I chose the individual images I needed, knowing exactly the effect I required for each. I located most of the images from a couple of the big stock photo houses online. It’s a pleasure to spend an entire day or two doing nothing but sifting through tens of thousands of beautiful images from all around the planet, systematically and at high speed (though slowing right down sometimes, just to savour certain images for their own sake – stopping to smell the roses along the way, as it were), so as to whittle down the selection by slow but sure degrees. There’s a huge number available, and they tend to be quite cheap to use. Those two designers then did the clever stuff in PhotoShop, combining and adjusting the images into the configurations I’d described and sketched for them, followed by a final adjustment or two at my request.
Q: I completely agree. Deciding how your work will be presented is one of the real joys of publication. By that time, the hard work is done.
You must be very excited about the launch of your collection of novellas,The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong How are you preparing for that?
I’m working on a ton of details connected with the London Author Fair on 28 February 2014. There’s also the first print-book of last year’s e-book novel The Imagination Thief. These five tales share a small handful of characters, but each one also has other characters of its own. All five are free-standing and may be read in any order. Tasty snippets from them are arrayed, like a tray of pouting vol-au-vents, at:
Each novella is also equipped with its own sassy little strapline, I should add. These go as follows…
- The Platinum Raven is a triple convulsion whereby our heroine Raven escalates herself into the Chocolate Raven and then the Platinum Raven, from London to Dubai to the tower in the hills in the desert – then back down again, forever changed.
- The Host in the Attic is a hologram of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, digitised and reframed in cinematic style, set in London’s Docklands in a few years’ time.
- In Apricot Eyes, a cat-and-mouse pursuit through the New York City night involves a preacher, a psychic and a dominatrix, broadcast live on air – until a horror is unearthed, bringing two of them together and the third to a sticky end.
- In Hallucination in Hong Kong, sliding from joy to nightmare and back, a plane-flight frames a journey into Jaymi’s and Angel’s polarised identities and perceptions, where past and present merge in an obsessive fantasy of love, death, horror and apocalyptic beauty.
The paperback comprising all four novellas together, The Platinum Raven and other novellas, will be officially released online on 21 February, but you can pick up a copy already from Amazon UK
And the same online release date and early availability also applies to the print-book of the novel The Imagination Thief, from Amazon UK.
The four individual novella e-books will be released online on 21 February at all Amazon sites and (via Smashwords) at all the other major retailers. But meanwhile you can place a pre-order for them at Smashwords itself, so that they’ll then be delivered to you on 21 February, and the place to do that is:
Q: Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
It would be helpful if I could write with a racket going on, but unfortunately I seem to require proper privacy and silence, if I’m to hear what I need to hear. Not that I do anything interestingly quirky, once I have that privacy: there’s no feverish pacing up and down or hanging from the chandeliers. There’s just expressionless immobility, as I stare at the laptop screen for a long time. It wouldn’t make a riveting spectator sport. But contrary to my dozy appearance there, there’s a fair amount going on behind the eyes. In essence it feels like a great volume of hammering and construction, I suppose. Delicate hammering rather than butch hammering, of course, but I always did prefer the delicate kind – so much less of a schlep.
Q: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
The first person is my favourite, preferably in the present tense. I’ve heard people say the third person is easier, but for me the first just feels more natural. Not that I’m always writing from my own point of view in real life: usually not, in fact. But I enjoy playing with narratorial identity, without being gimmicky about it, and I suspect that the apparent transparency of the first person, especially in the present tense, makes this playing easier or more playful. I don’t use the first person every time, though, as witness the fact that The Platinum Raven and The Host in the Attic are both in the third person (in the present tense). As one such bit of play, The Host in the Attic contains a character who is presented as having written my novel The Imagination Thief, as well as several other characters whose names and identities she used in that novel, morphing their characteristics in the course of her writing it.
Q: With mainstream authors such as Margaret Atwood championing Wattpad (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jul/06/margaret-atwood-wattpad-online-writing?newsfeed=true) one of the key trends of 2013 has been a return to the serialisation of books. Have you experimented yet?
When the e-book of The Imagination Thief came out last year, I released its 120 mini-chapters and its 11 little film-ettes, one of them each day in strict order, over the course of 131 days. These popped up first on Tumblr, from where they propagated onto Twitter and onto the novel’s Facebook Page and onto my own Facebook Profile. The full text was simultaneously serialised daily on Wattpad, mini-chapters 1-98 and mini-chapters 99-120. Being new to the task of setting up these platforms in such a way as to trigger one another reliably, I had to remain pretty much buried in the technical “clockwork” aspects of keeping it all on schedule for 131 days, rather than on the whole social networking side of things that Margaret Atwood and others have admirably pressed Wattpad into service for: I think I’d have required 48-hour days in order to maximise that properly. But it was fun to unfurl the world of the novel’s e-book across 4+ months, and to involve all the video/audio/photo media elements on Tumblr, which I was aware is still unusual in the context of literary fiction. It’s on my “to do” list, to serialise the upcoming four novellas too; so we’ll find out whether or not this task is able to fight its way to the very top of that list and therefore become actual reality…
Q: Where can we find out more about you and your work?
Allied with his write-up of my novel The Imagination Thief in The Guardian at Six Self-Publishing Surprises, the regular Guardian guest-blogger Dan Holloway was kindly indulgent in allowing me to witter on at considerable length in his extended interview with me at his own blog – so that’s probably where there’s the best chance of learning any further detail that might be desired (and very likely also a whole bunch that isn’t). Plus you can check out the web of other treats available there, in the shape of his own rich output of writing and his varied curations of innovative stuff by many other people on various platforms. When I first saw it all, I assumed he must have a harem of assistants or a private income – but remarkably, he has neither!
With a focus on all the video/audio/photo elements within the e-book of The Imagination Thief, I also went into a fair bit of colourful detail, and no doubt a bit of windy theory, when New Edition magazine recklessly gave me a three-page spread.
I reckon the three other sharpest analyses of The Imagination Thief, in all its peculiarity and cupcake-ness, are the following three sets of perceptive eyes and minds, to each of whom I’m respectfully grateful for their cultured engagement: first, one of your recent guest novelists here on this blog, namely JJ Marsh, when she included The Imagination Thief in her best-of-2013 list; secondly, the writer Jen McFaul in her essay-length piece; and thirdly the writer and Amazon UK “Top 2,000” reviewer Debbie Young on her blog.
As for those social media that you mention here, I’m always intending to be more productive in this direction than I ever succeed in being, so my online presences are always a bit nascent compared to those of more industrious online operators such as yourself and JJ and Debbie and Dan – but I shall get myself more organised there, I promise! Meanwhile my links are the following, and a warm welcome to any of your readers who may want to connect. At my own website there’s a sign-up on the home-page to be notified of future publications, so do sign up if you fancy. One of these days I shall get fully into gear with Goodreads. There’s a Facebook Page for The Imagination Thief. And I’m over at Twitter, but it’s best not to hold your breath between tweets, but nevertheless tweeting sometimes happens!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I’ve tended to focus here upon the four novellas, in their e-book and print-book formats, but in fact the print-book version of The Imagination Thief is just as much a part of these upcoming releases. Perhaps I’ll just therefore just answer this question by lobbing out a quick reminder that although this good old-fashioned print-book format can most certainly be consumed all by itself, nonetheless it can also be looked at in conjunction with a dose of video/audio/photo material available at:
As mentioned on the Tumblr page, the filmed elements were professionally produced, but funded very much out of Love and Experimentation, so no Hollywood gloss should be expected, nor indeed any car-chases.
Rohan has very kindly provided an taster of his writing, so enjoy!
Taster of The Platinum Raven from chapter 6 “Platinum hair on black silk” (To read the synopsis, click here)
Sipping the wine, she leans on the rail and looks downwards a third of a mile, to where the lights around the Mall twitch and flicker in the sticky air. A car-horn peeps thin and yellow for a second, like a pin sticking out from the city’s endless thick electric pincushion night-roar.
Since her first visit here yesterday, it has come to seem to her that life is somehow mostly night. Alone in this eyry, she feels she is dealing now in night alone—the bright black night in front of her, cut with tracks of energy and pricked with coloured points of light. That’s fine; she likes the night.
Across the city, towers shine—some huge and beautiful, but none as huge or beautiful as this one that she’s in. Some bristle close to her; other ones rear up far away, colossal and alone, hard-wired to the same grid of lights. No one could know the whole city well, she reflects: many months might be spent, trekking all through its blocks, to the sad far marches on the edges of the desert.
She refills her glass, taps her cigarette ash off, draws in, exhales, and sees the smoke coil and hang and drift away to where the floodlights catch it from below.
She thinks back perhaps twenty minutes, maybe half an hour, to the extraordinary voltage and transcendence she achieved, through forces of creation she’d not known she possessed, when her mouth went so terrifyingly into first an O shape and then a vertical slot-shape with rounded ends, and she birthed that mad-faced tower on the mountains. And there rises in her now a feeling rather like a rich blast of organ chords across the sky in harmonies that hold aloft a woman’s song whose power and serenity and longing span the world. She knows that a second deployment of these new-found powers of hers will be occurring here, in just a moment or three—and she knows that this time the experience will be much calmer and gentler for her than that first time was.
So, she just starts doing it—and yes, it is indeed calmer and gentler, but nonetheless she feels it as electrically powerful, unnerving and excessive. Her hands grip the railing, as the voltage unfurls from her face and streams sideways, out across the desert to the mountain range. She shouldn’t have this much power. It’s too dangerous, in terms of what she might do with it down there in everyday life, instead of up here now—or whom she might turn it upon.
It’s time to look again, where she’s carefully not been looking.
Her attention shoots ahead, across the burn of the city and the blackness of the desert, to the canyon with the tiny glow of yellow-orange light…
And perched on the rock-slopes, just on a level with her, there is the mad-faced building she erected—still there, obediently waiting for her now. The folly made of iron, with the face of a mad tower: two round windows just beneath the turret, staring back at her…
So now what? she wonders. And while she does so, they hatch, right there in real time, tiny in the distant tower: fuzzy for a moment, till the auto-focus kicks in, but growing into sharpness as they swell to human size.
It’s a bar scene, she sees. Standing at the far left end of the bar is a glamorous young woman, facing right and thus in profile from this point of view. Her face is half-obscured by the long platinum-blonde hair falling dead-straight and splashing softly off her shoulder where it burns dead white against smooth black silk, like a burnt-out exposure in a photographic print, or a photographic negative of raven-coloured hair. She half-turns her head in this direction, and the Chocolate Raven blinks to see the face is like her own face. So similar is the woman’s build to her own, moreover, and so cleanly dramatic and unique is the opposition of her hair colour to the Chocolate Raven’s own dark brunette version of the same style, that she thinks of the woman straightaway as the Platinum Raven.
The barman hands her a wad of banknotes, which she stows about herself with speed and discretion. Then she stands contemplating the tableau of people on view in the mirror mounted along the entire length of the bar’s back wall above the bottles on the top shelf, looking in particular at the man at the far right-hand end of the bar. He is blond and attractive, his face alive with self-contained perceptiveness. The wide-set fluidity of humour in his eyes makes her think of Rutger Hauer in the desert: well-equipped, through ready charm, to hitch a lift.
She imagines this man’s viewpoint on this same wide mirror tableau: standing again at the left side of the tableau (but in only half-profile this time) will be a glamorous young woman facing right, her long platinum-blonde hair falling dead-straight and splashing softly off her shoulder, burning white against the smooth black silk of her top. This is the Platinum Raven herself, of course, though the blond man won’t know her name yet. She half-turns her head in the blond man’s direction, through real space along the bar; and for him, her hair in the tableau in the mirror must therefore be splashing a little differently now upon the black silk of her shoulder, though of course she herself can no longer verify this directly in the mirror.
And on her right will be a young Arab man of perhaps twenty-one, of a dark and delicate beauty in keeping with the silver scorpion pendant hanging at his neck, and whose glass she clinks with her own.
Without warning the Platinum Raven then turns her head further round, in slow-motion, to face this direction, as if she can see though the fourth wall of the bar-room and across the desert, to where the city of Dubai spreads out impaled by the Burj Khalifa’s spike.
The Platinum Raven’s eyes spend a few moments easing with infinitesimal precision up and down this building’s 30 Tiers—then they pinpoint the Chocolate Raven’s little i-shaped dot where it leans at the rail of Level 152, holding up a glass of red that’s lit from within by the dusk-light passing through it here on the roof of Tier 14.
The platinum-lashed eyes stop their hunt. They focus more; and now they stare straight across, cutting clear and cool through the miles of desert in between, directly to their chocolate-lashed double’s own eyes.
On the wet smooth curves of the Platinum Raven’s eyes sits an identical pair of images of the Chocolate Raven herself, ever so tiny and ever so perfect: crouching in the glare of a parked car’s headlights, just beyond the power-station complex on the desert coast, over-exposed in a light that burns her face to white, moaning in pleasure there impaled on a man in shadow, crouching with her luscious straight chocolate-coloured hair across her face, until she raises her head and the hair slides away… And now her own devastating, desert-eyed perfection meets the Chocolate Raven’s gaze full on, electrifying—animal, expressionless, an icon of ecstasy and chocolate and sweat in wailing silence in the headlights, as dust floats around her through the siren-song behind the air.
The Chocolate Raven’s glance zooms back out again, to re-embrace the bar scene in the tower once more, where beside the Platinum Raven is the other one: the Arab boy dressed in black, a Scorpio pendant at his neck. No smile there at all, too much tension and exquisiteness and fierce vulnerability.
For him it wasn’t easy, no one-two-three. But here he is—just as if in some club, deep in a city. A sudden smile leaks through, a flush of light across his face, for an instant. Then once again, no smile. Fem in black, for this is realness. So waltz darling, deep in vogue.
—There he is, right now.
Perfection, for all time…
The Chocolate Raven thinks of him as Scorpio, murmuring the name as she watches him, unblinking so as not to miss a split-second’s portion of this advent of an unpredicted figure whom she nonetheless feels that she’s known all her life.
He snorts a line of cocaine from the bar’s immaculate shiny top, then he turns his dainty head to one side and slightly up, to hear the Platinum Raven murmur something in his ear. And only now does the Platinum Raven release the Chocolate Raven’s gaze and turn away, back towards the mirrored bar tableau and her own world, there in the mad-faced tower on the rock-slopes.
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