Friday, June 1, 2012

Keith Brooke

Keith Brooke writes science fiction, fantasy and other strange things.

He also runs infinity plus ebooks, publishing the work of Eric Brown, Anna Tambour, John Grant, Kaitlin Queen, Paul di Filippo, Iain Rowan, Neil Williamson and others.

Brooke's new novel is Harmony.

Recently I asked him what he was reading.  His reply:
My reading tends to be quite diverse, with several things on the go at once.

One book I've had on the go for ages is J. Randy Taraborrelli's The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. It looked interesting, and is - crammed with fascinating stuff - but somehow it just hasn't come alive for me, so I've been battling through this one for months now, a few pages at a time. I love to read a fairly random selection of non-fiction. Not only is it interesting in its own right, it gives me all kinds of snippets that inspire and feed my work. Yes, my latest novel is about aliens, but Marilyn Monroe's story if full of mystery, tragedy, political machinations, human rivalries, human failings and triumphs - all the ingredients of any half-decent story.

Last night I dipped into a Writer's Digest book, Crafting Novels & Short Stories. It looks like there will be some really interesting stuff, but the first chapter on story-planning left me cold. My interest in books like this is largely professional: I lecture on creative writing at my local university. The main thrust of the my novel-writing course is that every writer needs to find their own way to work: I don't want them to learn, and struggle with, my way. Prescriptive methods, like that in the chapter I read last night, would kill any idea I had. Yes, I like to make notes and plan ahead, but not in the kind clinical, formulaic detail the chapter's author was advocating. Which isn't to say it wouldn't work for many other writers - just not me!

As for other reading, I'm pretty much between books, having just finished several novels. I read Stephen Palmer's strange fantasy The Rat and the Serpent for professional reasons, again: it's the latest title from the ebook imprint I run, infinity plus books. One of the joys of running my own imprint is that I only publish books I love, so it's always a pleasure to be working on a book like this.

Other professional reading includes my monthly review for The Guardian. The latest of these was Steve Rasnic Tem's wonderfully dark and twisted Deadfall Hotel [read the review]. Sometimes it's a chore reading for review, but in cases like this it's wonderful not only to be reading such a good book but to be paid to do so!

Finally, a novel I've just finished purely for my own pleasure is Ian McEwan's Amsterdam. I'm a huge fan of his work - for me, his early short stories are about as close to perfection as it's possible to get in that form. The danger with reading authors like McEwan (and Graham Greene, Ian McDonald and a few others) is that they're so good they put you off your own writing: sometimes brilliance inspires, sometimes it just makes you wonder why you bother. Sadly, Amsterdam was a mixed bag. Full of wonderful prose, fascinating characters and a world painted in such convincing detail, and yet... the closing passages made me think I'd been reading a different book up to that point: a moving, vivid story descending into comic farce.
Visit Keith Brooke's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Harmony.

--Marshal Zeringue