Gord – An Interview with RJW

by Horror Sleaze Trash on June 20, 2012

Cover image by: Jimmy Gerrard

http://www.lulu.com/shop/richard-wink/gord/paperback/product-20174105.html

Gord Lokin is a man created in the mould of some of the great literary hard on his luck deadbeat dreamers – such as Bukowski’s Henry Chinaski and Charles Jackson’s Don Birnam. ‘Gord’ is a collection of poems that follows Lokin in a working environment where he frequently encounters despair, unrequited love and an assortment of rogues, thieves and scumbags.

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Or buy the Ebook here.

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Upon the release of his final collection of work, “Gord”, HST corners our favorite interviewer, RJW,  and flips the tables. If you’re going to spend pennies on a book this week, this is the sure fire winner.  Read more below.

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HST: Rich – It’s always a pleasure and congratulations on the new collection.  Gord Lokin is our protagonist,  what’s he like as a dude?

RW: He’s a flawed man, who is drifting through his days. I suppose ‘distant’ would be a good word to describe how he is. One of these men who you can’t get particularly close to, because there is a defence there, he doesn’t seem threatening, neither does he appear particularly approachable. One of these men that you might notice sitting on his lonesome, leaning up against the bar, someone you don’t really acknowledge. At the same time there is a curiosity there. I don’t know if I’m naturally inquisitive, but I like to get to know someone’s story, what makes them tick. This usually leads to some interesting conversations with strangers. People tend to tell you all kinds of things when you actually stop and talk to them. I think if I saw Gord nursing a pint, I’d try and get him to open up a bit.

HST: Sounds like a lot of people I know, haha.  Is he based on any one you know, or a culmination of many?

RW: I wanted Gord Lokin to represent the worst elements of my own personality, akin to how Bukowski used Hank Chinaski, and to give you another example how Fred Exley used himself in ‘A Fan’s Notes’. I like the idea of using what you perceive to be your biggest weaknesses or character flaws and then projecting them onto a fictional creation.

Unlike Exley I haven’t gone the whole hog. I mean, Gord isn’t a representation of myself under an alias. I think the book would be infinitely darker if that were the case. My intention was to create a protagonist who exists on the periphery of life, an observer as opposed to an active participant.

HST: I quote; “I think if I saw Gord nursing a pint, I’d try and get him to open up a bit.”   Are you a boozer Rich? Do you think a few pints ease up the old enine of honesty?

RW: I’m part of Britain’s Binge Drinking generation. Essentially since I was old enough to frequent pubs and bars there has seldom been any moderate responsible nights of drinking. Though aside from the early years when I was reckless (the dark days of pissing through letter boxes, throwing wheelbarrows and road signs into the river, taunting the Police), I think I’ve matured as a drinker; my tolerance to the effects of alcohol has reached a point that though I may be jolly, I don’t lose complete control.

Definitely I would attest that alcohol is great for opening up conversation. Nights out with friends and small talk with strangers are undoubtedly better when everyone is in a state of merriment. Whether or not booze makes people more open or honest is open for debate. I know aggressive drunks, silly drunks, funny drunks and sleepy drunks, and occasionally a few things slip out when they shouldn’t from loose lips. As a painfully candid guy, I tend to say what I feel, which whether sober or drunk has sometimes got me in a spot of bother.

HST: “Gord isn’t a representation of myself under an alias. I think the book would be infinitely darker if that were the case.”  How so?

RW: See, in my early days as a ‘poet’ I would write quite personal poems. Many of my chapbooks before ‘Dead End Road’ contained poems written about my own life. I’m quite uncomfortable about going back to those days. It’s easier to write about fictional characters, even if you stick them in your own world.

If, hypothetically speaking I were to write openly about my own life, and who I am, then though it might be a cathartic experience in some ways, it might also make me vulnerable. I’m not sure I could handle that.

When I say ‘darker’, I would have to write the truth, and that would include the fact that up until summertime last year I was all over the place spiritually and mentally. Covering that would be rather intense.

HST: I know you’re a hardworking man, is the daily grind an inspiration or a burden for the imagination?

RW: Well, I work long hours compared to the national average, 50 hours a week, but that is quite common for the Industry I’m in. I’ve worked longer, pushing 60 – 70 hours, but I can’t complain too much as it pays ok. Then add to that the voluntary work I’m doing, helping the emotionally vulnerable, which ties into my studies. I’m currently studying to become a Counsellor, this begun with a foundation course which I should complete around July time. After this I’ve got to complete a twelve month intensive course to become fully qualified.

I like to keep busy, because the busier I am, the less I think about trivial bullshit. I am naturally an introspective person, and keeping my fingers in many pies keeps me occupied, instead of wasting hours naval gazing.

The writing is something I’ve been doing since I left school aged 16. The daily grind can prevent me from spending as much time as I’d like putting the words down, but you’ve got to make time, work on your craft, no matter what obstacles are in the way. If you want it bad enough then you’ll make the time.

It is an inspiration in the sense that you get ideas for characters, situations. Both ‘Gord’ and 2009’s ‘Dead End Road’ are very much rooted in kitchen sink realism. I subscribe to the view that you should write about what you know.

HST: Do stories from your average day creep into your work? Specifically the security work and people you encounter?

RW: Believe me when I say the truth is much stranger than the fiction. Listen, I have to be careful for legal and confidentiality reasons about covering what I encounter. It would be unprofessional to literally write about what I have seen during an average shift at work.

Having said that certain elements can be repackaged, and stories retold. That’s where using your creative licence as a writer comes in handy. The truth is, I have been privileged to see the underbelly of the city I live in over the last three years. When I was an Office Worker several years ago I was ignorant, living a work/pub/club/sleep lifestyle, living for the weekend. There might have been bad shit, but that was stuff you’d read in the local newspapers. It never seemed close enough to worry about. Now, I don’t think I live in particularly dangerous city. Christ, I’ve seen people shot and stabbed when I’ve visited London, and touch wood I’ve witnessed nothing like that in Norwich. However, Norwich isn’t the cosy, easy-going place I thought it was.

I will say this. Security work is quite strange, because nobody really takes you seriously, there is a fair bit of hostility, and generally you are viewed as an ignorant meathead who likes a ruck. I’d rather be seen as a reasonably cultured gentleman who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when the situation requires.

HST: “I’d rather be seen as a reasonably cultured gentleman who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when the situation requires.” Haha I like that, Sherlock Holmes kinda path, right?

RW: I’ve absolutely adored the recent BBC adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I think Holmes is a brilliant character. I love the idea how he is so gloriously flawed as a person. I mean, what’s the deal with his relationships with women? Is it self-preservation? Or are they his kryptonite? I suppose in some ways I can relate to that.

Wasn’t it Holmes that once said “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” In my line of work, you wait for things to play out, picking up on little nuances of behaviour and body language that ordinarily somebody might miss. I’ve tended to adopt that approach as a writer, paying greater attention to what’s going on around me.

HST: I can definitely see that in your writing, How would you describe the narrative of Gord?

RW: The opening is homage to that iconic final scene from the film ‘Quadrophenia’ when Jimmy Cooper is looking out over the cliff and contemplates his mortality. Only Gord Lokin is sat behind the wheel of his Volvo Amazon staring at the seagulls somewhere along the Norfolk Coast. As he drifts out of consciousness, he looks back at his last few working weeks.

HST: What makes a man in this day and age in all sense of the word? What is it to be a good man in the 2012’s?

RW: I’ve learned a lot over the last six months. The importance of congruence, staying alert about where you are, what you are doing and what is happening around you. There are plenty of distractions and pitfalls that might lead you down the wrong path. The worst thing you can do is attempt to emulate what you think a man should be by falling into such traps.

Slowly, I’ve turned things around by applying a bit more rationality to decision making, and not worrying about petty rubbish. I’ve become proactive, and more assertive, my life at last has some direction.

I finally have a clue about what I want from life. So, in my mind what makes a man is self-acceptance and the resolution to continuously improve and evolve until your time is up. I think a good man in 2012 is somebody who either has, or is about to take steps walking on their own path.

HST: In wake of taking steps; In many ways Gord is a broken man, is he fixable?

RW: If I was to be perfectly blunt I would say Gord just needs to pull his head out of his backside, find a woman and get laid. That would answer some of his problems, no doubt.

His problems run a fair bit deeper than that, so it isn’t really a case of a simple solution for the bloke. People get stuck in ruts, in unhealthy cycles, and I suppose there is a fix, a moment of realisation that might one day come for him. He is fixable, but I leave the reader this ponderable at the end of the book – is it too late for Gord?

HST: You have also released Gord as an eBook, was this for a wider access to readers, or something else?

You’ve got to move with the times, Kindles and eReaders are ultimately the future. More and more phones and tablets have apps that allow you to read books. It just makes sense to release the book in both formats. The more tech savvy out there will be pleased to know that the eBook version costs only a quid, and is much cheaper than the paperback.

HST: What is your opinion on the new wave eBook and how do you feel about the decline of the physical, in your hands, paper books

RW: When I review books for other writers I tend to receive mostly eBooks, and I’ve slowly got used to reading two hundred plus pages on a screen. For pleasure, I still like the touch and feel of a paperback book. I like to be able to pass the book on to a friend, or family member. I like the smell of a secondhand paperback book. I like to chuck the book in my bag, and not worry too much if it gets crushed, to know that if I drop it from my bed when drifting off to sleep that it won’t break. In the future I might well get an eReader, but until that day I’m quite happy with the paper version. It saddens me somewhat that all bookstores, even the secondhand ones will close because of advances in technology, and the disposable nature of physical objects. I just hope it doesn’t happen in my lifetime.

HST: How difficult is it to promote and sell when self-publishing on presses like Lulu?

RW: From my point of view it isn’t going to be too different to when I was promoting my first full length collection ‘Dead End Road’. BeWrite Books, the publisher hooked me up with a decent editor, and stuck the book out there for sale, but ultimately it was up to me to promote the book. I didn’t necessarily do this to the best of my abilities, and I often joke that it was a critical success but a commercial failure. Those who reviewed the book liked it, and were very complimentary about my work. However I found it difficult to effectively market the book on the back of such praise.

I think poetry is notoriously difficult to sell at the best of times. The most widely read poets are the dead ones after all. This time around I’ve actually wrote a collection which fits together, it tells a story, and perhaps this will separate it somewhat from what is currently floating out there. Although I’m quite aware that the chances of me selling many copies of the book are slim at best.

HST: I can imagine there are pros and cons to all publications though, right?

RW: Certainly, I’ve written a fair amount of Music Criticism, and you’ve only got to look at how the Music Industry has fared in the Internet Age to see that it really is the Wild West for any creative type. A singer songwriter can record their own songs, and try and promote them, but how are they going to get heard above the millions of others that are doing exactly the same thing? The same thing applies to a poet. You’ve really got no chance, but the whole process is quite fun to get involved in.

HST: I have an understanding this will be your last collection of poetry, are you ready to turn away from the game?

RW: When I first started writing poems as a teen I was a Joy Division obsessive. Ian Curtis was my God. Joy Division released two albums ‘Closer’ and ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in their career before it was cut tragically short by Curtis’ suicide. I always considered two albums as being the suitable point where a band should quit whilst they are ahead. For instance The Strokes should’ve packed it in after ‘Room On Fire’. The point I’m making is that after two significant efforts you’re unlikely to write with the same verve and creative energy, and that after the second release you’re likely to be regurgitating old ideas. I think this theory has influenced my decision to call time on writing poetry. ‘Gord’ being my second significant effort.

I’ve been writing poetry for a long time, it’s been twelve years. I still remember the buzz I got when microscopically small indie publishers such as Cogent Poetry and The Blind Press (not sure if either exist anymore) released my early chapbooks. I chortled when I received my first review –

http://www.happenstancepress.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=75:stress-richard-wink&catid=16:sphinx-issue-4&Itemid=74

It’s been a good ride, and I think now is the right time for the adventure to end.

HST: How can I convince you too stay!?

RW: Ha ha! You can’t. But fear not I’ll still be writing. I’ve been pondering a number of projects, there’s this novel idea called ‘Periphery’ which I’ve been toying with for a while, that also includes a character called Gord Lokin. More recently I like the idea of writing a collection of loosely related non-fiction Gonzo episodes, in a similar vein to the work of Hunter Thompson and recent writing from the likes of Jon Ronson. I’ve developed a recent interest in gender dysphoria, and I’d especially like to investigate that scene further.

HST: Rich, I wish you nothing but the best of luck and thank you.

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