Antony Moore's debut book, The Swap, featured here last year and I finally tracked him down through his agent to ask him some questions about it and his experiences as a first time writer.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
Born in Cornwall, I moved to London at 18 and have lived here ever since. I work as a part-time psychologist and part-time writer, the two being pleasingly complementary. I live in South London with my partner, son and dog (brown labrador, kindly but greedy).
What's your ideal night out/in?
I am anti-social and dull by nature: perfect writer material in fact.
Ideal night out: Indian, beer, consequence-free conversation;
Ideal night in: Stella, Conor, dog, The Matrix on DVD.
What is your favorite book?
I prefer philosophy to novels, so Being and Time by Martin Heidegger. But if that's not available then maybe a PG Wodehouse.
When did you start writing?
I've always written for my own pleasure, mostly very bad poetry and searing soul-searching self-analyses in short-story form. Then a year or two ago I got sick of that and wrote my first novel which turned out to be light-hearted and cheerful.
Which was The Swap, what is the book about?
The Swap is the story of one very confused man’s journey from London to Cornwall (ah, the mysteries of the creative process) and back. In his youth he swapped a copy of a rare and valuable comic (a Superman One) and he attends a school reunion where he meets the man with whom he swapped. As he tries to discover what happened to the comic he realises that the past has a way of coming back to bite you in the arse.
How long did it take to write it and how far did the finished book move away
from your first draft?
I find it takes me an age to plan a novel but then once I know what I'm going to say I write pretty fast and don’t redraft much at all. My editor had some changes to make later, mostly to one particular character who he thought should be fleshed out more, but that was about it.
Which character was that and did you find that an easy change to make?
It was the main woman character Maisie. She didn't really have much of a life beyond being the love interest at first but following James (Gurbutt, my editor at Harvill Secker)'s advice I fleshed her out more and she became more of a whole person.
How did you get your first commission/agent and how did that feel?
I sent my MS in cold to an agent, she liked it but didn't have any room for me on her books so recommended me to another agent who liked The Swap straight away. I felt delighted and slightly daunted. I guess I'd had some hopes but it feels very different when hopes turn into realities so quickly.
In The Swap you have a brilliant line that says:
"You had nothing to run away from, you see, in your past there was nothing to hide from so you stayed where you were: reading comics and doing swaps and listening to pop music."Is this observation about your main character Harvey Briscow based on your
own experiences at all?
Thank you for the word “brilliant.” I think a lot of men are very good at retaining their childhood interests and often (if they are lucky), childhood is a safe place that they can return to as it were when life gets frightening or too demanding. I certainly think I do that a bit. When in doubt I read comic novels Diary of a Nobody, Three Men in a Boat, all of PG Wodehouse, which I first read as a kid; watch football (since age 3 approx); listen to bad heavy metal (around 13); and generally sooth myself with the comforts of the past. Throw in a pasty and a DVD of TizWaz and you have my youth pretty much on a plate.
You had an excellent article in The Times on your book, was that typical of
the coverage you got, and were you happy with the way the book was received?
And thank you for the word “excellent”, you are clearly a blogger of taste and insight. I wrote the article so I guess it was untypical. I got some good reviews which followed a weird and eccentric course. First review was with the big one: Daily Sport which ran a competition to win copies of The Swap. Then the Big Issue reviewed it. After that the more minor press: The Times; Independent etc followed. Most reviews were generous but it is hard to get noticed as a first novelist and I am unsure how many sales follow from a review. The internet these days seems equally important and I have a website (www.myspace.com/antonymoore) which is a useful way to reach readers.
What was your favorite comic as a kid and why?
I loved Spider-man and The Silver Surfer. Spider-man at his best was the closest I got to the existential questions of life that interest me now. The writing was like poetry “only for nerds”.
What advice would you give fellow writers?
Stop writing! Have you seen Waterstones? There are way too many books out there. But if you insist on doing it, then play to your strengths. I know I’m writing well when I can’t wait to pick up the pen. As Homer Simpson might put it: “if it’s hard work that means it’s time to stop”.
Doh! Are you "working" on your second novel and anything you can tell us about it?
Yes I am. It is nearly finished and I’m pleased with it. I have a horrible feeling of tempting fate if I say more than that right now. Ask me in a couple of months time.
Hmm ... Go on, for a pasty in the post, give us the working title.
The only working title I have is "Working Title" which I think has been taken... I'll let you know as soon as I have one (and I'll expect the pasty by return post.)
I think you just tricked me out of a pasty! Okay finally, I have to ask this as a fellow Cornishman, do you miss the sea living in London?
I do miss the sea. I try to get down to Cornwall at least once a year and it is like refinding part of myself. But I love London too so when I’m a wealthy author who JK Rowling rings for financial advice I will have a cottage by the sea and a penthouse in town. “Anyday now.”
Thanks Antony, good luck with the new book and thanks for agreeing to do the interview.
For this interview in the printed edition of TVFH visit here.