10 October 2014
Urban Mythic 2: James Brogden interviewed
Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I love writing stories because I’m basically a control freak and for a short time I get to be god of my own little fantasy world. I also teach English, and my students will probably tell you much the same thing. I’m a naturalised Brummie, born in the north and raised in Australia. I loathe all forms of competitive sport, which is why I was deported from Oz, though I do like to get out into the mountains whenever I can to lose my head in something vast. When I moved to the UK as a teenager I very quickly fell in love with the weight of history which is layered into the landscape of the British Isles, though I wonder how much of that comes from having made Tolkien and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence part of my own internal landscape as a child. My grandmother, who lived back in the UK, made sure to send me and my brothers books which she considered to be quintessentially English; so as well as reading Aussie kids’ classics like The Magic Pudding, I grew up with Billy Bunter, Just William, and Biggles. When I moved here, it all sort of clicked, and it’s kept on clicking ever since.
What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?
The idea of Jungian mythological archetypes in the collective unconscious – the psychological roots of all our myths – with a bit of tweaking to suggest that the archetypes aren’t just passive parts of our psyches which we tap into occasionally, but that they actively want to be incarnated as living human beings to act out their mythological life stories. And, of course, the inevitable political and media corruption of all this. Disclosure warning here: it’s a bit of a spin-off from my latest novel, Tourmaline, and the sequel which I’ve just finished, called The Realt.
Which of your previous works are you most proud of, and are there any that you would like to forget about?
I’m most proud of my story ‘If Street’, in the previous Urban Mythic collection. I wrote it on a long plane flight back from my brother’s wedding in New Zealand – which was the first time all of my immediate family had been together for about 10 years – and so it’s got a lot of my own feelings about the ambivalence of looking back on your life and wondering about the ‘road less travelled’, which I think crystallised reasonably well. I’m also a huge fan of Robert Holdstock, and I wanted to write something which riffed on the idea of the two brothers at the start of Mythago Wood. That weight of history thing again, and what happens when it falls on a person rather than a place.
If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?
Maxim DeWinter, from Rebecca. His second wife should have learned something from the tale of his first wife, channelled some of her fiery spirit, grown a spine and offed him once she realised what a misogynistic bastard he was. Ideally, this would have been by pushing him out of an upstairs window so that he died surrounded by Rebecca’s rhododendrons, then dragged him into the house before Mrs Danvers set fire to it, disposing of the body.
Tell us about Project Tezlar – what’s it all about, and will you be doing any similar projects?
Project Tezlar happened because I wanted to build something physical based on a thing I’d written about (plus maybe a bit of work avoidance). It’s a model of a tezlar gun – a weapon used by some of my characters in Tourmaline to exorcise dreamers from our world who pop up in theirs and cause mayhem. It’s basically a big static electricity zap gun. I bought a nerf pistol from my local toy shop, tricked it out steampunk-style with a brass-and-copper paintjob and stuck all kinds of random cogs and switches all over it, the crowning glory being a plasma ball I put in which lights up when you pull the trigger. I also built a battery pack and had a leather holster custom made for it. If you want to see it, go to my blog. The next project is to make a PV detector to accompany it – but if you want to know what one of those is you’re just going to have to read Tourmaline.
Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?
Vampire romance love triangles. Can we please put to rest once and for all the ridiculous notion that to these creatures we are anything other than food?
What are you up to next?
I’m putting the finishing touches to The Realt, which will hopefully be with Snowbooks soon after Urban Mythic 2 comes out. Assuming that [a] they like it, and [b] the timing all works out I’ll be launching it next summer at London Film and Comic Con 2015. The project after that is going to be more out-and-out supernatural; kind of a homage to Picnic At Hanging Rock, about a group of school kids on a geography field trip who disappear and end up somewhere … strange. Until then it’s back to the day job.