In the Ranks of the Menacing: An interview with Rick Hudson (Part 2)

Posted by Catherine Wild on February 26, 2016 in Blog, Interviews tagged with

 In the Ranks of the Menacing: An interview with Rick Hudson (Part 2)

Catherine Wild – University of Winchester

 

 

In the first part of this interview with the novelist and writer Rick Hudson the author discussed his often ambivalent relationship with the horror genre as a writer. In this second part, he addresses his experiences of horror and writing as an academic, and his relationship with the business of publishing.

 

CW: As both a writer and an academic, what are your thoughts on the study of Creative Writing at university level?   Students have told me that the response from family and friends with regard to this is often negative, even scathing. The subject being regarded as a ‘light’ degree as opposed to maths, science or engineering. People ask ‘how can you teach someone how to write?’ What would your response be?

 

 

RH: My frank answer to the question you ask is that students should disregard the critical remarks made by their family and friends. Firstly, they have chosen to study writing – whether for career, personal or intellectual reasons – and only they can assess the value of doing so for themselves. Secondly, speaking as an academic, student employability comes within my remit and I can tell you for a fact that what industry is short of right now is people who can write coherently with mechanical aptitude and skill. It wants these with a greater pressing need than it requires graduates with degrees in many other supposedly more serious disciplines. With regard to whether writing can be taught, my answer is that yes it can, in that certain base principles can be transferred. But, more importantly I think it needs pointing out that at university level one is not just teaching students, more crucially one is assisting them to study. It is through studying writing that they learn far more than they can be taught.

I think what is more foolish with regard to the status of Writing as a field of academic study is the often derisory manner in which it is regarded in some Literature departments. Literature is rather odd in that, until recently, it has been one of the few academic disciplines that holds little regard for the practice of the discipline in question. I very much doubt that an Engineering faculty would claim that being able to construct a bridge was of little educational value. What response do you think we’d get if we walked into the Royal Northern College of Music and told the academic staff there that students can learn nothing about music by actually playing a piano?

The reasons for this are historic, in England at least. Literature emerged as an academic discipline when women were first granted access to Oxford and Cambridge. The thinking within the academic community at the time was that women wouldn’t be able to study the Classics: their minds where too flighty to handle the rigours of Latin and Greek, so English Literature was invented as a bit of a soft option for women. Consequently Literature evolved out of the Classics as a discipline focussed solely on analysis. The question as far as I am concerned is not ‘what is Writing doing within Literature?’, but ‘Why wasn’t it there in the bloody first place?’

 

CW: Hallowed Ground described you as ‘the inheritor of Clive Barker’s throne’ – quite an accolade. Is this good? Do you want this title or your own?

 

RH: It is of course very flattering to be compared favourably to any writer of Clive Barker’s stature – and I will not be so churlish as to sniff at this accolade derisively. However, I think what I write is very different to that of Clive Barker. I think his work is – and this is not a criticism – firmly entrenched in the fantasy and horror genres, whereas mine on the whole hovers on the borderland between these genres and literature.

 

CW: Indeed, you are recognized as a literary writer, but much of your work can be seen as existing in the borderland between literature and horror, fantasy and science fiction. You are perhaps similar to J.G. Ballard in this respect. Is this where you see yourself, and what advantages does this position afford you?

 

RH: I think it’s a position I have found myself in, rather than one I have specifically chosen. Nevertheless, I like it now that I’m sat here. I have always imagined myself to be, and aspired to be a literary writer, but I do find that the conventional literary world can be somewhat staid and predictable. It does lack a sense of excitement. I was influenced early in my career by Kafka, Pinter and the like and have mainly thought of myself as being in their company. But there’s no room in conventional literature for that sort of thing right now. The conventional literary world seems at the moment to like quite drab, reported and expositional writing. I’m welcome where I am, and can produce more interesting and challenging fiction here. In my view, this cross-over turf is more literary and challenging than conventional literature. These days, a lot of what is marketed at us as literature is just a conformist artefact, just a piece of consumer goods sold within a rather limited and unchallenging product-line.

 

CW: Do you have a writing process? Do your books write themselves or do you stick to a schedule?

 

RH: No. I do not have a writing process, as such. Anyone who has to force themselves to be a writer, or plans to write should not be a writer. They should not consider themselves to be a writer and are not a writer and are not going to be a writer. They are day-dreamers, rookies, also-rans and wannabes. People who truly want to write do so under any circumstances and at any opportunity. If you have to force or schedule yourself to write then you are going to be as successful (whether aesthetically or commercially) as a footballer or musician who has to force or schedule themselves to play football or pick up their instrument. If you are not besotted with writing, if you are not compelled to write, unless you have to write then you are not going to be a writer. So stop day-dreaming.

 

CW: Do you have a publishing process?

 

RH: No, I leave that kind of thing to my publisher and the editors of magazines. I take an active hand in marketing though. The trick is to be as creative and off the wall as you can when writing, but thoroughly business-like when marketing and promoting your work, even if one considers oneself to be an artist. One should not consider the business aspects of literature as being inherently squalid and beneath oneself. After all, James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis were shameless self-publicists; and one can perhaps claim that Kafka was complicit with the failure he saw in his own lifetime due to the fact that he was unwilling to get involved with the business end of things.

 

CW: You are influenced by the critical work of Mikhail Bakhtin. To what degree has this influenced your writing?

 

RH: As an academic I am drawn to Bakhtin for many reasons: the principal one being he is one of the very few literary theorists who acknowledge the complexity of literature with all its nuances and subtleties. He is also a theorist who acknowledged that writing is the product of an active and aware creative intelligence and agency rather than the product or symptom of ideological or psychological forces. Most critical models pathologise writing to a large degree. Also they are somewhat one dimensional; whilst they offer interesting insights into literature they are only capable of looking at writing from a very specific angle and are not able to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of texts. Quite often theoretical models will also predetermine what they reveal about a text, many are predisposed to focus and highlight particular issues over others. Bakhtinian thought, while by no means innocent of this, does offer a greater flexibility that enables a text to be discussed in its complexity rather than being used as an illustration of the points a theoretical model chooses to prioritise.

As a writer I am deeply influenced by Bakhtin’s work; the Menippean satire is of course a phenomena that he interrogates in depth and a mode of writing that I employ myself. Also, I am interested by the cross-over points between the comedy and horror, and his work on the grotesque and carnivalesque is very useful here.

 

CW: And, of course I have to ask, how does it feel to be declared ‘the most significant writer Manchester has produced since Anthony Burgess’?

 

RH: It is extraordinarily good PR, that’s for sure. I don’t know. It is a bit embarrassing to be honest. I think it is possibly the words of an over-enthusiastic young journalist. On the other-hand it might just be down to the fact that while Manchester is of hugely important intellectual and artistic centre, it is not really known for its writers. There are obviously some very highly regarded writers from this neck of the woods, but there probably aren’t as many as one would expect considering the city’s clout in other areas. Quite a credible crew, for sure. But in quantity there aren’t that many.

I think maybe there is a bit of a stereotypically bellicose Mancunian quality to my writing that, in a ludic way, wants to start a fight. There’s a playful aggressiveness and menace. I want to challenge people and shake them up, intellectually speaking and goad and provoke them. But at the same time, there is a relentless ironizing that is a bit of a Manchester thing. And the constant shifting to and fro between humour and seriousness, the erudite and the bawdy. Saying things you know will shock people, but done in an affectionate way. I am kidding with you, not mocking you. You get the joke, you are in it with me. At times you do get this in Burgess’ work, but I think he was always far subtler than I will ever be.

 

CW: And what about a ‘writer who displays Hendrix like skill, ability and panache’?

 

RH: I love it! Actually, being serious, I think that is exactly what I aspire to be like as a writer though it would be ridiculous to claim I come anywhere remotely near. Writing needs to be exciting. It needs to grab you and smack you in the face with how good it is. It needs to make you go ‘Wow! That’s fucking great!’ It’s what a lot of writers forget. That is the most important thing of all. Sod post-modernism. Bollocks to whatever social issue you are trying to engage with. Who cares about your personal tragedies? If you aren’t first and foremost exciting to read, what is the point of your fiction exactly?

 

 

 

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