Excerpts from the interview:
“I don't much buy into this idea that you should only write what you know. That you shouldn't try to write outside your own culture -- that I shouldn't try to write from the point of view of a black person or a woman for example. There's this implied critique: 'How dare you!' I always thought that as a writer it was part of your job to do exactly that. Empathy. You try to put yourself in that other person's mindset as precisely as you can, and then you have to trust the voice that you find. The voice comes to you, and you trust it and let it run. If you start thinking too consciously about the political frame of it all you're probably lost. But if you can get yourself into a state of mind where you're channeling this voice, if it's coming out well, it will convince the reader. Enough, anyway.
“Before I became a novelist I was a youth worker, and my work was largely governed by what Hemingway said: 'The best thing you can give a teenager is a bullshit detector.' I was always saying that you can talk about sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll to young people because they're immediately interested in those things. In those three issues there are as many moral questions to be addressed as you can find anywhere in the world. So that was the agenda: to find a way through the moral maze of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll. I don't know what I gave the kids, but I'm still stuck in the maze myself, trying to write my way out.”
“My most recent book How To Make Friends With Demons pushes the politics, I hope without being obtuse or thumping the table. Well, it does actually kick over the table here and there, but in a colorful sense. I had to write it because there was a scream coming out of me about Iraq and our hideous and shameful adventure over there. And yet I also had this enormous sympathy with the ordinary boys and girls who are sent over to do the fighting. They get hoovered into the system and spat back dead or deranged. And it all got mixed up with my feelings about publishing at the time (not least because my publishers were owned by an international corporation making billions through arms dealing. I said it wasn't easy.)
“In the UK, sales of my recent books were good enough to let me continue publishing with Gollancz. I've got a superb editor there in Simon Spanton and he came up with a lot of great ideas about marketing the new book under the pseudonym. It was actually his clever idea to use the name of the narrator as the pseudonym.
“So this seemed to be the right book to offer under a pseudonym. Because there are so many layers of fakery and forgery in the book, I made a fake online blog for William Heaney as well. (Though I outed myself on my own website, telling people it was happening: a very loyal number of people always e-mail me about the books, and I didn't want to lose them.) What happens? The book sells five times anything I'd done previously, because there were no bad numbers to hold it back. William Heaney has no track record, no awards, no reviews, nothing...
“Ironically, the US edition is coming out under my own name because Night Shade didn't want to go with the pen-name. What's more The Gulf War narrative section of the novel, which I'd published under my own name as a standalone story won an O. Henry award. So there you are -- I don't know who I am or who I want to be: William Heaney or Graham Joyce.”
“I've also been writing YA books. My latest in England is Three Ways to Snog an Alien. If I can find a good publisher for it I'd like to think American kids will want to know what snog means and they can find out on the Internet. It's like the film called The Spy Who Shagged Me -- you don't use this word in the US, but everybody very quickly found out what shagging was! The drive to homogenize is a mistake. American and British teenagers get so much of each other's culture on MTV and the rest of it, it's the exotic that people find interesting. I have another YA book out with Faber in the UK this summer Faber. It's called The Devil's Ladder, and is a more conventional paranormal investigation.”
“I'm doing some other things. I've been working with guys who write the computer game Doom, on the narrative for Doom 4. I'm also working on a graphic novel with an American comics company. I love doing these new things -- games, comics, writing song lyrics in collaboration with a friend for her new album. It's all testing and challenging. As a writer at this point in my career, it's thrilling to get an opportunity to go back to class and learn from somebody who clearly knows more than you do. I love the idea of continuous learning, of permanently being in a learning situation.”