Friday, December 27, 2013

INTERVIEW: PHILIP VERMAAS


Name?
Philip Vermaas

Age? (Feel free to ignore this question completely)
42

Location?
Jo'burg, South Africa

How long have you been writing?
For around 18 years, although not that seriously for the first few, even though I didn't know it at the time.

Do you have a specific writing style?
My style changes a bit depending on what I'm writing. Hopefully the style suits the subject.

Do you write as a career?
Yes. I'm a copywriter.

Do you write full-time?
I write enough for my fingertips to hurt.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Having a book of poetry published by The Blue Hour.

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
I'm not sure I have one. To write a few things, a few books, that are enjoyed by people who understand that words aren't just a delivery system for a story.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Finding some story I believe in enough to throw myself down the rabbit hole and get it written.

What projects of yours have been recently published?
In May, The Blue Hour published my poetry book, Better Cigarettes and Other Poems, and Silver Birch Press published a story of mine in their Green Anthology, and a poem in their Summer Anthology.

What are you currently working on and what inspired this work?
I'm working on fixing up an old novel, a portion of which was published in a South African pulp magazine, Jungle Jim. I've got a few unpolished novels lying in the drawer, and I think this is the best, though far from perfect. It's a vampire novel...don't laugh...written before the glut of teen vampire fiction, and written when I was reading bits of Nietzsche, Sartre and others. It's a philosophical take, hopefully closer to its Gothic origins than the crap currently being published. And the point is that it's the man in the beast which does more damage than an unnatural creature ever could.

Where can we find your work?
You can find most of it online, through The Blue Hour, Silver Birch Press, and Jungle Jim via Amazon. Watch this space, more to come...

       How often do you write?
It depends. Lately, I've not been writing as much as I'd like, or need, to. Life has taken a few unexpected, and very good, turns over the last year, and there's been some upheaval. But I hunt and peck when I get the chance. Just getting back into it, really, and then comes along this whole Xmas charade. See how that works.

       How do you react to rejections?
It depends on the kind of rejection. I've had some very kind rejection letters, usually from those who really know their business. A woman at Bloomsbury was quite complimentary in rejecting two of my novels, and I was pleased she'd actually taken time to read the chapters. But then you get the self-appointed, entitled arseholes who tell you what others want to read, and what you should be doing. But they're easy to dismiss. If it's not for you, that's great, but don't assume that a writer will adjust and conform to get published by you. Better to wait around for the right publisher than conform for one who feels they have a handle on what every person in the world wants to read.

       How do you react when one of your submissions is accepted for publication?
It's always good. And there was a point when I lived for that, but I think it's a trap. I'm trying to not worry too much about getting published, and rather focus on the good words.

       What is your best piece of advice on how to stay sane as a writer?
Don't try and stay sane, but don't go so far in any one direction that the idea of pulling out the pen becomes meaningless. Maybe that's obvious and a bit glib. I don't know. Find out what works for you, and do it.

       What is your favorite book?
I don't have a favourite, but John Fowles' The Magus moved me.

       Who is your favorite author?
            Again, no one favourite. Different writers at different times. Hunter S., Bukowski, maybe Graham Greene, Anthony Burgess. Old love of Iris Murdoch. Have also been enjoying Angela Carter's collected essays. Erica Jong is always delightful.

        If you could have dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
Count Dracula. I think there would be an interesting discussion about wine, and how desire can quickly trump morality or, as Will Self puts it (I think), “The Impossibility of Self-Determination as to Desire”.


        What is the greatest occupational hazard for a writer?
The fear of being called in for supper when you're half way in or out of hole, and then having to neglect either people or the work.

        What is your favorite word?
No favourite, but have been using “sanguine” recently.

        What makes you laugh?
People, irony, my own foolishness.

      What makes you cry?
People, corporates, personality disorders, world leaders, the pious desire to sanitise life, religions all, beauty in unexpected places.

What is your preferred drink while you write?
Double espressos during the day, and maybe some wine for a late night.

Beach or Mountains?
Neither or both from a distance.

Cats or Dogs?
Most cats, some dogs.

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Definitely the Stones.

Jimi Hendrix or Frank Sinatra?
One at one time, one at another.

Shakespeare or Bukowski?
Both.


     Please provide as much or as little of the following information as you’d like.

Personal website/blog: www.philipvermaas.com

Facebook profile or page: www.facebook.com/BetterCigarettesAndOtherPoems

Twitter profile:

Other page(s) or profile(s):

      Books for sale and/or press
http://bluehourpressbookstore.bigcartel.com/product/better-cigarettes-and-other-poems-by-philip-vermaas

      Anything you’d like to share about your country, its people, or native animals?
There's too much to say about SA, and there are others far better equipped, positioned and qualified to dig into this country which is just trying to survive crime and corruption. There's a lot of shit going on here, but also a lot of great stuff. All I'm really comfortable saying is that I'm staying with my true love on a plot in semi-rural Johannesburg. The power often goes out. Sometimes because of the lightning, and sometimes because the cables have been stolen. And then we play cards by candlelight. Not all bad.

Of all SA's marvellous animals, the one that interests me most is the one that I currently fear: the Rinkhals, which is found on this plot, and in large numbers. Although they're seen here often at this time of year, I haven't yet seen this ersatz-cobra. I looked up the fuckers on Google. It fans out its head and shoots its venom by force of movement, but hasn't the venom delivery system of more authentic cobras. If it feels threatened it will either spit or roll onto its back and stick its tongue out, in a melodramatic gesture to convince you its dead. I'm a city boy at heart, but that's a funny snake.
      

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