Friday, November 25, 2011

David Antrobus--Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip

Today, my guest is non-fiction author, David Antrobus.  His book Dissolute Kinship:A 9/11 Road Trip is about his own self-discovery.
AUTHOR: David Antrobus
BOOK TITLE: Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip

Please tell us about yourself?
I am a former youth worker who has always written yet rarely published. My life is currently very surreal and strange, so please forgive my distracted answers. And thank you for providing this platform for writers, it's very kind and supportive.

Tell us your latest news?
I'm working on a sequel to my book. And my life is crazy

When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing in childhood, around ten years of age, and the reasons are lost in time. But no, seriously, I am unsure why I wrote back then: to mimic other writers, to express something difficult to express, to create with words the music I was otherwise incapable of creating?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
From the beginning, from childhood. Not in a "career" sense, but simply in the sense that when I wrote, I was a writer… with no value judgments implied. I had no idea whether I was a "good" writer. Now I think I am, but skill with words isn't the complete package any more, if it ever was.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Planning a cross-continent New York City road trip in order to find some inner peace after an emotionally tough year that happened to coincide with the very date on which terrorists flew passenger airplanes into the World Trade Centre kind of writes itself, in a way.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That our small personal disasters can sometimes be manageable when set against the large events of our times; that occasionally—and this flies in the face of psychological orthodoxy somewhat —trauma is relative, and when shared can be diminished.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?  (Has anyone ever realized it?)
This is non-fiction, so yeah, real events. Whereas my fiction (currently unpublished) is unrecognizably fictionalized versions of real life persons, events and incidents that almost no one could recognize… hopefully.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Too many to name. Children's books (Grimm's tales, Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are), books of poetry (Crow by Ted Hughes, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, as clichéd as that sounds), Shakespeare's tragedies, various Stephen King novels (The Stand is my favourite) and novellas (the latter feature his most consistently good writing,  in my opinion), Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the short stories of Ray Bradbury,  some newer "literary" stuff, and a vast array of horror and science fiction. I could go on for a long time here.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I'll go with the first name that appeared in my head when I read the question: Andrew Vachss. For those unfamiliar, he is a child advocate who writes razor sharp crime fiction, so my own background working with abused and neglected youth alongside my leanings toward darker themes make him a very apt role model for me. I even had the honour of writing an article for his website once, an article that makes me wince slightly now, thanks to its clunky and earnest gaucheness.

What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?
I'm not reading anything currently, as my life is fraught and difficult. But I've learned that everything changes, so I expect I'll get back to reading again at some point.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
The last book I really enjoyed was a crime story called Joe Café, by Dan Mader. I heartily recommend it for its blending of pace with genuine emotional complexity.

What are your current projects?
A sequel to my first book, based on a ten year anniversary road trip I just took to New York in September, as a kind of bookend to the 2001 version. The theme will almost certainly be the changes I have witnessed since (as the politicians and media insisted) "9/11 changed everything". I am also working on polishing some short stories with a darker edge that I may publish either individually or (more likely) as a collection. And I do have the proverbial novel sitting in a drawer, a kind of dark fantasy that's almost as difficult to describe as it has been to write.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. Never go back.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Aside from children's books and the delicious horror of fairy tales, I'd have to say that reading Ray Bradbury was my first memory of wanting to emulate a real writer… which I did, over and over, when I was very young, some attempts of which are still in my possession. And you'll never see them. :)

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I could be glib and say "all of it". But yeah, writing consistently is and always has been my greatest challenge. I would give a great deal to be more prolific.

Do you ever have problems with writers block?  If so how do you get through it?
Ha, see above. I don't always get through it, and often I have quit on a promising piece of work because I got stuck and lost in a plot detail I couldn't untangle, or was unable to negotiate a technically difficult stretch. odd really, as I'm a tenacious person in many ways.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
Music is very important to me. So, yeah, play my guitar very badly or listen to music, generally. Or work out. Or eat. Or drink wine. Movies. The usual, you know?

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Judging by my book collection, you'd think it would be Stephen King, and certainly I've read more of his work than any other author, living or dead, but I still want to balk at saying he's my favourite, and I'm uncertain as to why.  It's not some kind of literary snobbery, as I don't really buy into all that. Hmmm. Although, now I'm talking about him, I'd have to say that what I admire most about him (aside from that folksy charm he usually employs right before obliterating your cozy little world to its very foundations) is his literary fecundity. And like Bradbury before him, his ability to disguise some pretty deep-seated horrors with the trappings of normal, small town American life. Why America? No idea, since my roots are in the north and the east midlands of England!

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The length. I had a lot to say, but I was anxious that I could overwhelm what is admittedly a flimsy "plot" if I editorialized with too much opinion and commentary. I wanted it to read fairly quickly and relentlessly, like the tires of a car on the endless Interstates that crisscross the country. It felt really essential that it be short. And as a serial overwriter, that was a challenge.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
You'd have to read it. Whatever I learned, I hope I managed to convey to the reader, though.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
No. Ha ha. I'm terrible at advice. Um, keep on writing. And never forget you're a human first, writer second.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To anyone who reads my book, I want to say one simple thing: thank you. There are few things more simultaneously intimate and humbling than knowing someone has read your heartfelt words.  Ha, what was that about earnest gaucheness?

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.

Author links:

My book links:

About Dissolute Kinship:
A solo journey into trauma, spectral visions of an apocalypse, a moment when the sense of a world teetering on the edge of cataclysm or renewal was very real. And very fragile.

When David Antrobus set out on a personal, reflective solo road trip from the Pacific Coast of Canada to New York City, he picked a random date: Tuesday, September 11, 2001. This coincidence, despite the horrors of that day, proved oddly serendipitous in the sense of the author’s struggle for understanding of his own relatively small trauma, which he was only just beginning to face at that point.

Evocations of the quiet melancholy of the landscape alongside poignant descriptions of grain elevators, motels, convenience stores and gas stations as he heads eastward across the Canadian Prairies are complemented by the dawning reality of New York City’s wounded presence looming ever nearer. Upon arrival, the author is at first haunted by the visceral horrors that remain just days after the attacks on the World Trade Centre, yet finds unexpected comfort in the people of the city as they relate their own personal trauma stories.


  1. Thank you, K.S. Brooks, for the kind comments and for stopping by!

  2. Great interview and a great book!