Broken Asides with David Butler


When did you first feel like a writer?

I think the first time I was actually paid for work submitted – £5 for a poem, back in the 80s. My mother told me to frame the cheque. Sadly, I cashed it!

What’s the most interesting thing that has inspired your writing and what was the result?

Learning sufficient Spanish to read Borges, Rulfo and García Márquez in the original. A new language really is a new worldview.

Paint us a picture: what does your writing process look like? Do you write in coffee shops at night or only on an old type-writer?

My writing process is more correctly a thinking process, or a listening to and playing with voices process, which takes place often while I’m in the throes of insomnia, or going on long walks, etc. The rest is typing…

Describe your ideal reader: who would your work speak to?

I think it’s that old cliché of “write the novel/story/drama that you’d love to read”. If you can pull that off, you’ve succeeded, regardless of publication prospects.

Who’s an author you’ve changed your mind about and why?

Milan Kundera. I found him excitingly new in the 80s. Coming back to his novels now, it seems to me there’s a prurient voyeur lurking behind most of the scenes where his heroines are cajoled to expose their bodies.

If you could interview any other writer/artist, who would it be and why?

I think Daniel Woodrell. No-one writes trailer-trash quite like him, with real empathy underwriting the generous dashes of black comedy. Tomato Red and The Death of Sweet Mister are true works of art.

What motivates you to keep writing?

It’s not motivation, it’s compulsion. As the author John McGahern said, if you want to know if you’re a writer, try stopping.

How do you deal with writer’s block or being overwhelmed by the writing process?

I tend to have a number of projects, in a number of different genres, on the hard-drive. There’s always something to edit or rewrite during extended periods of drought.

Where would you like to see yourself in a decade? A creative writing teacher? As a best-seller?

No real prospect a best-seller, alas. I’m already a creative writing teacher, and can’t see that changing. In an ideal world, I’d love to be one of those go-to authors whose work ‘automatically’ gets reviewed in the national papers.

What has your work taught you about yourself?

It’s not so much what it’s taught me. It’s kept me sane. It’s made me a lot of friends and acquaintances. It’s extended the boundaries of my imaginative universe ten-fold.

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