The Imagination Thief has appeared, in cool company, in the article “Books and Films” by Polly Trope in indieberlin, about publications whose words are mixed with film in one way or another:
The novel’s text remains self-sufficient, standing fully alone in its dead-tree paperback format. But as a close echo and instantiation of many central events in the story itself (involving lenses, film, broadcast, mirrors, iconography, self-images and multiple self-identities), the novel’s ebook format also includes optional audio-visual elements alongside the text. The four different kinds of audio-visual content living inside the ebook are:
(1) at the start of each of the novel’s 120 mini-chapters, one single hyperlink to that particular mini-chapter’s Video-Book version (which also resides here online, in the second main menu above, at I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX or X);
(2) at the start of each mini-chapter, a second single hyperlink, to that particular mini-chapter’s Audio-Book version (which also resides here online);
(3) spaced throughout the novel, 11 single hyperlinks to its 11 short Films (which also reside here online); and
(4) in each mini-chapter a couple of embedded stills from those 11 Films (taken from here online).
As Polly shows, however, this is only one way in which text and pixels can dance together: the permutations of their dance will only increase, as bandwidths grow and virtual reality shimmers ever closer down the cyber-pipe towards us all.
May our genres be ever bent, if they wish to be so. A little piece called “Genre Bender” has appeared on Triskele Books’ blog, and warm thanks to them for having me there:
This piece first appeared in the catalogue for Triskele’s event at Foyles the other day: http://triskelebooks.blogspot.co.uk/p/indie-author-fair-2015-author-listing.html
Alongside the recent day of literary delights at Foyles in April (part of the London Book Fair’s Book & Screen Week) organised by ALLi and Indie ReCon, the book distributor Ingram Content kindly let me rabbit at them in another video chat about these five tales:
Many thanks to Ingram’s Andy Bromley for the interview. A transcription of it is further down this page.
Transcription of this Foyles interview, as edited:
The name is Rohan Quine and the main title of the book is The Imagination Thief, and there are also four novellas called The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong. So, five titles so far—working on number six.
Well, marketing works best with a sleek, single genre. So for that reason I carefully selected three cross-genre categories … just to make things real easy for myself! [The five tales’] DNA is Literary Fiction, but there’s also very much a touch of Magical Realism going on in them, and a dusting of Horror, let’s say.
They’re a love-bite to the world. The world needs slapping across the face, for treating people as badly as it does, in many cases. I’m lucky just to be able to sit here and speak with some vague coherence, as I may be, but many people are slapped very hard by life in very many ways. And I think life sucks for doing that to people. I don’t know why it does it to people (nobody does, we none of us know, do we), but it does; life really beats some people up. As well as elevating and embracing others. It’s just this grand, messy, strange, glorious machine that we’re in. And we’d better love it as best we can, because we don’t have much choice over which machine we were put in: we were dropped into this one, whether we like it or not!
There are some supporting characters that I don’t have any part in. They were just useful to the plot, and in one or two cases I sort of took them from real life or melded different people in real life, to make them.
[By contrast, concerning the ten lead characters in the five tales (namely Alaia, Evelyn, Jaymi, Kim, Shigem, Angel, Pippa, Amber, the Chocolate Raven and the Platinum Raven):] there’s part of me in all of those [ten leads]. So, there’s a joyful sassy street-wise woman called Evelyn, there’s big-time part of me in her. And there’s a depressive dreamer [Pippa], a quiet dreamer who sits on her high-rise balcony alone, saying nothing, looking out, absorbing all she sees around her; even she’s somewhere in me too, I love her. And there are many other characters: there’s a dark, fierce sort of character [Angel, a.k.a. Scorpio], all kinds of shades of characters, light and dark, high and low, and I’m somewhere in all of [those ten], yes.
It’s a slow burn, because of what I write—slow but sure. In other words, certain authors (whom I greatly respect) are writing in categories where there is more of a ready-made community—or rather, to be more precise, a community that’s more accessible through established recognised channels. If you’re barmy enough to write what can loosely be called literary fiction, [on the other hand,] that’s less easy; that element of the task of doing what I’m doing here is less easy. It still happens, but over a longer slower-burn time-scale!
Ingram’s previous video interview with me at Triskele Books’ IAF in November 2014, which had a slightly more behind-the-scenes focus on the writing itself, is also online, along with a transcription, at:
On 17 April 2015 at London’s most iconic bookstore, Foyles, Dan Holloway and I will be capering about onstage for your amusement, while making a serious point or three, during London Book Fair week:
That’s during the ticketed, less boozy part of the day. But a bit later we’ll be tucking into the carrot-juice, no doubt, after selling some books at http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Events/Detail.aspx?eventId=2519. It’s free to attend, so do come along for some fun and to pick up any springtime reading that may tickle your fancy, including my five tales: https://www.rohanquine.com/buy
…And (looking back on the event now) a grand time was had at Foyles on the 17th. Dan and I were provided with the title “Should Literary Fiction & Poetry Be Protected?”, to which our response comprised his beautiful rallying-cry of a poem “Because” (whose text is here) preceded by my talk (whose text is further down this page and also here). Here’s the video of us:
Text of my part of our talk, “Should Literary Fiction & Poetry Be Protected?”:
“This is an exciting era, with new digital possibilities opening up every month, it seems. And that’s fabulous. It sometimes feels as if we’re hardly in control of those developments—and that in itself is fun, and it’s probably good for us too. But we can still influence a few things, to some extent, sometimes. Which means it’s incumbent on us to try to do so, if we can discern a way of steering those things for the better—such as making sure this brave new publishing arena is fully on view and celebrated in all its variety. So here’s a question, just to throw into the mix.
One characteristic of this era is that secret and mysterious non-human algorithms increasingly act as virtuous spirals of market power, perhaps more than ever before. But let’s stand back from those less-human processes and consider an equally important, wider question. That question is: how can we ensure the longer-term good health (financial and cultural) of a sector of human endeavour whose richness and interest depend on the flourishing of a diversity of fiction categories, and not just the handful of categories that happen to sell at the highest volume? Solving this would benefit many electrifying writers whose voices would otherwise go unheard; but more importantly, it would also benefit readers and the wider culture.
It goes without saying that all fiction categories are created equal in themselves, with equal value and loveliness. But in both independent and traditional publishing these days, titles in literary and cross-genre categories are under more pressure than ever to justify their existence in terms of purely commercial competition with more mass-market genres. Pure market forces are fine, as far as they go. But they do seem to be this digital dynamic’s main source of oxygen, so far; and their nature just happens to ensure that only certain kinds of content tend to get organically promoted, for any given level of time or effort or money that’s available to be expended. And those kinds of content are all fine and beautiful in themselves (just as much as the more literary fiction categories); but the resultant incompleteness in the picture of the kinds of creative output that are really being published is something that should be revealed and addressed.
It’s often lamented that the variety and quirkiness of places like London’s Soho and Downtown Manhattan have suffered a big diminishment in recent years, as unique venues have been priced out and pushed out by well-lit, well-heated new branches of favourite high-street chain-stores that are already popular and well-trafficked everywhere else too. Echoing that gentrification process, the combination of retail algorithms and the media’s frequent focus on sales-oriented reporting tends to cause commercial fiction categories (beautiful as those are) to push literary fiction categories out of comparable visibility, to a greater extent in independent publishing than in traditional publishing. This is not the fault of commercial fiction authors themselves—of course not. But in any field, if certain categories of activity in that field have a tendency to end up effectively hidden from general view, then the landscape of that field starts looking quite a bit less richly varied than it really is. Unnecessarily so: this doesn’t need to be the case, if we put our heads together to address it.
Many a Starbucks branch has displaced many an indie coffee-shop. Both make equally excellent coffees and both are equally attractive in their own different ways. But what shall we and the media come up with, in order to make sure that the fiction-category equivalents of the small indie coffee-shop—e.g. literary fiction (including its more envelope-pushing varieties, but not only these)—can remain commercially viable, alongside the Starbucks-level profits that more commercial categories of fiction are already smartly achieving through independent publishing? New organisations, new coalitions, perhaps? All fiction categories are created equal; but in this current exciting era some categories tend to get edged out of visibility, in independent publishing at least, in favour of other ones. And this edging-out is a powerful shaper of the culture: so prevalent, that it’s able to hide in plain view, like an elephant in a room. Dan and I would therefore like to shine a light on this elephant! (It’s over there…)
I’ll close by saying that in urban planning, clever zoning innovations are sometimes introduced, to preserve or adapt the character of a retail district, in order to maintain its variety (but without being too restrictive on businesses large or small). Is some media equivalent of such zoning possible here? These innovations must surely be achievable … and they must be achieved, proactively. We just haven’t found them yet. So let’s find them!”
Here’s Dan preparing to perform from memory (photo by Kathleen Jones):
Here’s me blethering (photo by Carol Cooper):
And here’s a moody close-up (photo by Polly Trope):
The world’s biggest book distributor, Ingram, patiently sat through three minutes of me wittering at them on camera about these five tales last November. This is their nifty edit:
Transcription of this video, as edited:
I guess it’s that I’m aiming to push imagination and language towards their extremes, basically—so as to explore the beauty and the horror and the mirth of this predicament called life, where we seem to have been dropped without sufficient consultation ahead of time, I would say. And there’s three basic questions that I keep in mind, while I’m doing that.
First, how can I illuminate the world (to the best of my abilities), using language in new ways and old ways, so as to leave the world just infinitesimally better than it was before I did so? That’s the first thing.
Secondly, how can I aim and attune these ears to our highest aesthetic potential, and then bring down the richest results from there that I possibly can, and then give those results the truest and most beautiful form that I can give them?
And then thirdly, how can what I write make an honest account of the darkness and pain in the world, while being a vote for life at the same time—and hopefully even just a blast of fun along the way! But I do need to embrace that dark side as well and not shy away from it but integrate it into the light and the richness and the magic, which of course it is in real life.
It’s a blast to reach into here and to create (to the best of one’s abilities) the most interesting, the richest, the most explosive and unusual and complete account of how this, as an instrument, reflects that—and hopefully not just within here, but thereby do it so well as to draw out something more universal that will then connect with everyone else as well. But my first duty is to what’s in here; and more specifically, to the way what’s in here interacts with as much as possible of what’s out there (as is within my powers!).
And the way the results then transmit themselves out into the world is secondary. It’s important, and it’s a different set of abilities that one has to hone (marketing and all that); but really the centre of it, the key, the rich beautiful explosive centre, is the creative stuff, and that’s an absolute blast.
Basically The Imagination Thief seeks to illuminate the darkest and brightest corners of human imagination, and then to wring as much beauty as possible out of this harshly-designed life where we’ve been dropped, and then to interrogate that beauty with sensuality and rigour and humour.
Ingram’s subsequent video interview with me, at Foyles, is now also online, along with a transcription, at:
Princess Polly Trope, literary editor of indieberlin, has kindly published a second slice of The Platinum Raven, from chapter 12 “The pug among the struts, in the pale blue strait-jacket”:
In last week’s slice, we met Scorpio. This week, we meet two others in that nightclub tower of shadow, up there in the mountains of Dubai: (1) Amber, who is the continuation of Rutger Hauer’s lethal character in The Hitcher after those cameras had stopped capturing all that sexy evil in the desert; and (2) the Platinum Raven herself, the kind of Icon of Platinum Perfection whose back-story is never known. As for me, I thought perhaps I’d stay behind the billows with my breasts pointing upward and my groin pushed out, with my right hand skyward and my left hand on my hip, eyes wide in the silver staring softly through the mirror mist unblinking (if that’s fine with you?). —There again: the thunder on the left. Did you hear it?…
For more of all three characters (as well as the Chocolate Raven, plus the original Raven who started it all), there are many snippets from the novella, both as text and as video, here.
My thanks to that publication of underground Berlin cool, indieberlin, for publishing a slice of my novella The Platinum Raven.
This is Scorpio’s experience of working as a transgender prostitute on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, aquiver and alone again and hurting with the rawness of a squirt of flesh and nerves among the concrete and steel and the plastic and the gasoline that threatened and addicted him:
Yes, there’s something Christmassy for all the family, in The Platinum Raven.
For more of my little Scorpio, there are many snippets from the novella, both as text and as video, at https://www.rohanquine.com/the-platinum-raven/teasers-for-the-31-chapters-of-the-platinum-raven
In The Platinum Raven, Scorpio is a dancer in that nightclub tower of shadow, up there in the Hajar Mountains beyond the desert sands of Dubai.
In the same or other lives, he also happens to be the character named Scorpio in Apricot Eyes, as well as being the character named Angel Deon in Hallucination in Hong Kong and in The Imagination Thief and (in a different way) in The Host in the Attic.
I’m grateful to Michelle Elvy for including me in her article “Creating Other Worlds: Fantasy and Adventure on Page and Screen”, at Awkword Paper Cut, where she shines a thoughtful light on the varied flavours of five authors’ approaches to creating fantastical things:
I talk about the DNA of these five tales, and their oblique relationship with the categories they get slotted into—literary fiction and magical realism, plus a dose of horror. With merciful brevity, I also touch on that weighty philosophical question, the difference between a plant and a weed…
It was a pleasure to perform a slice of mini-chapter 17 “Sound & Vision” from my novel The Imagination Thief, on 1 August 2014 in the New Libertines show called “it only hurts the first time” at the Old Fire Station in Oxford, organised and introduced by our generous host, the New Libertines’ MC Dan Holloway. A video of that very slice can be seen below, plus a couple of shots showing us both bathed in an appropriately absinthe-green light.
The film showing on the screen beside me throughout the reading is “JAYMI 17”—a film that appears on the title page of the ebook edition of The Imagination Thief and also at https://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/, featuring me as the novel’s narrator Jaymi Peek and Jen McFaul as Angel’s Baby Doll. The film’s audio-text is at https://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/film-audio-text/; and the novel’s mini-chapter 17 (from which that text was taken) is at https://www.rohanquine.com/ebooks/vbooks/vbook17.php.
I was chuffed to be performing alongside many other lovely words, from Dan Holloway, Polly Trope, Alice Furse, Lucy Furlong, Rebecca Woodhead and Davy Mac—plus the music of the band Superhand. For more info on Dan’s New Libertines, see http://thenewlibertines.wordpress.com.
Delighted to be performing in Dan Holloway’s upcoming New Libertines show on 1 August 2014 – “a showcase of bold, brave and brilliant dark corners of the literary world. The New Libertines stand for human experience in its glorious, messy, complex entirety, and stand against everything that is blank, bleak and brutal, one-dimensional or slick in contemporary culture, especially current literary culture. With roots that spread to burlesque, Beat, fin de siecle France and ecstatic mystics, before slapping its influences around the face with a knuckle-dusting of postmodern wit and Modernist anger, New Libertinism is a celebration of light in dark corners, desire in the face of boredom, despair hidden beneath the underskirts of affluence – of everything it means to be human.”
It was fun to be prompted into a journey through some of the music that helped in the creation of The Imagination Thief and the four novellas, through being on Roz Morris’s “Undercover Soundtrack”:
There I mention Kode9 and the Spaceape, Madonna, Lana Del Rey, Marc and the Mambas, The KLF, The Orb, Ministry, Sinéad O’Connor, This Mortal Coil, Bauhaus, Bronski Beat, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Erasure, Suede, Bryan Ferry, Genesis, Soft Cell, Roxy Music, Donna Summer, Kim Wilde and Diamanda Galás, and was given space to link to no fewer than 26 YouTube pages that add up to a feast of aural pleasure—so get those headphones ready (no tinny little built-in laptop-computer speakers allowed!). Thank you, Roz.
A big thank you to the charming CK Webb of blogtalkradio show “WebbWeaver Books” for letting me rabbit away for a pleasurable half-hour, as you can hear at:
After CK’s introductory shout-outs and then a brief audio hiccup with my own Skype set-up (which would never have happened to James Bond), my sound settings start treating me properly at timecode 07:02. Our chat circles around my spooky little novella The Host in the Attic, which is a hologram of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, digitised and reframed in cinematic style, set in London’s Docklands in a few years’ time. I start reading a couple of passages from the novella at timecode 18:31—involving such delights as the corridor walls and floor suddenly becoming made of wet-breathing grey meat bellowing in vicious pain and impaled by a dozen twitching meat-knives, plus one of the more unnerving ceiling-hatches I’ve come across, and the allure of the attic-dwelling hologram that grows ever more terrifyingly corrupt, while its evil owner’s appearance remains forever just as sweet and youthful as the day when he was filmed as the model for that hologram…
Courtesy of Debbie Young, these 5 tales are happy bunnies to find themselves propped up on a delicate little cake-stand in the sunny village window of her online Independent Bookshop at:
One of Amazon UK’s Top 1,200 reviewers as well as talented and versatile writer, Debbie’s website is at http://authordebbieyoung.com; and her detailed review of The Imagination Thief is at http://authordebbieyoung.com/reading/reviews/directory-of-book-reviews/the-imagination-thief-by-rohan-quine.
My thanks to an energetic connector of readers to writers, Mark Farrell at the innovative new site Ascribe Novel Solutions, whose rigorous gate-keeping has landed both The Imagination Thief and The Platinum Raven and other novellas in great company there:
Cheers to Lichen Craig in Colorado Springs, for interviewing me in depth as part of her literary “Fireside” series of podcasts at bit.ly/Fireside201.
It was a pleasure to be grilled with sparky fun, engagement and intelligence, as we chatted about the nature of the world, the darkness and brightness of life, literature, and a sensible dose of silly stuff here and there as well – along with the four novellas and The Imagination Thief. If you listen carefully, you can hear the quiet, reassuring crackle of a cosy log-fire behind us, throughout the interview, which is a delightful touch: in reality, the two of us were thousands of miles apart, communing through a Google Hangout, but there was a log-fire crackling in our hearts nonetheless, of course!
A quick write-up here by me, at Triskele Books’ blog, of the London Author Fair, where much fun and intelligent discourse was had:
And being a bit less of an Essex girl than me, Dan Holloway’s write-up of the same event at http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/london-author-fair-by-dan-holloway.html
focuses less on the Campari and bar-snacks aspect of things than mine did, but rather on weightier matters. He’s rightly positive about a fine event that was an important component of the current emergence of UK authors into greater industry centrality. He’s also, however, clear-eyed regarding the danger that if this re-emergence isn’t steered well throughout upcoming months, then it will all too easily grow into a form shaped by the natural inclinations of mainstream commercial media alone—i.e. ignoring the rich and wonderful variety of writing that falls not into the categories of commercial fiction within clear familiar genres, but instead into categories of literary fiction, ground-breaking literary/experimental fiction, or fiction that straddles categories. Those natural market forces of mainstream media coverage are not villainous in themselves; but as he warns, their restricted focus on the commercial sales aspect of the landscape tends to lead to a real and unnecessary cultural impoverishment, if allowed to take over the whole party and hog all the party snacks.
“Rohan Quine is one of the most brilliant and original writers around. His The Imagination Thief blended written and spoken word and visuals to create one of the most haunting and complex explorations of the dark corners of the soul you will ever read. Never one to do something simple when something more complex can build up the layers more beautifully, he is back with a collection of 4 seamlessly interwoven novellas. They are available as one paperback, The Platinum Raven and other novellas, or as four separate ebooks […] suffice to say he is the consummate master of sentencecraft. His prose is a warming sea on which to float and luxuriate. But that is only half of the picture. He has a remarkable insight into the human psyche, and he demonstrates it by lacquering layer on layer of subtle observation and nuance. Allow yourself to slip from the slick surface of the water and you will soon find yourself tangled in a very deep and disturbing world, but the dangers that lurk beneath the surface are so enticing, so intoxicating it is impossible to resist their call.”
The above comment appears at http://danholloway.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/the-platinum-raven/. And I’m a fortunate bunny that we have Dan in the land, to slip so sharply through that slick surface and into such receptive and intelligent entanglement in those abysses. It’s a bit uncanny how he manages to reads so widely and deeply while also producing so much rich output himself on many platforms, in the absence of either (1) a harem of luscious pouting assistants and an army of literary screamers and preeners to help him out, and/or (2) a private income … but we shall all just have to keep pondering this, as one of life’s benignest mysteries!
The Platinum Raven and other novellas is now perkily available—a paperback comprising a collection of four novellas called The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong. For some great reviews and interviews about it, see Reviews and interviews for the four novellas.
Retail links for The Platinum Raven and other novellas paperback are here. And each of the four novellas is also available by itself as a separate e-book: retail links for these four individual novella e-books are at The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong.
The Platinum Raven is a triple convulsion whereby our heroine Raven escalates herself into the Chocolate Raven and then the Platinum Raven, from London to Dubai to the tower in the hills in the desert—then back down again, forever changed. A lot of its action happens in my favourite building, the fabulously flashy Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper.
The Host in the Attic is a hologram of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, digitised and reframed in cinematic style, set in London’s Docklands in a few years’ time. It’s pretty spooky, and I believe it’s a slant on Wilde’s masterpiece that we haven’t seen before. One playful aspect of my homage to him centres on the fact that one of its characters is posited as having written my novel The Imagination Thief, which helps to drive the story of The Host in the Attic forward (as an equivalent of Wilde’s character Sibyl’s acting). But this is just part of the fracturing of characterisation I’m playing with across the five tales, whose casts of characters all overlap; and you certainly don’t have to have read The Imagination Thief before you read this novella or any of the other novellas here.
In Apricot Eyes, a cat-and-mouse pursuit through the New York City night involves a preacher, a psychic and a dominatrix, broadcast live on air—until a horror is unearthed, bringing two of them together and the third to a sticky end. It’s a sassy little street-queen of a romp, embracing a few underbelly-of-New-York elements, in addition to a dose of the more bizarre stuff that I always like to throw into the mix too.
In Hallucination in Hong Kong, sliding from joy to nightmare and back, a plane-flight frames a journey into Jaymi’s and Angel’s polarised identities and perceptions, where past and present merge in an obsessive fantasy of love, death, horror and apocalyptic beauty. To me it feels like a dark and twisted firework display of some kind, or some kind of shout into the void, but it was written from a place of compassion and probably a wish that the many kinds of stunning beauty in the world didn’t have to share that world with such catastrophic chasms of suffering as some individuals fall into.
I’m grateful for the comparison with Sergio De La Pava, winner of 2013’s PEN/Robert Bingham W. Prize—a “comp” made by novelist/poet and literary-cultural commentator Dan Holloway in his recent SPR magazine article at http://t.co/VSJZDfo5s8, in a kind mention of The Platinum Raven and other novellas:
“It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to bring people’s attention to a truly remarkable book. Rohan Quine writes right at the boundary between literary fiction and experimentalism, and his new collection of four novellas, The Platinum Raven and other novellas, is a genuine masterpiece. This guy is as good as De La Pava, and deserves to be the next self-published literary author to cross over into mainstream consciousness.”
In the week since Dan wrote that, De La Pava has also become a shortlistee (is that a word?) for the Folio Prize 2014—a brand-new prize occurring for the first time this year.
Great to be interviewed in the current “Words with Jam” magazine. Thanks so much to novelists JJ Marsh and JD Smith, for having me there. The interview is headed “60 seconds with Rohan Quine”, and I have to say I’m awed by how much they can fit into 60 seconds—it was quite a whirlwind minute, I have to say.
Thank you to novelist Jane Davis for interviewing me on her blog:
It was a pleasure to answer her intelligent questions, and I look forward very much to meeting her in real life at the London Author Fair on 28 Feb.
Thanks to stylish international crime-queen JJ Marsh for including me in her best-of-2013 “Baker’s Dozen” (may all her dozens be bakers’ ones), in accomplished company, and for her kind words there regarding The Imagination Thief: