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An Interview with a Young Writer: Wes Brown, Author of Shark

By Periscope @periscopepost

An interview with a young writer: Wes Brown, author of Shark

When he was a child, Wes Brown wanted to be a professional wrestler.

Luckily, he outgrew that ambition and settled on another career path, one that he says he pursues with the devotion of a novitiate: At 26, he’s an author who’s been described as “a new generation Updike”, and whose gritty debut novel, Shark, has been heralded as a punch to the gut (“in a good way”).

Leeds-based Brown is also the director of DEAD INK Publications, co-ordinator at the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) and book critic at Politics on Toast. Chelsey Flood, First Story writer-in-residence, talks with Brown:

Did you always want to be a writer?
When I was younger, I wanted to be an archeologist, and then a professional wrestler. It wasn’t until my late teens I found out I wanted to write. That all the inner whispers had a purpose. But now, it feels like a vocation. More than a profession – the nearest thing I have to religion.

When did you start writing?
When I was about 16. Don DeLillo says he started writing in his ‘muddled adolescence’ to ‘define things’. I think while most people ‘grow up’ – a writer has to maintain a sort of innocence. A sense of shapelessness.

What/who are your favorite books/writers?
I’m the love child of kitchen sink Northern realism and American modernism. So David Peace, Alan Sillitoe, David Storey, and John Updike, Don DeLillo and Vladimir Nabokov. I’m also very keen on Virginia Woolf and George Eliot.

What kind of thing do you write?
I think I’ve only really started writing in the last year. The stories, and failed novel attempts before were all kind of first base. Shark is an attempt at British social realism with American influences. It’s written in a sort of rough, poetic style. When Lights Are Bright, the novel I’m working on currently, is much more American but about very British things. Class, namely.

Shark, according to publisher Dog Horn: “Ex-soldier and violent deadbeat John Usher returns to his boyhood home of Leeds to find things have changed. His community has been unravelled by gang culture, ethnic tensions and hopelessness. Unable to sleep, his only consolation is drinking late into the night and playing pool by himself. That is, until an encounter with a hard right activist leads him into a twisted relationship of deceit, cuckoldry and hatred.”

If you write in different mediums, which is your favourite? Why?
I write book reviews and literary fiction. I prefer the fiction. But I think a writer has an obligation to engage in what Martin Amis calls ‘book chat’.

Can we read any of your work online? Can we see you perform anywhere anytime soon?
I have a profile on the NAWE Young Writers’ Hub and a second, highly revised edition of my novel, Shark, will be published in 2012.

How did you get your book deal?
By accident. I was trying to find expressions of interest from publishers for an Arts Council grant, and a few weeks later an acceptance letter came through the door.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Develop a built-in bullshit detector, a bullet-proof ego and have plenty of energy. Read everything. Be prepared to fail. To learn. To write better.

Check out Litro’s review of Shark, published by Dog Horn Publishing, or read Wes’s blog. This interview first appeared on First Story’s network.

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