Scottish author - David F. Ross has his third book out in the loose Disco Days trilogy - The Man Who Loved Islands..........
The Disco Boys and THE Band are BACK ...
In the early '80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven't spoken to each other in more than ten years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself, if only they can forgive ... and forget.
Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, The Man Who Loved Islands is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy.
I'm happy to welcome him onto the blog today, answering a few questions - a bit of a reversal. I'll have some thoughts on the book itself tomorrow.
Is the writing full-time? What’s the day job or what were you in your pre-writing life?
The writing definitely isn’t full-time. I’m the Design Director of a large Scottish-based architectural firm and that pays the bills. However, I don’t see them as dramatically different conceits. Both are fundamentally about people; how they react and respond to the environment that you – as architect or writer – create around them. My books are set in real places as context and often utilise real events as background and I suppose that sensibility comes from a designer’s need to observe rather than speculate.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
I’ve been fortunate that there’s been a few. Appearing at Aye Write! and the Edinburgh International Book Festival were both good fun to do, but I guess the touring and promotion of the German translation of The Last Days Of Disco in major German cities last year was perhaps the most exciting.
What’s your typical (book) writing schedule?
I don’t really have a formal or fixed approach to writing. My actual job is way too unpredictable to allow any disciplined time management for writing. The first book was written largely while I was working overseas during a 12-month period in 2011. The second and third were a bit more organised mainly because I had something of a contractual obligation deadline with them. They were essentially five to six-month timescales written in sporadic creative bursts. I wish I could be more organised but I’m too indoctrinated in a non-9-to-5 culture.
Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?
Yes, but mainly just characteristics or interesting fragments, although The Last Days Of Disco has an important female character called Lizzie King. Elizabeth King is the name of my wife’s best friend and we’ve both known her since we were kids. It was initially a just a bit of fun from a time before I had any interest in having it published, but she thought it was funny so I just left it in. There are also real people who infiltrate the books. Margaret Thatcher is a fairly significant character in The Last Days Of Disco, Boy George played an important peripheral part in The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas, and there are a number of real people - such as the brilliant Scottish band Teenage Fanclub – in The Man Who Loved Islands. With the exception of Thatcher, for whom I have nothing but disdain, the rest are all treated very respectfully.
How long did The Man Who Loved Islands take from conception to completion?
Probably around six months. I finished it in September of last year, a bit earlier than I had initially anticipated.
Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
A bit of both really. I imagine writing is maybe a bit similar to doing a complicated jigsaw puzzle; looking for the edges and borders allows you to fill in the other parts of the puzzle having established these key parameters of timeline and context. However, my books are very character-driven and having invested significantly in their personalities, motivations, dreams and concerns, my job is simply to make sure the characters act – and react – authentically. I spend a lot of time on dialogue, and that is often the part that develops and changes the story as it progresses and different ideas emerge.
Are there any subjects off limits?
No. Apart from ones that simply don’t interest me enough to write about.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
The (hopefully) next published book is a belter. It’s called Glaswegian Rhapsody and is set in the city over a 30-year period. Its structure is stolen from New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, and also Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, in that it features three separate but connected stories about the city and the people who live (or lived) in its underbelly. There are several cameos from Jim Rockford (from the 70s TV programme The Rockford Files). And of course, there’s a blistering soundtrack…naturally.
Can you tell us a bit about your previous books?
I have two books published prior to The Man Who Loved Islands, and all three form something of a Trilogy in that, although not strictly related in terms of plot, they feature a large cast of characters with some coming more to the fore in different books. Hopefully, The Man Who Loved Islands ties up all the loose ends.
Each of the books is essentially about the hopes and dreams of the central characters – especially the younger ones. In The Last Days Of Disco, those hopes and dreams belong to Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller who leave school to start a mobile DJ business in 1982 as the Falklands War begins and a smaller, but no less significant one begins between them and a cabal of local gangsters. In The Rise & Fall Of The Miraculous Vespas, those same gangsters find themselves funding the unexpected success of a local indie-music band as they scale the heights of the UK charts.
The Man Who Loved Islands brings these two separate stories up to the present day but is perhaps a more mournful reflection of life not turning out in the way that the central characters had hoped. There’s regret, depression, pain and an acute sense of time running out for all of them. It’s a laugh-a-minute..!
Is there one of your books you’re more proud of that any of the others? Which and why?
The Last Days Of Disco is a bit more personal – and perhaps autobiographical – than the other two, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. When you realise that you’ve created something that means a lot to other people, it’s a truly fantastic feeling. I’m very fond of the other two (or three, if you include Glaswegian Rhapsody) but in different ways, if that makes sense.
What are the last five books you have read?
The Reflection by Hugo Wilken
Number 11 by Jonathan Coe
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh
Who do you read and enjoy?
My literary influences are pretty easy to spot. Irvine Welsh, John Niven, Jonathan Coe and Roddy Doyle are perhaps the writers whose books I would always read. Although I’m not a massive crime fiction fan, Denise Mina is a brilliant writer and her books – especially the Glasgow ones – embody the complex and contradictory relationship that I have with the city of my birth.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
Plenty. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, or A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving, or The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe. In terms of sales, I wish I’d written the Bible, and then copyrighted all subsequent bastardised versions of it.
I play football at weekends, and I’m still fairly obsessed with music. When I was younger I had over 5,000 vinyl singles and sold them all. Having accumulated almost the same amount of CDs, I’m now back buying vinyl again.
What’s the current project in progress? How’s it going?
I’ve just finished a stage play based on The Miraculous Vespas book, and there are some interesting ideas in discussion with that. I also have a book draft in progress called ‘Weekenders’ about six middle-aged female friends who decide to go on a weekend away to Barcelona together, but all are hiding some devastating secrets from each other that will inevitably emerge when they spend four days in such close, claustrophobic proximity to each other.
What’s the best thing about writing?
The words ‘The End’.
The 80,000 ones that precede those two.
In a couple of years time…
…I’ll be another couple of years closer to retirement, and a guitar-shaped pool in the Hollywood Hills, after winning a Best Screenplay Oscar for The Last Days Of Disco.