So what’s it all about Seex?
“Well, in short I would say it’s meant to be a book to make you think – about reality, about perceptions and about how we make meaning. How we try to impose order on the world we cannot see”
Sounds a bit heavy!
“Ha, you could also describe it as a detective story and a love story. The main character has suffered the loss of his best person and is looking to find a way of dealing with his grief. Somewhere along the line his perceptions of what is real and not real become blurred and we become engaged, with him, in trying to unravel his perceptions – with the help of two detectives.”
What would you say is your Book’s Unique Selling Point?
“That’s difficult because I wanted the narrative to work on a whole range of different levels. As a book the USP is definitely the text style – it’s a mixture of straight prose and stream-of-consciousness poetry. Underneath that there is a third narrative produced by the text itself which hopefully will encourage the reader to form an entirely unique narrative for themselves.
I had to try and ‘re-invent’ a way of expressing myself using new words and phrases, some a mix of existing ones and some just my own, in order to convey Peter’s sense of disparateness. Plus there’s a twist at the end which I hope will make the journey worthwhile – or intriguing!”
What was the inspiration for the book?
“It all started a good few years ago. I was watching a late night book review. There were several top authors, authors I admire, on the show and they were discussing new releases. Unfortunately (for the new releases at least), the discussion began to center around the realisation that, although each story was different, it’s form had been used time and time before – ‘this is a detective novel using the multiple narrator format.’ ‘This is a love story using the ‘told in reverse format’, and so on.
They came to the conclusion that there was very little actually new in terms of structure out there and I took up the challenge! I set out to write something that was different – not only in terms of content but also in terms of language and structure.”
Do you think you’ve succeeded?
“Almost! Interestingly, when I gave the first draft out to some friends to read, the main feedback I had was that the poetic form was beautiful to read but they had had difficulty in connecting the events. So I re-wrote the story, draping it in a more straightforward detective format. I hope this has meant that the narrative is much more accessible.”
So is it a piece of Crime Fiction?
“Not really – I modeled the two detectives as two readers, trying to piece together the writings of Peter Johannsen, so that they could guide you, the reader, through the events.”
And what about the Device in the title? Are we straying into Science Fiction too?
“A little. I do love Sci-Fi, in film and literature so I suppose it’s natural that there is a hint of it in my book. But it’s certainly not a Science Fiction story in the traditional sense. Without giving the plot away, the Device is…ambiguous to say the least. Coming back to my helpful proof-readers, each one of them imagined the Device to be something completely different – which confirmed in a way that the book was working as I’d hoped it would. I wanted it to stimulate thought and discussion. I’d love to eavesdrop on a discussion between people once they’ve read it!”
I know it’s a bit crass, but if you had to, which other books would you compare yours to – which books might be on the ‘Other Purchasers Liked These Too’ list?
“With all due respect to the skill and creativity of the following, in terms of approach and style I would hope to find my book nestling somewhere between Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale and James Joyce’s Ulysses.
Thanks Seex. Below are a couple of short extracts from Peter Johannsen and The Device Of Wonders:
The cell is nearly dark, yet sitting at the end of the simple bed a man is writing in his notebook frantically. His name is Peter Johannsen. He is thinking of his wife, Annie Johannsen. When this day is gone he knows they will be together again. The scribbling of his pen is loud against the cold concrete walls. Peter Johannsen is tired. He has been writing a long time and now his right hand is beginning to show signs of cramp, but he knows he must keep writing. It won’t be long now. He must finish writing it all down because once the others come and start with their questions none of them will believe him. The words are tumbling over each other and he cannot always keep up but it must be written down. Peter Johannsen is still not sure of all that has happened, only that he must record it as it was. He is near the end now but it has been difficult. Let it stand for what it is. As the cell darkens Peter Johannsen does not turn on the light but picks up the pen again after wringing his hands. He looks up from the foot of the bed and smiles, as if to someone else. And continues to write.
Black. Bristle sting ‘gainst head side he there. Where am I? Slow, soft return thru body long came senses up, up long river stream to head of dark. ‘Neath slow-filling pools of knowing came then beat of tide ‘gainst his mind there. In misty grasp of self-sense still lay he there. Where am I? Beneath he then turgid frame of body flesh brought electric landscape coursing clear. Now one, now three, now four – tide carried thump and burn, cheat and sting ‘long watery trial of nerve to he as lay there yet. Lay? Yes, laying down. Carpet. Bedroom carpet. What happened? Insistent now; brink of crashing shore beat hard ‘gainst mind; no tempo mit echoed throb from below. Shifting surge of swell passed thru’ he then. I feel sick. What am I doing down here? Open eye there he slow unseeing light dull with shadow. Slowest yet moved pool of optic orb ’til focus he on orange-red bristled ground and brought he to waking. Why am I on the bloody carpet? Must have…what was I doing?…Fallen over. In final tide tug, hands, fingers rasp on texture floor, limbs he senses gain then with weight now new from floating journey. Still lay he yet. Something missing…something I have to…can’t think…what happened? Circle there in orbital place the unspoken it, chase he not. Wait. It will come. Now rising with clamour, flesh of he sought his mind now; stinging cheek, rumbling elbow, grinding knee, yet above all pounding, strident head in march insistent ‘cross his brow. I must get up.
(Thanks to Joe N for the interview and article.)
- Peter Johannsen & the Device Of Wonders! (rattledrum.wordpress.com)