Posts tagged ‘JMR Higgs’

Jason Arnopp interviews JMR Higgs

To celebrate publication of The First Church on the Moon, JMR Higgs’ sort-of sequel to The Brandy of the Damned, the author has been interviewed by none other than Jason Arnopp. Jason is the screenwriter of horror movies including Stormhouse and the writer of many Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Adventures and Friday 13th audios and books. None of that impresses us at all. No, the reason we at The Big Hand idolise Arnopp is because he is also the author of The Darkness: Permission to Rock. Yeah! I know!

Jason v UNIT

Jason Arnopp (left) after his capture by UNIT.

Here’s the interview:

JA: How would you quickly sum up The First Church on the Moon?

JMRH: The First Church on the Moon is a comedy about the staff of the Steve Moore Moonbase waking up with hangovers, and trying to work out exactly what happened the previous night. Alcohol on the moon is not a good idea, as I’m sure you know. Nor are cats. Or Free Will. It’s basically a novel about things that are not a good idea on the moon, most notably alcohol, cats and free will.

It’s also a concerted effort to imagine a positive future. Most of our current visions of the future are visions of collapse, and I wanted to imagine a future that didn’t shy away from the looming climate and energy problems but which still painted a future that was thriving and where people had a good time.

9780956416308-Perfect copy.eps

JA: The First Church on the Moon is much more of a comedy than The Brandy of the Damned. Why the change of tone?

JMRH: Partly for the challenge. Writing a novel that works is hard but writing a novel that works and is also funny is harder still.

Actually, that’s not true. I assumed that would be the case when I started but writing comedy was much easier. It was so much fun to do that I loved every minute of it and it never became a chore. I suspect all those comedy writers who say writing comedy is difficult are basically trying to convince their spouses that they’re deserving of sympathy and respect, even though they’ve just been mucking around all day giggling to themselves.

The other reason is that it is the middle part of a trilogy of three short-ish novels about transformative journeys. The first was The Brandy of the Damned and that was aimed at the head without being rational. This one is aimed at the heart without being sentimental, and the third one will be much more on the sex and death level whilst in no way being gothic or erotic. These are the constraints I set myself at the outset to avoid writing anything predictable or unoriginal. And the way I avoided being sentimental in this one was to be silly. Silliness is a great disinfectant to remove all but the deepest emotions, I think.

Plus it’s an effort to make the wild metaphysical speculations that so plague my books more acceptable, so for all those reasons it was always going to be a comedy.

JA: That third part of the trilogy – is that Phwoar & Peace?

JMRH: It is. Or at least, I hope that is what it will be end up being called, but there’s every chance I may come to my senses and call it something else. But Phwoar & Peace is a step up from some of the titles it has had previously. It was called Michael Once Fucked A Mermaid for a while. That’s really not a good title.

JA: Any idea when that will be released?

JMRH: Not for a while, certainly. I’ll be working on a book about the 20th Century for the rest of the year. I had planned to work on Phwoar & Peace after that, but a couple of other book ideas are shouting at me and for various reasons they need to be done sooner rather than later. So I may put it off for a bit. Plus I’m scared of it. I think it may be genuinely impossible to pull off, or at least it looks that way at the moment. After I had written The KLF and The Brandy of the Damned I seriously thought about not releasing them, as you know, because I thought they might get me sectioned. But this is the only book I’ve been afraid of releasing before it has even been written.

JA: The First Church on the Moon was credited to ‘JMR Higgs’, while the KLF book is coming out as ‘John Higgs’. Is there any logic there?

JMRH: Yeah, almost. ‘JMR Higgs’ is the indie novelist side of me, whereas ‘John Higgs’ is the traditionally published non-fiction author. The KLF and 20th Century will both come out properly on Orion as ‘John Higgs’, like the Timothy Leary biography. Those books are the result of an awful lot of thought, research and work and a great deal of concern for the reader and the bookseller and the publisher has gone into them. They should make sense to the wide world, basically. JMR Higgs books, on the other end, are the product of a dialogue between me and my subconscious and they are under no pressure to please anyone other than me, myself and I. So when they do find themselves chiming with others, that’s a real delight.

I can’t recommend having a foot in both camps enough, its keeps your non-fiction original and your fiction believable. It’s a bit like a band going between tour and studio, tour and studio. Also the subjects of the non-fiction act as a flag to attract people who might be on your wavelength and persuade them that maybe it’s worth risking the fiction.

JMR Higgs (moonstruck)

JMR Higgs (moonstruck)

JA: Will future JMR Higgs books keep the comedy up front?

JMRH: It could go either way at the moment. A lot will depend on the reaction to First Church, I think. Cruel experience tells me that my sense of humour is a bit suspect and something of an outlier, so it depends on whether it reaches enough people with a similarly wrong-headed view of things.

JA: One reference I didn’t understand was the naming of the Moonbase – the Steve Moore Moonbase. Is there a story there?

JMRH: The short answer is that I was reading Somnium by Steve Moore, which is a book about someone in love with the moon that was clearly written by an author who is in love with the moon, so it pleased me to think that there might be a Steve Moore Moonbase one day. The longer answer is that Steve Moore is probably best known for his influence on the considerably more famous Alan Moore, to the extent that he jokes his gravestone will read “Steve Moore – no relation.” But it struck me that the concept of Alan Moore is quite a complex and knotty one. There’s his comic work, his magic work, his influence on culture such as the V for Vendetta mask, his anti-Hollywood stance, his pro-Northampton stance – there’s a lot for future generations to get their heads around. Whereas, the notion that Steve Moore is the bloke who is in love with the moon is immediate and succinct, and as generations pass and memories become stories then stories become legends, I could see that notion being absorbed very easily into the collective unconsciousness. I could imagine that a few centuries from now academics would know all about Alan Moore, but everyone would know Steve Moore because there would be nursery rhymes told about him.

The First Church On The Moon is available now ( UK Paperback | UK ebook | US Paperback | US ebook )

The Brandy of the Damned by JMR Higgs and The Beast In The Basement by Jason Arnopp are available together as a AA-sided low-cost ebook.

Jason Arnopp is also author of How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everybody Else.

August 10, 2013 at 9:37 am 1 comment

KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money

New from The Big Hand – KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by JMR Higgs. Out now on Kindle.

To celebrate, the artist Shardcore has built a time-limited algorhymically generated Discordian internet radio station called Radio Eris. He explains more here.

The author, meanwhile, has set up a related Tumblr called TheFuckersBurnedTheLot, and talks about the book here.

They were the best-selling singles band in the world. They had awards, credibility, commercial success and creative freedom.

They deleted their records, erased themselves from musical history and burnt their last million pounds in a boathouse on the Isle of Jura.

And they couldn’t say why.

This is the story of The KLF, told through the ideas that drove them. It is a story about Carl Jung, Alan Moore, Robert Anton Wilson, Ken Campbell, Dada, Situationism, Discordianism, magic, chaos, punk, rave and the alchemical symbolism of Doctor Who.

Wildly unauthorised and totally unlike any other music biography, ‘KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money’ is a trawl through chaos on the trail of a beautiful accidental mythology.

“[Higgs] takes us on a switchback ride to the edge of madness, taking in Discordianism, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Alan Moore, Carl Jung and the number 23 as part of the experience. It’s like he has channelled the spirit of Robert Anton Wilson in the form of a rock biography and invented a new genre along the way.” – CJ Stone, Author of ‘The Trials of Arthur’ and ‘Fierce Dancing’


Amazon UK | Amazon US

November 23, 2012 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

JMR Higgs speaks to Flinton Chalk

Here at The Big Hand we’ve been delighted by the reaction to The Brandy of the Damned, the debut novel from JMR Higgs. Here Flinton Chalk from the band TC Lethbridge emerges from his decades-long slumber to speak to the author:

Flinton Chalk

FC: As I understand it, you’re won’t talk about what The Brandy of the Damned means, is that right?

JMRH: More or less, yeah. I made a promise to one of the first people who read it that I would never explain it, to him or to anyone. I think he feared that the explanation in my head would be a great disappointment compared to whatever interpretation he had in his head. So, other than to reassure you that the whole thing makes perfect sense, I try not to be too specific. I can talk around it, of course. I can talk around it like a good ‘un.

FC: One review I read said that it “was to middle age what Gregory’s Girl was to the teenage years.” Would you agree with that?

JMRH: Yeah that sounds good, doesn’t it? I can’t actually remember much about Gregory’s Girl but I think it’s a compliment. As for the middle age bit though – as I see it, for the first half of our lives we’re driven by a yearning for euphoria and in the second half of our lives we’re driven by a yearning for Grace. Which is a good system, I think, I think we’re lucky it works like that. But the switchover point is not an easy one to navigate, and that’s roughly where the characters are in their lives, so I can understand it for that reason.

But that said – if you were to set a novel in the very heart of Britain, you would have done that in order to talk about Britain in its entirety. The centre point is a good place to get perspective in all directions.

FC: Another reader called it “dense like a fruit cake.”

JMRH: Yeah! But that’s what books are supposed to be, aren’t they? Or at least, it’s how they’re going. Readers deserve twice as many ideas told in half as many words, I think. Especially in non-fiction, where there are all these ‘one idea’ books that would have made brilliant essays, but which have been strung out to whatever length it is that conforms to the publisher’s prejudices. So one good thing about the ebook revolution is that maybe we’ll get past all that legacy baggage and treat the reader a bit better.

I’m slightly wary that some reviews make the book sound hard going or difficult, though. It’s a really easy, light, good-humoured read. It’s only afterwards, when people start to write reviews, that they get bogged down with all the stuff that it’s dredged up for them.

JMR Higgs (moonstruck)

FC: Is it easy to market such a book like that? It’s not part of any obvious tradition.

JMRH: No, it’s totally impossible. It’s a debut non-genre novel from an unknown writer, there’s no hope for it. But that said, there is always word of mouth. And a good way to get word of mouth is to write something that plays bloody hell with the reader’s subconscious, to the extent that they gibber about it afterwards with anyone they meet in order to get their head stable again. That’s pretty much the only option available to me.

I dread to think what damage my next one will do, that goes much further along that road (ED: this is a book that’s not been announced yet, but which will be out in September.) (UPDATE: Let’s say January). Reading The Brandy of the Damned seems to make a really positive difference to people, but the next one might undo all that good work, I fear.

But it’s a good time to do this because publishing is in such a weird state. It’s never been easier to get published and so everyone is getting published, which is great. But oddly, they are all publishing books that don’t need to be published. They are all writing books about vampire cops or some shit. Because that’s what the logic of the industry demands, you know, books which are the same as books that have already been written.

It’s no different to music or films or whatever. They’ve just made a $200 million film about the Battleships board game, not because anyone involved thought it was a good idea but because everyone involved understood that the logic of the industry dictated that the film would actually get made and they’d get paid. So as long as you completely ignore the prevailing wisdom of the industry, it’s actually a great time to write something like The Brandy of the Damned, something that I think comes from a deeper place but without falling into the moon-eyed, sentimental new-agey thing, because no other fucker seems to be doing that at the moment.

FC: But if they were, would you know about it?

JMRH: No, you’re right, that’s where the whole theory falls down. I suspect most of the potential readers for stuff like this don’t have time to read it because they are too busy going on the Internet to complain about the Battleships movie.

I take the view, though, that I’m extraordinarily lucky because I have such a remarkable readership. I mean, they’re great, my readers, they are qualitatively better than other writers’ readers. They just rock, basically, there’s research out there that claims that one of my readers is worth 50 normal readers. Why this is, I have no idea, but I’m not complaining!

As I understand it, all literary conferences next year are devoting sessions to debating the phenomenon, with an eye to reacting to it sometime in 2017.

FC: That’s not true, is it?

JMRH: No, not at the moment. But if you put it in the interview, and people read it and repeat it, it’ll become a little bit more established and that is almost as good as truth. On a practical level, I mean.

The Brandy of the Damned, by JMR Higgs

The Brandy of the Damned is out now on Kindle at the ridiculous price of £1.64 or somesuch, and will be available in paperback at a more sensible price in the near future. The author can be found over on his blog and on Twitter. Flinton Chalk may or may not appear online soon, you can never tell.

June 14, 2012 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

Two New Books From JMR Higgs

Much excitement here at The Big Hand as we prepare to publish not one but two books by JMR Higgs this year. You may know Higgs as the author of I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary, or maybe from the interview he did for us with CJ Stone.

First up is The Brandy of the Damned, his short debut novel and a strange jewel of a book. It’s the story of three members of a band who, twenty years after they broke up, meet again to embark on a quest to drive around the coast road of Britain – in order to see where the coast road goes. It’s balls-out confident, unpredicable and a completely original book that plays with notions of fate and our relationship with time in a winningly good humoured and largely absurd manner.

We think it will delight you.

The Brandy of the Damnedwill be published in paperback in September but, for those of you who need summer reading on your Kindle, the ebook is available right now, DRM-free, from Amazon. Best of all, it has the low price of £1.64, and it will stay that price until the paperback is released.

Also in September comes his next book – which we are keeping close to our chest at the moment, save to say that it is a non-fiction title. We’ll announce the subject in due course, but until then if we tell you that the ground the book covers includes Carl Jung, Alan Moore, Robert Anton Wilson and Doctor Who, then perhaps you can work out what it is about?

May 27, 2012 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

Publishers of extraordinary books

The Brandy of The Damned

The Brandy of the Damned, by JMR Higgs

The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition

The Nabob of Bombasta