It’s Wednesday which means it is time for another Author Influences. Joining me today is David Olner, author of The Baggage Carousel.
Which authors/books did you read as a child?
I was bang into science fiction when I was a kid, before all the wonderment got knocked out of me. Quite high-end stuff, too, like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. I remember the sense of disappointment when I took Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” home from the library, giddy at the prospect of reading it, only to find out it was some childhood memoir. I was a kid in a small town. I didn’t want to read about some other kid in a small town. I wanted robots and spaceships.
From there, I digressed into reading horror. I read James Herbert and Stephen King at what was probably a far too tender age. I don’t think the gore ever bothered me but I do recollect being completely distraught when Tad, the little boy, died in Cujo. I remember shouting “Why, Stephen King, why?” repeatedly and banging a scrawny fist against the top of my cabin bed. Cabin beds were a thing in the 80’s, by the way, I wasn’t at sea swabbing the decks or anything.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was, I even won a prize! My mum and dad still have the book (sci-fi, natch) I was awarded for my efforts. Maybe because it’s the only thing I’ve ever won. Meritocratically, that is, not including tombolas and scratchcards. I have enclosed photographic evidence.
Which genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read across the board, there’s no particular genre I’d care to be tethered to. I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking, so often my reading choices were dictated by whatever was available in hostel book exchanges that wasn’t printed in Scandinavian or German. Thanks to that I’ve read a lot of crappy books, but I’ve also picked up so much good stuff. The stuff you know you’re supposed to read but would never ordinarily get around to if it wasn’t an enforced choice. My first exposure to writers like John Steinbeck and Robert Louis Stevenson was through those book exchanges and I’d count them amongst my favourite authors now.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
“The Baggage Carousel” turned out a lot darker than I expected and a second book I wrote proved even bleaker. As a palette cleanser, I had a go at writing a YA book for a while. It felt good to be writing something that didn’t make me want to scrub my eyes away after I’d shut the laptop down. Time constraints meant I had to shelve it, but I’d love to return to it at some point.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and if so who, what and why?
I read Martin Amis’s “Dead Babies” in my early twenties and it blew my tiny mind. I remember when I was reading it I kept flipping the book over, amazed that a book like that could have a Penguin on its spine. Even the title seemed like an affront to decency. At that point, I realised that you could get away with almost anything under the banner of contemporary fiction. I determined to use that to my advantage, but it took me over twenty years to get around to it.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
George Saunders. I can’t stand it when people bandy the word “genius” around recklessly, it’s like when someone calls you a “legend” just for putting the kettle on. But I think George Saunders probably is a genius. I know he’s definitely a writer to be treasured.
Which books have you read that made you think “Wow, I wish I had written that?” and what was it about the book?
None. If I read a book that moves or inspires me in some way it seems obvious that the author was exactly the right person to write it. But if I read a book by, say, Sarah Waters, I am in awe at the amount of research that’s gone into it. All the depth of field she creates before she can even insert her characters and plot machinations.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
The basic conceit of “The Baggage Carousel” is true. I had a holiday romance with an Australian girl whose ardour cooled considerably when we return to our respective homelands. I remembered that I’d loaned her a nominal amount of money and contacted her to politely ask for it back and it was at that point she expunged me from her social media. The first time I asked her about the money I could’ve done with it, but the next half-dozen times I emailed her it was more about the principle! For the purposes of the novel I tried to imagine how something like that would affect a character who wasn’t as mentally well-balanced as I so obviously am.
Thanks for taking part, David.
David’s novel The Baggage Carousel is out now. Here is what it’s about:
Dan Roberts has a troubled past, anger management issues and a backpack named after an abducted heiress. A chance encounter with Amber, a free-spirited Australian girl, seems to give his solitary, nomadic life a new sense of direction. But when she doesn’t respond to his emails, the only direction he’s heading is down…
The Baggage Carousel is a visceral yet humane travelogue of a novel about life’s great let-downs; family, work and love. Dan Roberts is destined to go down as one of fiction’s great solitary men, equal parts Iain Banks’ Frank, Camus’ Meursault and Seuss’ The Grinch.
You can get your copy of The Baggage Carousel HERE.
About David Olner
Dave Olner likes to travel, relishing the opportunities to annoy people from different cultures. He currently lives in Humberside where he works as a fork-lift truck driver by night and sleeps during the day. Like a vampire, except without the bloodletting, immortality or superhuman strength.
Dave studied Film at the University of Derby. Films are like books where you don’t have to turn the page. He only got a Desmond, though, but bumped it up to a 2.1 on his CV. That little white lie enabled him to fulfil his lifelong dream of driving a fork-lift truck, by night, in Humberside.
“The Baggage Carousel” is his debut novel and will be released by those miscreants at Obliterati Press on the 23rd of March 2018.