WEB EXCLUSIVE: MARTIN MILLAR
interview by smokin' joe blow

MARTIN MILLAR HAILS FROM GLASGOW, SCOTLAND, AND STOPPED WORKING PROPER JOBS WHEN HIS BOOKS STARTED BEING PUBLISHED. HIS WORKS INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, SUZY, LED ZEPPELIN AND ME, THE EMINENTLY POPULAR THRAXAS SERIES, AND DREAMS OF SEX AND STAGE DIVING, WHICH IS FAR SUPERIOR TO ANYTHING JACKIE COLLINS HAS EVER TURNED OUT. HE HAS BEEN IN SOUTH LONDON FOR 20 YEARS OR SO ON HIS OWN, WHICH IS FORTUNATE, AS IT ENABLES HIM TO LIE AROUND IN HIS UNDERWEAR AND DRINK BEER.

Smokin': Your book, Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me, what's it about, and where did the idea come from?

Martin: It's a novel based around a Led Zeppelin gig in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1972. I went to this gig when I was 14. I don't know why I suddenly got the urge to write about it. Music is always featured in my books, but mostly music stemming from punk rock, which arrived when I was about 17. I'd never written anything about my life before that period.

S: You've got an uncanny ability to make eccentric characters as believable as the five-fifteen train. Is this simply natural ability, the result of years of practice, or a midnight deal with the Devil himself?

M: A difficult question to answer about myself. However, my writing now, in general, is the result of long practice, largely to make it simpler. Also, there were a lot of eccentric characters in Brixton, the part of South London I lived in and generally wrote about. (Brixton has since gone up-market, and is not quite so eccentric.)

S: Did Adam and Eve have navels?

M: Not certain. I think God probably directed a slower evolution, rather than creating Adam and Eve.

S: When did you first begin writing, and what kind of material did you start with?

M: The first thing I wrote was a science fantasy novel. I was 15. It was inspired by Tolkien. It wasn't very good, but I did complete it, in longhand. I generally have a determined attitude to writing, and I don't like to abandon things.

S: You've said yourself that you weren't that fond of Tank Girl. "Terrible book. I needed the money. It's a hard life being an author." Is there another book or piece of work you've done that really didn't turn you on?

M: I always like my books after I've finished them. Later on, I go off them. This usually happens. Sometimes it can be quite serious; a few years later I really won't like the book.

S: On the other side of the coin, what is your best work, or character you most identify with? Is there a topic you find yourself wanting to write about constantly, and have there been any requests for you from fans or publishers to handle specific themes?

M: I don't exactly identify with my characters; they are more usually based on people I've met. This is not to say that I don't put myself into characters, because I do. But any character based on me usually has their bad points exaggerated, to make it funny. Alby Starvation, the main character in my first published novel, was based on me. But Alby is a paranoid maniac, and I'm not. Generally, I like to write about friendships. I'm not too interested in adventures and dramatic events. The most often requested thing from people who contact me is my novel about fairies, the Good Fairies of New York, which is, unfortunately, out of print now.

S: I think Dreams of Sex and Stage Diving is probably my favorite book you've done. Although, I'm still digging around for some of your older work which, I hope, will be reprinted by Codex Books. Do you keep a pile of reference material and idea scraps on hand as fuel for the fire, or does each book start fresh? I guess I'm asking where the ideas come from.

M: I don't really know. The ideas build up slowly until they're strong enough to carry a novel. Usually, the very first thing is that I think of a character I like. When I know the character, I can put him or her into an interesting story. These days, my writing is slightly different, because I spend half my time doing Martin Millar novels, but the other half writing sword and sorcery about a character named Thraxas, under the pseudonym of Martin Scott. Since I won the World Fantasy award for Thraxas, this series has been doing well. I started off writing sword and sorcery just to make some money, but I like writing about Thraxas these days. He's a good character.

S: Do you feel your work has been well received in the US? Why, or why not?

M: I have never been published in the USA. I don't know why that is, though I understand that the US publishing market doesn't import that much in the way of UK authors. I've always thought that my books would do well there, but no American publisher has ever agreed with that. However, the first Thraxas books will come out in the US in September, published by Baen.

S: If God dropped acid, would he see people?

M: Can't answer that. I do believe in God, so I don't like to indulge in idle speculation about him.

S: What's next on the agenda for you?

M: I'm writing a werewolf book, which is turning into something of an epic. Also, I'm getting on with the new Thraxas book.

S: There's a quote from the movie High Fidelity that neatly sums up the little cross section of society I like to call home. "It doesn't matter what you're like, it matters what you like." What are some of your favorite books and movies, and what kind of music are you into?

M: Buffy, Greek mythology, music in general, rock music, particularly Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, Nirvana, and a host of dodgy glam rock bands from the '70s. I'm currently depressed because Buffy is coming to an end. This is a disaster. I was hoping to watch Buffy for the rest of my life.

S: If you were stuck on a desert island for one year, what five things would you bring?

M: A bible, flute, picture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer,.. can't think of anything else. My favorite possession is my iBook, but I suppose that's not going to work on a desert island.

S: If you were abducted by aliens, what would you miss most about Earth?

M: Sex.

S: What is nothingness?

M: Don't know.

S: If you weren't a writer, what would you be doing?

M: Some tedious job. I'm not qualified for anything. Before I started making a living as a writer, my last job was as a clerk in a council office. Before that I was a library assistant; before that, a warehouse assistant.

S: How come Superman could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when someone threw a gun at him?

M: I was more of a Marvel fan: Spider-Man, and the Silver Surfer, and Conan the Barbarian. I used to be a big reader of comics, but haven't for some time now.

S: And lastly, do dogs have lips?

M: I have never been close enough to one to check. I don't like dogs.

VISIT MARTIN HERE.

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