One of the awesome things about doing PAPER AND INK has been the plethora of weird, wonderful and interesting people that I have met because of it. So, aside from sharing their creative outpurings in the zine itself I have decided to interview some of the writers that have/will feature in its pages. First up is the original lit fiend himself and a writer whom Mark SaFranko describes as one of his favourites in the whole world (and if you don't know who Mark SaFranko is, stop reading this right now and go buy some of his books from Murder Slim Press. Then come back and read this interview, obviously).
Boring bits first... What's your name, where do you come from and what do you do?
How did you come to end up in Edinburgh?
Having been priced out of the housing market in my traditional homelands by rich people - I was forced to relocate to a city where a working man could still afford to live in a decent manner or in the style I was accustomed to - carousing in bars several times a week - womanising and fine dining. Also the mother of my child - Miss Urchin Belle - is originally from Auld Reekie and she told me all these tales of Edina and how wonderful a city it is - and being gullible of nature - I fell for her lines hook line and sinker.
What was the first piece of writing that you ever had published?
The first piece of writing I had published was a short piece of fiction that was published online in 2002 and for which I was paid £25. That of course was in the early days of the internet when nobody knew what they were doing. Now nobody gets paid anything. The first piece of fiction where I was just beginning to find my feet as a writer was a short story called Candice - and which was published on the now defunct Laura Hird Showcase in 2005. Looking back an amazing amount of established writers first had their work appear on Laura’s showcase.
Do you keep count of all the pieces you've had published?
No - way too many. Of course I do know how many books I've had published. 12 -with a short story collection (pictured, right) due out on Bottle of Smoke Press some time later this year - which will feature some wonderful artwork by the multi-talented Jose Arroyo.
And then there’s the long awaited and overdue novel Burrito Deluxe also slated for publication by Purpose Books in Spring 2015. Only had to wait eight years for that mother to see the light of day!
What has been your proudest moment as a writer thus far?
I’m proud of all my books of course - especially A Child of the Jago - but have a soft spot for the very first - Where are the Rebels - a chapbook of poetry published by Blackheath Books in 2008. However - my proudest moment as a writer was when I told the literary editor of the Guardian Newspaper to fuck off. I lost a paid hack journo gig - but I preserved some self-respect. Anyway, let’s face it hack work is bad for the lit fiend rep. It was also at that point - an epiphany really - that I knew I’d never compromise my artistic vision for monetary gain. Of course this may mean I end up starving to death in the gutter - but what the hell - it’s gonna be a fun ride getting there.
What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?
What would your 15 year old self say if he saw the person you have become?
Some burnt out boozer who writes books that nobody reads. Tosser!
I did so much reading in my formative years that it is now seldom that a book has the capacity to blow my mind - but every now and then one comes along that gets my mojo working and renews the faith. The latest lit fiend gold dust were - James Curtis - The Gilt Kid, Gerard Kersch - Night and the City and the collected writings of Cookie Mueller (pictured, left). Actually all the books currently issued by London Books are worth investigating.
Who is your favourite literary character of all time?
Oh shit that’s a hard one as there are so, so many - but if push came to shove I’d have to say Arturo Bandini - no no Henry Chinaski - shit Jack Mitchell - Long John Silver - Sal Paradise - Harry Fabian - Ferdinand Bardamu - Dan Yack - Martin Eden - Anna Morgan - Candy -oh shit I can’t stop. Put it this way there are quite a few.
What is your favourite movie?
Has anyone ever approached you about adapting any of your work for film?
Nobody has approached me with a view to adapting my work for film - but if they did they would receive a polite but firm get to fuck. As long as I live I will never let any of my work be turned into film as I consider the medium of movies to be fundamentally flawed. As a lit fiend - I prefer to use my imagination. And although Terry Southern’s wonderful literary creation Guy Grand informs us that everyone has their price - in this instance he would be sadly mistaken.
What is your favourite album?
Ooh - again I have plenty - hundreds - but at the moment I’ve recently discovered the work of US folk singer Kate Wolf which I really dig.
What is your drink of choice?
Beer and wine - sometimes gin
Mary Millington, Carol White & Diana Dors (pictured, right) - and hopefully once they were suitably inebriated and I’d charmed them with my lit fiend ways and intimate knowledge of all their films - I’d somehow have my wicked way with each of them, ha!
There is that famous Hemingway quote that goes "write drunk, edit sober", would you concur with that?
Yeah - more or less - I do some of my best work either hungover or boozy. I can’t write drunk - I’ve tried but after seven beers the writing begins to fall apart - along with the ability to type. Also with beer you have to keep getting up to take a piss every fifteen minutes which disrupts the creative flow. Wine is better.
There seems to be a bit of a lit zine resurgence in the UK in the last year or so, with the likes of Hand Job and PUSH, as well as my own, Paper and Ink, why do you think that is?
I’m glad you asked this question as something very interesting is taking place on the UK underground lit scene as we speak. I think people - especially younger people - are suffering from internet and technology fatigue. You know all those mostly useless electronic gadgets we’re supposed to own. I think there is a primal urge to fuck all that shit off and get back to the nitty gritty -like the aptly named title of your mag PAPER & INK. Books man - real books written by real people - not a fucking lump of grey plastic. There’s also the obvious fact that bookshops rarely serve up the shit the fiend is searching for. This means that the genuine lit fiend is forced to venture off the beaten literary path to satisfy their peculiarly esoteric reading tastes. And another important facet to these zines is that the work contained within is mostly representative of their generation - culture and community, which at the moment is repressed by the mainstream as they just don’t get it. It’s the voice or voices of the people - the ordinary man and woman on the street and not some useless prick at the British Council. In fact what these zines represent is the antithesis to the puke that the British Council serves up as culture. In some ways it’s pretty revolutionary. The powers that be want zombie consumers - people thinking for themselves is dangerous - they might just start to question shit - you know - might start getting a little political.
PUSH of course is a literary phenomenon all by itself. Imagine a literary zine that is sold to football fans or to anyone on the street and which sells out faster than a best-selling novel. This fact alone is what is twisting everyone’s melons. Joe England has a lot to be proud of. Hand Job is the same - emanating from the same source. How long these zines will last is anyone’s guess, but I for one will gladly be taken along for the ride!
What advice would you give to any budding young lit fiends out there?
The usuals - read widely - on any subject - style - genre - just read like a mother fucker and then lock yourself up in a room and get the word down. On average it takes around ten years to get anywhere near decent. Good luck - they’ll need it, but then don’t we all!
What does the future hold for Mr Joseph Ridgwell?
I’m not sure - I get the feeling that I’m an unlucky lucky writer. I’m lucky in that I have all these wonderful artisan publications to my name - I’ve been very fortunate with publishers so far - and yet I’m unlucky in that there has been very little financial renumeration for all my hard work. I think that possibly I will be discovered by the mainstream after I’m dead or when I’m a very old man. Of course, by then, it will be too late. But I’m not bitter - I’m bitter sweet. I’ve had a good life - travelled all over the world - drank in bars from Bali to Bombay - and had a roller-coaster ride of a lifetime. Also I’ve seen those successful writers pushed and barged to the top by the industry - and it seems much better going underground all by myself. And for those lit fiends who get my work - they really get it- and they also have the books all to themselves. You know it’s a like a secret club - a crazy cool screwball one. Man - you’re either in the know or in the dark like a mushroom. And let’s face it - who wants to be a mushroom!
Thanks for your time and for answering these questions, Joe. Keep fighting the good fight!
Joe's writing will feature in PAPER AND INK Issue #4 which comes out at the beginning of next year. Until then, you keep up to date with his comings and goings by feasting your beady little eyes on his website and/or following him on Twitter.