There is a certain oddity about Twitter. You may never have met a person but you will remember when he moved from London to Southwold, when his daughter was born, when he passed Emma Watson in the street, when he got his iPad, when he wrote about it in The Bookseller and lots of other minutie. But then, as Nora Ephron says in a spectacularly insightful observation regarding online interaction in You've Got Mail, 'The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something but I just wanna say that all this nothing has meant more to me than many somethings'.
As we collect specks of information about people we begin to get interested in them, their work and their lives in a way that the more classic methods of social exchanges just do not allow. When some of my offline acquaintances ask me how I can possibly make friends online, I always reply that it is extremely easy because you can sort the wheat from the chaff much more quickly and precisely. So is Ben Johncock, also known as JC, wheat or chaff, dear reader? You be the judge. For a long time I thought the guy was Ben John Cock which at first I thought a bit cruel, then slightly amusing, then surreal. But then, that's a nom de plume that would stick, wouldn't it dear reader? Surely beats mine.
JC is one of those lucky bastards who writes full-time. Yes, I really did say that, full-time. And he has yet to have a novel published for God's sake (he's working on it though, The Long, Delirious, Burning Blue). But then anyone can write full-time when his spare time is taken up by advising clueless people on how to work Twitter. JC runs The Twitter Consultancy, a little service that helps you make the most of Twitter (and, believe you me, lots of people need guidance on this, especially large publishing houses). Coming up for JC is The Literary Death Match in London next Wednesday. He will read from his work in progress (he's either very brave or very stupid), which I have equated to pulling one's pants down in public very slowly, a bit like writing really. I also believe that said pants will be up for grabs afterwards but I've been reassured that they will be thoroughly cleaned first (they'll need to be). Thank you JC and good luck and kisses!
What is your idea of perfect writing?
Conveying the most using the least.
What is your greatest writing fear?
What do you consider your greatest writing achievement?
Probably the novel I'm working on at the moment. I think you only learn how to write a novel by writing lots of novels. And I've written a few, and they were very bad. Then, they started to become not quite so bad. Now, well, we'll see.
What is the writing tendency you most deplore in yourself?
Which living writer do you most admire?
I have huge respect for Tom McCarthy. Remainder was one of the best novels I'd read in years. I was so pleased by his Booker shortlisting, if only because more people got to hear about him. Jonathan Franzen is at the top of his game at the moment, too.
What is your greatest writing extravagance?
I bought a MacBook Air just for novel writing. That's fairly extravagant!
What is the quality you most admire in somebody else's writing?
Poetry, brevity, humanity.
What or who is your greatest writing love?
Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff. It is one of the best books I have ever read. The strange thing was, I realised it after only a few pages. I don't think that's ever happened before. It blew me away and had a huge influence on me.
When and where were you happiest with your writing?
Upstairs in my study, a few weeks ago. I have the very rare privilege of being able to write full time now, in a room of my own (instead of being squashed behind the TV in the living room). I was writing longhand and lost in the sheer joy of composition, with the muse tapping on the top of my head (that's where I feel it, strangely enough. It's like someone's banging on my head with a spoon). Things were going well. That made me happy.
If you could change one thing about your writing, what would it be?
To edit with more vigour! To say less, not more!
What is the most marked characteristic of your writing?
I'm not sure there is one, to be honest. It depends on what I'm writing.
Who are your writing heroes?
Douglas Adams. Joseph Heller. Hunter S. Thompson. Kazuo Ishiguro. Tom Wolfe. Roald Dahl. Joseph Conrad. Michael Chabon.
How do you hope your writing will be referred to as long after you've gone?
I guess we'd all like to have written a classic. What is your writing motto?
I guess we'd all like to have written a classic.
What is your writing motto?
Write a good book. Because that's all you need to do.