thoughts on writing from will ashon, who should be much better known than he is…

Like Philip Roth’s Zuckerman, Will Ashon believes most writers are closet exhibitionists – the exhibitionism lying solely in their writing. “I hate doing readings,” he says with feeling. When promoting his first novel, Clear Water, he shared the stage with a Canadian slam poet. “I did my bit and people just looked horrified. Then he came on and recited all these poems about love and sex from memory.” He recalls much bellowing and arm-waving. “At the end of his first set people were practically in tears and cheering. I was standing there with my wife going, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to go on again after him. I think I’ll have another drink.’ I think I sold one book”, he says, bursting into laughter…

Ashon picked an unexpected location to write: the Tube. Living at one end of the Victoria Line and working at the other, the only available time in his day was the 45-minute journey between home and office. “Bizarrely, I found it a really good place to bash out a first draft.” Using a Palm Pilot (“you can get 72 words on the screen”), he established a modus operandi. “It’s all about the right seat. I’m left-handed and so sit on the left-hand side of the train.” Suffering from motion sickness, he always positioned himself facing forward. There were none of the usual distractions. No one ever bothered him. “I find the Tube the opposite of a social experience. I like the way you roll along in a trance-like state.” It worked so well for him that Ashon chose to write The Heritage on the underground, even though he didn’t need to.

—from Marianne Brace, “Will Ashon: A Thoroughly Modern Novelist” The Independent, Friday, 15 February 2008


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