Darran Anderson interviews Ben Myers.
Darran Anderson: ‘Only thoughts that are won by walking have value,’ claimed Nietzsche. How has walking, and landscape, influenced your writing generally and more specifically with Beastings?
Ben Myers: That’s definitely one of Nietzsche’s better observations. I think that walking has had a massive impact. I’d say I only really started improving as a writer – or finally shook off some of my earlier influences – when I stepped away from my desk and realised that the act of physically moving through the landscape was a big help in the process of moving through a narrative, through a story. It sounds like simple, obvious stuff to point out but walking can really alter the thought process. Each of my novels takes the form of a journey from one place to another place that is determined only by the lead characters, and most of the creative decisions are made while out wandering, usually up hills, through woods, across moors. Landscape is everything; we do not exist in a vortex.
I do sometimes think that in the city – especially places like London, New York, Paris, Berlin – the individual is consumed by the chaos of it all and the city only exists because of the compliance of its components – its people. Without that compliance it would be a non-functioning squall of fist-fights, traffic jams and pile-ups. That urban kinetic energy can be inspiring but is often destructive too; because compliance to such a wide system can restrictive. Ultimately in London you can’t walk where you want to walk and you can’t lose yourself entirely in thought because the constant stimulus and close proximity of people always impedes. Out in the countryside the visceral thrill of the elements and the vastness of space means that I sometimes find that time often peels away and I feel stripped down my core elements: thought, skin and bones. And shoes. Of course – the countryside is full of boundaries and borders too but I’m a big fan of trespassing…
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