John West – Burning Roses, Dancing in Valhalla, Tales From The Crying Room, self-published author:
I’ve known John for several years now, we even co-wrote Big Day Out together as our take on of Johannesburg under lockdown.
What inspired you to first start writing?
I broke both my legs as a child – two separate occasions, two years apart – and spent quite a bit of time in hospital. In those medieval days before the internet, all I could do, lying flat on my back with a leg in the air, was read. A love of reading developed into a love of writing. Then I took second place in a national schools writing competition, and my fate was sealed.
Tell us a little about your first full length novel – Burning Roses –
What’s it about?
Where did the idea come from?
Burning Roses started as an autobiographical trip through the clubs and bars of 1980s Johannesburg, immortalizing the local bands playing at the time. Life kept getting in the way, so it took years to write. Every time I went back to it, the story changed direction, until a simple tale of what actually happened had transformed itself into a decadent twisted tale of what might have happened. Still set in the same clubs and bars, with the same (mostly) real-life characters. Some of the names have been changed, to protect the guilty.
You have published many short stories – do you have a favourite and why?
Dancing in Valhalla has to be my favourite short story. This is a spin-off from Burning Roses, set in the same clubs and bars, but updated to include more recent events in my own life. Which is where I get most of my inspiration for my writing. “Experience life on the streets in 1980s Hillbrow as two teenagers struggle to survive a violent rollercoaster ride through Johannesburg’s underground club scene.” It’s the main story in a compendium unsurprisingly called Dancing in Valhalla, containing 13 twisted tales of music, magick, mayhem & murder. Some torn from headlines in sunny South Africa where, for many, these are part of everyday life.
Do you have a favourite time/place to write?
Most of my ideas pop into my head while I’m in the shower. I don’t recommend it as a place to actually write, unless it’s a really short story that can be scribbled in steam on one side of a glass door.
Do you have any plans for your next book?
Many plans. All shooting off in different directions.
What’s your favourite book to read (or genre or author)?
Impossible to narrow it down to one book. Fight Club. Clockwork Orange. Stranger in a Strange Land. Illusions. And maybe Lord of the Rings, although that is the only one that I have read only once. For obvious reasons.
Unless you’re including graphic novels. Then the list could change slightly.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to blow all my writing profits on beer, usually in the company of a famous author/publisher whose name I won’t mention here in a respectable newsletter.