I’ve got in a little bit of trouble with my female relations, friends and colleagues since the publication of my novel, The Wrong Box. Their principal problem, I think, is with one of the two main characters, Simon English, and to hear his interior monologue in my voice – when they thought I was such a nice lad!
Well, I still am a feminist, respectful to women (I hope) and absolutely unlikely to go off and get into the sexual scrapes that Simon does. It really isn’t wish fulfilment, and that incident with the Lochgelly tawse in the open plan is neither fantasy nor autobiography, believe me!
If you think I doth protest too much, consider the attitudes and inner thoughts of the other main character, Karen Clamp. No one seems to think I’m channelling myself in describing a conspiracy theorist with a jaundiced view of men and an advanced case of body dysmorphia – and yet, I would argue, there are just as many things I share in common with Karen as I do with Simon. It’s fiction, darling, don’t you see?
I fear the latest track I’m thinking of putting on my next album may cause similar problems. There’s a long tradition of songwriting which is non-autobiographical: Randy Newman is probably my favourite exponent. However, these days you’re meant to pour your heart out in a deeply personal, yet curiously still universal manner so that listeners, who have either gone through the same stuff or, better still for sales figures, are going through it right now, can know that you, too, have felt all these things and made a whole album out of it.
Well, I sometimes do that, although being a Scottish male, talking about emotions isn’t exactly in the standard wiring diagram. Probably for that reason the autobiography is generally filtered through oblique lyrics that only someone who knows me well would get, or in the case of the Venus Carmichael project, through the life story of a semi-successful singer-songwriter from the Seventies who’s a different gender than me and twelve years older to boot. Cunning, huh?
On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to cut loose of your own emotional landscape and just let fly with a different character. Which leads me to You’ll Be Hearing From Me: wherein the central character is brash, opinionated, and all too ready to share his opinions with you. Not me then!
I will admit to preferring wine to whisky(1), but for the rest of it, I’m taking the Fifth…
(1) Interestingly, the distortion effect I applied to the last bit of blues box guitar is called ‘snortin’ whiskey,’ which is kind of appropriate. All praise to my compatriots’ ingenuity in convincing the rest of the world that the crazy highland fighting water’s worth drinking!