Elliot J Harper
A Brief Chat with Drew Gummerson
Drew Gummerson is the writer of The Lodger, which was published in 2002 by Millivres-Prowler Group Ltd, Me and Mickie James, which was published in 2012 by Vintage, and Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel. The latter, published two years ago, was released by Bearded Badger Publishing and is their best-selling novel.
Hello, Drew. Who is your favourite author?
Well. I find it hard to answer these kind of questions. Because I forget 95% of what I’ve read. Maybe 96%. George Saunders and Raymond Carver are the writers I’ve read the most. I like surprising moments, scenes, not so much complex plots. Which makes me predisposed to short stories. The couple dancing, all their possessions on the sidewalk, in Why Don’t You Dance? The fat man in Fat.
A writer that constantly surprises me in the moment is Rupert Thomson. And also because his books are so different. Air and Fire is a Western. Soft, a thriller. Divided Kingdom, science fiction, Katherine Carlyle, a road movie, Secrecy, historical, This Party’s Got to Stop, autobiography, Barcelona Dreaming, short stories.
So, Thomson is the writer I get most excited about and never disappoints.
What is your favourite book?
Well, this comes down to forgetting everything again. My dad’s favourite book was Don Quixote, and I read that a few years ago, and I thought it brilliant too. But I couldn’t tell you much about it now.
I read The Stranger by Albert Camus over and over a few years ago. I wanted to replicate that style for something I was writing. And that book I was writing had a hotel receptionist as a lead, and I think that’s where the germ for Flamingo Hotel first started, although the book is buried now.
But my favourite book must be My Friends by Emmanuel Bove. It’s set in 1920s Paris and follows the adventures of Victor, an impoverished war veteran, living in a rundown boardinghouse, full of hopes and dreams as to what his life might be. But it is not. Like Flamingo Hotel.
What was your inspiration for writing Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel?
Two things. One. I read a book recently where a gay man goes to a gay bar for the first time. Meets another gay man. They go home together. They are handsome. It is beautiful. Etc etc. Two. A friend of mine finished Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel recently. He apologised it had taken so long. But he found it hard to read. Because he had always felt like a failure.
Flamingo Hotel is for those of us who things don’t usually work out for, where life is tough. People have found it funny, so they say, but there’s a germ of truth in all those stories, being homeless, being unattractive, feeling unloved, being sent to Mace with £5 to buy yourself a birthday present, lying on your back legs in the air with a troop of medical students looking up your bumhole, thinking ‘this is it’ as you cycle to work at 6 o’clock in the morning. Thinking this will go on til I’m 67. It’s never going to get any better. It’s not a rags-to-riches story but a rags-to-rags one.
And Flamingo Hotel was a failure. It hasn’t sold 1000s of copies, it got no reviews in the press, didn’t make any longlists, or shortlists. But it was also a success. Currently sold out but hopefully going for a 4th reprint. The thing I am most proud of. With its relentless crazy stories. That some people liked. It’s a little thing of beauty. The fake diamond in a Ratners wedding band.
What is the best advice you can give someone who is planning to write a book?
Nick Hornby said that you should read above yourself. No point reading the kind of books you want to write. But better ones. So, you’ve got something to aim for. And George Saunders is all about writing at the sentence/word level. Read each sentence over and over. Is it good/bad? Can I make it better? Does it need to be there? Is it saying anything?
But if you’re going to write, you’re going to write. All advice is redundant. You won’t be able to help yourself. So, the best thing you can do is get yourself a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. It’s full of useful, practical information that will tell you how to approach agents and publishers and so on.
I highly recommend Drew’s latest book, Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel. It is equal parts hilarious and crushingly realistic. The reality of life is often more bizarre and absurd than any speculative fiction, and Drew really captures the oddity that is our lives.
You can find links to it and his other books, as well as interviews, and other writing in this link - https://linktr.ee/drewgum
Thank you for reading this month’s Brief Chat.