Wow, what an amazing response I have had to this little project. The interest shown has been phenomenal and I can’t wait to share with you these insightful pieces about some of my favorite books. This will be a weekly thing (every Sunday evening Australian time), and I hope you will get as much out of it as I have. Some of the writers you will be familiar with and some not. I always find bloggers to be a great source for discovering new talent, whether it be writers, artists, musicians, hell, anything really. I have read many reviews written on blogs and have rushed out to purchase the book and I hope that you will find some great new reads as this series progresses. Enjoy!
Episode 1: Andrew David Barker – Dead Leaves
Author, screenwriter, director, Andrew David Barker is my first guest for this new feature here at Beavis the Bookhead. Writer of ‘The Electric’ and more recently ‘Dead Leaves’, Andrew’s work has received high praise and rightfully so. Today he talks about ‘Dead Leaves’, a story that really hit home for me. It is a tale set during the early 80s, a coming of age story about friendship, uncertainty and the rebellion of youth that looks at the video nasty ‘Evil Dead’ and a group of friends desire to hunt down a copy of this notorious movie. The book was released in paperback and eBook through the recently and sadly defunct Boo Books. A ltd edition version of the book housed inside and old VHS case was also made available and I was lucky enough to snag a copy on a recent trip to Edge-Lit writers festival in the United Kingdom.
‘Dead Leaves’ is a superb story that is sure to resonate especially with those of us that grew up during the 80s and I am sure you will love it as much as I did. Check out more about Andrew David Barker via the links at the bottom of the page and I hope that you enjoy this first episode of ‘Storytellers’. Special thanks to Andrew for writing this insightful and heartfelt piece.
Writing Dead Leaves
Andrew David Barker
I tend to think about a story for a long time before I set about putting it on paper (or on a computer screen, as the case may be). An idea can rattle around the old noggin’ for months, sometimes years. Dead Leaves is a perfect example. This particular seed grew from the thought that horror fandom has never really been addressed. There’s a lot of fiction out there about being a music fan, or even a general film fan, but nothing really that specifies the genre, and what it means to be kid and into these films.
Moreover, the strange little pocket of British history, where the government and censors cracked down on these particular types of film – which the media termed “video nasties” – was also something that had not been tackled in fiction, as far as I’m aware. This surprised me. The media furor that surrounded these films and the desperate state the UK was in at that time (Dead Leaves being set in 1983) seemed to me to be a great backdrop for a real weighty piece of work.
The final piece of the jigsaw was my own love of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, arguably the most high profile video nasty, and perhaps the only film from that long list of infamous titles that still holds up. I’ve always found the story of how a ridiculously young Sam Raimi, with his friends Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell, went out and made The Evil Dead through sheer will and determination (and very little else) incredibly inspiring. They forged their own path and created the lives they wanted for themselves out of the clear act of actually doing it, and doing it well. My own creative drive has always responded to their story, and I knew I wanted my protagonist, Scott Bradley, to get that same kick from those Renaissance boys. They give him the jolt – that electric spark of will and ambition – and Bradley suddenly sees a way out of his situation.
The situation being, as a sixteen year old school leaver, a lifetime of factory work or labouring on building sites, and that’s if he could even get a job doing either one of those things. The only outlet he and his mates have are horror films, they are the ultimate escapism from the grim and harsh realities of Thatcher’s Britain.
Dead Leaves is a working class novel; a rare, bordering on extinct type of novel, for reasons I’m slightly perplexed by. I wanted to use the language and landscape of my own youth – a language I have seldom heard in fiction. And I worked hard on trying to capture the way me and my friends used to speak to one another. Scott and his mates take the piss mercilessly; talk is usually of horror films, music, or girls, and only rarely do they allow their guards down. Real life is always kept at arm’s distance. That’s how it was.
I began writing Dead Leaves in the summer of 2013, the 31st of July to be exact. I wrote around 7,000 and for some reason, I suddenly just stopped. It sometimes happens like that. I hit a wall and just cannot see beyond it. So I took a break, co-wrote a screenplay with a filmmaker friend of mine (still not made), played around with ideas for other novels, and prepared for the paperback release of my first novel, The Electric. Somehow this break lasted until the following September, when quite suddenly the book reappeared in my mind, clear and present, and I sat down with a sense of urgency and the rest of the book poured out of me. I finished the 1st draft on Wednesday 12th November, 2014. It came in at around 37,000, so in publishing terms it exists in a kind of limbo – the hazy world of the novella. But the story came to its natural end, and I had no control over its length. Not really.
You see, my writing process – if I have such a thing – is simply to just sit down and do it. I don’t outline, don’t allow myself to think too far ahead in the story. I do have an idea of where it will end up, but how I’ll get there is a mystery to me until I sit down and start to write. I love the spontaneity of working this way. My characters guide me, and in the case of Dead Leaves, the dialogue was absolutely the driving force.
Dead Leaves, my story about the early days of video and of working class kids trying to make sense of the world, was, or is, a very personal (short) novel. I suppose, autobiographical in a number of ways, and in this, I believe I got to a truth, an honesty about the people and the place I grew up.
The book was published by Boo Books in October, 2015 – in paperback and a special limited VHS edition: yes, a book in a video box. In August, 2016, Boo Books – like many small presses – had to shut down, leaving my little opus, at the time of writing this short piece, in a kind of limbo. Over the Christmas of 2015, I adapted the novel into a screenplay and things are steadily (but slowly) moving in that direction. As for my book, I hope it will soon be given a new lease of life, and be exposed to a wider audience. The story of Scott Bradley, his mates, and their misadventures to track down a copy of The Evil Dead is one I’m really proud of. It’s one from the heart.
Andrew David Barker (c) August, 2016
Visit the website of Andrew David Barker here.
Buy ‘Dead Leaves’ from here.
Check out ‘The Electric’ – a novel by Andrew David Barker from here.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment. Is there anybody in particular you’d like to guest here? any particular book you’d like to know the origins of? (obviously Stephen King is probably out of the question, so try to be realistic 😉 ). I hope you come back next week for episode 2!
Tune in on Wednesday when I will post the video for next weeks guest.