Jim Bob discusses his second novel
Author and legendary musician, Jim Bob, tells SYS about his new novel, his solo tour and his gigs as frontman of Carter USM:
As your second novel, did you find it easier or harder this time round? Was it your Difficult Second Album or did the lessons you learnt from writing your first novel stand you in good stead for this one?
From start to finish it was a lot quicker. Six months instead of six years. I wouldn’t say it was easy but I possibly had a better idea of what I was doing and once I’d decided it was ok to have illustrations in the book again, I had my own writing style, which made it slightly simpler. I did worry at various stages about whether or not it was any good. I think it is though.
When we talked about your first novel, Storage Stories, you said that you wrote it in the same way you would write a concept album, in that you spilt it up into smaller parts and went off at tangents. It was, you said, the only way you could actually write a full-length story. Has that changed this time round? Is Driving Jarvis Ham structured more traditionally?
It is more traditional in structure definitely, but it is still broken up into smallish chunks. So, I’m still writing in the same way. Chapters that are almost self-contained, with a beginning and an end. It may have as much to do with all the films and TV I’ve watched. Like I’m writing cliffhangers. I doubt whether I could write a book with few and long chapters.
In terms of themes and tone, how does Driving Jarvis Ham compare to Storage Stories? Is it similarly funny, sad and sweet?
It is still all of those but apparently it’s a lot darker. Certainly the second half is. I do like stories – books and films etc – that are funny and sweet and then suddenly kick you in the teeth. But hopefully with a satisfying ending – happy or sad.
Do you get much time to sit down and read? What have you been reading lately?
I’m always reading. I have to have a book on the go. I’m reading The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy at the moment and before that I read Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles, which is brilliant. Sometimes I think if I could sit down somewhere nice and read and never do anything else again, I’d be happy.
You’re taking the book on tour along with your guitar. Would you say you are now an author that also sings songs, rather than a musician that also writes books?
I think most people would see me as a singer who’s written a book. And I’ll always be that. Maybe when I’ve written more books and they’ve been more successful that might change. Or I’d have two different audiences, the book one and the music one.
Do you still get a buzz out of playing live?
Yes. I enjoy the act of doing it rather than the thought of doing it, if that makes sense.
Totally. Talking of playing live, the Carter USM reunion gigs over the past few years have been incredibly successful, do you have any more of them lined up?
Two in November. After that, I don’t know. I doubt it can go on forever. I don’t want to take the piss.
Can you tell us what else you’ve got going on at the moment? You were involved in theatrical production Gutted not too long ago, any other stuff like that in the pipeline?
No offers for theatrical stuff. I think my acting days were short and prematurely over. You never know though. I had no plans to be in a musical, or to write songs for a pantomime. Things just happen sometimes.
And in terms of your writing, have you already started working on your next novel?
I have started a new novel. It’s what I most want to do at the moment. I’m looking forward to spending more time on it. I’ve written about twenty thousand words and made loads of notes that I need to sit down and piece together. Now that I have an agent who asks me from time to time how the new book is going, I have a small amount of pressure to finish it. Which is good, because I’m lazy.
Driving Jarvis Ham was published by The Friday Project on 10th May 2012.
Interview by Bobby Townsend.