Article published on December 28, 2017.
After reading and reviewing (and perhaps discussing on social media?!) Broadcast, Gill Chedgey had a number of questions for author Liam Brown:
Gill Chedgey: After I finished reading Broadcast, I read your ‘Afterword’ and it made me really concerned for you. You said you were in a state of heightened anxiety. Does that always happen when you’re writing or was it just this book?!
Liam Brown: Ha! You were right to be concerned. I was pretty broken by the time I finished writing it. I don’t think I ate or slept for about three days when I hit the last section. Still, I think it’s normal to push yourself emotionally and physically when you’re in the midst of these things. You have to let it consume you. Besides, I never want to get to the point where I’m not giving it my all. Where I’m just going through the motions. Faking it. Because you can always tell. You end up with limp, bloodless prose. Or you just keep repeating the same things over and over, like a karaoke cover version of yourself. If it gets to that point, it’ll be time to hang up my keyboard for good I think.
Gill Chedgey: What was the motivation for writing Broadcast initially?
Liam Brown: I was fifteen when ‘The Truman Show’ came out, and it immediately became one of my favourite films. There’s a line that always stuck with me, when Truman is arguing with the director: ‘You never had a camera in my head!’ I guess that stuck with me, so it became what if you did have a camera inside someone’s head? And then of course there’s the way social media has exploded over the last few years. The oversharing. The hyper-voyeurism. The willingness to hand over the keys to our privacy to major corporations. The need for validation from strangers. The way we’re all expected to live our lives in public now. Or at least, a curated, stylised, photoshopped version of our lives. It all makes me so very, very tired. And so I guess the book is designed to explore all that, both as a satire of social media and as a lament for the real world.
Gill Chedgey: Regrettably, I haven’t read any of your previous works thus far and so I am unable to compare, but the one big thing that struck me about Broadcast was how visual the writing is. It was like reading a film! And I was reminded of ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Inception’. Is this typical of your work?
Liam Brown: I guess so. I’m not a fan of fussy writing. I like bold, stark imagery. Don’t-tell-me-in-ten-pages-if-you-can-tell-me-in-two-lines sort of thing. I guess that lends itself to a fairly visual way of storytelling. Besides, the best books are the ones where the characters appear to me like apparitions and burn their way into my mind. Where I still wake up in the night sweating weeks after I’ve read the final page. That’s what I’m always striving for. I don’t want to entertain people. I want to haunt them.
Gill Chedgey: Following on from that, it seemed to me in many ways that the story would translate to the big screen (or even the small screen for that matter) really well. I would love to see a film of Broadcast. Is screenwriting something you do or would consider?
Liam Brown: Thank you, I’m flattered. Yes, screenwriting is something I’m actively pursuing – I hope to have my first script finished next year. As for Broadcast coming to the big screen? Well, a little birdie with a yellow bill tells me you might be in luck. I guess you’ll have to just wait and see…
Gill Chedgey: The story is very contemporary. It taps cleverly into the modern obsession with personal screens and devices. It shows you have a keen grasp of the various platforms and applications. (MindCast struck me as a very clever name to give that application, for when I first read it I thought it was MineCraft!) Do you have a techie background?
Liam Brown: I wouldn’t say I’m a techie, really. I mean, I have a phone, but I don’t use it much beyond calling and texting. As for social media, I am on it, but I’m not a frequent user. For some reason, Twitter and Facebook have the effect of making me feel intensely lonely. But I did do a lot of research on the technical aspects of the novel, running it by both a psychologist and a computer scientist to check it was plausible, if not currently possible. Although, having said that, I do think the technology behind MindCast is terrifyingly close to being real. Hardly a day goes by without me reading about some new technical breakthrough in the field of mind reading. I’ve got no doubt it’ll happen eventually. Or maybe it already has? I mean, you only have to spend a few minutes scrolling through Twitter or watching YouTube to see people vomiting up their undigested consciousness onto the screen…
Gill Chedgey: I didn’t particularly warm to David Callow as a person and I presume I wasn’t supposed to, since his surname is surely no accident? Is he drawn from real life or is he an imaginary composite of the type of person our digital age might produce?
Liam Brown: I think it’s true that he’s very much a product of his time. What’s that horrible marketing phrase they use? He’s a digital native. I mean, I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad person per se. His biggest crimes are vanity and self-obsession, which are hardly in short supply in the celebrity world. No, I actually felt a bit sorry for David, especially by the end. He was just a pawn, too busy taking selfies to notice the rug being pulled from under him.
Gill Chedgey: I’ve learnt from previous interviews with authors that being an avid reader is almost compulsory for a writer, so a question I always ask is if you can remember the first book you read that moved you to tears (if any have)?
Liam Brown: Wow, good question. And I don’t know. I would have been young. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs maybe? I think I was about nine or ten when I read that and it just destroyed me. Or maybe it was The Iron Man by Ted Hughes? Then there was Of Mice and Men, which I read at school. I’m pretty quick to cry, though. Old country songs on the radio. An elderly couple holding hands. Life insurance adverts. I’m a sucker for all of it.
Gill Chedgey: And finally, what’s next? Are you currently writing and might you offer us a clue as to what we have to look forward to?
Liam Brown: You know, I tend to keep my cards pretty close to my chest, for fear of not following through. I’m never convinced I’m going to actually complete a novel until the manuscript is in the post to my publisher. What I will say, however, is that it’s another piece of speculative fiction, this time exploring themes of isolation and alienation. Also, I’m more excited about this current book than anything else I’ve ever written and I predict many more hungry, sleepless nights ahead…
Our thanks to both Liam and Gill for this excellent Q&A.
Broadcast by Liam Brown
Legend Press 9781787199934 pbk Sep 2017
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