Working with Words: Chris Flynn

Chris Flynn is the books editor of the Big Issue and published his debut novel, A Tiger in Eden, this year. He was also guest editor for McSweeney’s 41, the Australian Aboriginal fiction edition, which will be launched at the Wheeler Centre next Thursday.

We spoke to Chris about why the internet never surprises him, why you should never write a memoir, and why his ideal dinner companion is The Hulk.

What was the first piece of writing you had published? And where?

It was such a long time ago now, but I think it was a film review for a now defunct magazine in New York. My long-term memory is shot, I’m afraid.

What’s the worst part of your job?

I’ve spent the last 20 years writing on the side whilst working all sorts of (often awful) jobs and now I work solely as a writer, so there is no worst part anymore. The worst part is over, hopefully.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

This changes with each new significant moment. Last year? Having my first novel A Tiger in Eden signed. This year? McSweeney’s issue 41, but there’s still four months left.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

The best advice was given to me when I was 20 and living in France. A writer told me to go off and live, and worry about writing novels when I was older.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself?

Nothing surprises me on the internet anymore, but I often get linked to jobs I have no intention of applying for. My (latest) stalker also occasionally has odd ideas about me.

If you weren’t making your living by writing, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Working in a bookstore, which is what I did a few years ago anyway. Though if bookstores go under, I’m not sure what I’d do. Get in shape and go back to posing nude?

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I certainly couldn’t do it, but I know good people who do.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Write a memoir only if you have been to the moon, served as President of your country or climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro after losing both legs to a Mako shark. Otherwise, use your imagination and make something up.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

I get sent a lot of physical review copies, so on the rare occasion I buy a book, it’s for my eReader.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Bruce Banner/The Hulk. When that guy says he wants dessert, you don’t argue.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I know the movie version, John Carter, is corny but that series of books probably helped my imagination blossom as a kid more than any others. They helped me understand that for writers, there are no limits.

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