Friday, June 24, 2011
Internationally Acclaimed Author Simon Corbin
An intensely dedicated man, Corbin's literary voice is profound and resonates both through the halls of academia as well as his fiction novels. While a lecturer and teacher of journalism, Corbin also opted to teach adult literacy to bus drivers, providing a much needed service, which is still on-going. A journalist and copywriter, Corbin has provided his services to a wide array of clients, from newspapers and magazines, to government agencies and blue chip companies.
But it is writing fiction that truly frees Corbin's spirit and curious mind.
His tales traverse life from the retrospective and provocative "All Things Nice," the story of a man on the brink of forty who hopes to find his future by rediscovering his past, to the alienation of a punk rocker rebel and his pain-filled rites of passage in "Rude Boy," to his current chilling release, "Love, Gudrun Ensslin." The latter is a story of the vulnerability of our world to those able to seize upon our worst fears and manipulate those fears for personal gain. In Corbin's words, the story "warns of the dangers of both ideology-led violence and greed-fuelled exploitation."
Simon Corbin is a writer who employs many genres, but always leaves his readers entertained, and most of all, thinking.
Simon's Web Site
Q) You donate portions of the sales from your books to support charities. Many "talk" about helping others, but you have acted. What was the catalyst that pushed you into action?
A) I’ve long thought along the lines of: If you’re not actively involved in trying to make this world a better place then how do you sleep at night or look at yourself in the mirror? It’s an ethos that informs my writing – although I try hard not to make my books overtly preachy or sanctimonious (which would be patronising and, to some degree, inappropriate for works of art). I just happen to think it’s important that people are aware that every individual (no matter how impoverished or apparently disenfranchised they may seem) really can make a positive difference to improving the lot of everyone and everything around them – and that, furthermore, this is a choice they can make for themselves: a conscious choice between being mean-spirited or generous in spirit. I also think the higher up the food chain you find yourself, the greater the onus in terms of responsibility to others – hence, I believe governments, corporates and the (unimaginably) rich owe a duty of care to society at large (and not the converse – which sadly seems to be the global status quo nowadays). I don’t think there was a particular catalyst in my case – I’m just trying to find the most appropriate way for me to do what I can. In that regard, I think it makes sense for me to use some of the profits gained from writing (such as they are!) to help those organizations that are clearly instances of generosity of spirit in action. I aim to choose an organization to benefit from each novel that somehow relates thematically to the novel itself. Hence, Rude Boy supports a charity for London’s homeless young people - Centrepoint. Love, Gudrun Ensslin supports an animal welfare charity – CHAT (The Celia Hammond Animal Trust). The idea that we are common humanity (and, by extension, common animality) sharing this thing we call ‘existence’ (and that we should help and support each other) – is really the central theme of my novel Love, Gudrun Ensslin.
A) I used to draw cartoons and caricatures as a kid – the caricatures, in particular, got me into quite a lot of trouble during my school years! There was also a time when I briefly considered doing a Foundation degree in art and trying to become an artist. My mother worked as an artist’s agent and managed a succession of art galleries in London – so I was brought up surrounded by art and artists. When I began in journalism I wrote regular art reviews for What’s On In London (a now defunct rival to Time Out) for several years – touring the galleries and producing double page spreads on the BP Portrait Award, Paula Rego, Georg Baselitz, Bridget Riley and so on. William Foreman and Simon Gales are contemporary artists I met and admired. I wrote an introduction for a book on Foreman and I am very keen to promote Simon Gales’ astonishing current body of work to a wider audience – check it out amigos! And to answer the second part of your question(!): I look for a visceral emotional response to a work – an instinctive attraction. My all-time favourite artist is George Grosz – his bitingly satirical canvasses are the closest thing I have ever to seen to the sort of art I feel I would have produced if I had actually followed that path. As pure technicians I hugely admire Cranach, Durer and Caravaggio.
Q) Does your love of art ever transcend into your writing, and if so, how?
A) It has not done so in any overt way so far – but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future! However, it has actually happened the other way around – in that the afore-mentioned Simon Gales read my novel Love, Gudrun Ensslin and totally ‘got it’ in a way not every reader does. It could be that an artist’s sensibilities allow him (or her) to view a work of art (i.e. a novel) in a particular way. Whatever the explanation, Simon (Gales) posted a spot-on review of Love, Gudrun Ensslin on French Amazon that I hope to use in promoting the novel further. By the way, David, I must add that you have also totally grasped where I am coming from in my writing – and I thank you for the intro you have written to this Q&A section.
Q) While your stories may appear eclectic, the common thread is the spirit of the individual. What is it about people that so enthralls and fascinates you?
A) The principal focus for me is exploring the human condition – and the medium I have chosen is the novel. My first degree (at London University) was a BA (Hons) in Philosophy – and philosophical enquiry still absorbs me. Writing novels adds a layer of freedom and creativity beyond the codified strictures of philosophy (as an academic discipline) that is perfect for me (as someone who instinctively kicks against artificial boundaries). So, you’re right! Superficially each of my novels appears to be wholly different to its predecessor but each one in some way concerns the experience of being human – albeit in a variety of contexts. The plight of the individual is the focus precisely because the ‘human condition’, by its very nature, is necessarily subjective – we all go through life experiencing it from a unique perspective; how we might transcend that is fascinating to me and constantly plays out in my fiction.
A) At its simplest level (and this does happen quite often – UK weather notwithstanding!) – the sun is shining and I am off to play hours and hours of tennis! On a purely selfish level, I look forward to the day when I can wake up knowing I am earning my sole income from writing (and that it is sufficient to sustain my writing into the indefinite future). On a wider level, a perfect morning also involves knowing all is well with various family and friends. Finally, on the widest possible level, the most perfect morning ever will involve waking up to find that the real world has somehow become the ideal world – somehow the ‘goodies’ among us have finally won; there’s an end to hatred, injustice, cruelty, avarice, greed, warfare, murder, corruption, exploitation (etc!) – i.e. a real life Hollywood ending! One lives (and writes!) in hope!