Interview: with Arthur Robinson
At what age did you realise you wanted to be a writer? When I was at Otorohanga South School in the early 90s, there was a novelisation of The Empire Strikes Back in our classroom. I had not been allowed to see the movie yet, mostly because VHS was very expensive in small town New Zealand and it hadn't been on TV yet. We were set a class task to write a story in the time between interval and lunch. For whatever reason, I copied out the Battle of Hoth. When it was time for lunch, the teacher called me over and gave me a stern talking to about plagiarism. I was terrified that he was going to tell my parents, who were real big on spanking and wooden spoons and all those other classic New Zealand tropes. But all Brian Prescott, a man of great leg and little shorts, said was "You're spending your lunch writing me a new one". I wrote a little story about spacemen finding a wormhole that took them to a solar system ruled by Roman lizard men. It was really shit, now that I think about it, but the teacher was suitably impressed to pin it up on the wall. The rest of the class gathered round and read it and then demanded I finish it. That's when I decided to be a writer. For the next few days I brought in a new page every day, each one ending on some gaudy, radio serial style cliffhanger. And then I got distracted by something and stopped. I still haven't finished it. Fuck those kids. Probably sheep farmers.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing? Generally I wait up all night until I'm so exhausted that I can't shoot down my own ideas. I drink a lot of coffee. I never go to the toilet without something to write on. I like writing on the floor. Sometimes I'll watch movie trailers, just dozens upon dozens of them and see what my brain does after that.
To what degree do you feel everything has already been written, in some form or another? Have you ever started writing a story, only to discover someone has already written it? Yeah, all the time. China Mieville has written a few of my stories, so has Michael Moorcock, sometimes before I even think of them. It sucks. I'm sure they have done a better job than I ever could, but it means there's pages and pages of notes in my writing books that now look like rough first drafts of better writers work. There's only so many yarns in the universe. Everything is a quest, or a struggle, or a journey, internally or externally and everything being written now wouldn't exist without someone writing something years or decades ago. It's why we have "new" Alien and Star Wars movies coming out. Any other epic scifi is instantly compared to one of those two franchises. You can't avoid it, so why fight it. Just try and make your own stuff a little better than whatever came before. Reinvigorate your niche.
As well as writing, you co-founded Breach. What made you decide to focus on that side of publishing? Money. I want more money. I want to give people more money. I want writers to get money for their work and not just write stories and wait around until someone else with connections and hook ups to make a shitty movie that's pretty much their story, only way fucken' worse.
What books are beside your bed right now? KJV Bible. It's terrifying. I read a lot of Lovecraftian and apocalypse anthologies in ebook format. I also read a lot of early-modern period history books.