There is a lot of love for Anthony McGowan’s Brock, a powerful read about two brothers, Nicky and Kenny, who captured hearts and imaginations. “Don’t be fooled by its size,” wrote one bookseller, “This is McGowan Super Concentrate.” Another story about the boys was inevitable; our readers wanted more and so did we! Pike sees the brothers launch a salvage mission after they spy a gold watch ”“ and very possibly its owner ”“ at the bottom of a local pond. It’s another gripping piece of writing, tackling heavy themes of poverty and the plight of young carers, packed with dark humour, family love and powerful characterisation. We grabbed author Anthony McGowan for a quick chat on his writing process, raft-building and how the ending to Brock could have been much, much darker”¦
Q: You wrote Brock in 2013 and Pike in 2015. Was it hard to go back to the characters or were they still fresh in your mind?
What would have been hard was not returning to them! I don’t think I’ve ever ”˜known’ two of my own characters quite so well. I genuinely cared for them. Originally Brock was going to have a much sadder ending, but I simply couldn’t do it to them.
Q: The bond between Kenny and Nicky is so strong in both Brock and Pike. Do you have any brothers or sisters, and if so does that help when you write about brothers?
I have three sisters and a brother (Irish family”¦). However, none of them are at all like Nicky or Kenny, and my family in general was much bigger, noisier, and more fun than theirs. Kenny and Nicky were more based on friends I knew, rather than relations.
Q: When you write, do you start at the beginning and write all the way to the end, or do you ever write sections out of order?
I pretty much go straight through, in order. Occasionally I’ll need to add (or delete) a scene, but usually what comes out first time is pretty close to what you read in the finished book.
Q: Kenny has mild special needs. How did you go about creating his character?
He’s based on some of the kids I knew at school in Leeds, and from the small town of Sherburn in Elmet where I was brought up. I also did a little reading around the subject, but I didn’t want to over-theorize it ”“ I wanted to see Kenny through Nicky’s eyes, not those of an adult.
Q: A raft plays a large part in Pike. Could you make a decent raft if you had to?
I made some terrible rafts as a kid ”“ using similar techniques to those employed by the boys. That’s how I discovered that a pallet won’t hold your weight unless you stuff it with polystyrene. When I was very young I was obsessed with Thor Heyerdahl, and tried to build boats and rafts based on his, which were quite challenging for a seven-year-old. I’m lucky I’m still here, really!
Q: You write light-hearted books and very serious books and lots of other kinds in-between. Do you have a preference?
If I have a preference it’s for surreal, gross-out tragi-comedies, like Hellbent, Henry Tumour and Hello Darkness. That way of writing comes very easily to me. I’ve had to make myself write in a more simple, grittily realistic way, for The Knife that Killed Me, Brock and Pike. Strangely, I think this has forced me to produce my best work. Sometimes you find that going against your own grain makes you a better writer.
Q: If you could have written one book in the world ”“ other than your own ”“ which would it be?
That’s just impossible. There are so many great novels that I know are simply out of my scope as a writer. But if I had, at point of death, to pick one, it would probably be Wuthering Heights, by Emily BrontÃ«, which combines incredibly intensity, with a brilliantly complex plot structure.
Thanks for stopping to chat with us Anthony McGowan! You can read the first chapter of Pike and buy the book here.