Gordon and Williams Interview
Posted on 17 March 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, who co-wrote and self-published the now extremely successful Highfield Mole.
Tell us something about your background.
Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams co-wrote and self-published The Highfield Mole in March 2005. Following a review by Stuart Webb in The Book and Magazine Collector, the hardback edition sold out in a morning, reaching 156th place in Amazon.co.uk’s sales ranking. The literary agent, Peter Straus of Rogers, Coleridge & White, subsequently advised the authors, and Barry Cunningham of Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic, has just signed them for the first two books in the series, the first of which will be released both in the UK and US in Spring 2007.
The Highfield Mole is intended to be the first in a series for young adults and is about a fourteen year-old, Will Burrows, who lives with his family in the fictitious London borough of Highfield. He is a loner whose sole passion in life is all things archaeological and, under his father’s influence, he embarks upon extensive excavations. His father, Dr Burrows, the curator of a local down-in-the-mouth museum, begins to notice rather strange people in the vicinity. While investigating them he inexplicably goes missing. This turns Will’s world upside down, and his attempts to find his father lead him into a horrific subterranean world.
RG: I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. One my earliest short stories was published in a school magazine when I was around ten years old. Since then there have been many many opening chapters and unfinished pieces - but I actually completed my first full-length novel in the early nineties, a particularly nasty thriller, which, thankfully, never saw the light of day. My wife sent the MS to JG Ballard after meeting him, but he never deigned to reply (however, I’m still hopeful!). I then entered a long stretch at a job in corporate finance in the City that really put a stop to anything else until I was made redundant in late 2001. As for my current writing, I’m dying to have time to work on several other novels which are all at varying stages of development, but the reality is that The Highfield Mole series is all consuming.
BW: I have been writing creatively since my early teens - poetry, prose, lyrics, scripts and short stories. I founded and edited a literary magazine for a short time before taking a degree in fine art. I have experimented with literature and the spoken word in performance, film, painting and recordings. I am currently working on two books apart from The Highfield Mole – they are “Vu as in Voodoo”, a collection of short prose pieces, and “Drugless and Bugless in the Land of Nod”, a collection of impossible film scripts.
Other work besides writing; i.e. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring etc
RG: Very little that’s relevant, other than writing business plans for my occasional consultancy work to try to earn a crust.
BW: Films, drawings and exhibitions.
How did you start writing?
RG: I started way back, but one of my points of inspiration was meeting Ray Bradbury in Paris in 1990. I was on my honeymoon, and Sophie and I were at a table beside him and his wife and somebody who I assume was his French agent. It was on the forecourt of a restaurant not far from the Louvre. They were so close that I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation and it didn’t take long to figure out who he was. I never go up to people but Sophie has no qualms about doing just that. When she said hello, he seemed very pleased. We talked for a while and he was exceptionally nice. He was a favourite writer of mine when I went through a science fiction phase in my mid teens and, having met him, I thought if he can write, then so can I.
BW: With a pencil, at infant school; I was told to by the teacher.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
RG: DH Lawrence for his short stories – I can’t think of anyone who has taken the format to the absolute crystalline perfection that he did. The efficiency of his prose and his portrayal of emotion is something I have never dared to aspire to. Other favourites are many and include William Golding and Thomas Pynchon’s work, and also Joyce, Beckett, and Peake, and many of the Russian authors such as Dostoevsky and Gogol.
BW: William S. Burroughs for the simple reason he showed me that all writing is a magical process in which no one can own the words. Also that writing is always 50 years behind painting, and the purpose of writing is to rub out “the word”. Also: Philip K. Dick, Dylan Thomas, Sam Beckett, JG Ballard, Flan O’Brian, Paul Bowles, Barry Gifford. For poetry: Rimbaud, Patti Smith, Yeats, Keats, Allen Ginsberg, etc.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication?
BW: Bribery and coercion.
What's the worst thing about writing?
RG: Not being able to.
BW: Editors (Haha!)
And the best?
RG: When you’ve finished a piece, and it just works, and you sit back with a cigarette and a fresh cup of coffee to admire it on the screen.
BW: Making things happen.
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