Douglas Lain’s debut novel, Billy Moon, was released last month by Tor Books. I was excited to be able to interview him to go with my review. I’m also giving away a copy of the book – see the bottom of the post for that.
Hi Douglas! Thanks so much for doing this interview. First question – an adult Christopher Robin and the May 1968 civil unrest in France – I’d never think of those two things in the same thought, but you’ve managed to pull off a whole book starring them both! What inspired you to combine them? (I apologize if you get that question a lot!)
I decided I wanted to put Christopher Robin Milne into the fray of the student/worker strike of May 1968 because the strike was characterized by critics as a mere youthful adventure without any solid aim, and Christopher Milne was a man who’d lived in the shadow of his fictional persona, a character that was forever young, forever immature. I thought if Milne could be made to see what was mature and redeemable in May ’68 then I might be able to see it too.
I know that Billy Moon is your debut novel. How long have you been writing, and what made you decide to pursue writing?
My first professionally published short story appeared in Amazing Stories in 1999. The title of the story was Instant Labor and it was later collected in a book called Last Week’s Apocalypse in 2006. So, I’ve been writing for 14 years if that story marks the beginning, 7 years if we start with my first published book, and just about three weeks if we start with my first published novel.
I decided to pursue writing because I wanted instant fame. Guess I made a mistake.
Could you tell me a little about your writing process?
Here’s a secret, never actually write. I picked this up from Slavoj Zizek, my current favorite philosopher. He says that he doesn’t write, but rather he only takes notes and revises. That is, he’ll start by taking notes on the subject for his book, using relatively complete sentences, and then when he’s taken enough notes he realizes that all he has to do is edit or revise.
I have lately taken up this same practice. I take notes and I edit. Writing has disappeared.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am in the middle of writing a novella called The Doom that Came to LOLCats for a small press called Eraserhead, and I’m working on a book called “How to Watch Star Trek” that will explain Marxist economics, Situationist tactics, Freudian psychology, and Hegelian philosophy by using Star Trek references, and that will explain Star Trek by referring to Marxist economics, Situationist tactics, and Freudian psychology.
Could you tell me a little bit about the podcast that you run?
The Diet Soap Podcast has that name Diet Soap is a commodity that nobody needs. It is a philosophy podcast that explores philosophy and politics mostly. The program was recently picked up for rebroadcast on WPRR in Grands Rapids, MI. I’ve had a variety of guests on the podcast including Michael Parenti, Rudy Rucker, Laura Kipnis, and many others.
I should confess that I was a little bit at sea with Billy Moon. I take great comfort in consistency (probably to an extreme), and Billy Moon seems like a celebration of the impossible. I’m not sure if there’s a real question here, but do you have any comments on that?
I take great comfort in consistency too, but I don’t aim to make people comfortable when I write. And it’s funny that you should mention the impossible, because the name of my small book tour is The Think the Impossible Tour.
How did you decide what to change in the alternate history Christopher Robin’s life? For instance, Christopher Robin Milne of our timeline did own the Harbour Bookstore, but he was not married to Abigail.
Some of the changes were done for thematic reasons, for instance the real Christopher didn’t have a son with autism but a daughter with some or other physical disability, but I thought autism fit the theme better. Or, to give another example, AA Milne died in the 50s but I extended his life into the late sixties in my novel in order to work it out so that Brian Jones could make an appearance in the novel, and in order to have Christopher face the death right before the events of May 1968.
In general I fictionalized Christopher Robin Milne, using his life as I knew it from his memoirs as the starting off point. Probably the biggest difference is that the real Christopher never discovered that he was living in a fiction.
Which books do you think absolutely everyone should read?
Wave of Mutilation, Fall Into Time, and Billy Moon. Or, more seriously, Marx’s Capital, Volume 1.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
- “Billy Moon” by Douglas Lain
- “Agent to the Stars” by John Scalzi