Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Emmy Award winner Alan Cooke

What inspired you to write your first book?
I lived for 8 Years in New York City. I moved there after 9-11. The city was a wasteland. I was new to the idea of being in a metropolis. The breath and depth of the city and its landscape of people was a beautiful assault on the senses. I felt a kind if re -birth in my soul. I was compelled to begin writing a journal of my feelings and experiences. It was a new beginning and a sense of finding a voice within. Words seemed to be the best way to reflect that unfolding. Naked In New York was ongoing until I left the city. When I moved back to Ireland and lived in the west of Ireland in a remote wild landscape. I poured the rest of those experiences into what is now the book.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I think most would call my ' style' poetic prose. I did not intend to form a style. I do not believe in style. I believe in truthful expression. If it comes out in a particular way then so be it. The style is really created out of the landscape of the soul. How your experience shapes your vision and talent. The style comes from I believe a need to say something that is so urgent it starts to flow like a river.

How did you come up with the title?
The title ' Naked in New York' came to me one day in a cafe on 5th avenue. At that point I was tired burned out and sick of the city. It had overwhelmed my senses and beaten down my spirit. I watched a man limping by my window. He had no top on. Just worn pants and scruffy shoes. He looked naked and exposed as the city rushed by ignoring his existence. So Naked in New York comes from the idea of being a human in a place that can strip you to the bone and leave your interior, your nervous system, your very centre exposed like a nerve and so then you feel it all. The hurt, the loss, the million walking dreams of the city people. The wonder, the carnage, the madness and the beauty. This is how I experienced New York City for all the time. A billion naked moments.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Well it is a homage to the city. It is also a homage to my own soul. Taking back the experiences , reclaiming them and putting them into art. I feel a book is a beautiful potent weapon of beauty. A weapon of mass instruction. Instruction to feel. To be more than you are. I put my heart into this book. And when i recorded the audio version it was a beautiful experience. I got to merge my acting and writing talents together. I guess the best I can say is what has been said by others. That my book brings people into the soul and depth of New York moment by moment. Most who have heard said it is like they are experiencing and feeling everything I felt within. There is no better compliment.

How much of the book is realistic?
It is all based on actual experience. But truth is subjective. Memory can be altered by time. But the element of essential truth remains intact. That is the feelings sensations and hurt, the astonishment and the transformations I experienced are all in there for the listener.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The experiences are all mine. But yet belong to everyone. An artists goal I think is to make what is personal universal.

What books have most influenced your life most?
Anything by Beckett and Joyce, Kerouac, Henry Miller.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
All of the above. And more than that . Real life experience is my greatest teacher. The tiny moments that linger in the heart. Watching a bird feed on some puddle of water. Or a man staring out of a train lost in sad thoughts. Life is infinite even though we are mortal.

What book are you reading now?
I have not read in a good while. I have been busy editing two other books I wrote. I like a lot of non fiction. But as an actor I always return to Shakespeare. Food for the soul is what I seek.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Again I am ashamed to say I have not read many new authors. I end up going back in time to find the ones that move me the most.

What are your current projects?
I have finished two other books. One is called The Spirit of Ireland and another is called Jack Tully and the Midnight Killer. Spirit is a follow up to Naked In New York about returning back to Ireland. And Jack is a 'commercial thriller' I wrote to try my hand at a completely alien genre.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I feel supported by strangers in a way. The emails and comments I get from around the world who buy or read my books or see my acting or have watched my films. The silent majority who yearn like me to connect with others. I have had some beautiful supporting letters from people who were touched by my words.

Do you see writing as a career?
I see art, all art as a way of living. A way of breathing in a sometimes insane world. Writing Acting and Film making as essential to my soul survival. Money we all need but we need to feed on inspiration. A beautiful painting or a piece of writing that saves you from the edge of your abyss. Career is I guess to me a very corporate word. It denotes some ambitious zeal. A push the other guy out of the way to get to the top attitude. Real artists are givers. They harm none and give every last drop of blood for the betterment of the soul and the world if they have integrity. I would like to continue to write till I am long gone. Leave a small footprint in the sands of time so maybe one day much like I have done a young man will pick up one of my books , sit on a chair and be moved out of his sleep into aliveness in his heart. That is my goal.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I guess there are things I would rewrite. But it is what it is. Perfectionism is the road to hell. Somethings should be left alone.. !

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
From a love of words. I have been a stage actor for 13 years. So I have profound respect for the power of words. For the power of a sentence of a speech to inspire millions. Writing is an extension of my breathing. So I breath therefore I write.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
As I said I am editing two books. I am also trying to fund a film called the Spirit of Ireland- A documentary about my odyssey around my own country.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes spelling, grammar and editing. I write a lot. I sometimes can lose my overview of the piece so I need to continually look at it from a distance which can be difficult.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I love Joyce. He conquered the language. He ate and reshaped it. He tamed it and blew it into another continent. Henry Miller is one of my favorites too because he again was ahead of his time. He broke the rules of censoring yourself. He was not afraid to express life in all its brutality and loss.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not really. This is my first book. And I hope to do a reading tour this summer.

Who designed the covers?
The cover I designed myself. I like to be in control of all aspects of design.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Honesty. Being true to oneself. To look at the things you are terrified of. All the most moving parts of all novels I have read connect because of some truth in them. I adore that about books. Some book written 800 years ago can resonate with you from so long ago.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Yes it is hard. To do something real and beautiful , takes blood sweat and tears. Also that all experiences in life are valuable and important. I came to appreciate that every moment in life counts. And it is fuel for your work.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Just write, write, write. Ignore the rules, ignore the nay sayers. Ignore those who try to pull you down. Most likely they do not have the guts to do what you are doing. To write takes courage. To bleed on the page all you have known is a brave act. Start and finish. Do not worry bout content. Trust your spirit to guide you. Keep walking through the end of the book and don't look back till you are done.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Support living artists. These are seriously dark times for us all. We make our living from selling our work. So when you go to buy a latte and a roll think maybe you could buy some beautiful book that could fill you so much more then the lunch.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Well I was lucky. I self published this as an audio book around the world and being an actor I was able to perform the whole book. I also love that technology allows us to self create our own media platforms and stores. My book Naked in New York is available as a download to anyone anywhere on the planet. I have had sales in Japan, New Zealand, Israel and America , Ireland and Spain.All from my own webpage. Thats empowering.