A Chat with Mike Manson about Writing and the Innocent Abroad

We sat down with Mike Manson to discuss his novel and why he writes.

 

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

My first novel ‘Where’s My Money?’(Tangent Books) was selected by BBC TV as one of their Books that Made Britain.

When did you start writing?

A long time ago, just after I left university. I’ve been writing ever since. I started writing history but had trouble sticking to the facts.

Why?

I noticed a friend of mine who was a writer seemed to be very attractive to girls.

What’s your novel called?

Down in Demerara

Tough question. Sum up your novel in three sentences.

Man suffers an existential crisis. Gets lost in the rainforest and discovers himself (for a while).

Genre?

Literary fiction/bookclub

What is your cosmic statement? 

It’s an unequal world but we all want the same things.

What are the themes?

Innocent abroad; unrequited love. Globalisation and the destruction of the rainforest – and its effect on the indigenous peoples.

Who is your protagonist? 

A thirty-three-year-old labour market researcher on the verge of an early life crisis.

Tell us a bit about the setting.

Guyana – a tiny country in South America. Most people think it’s in Africa. It’s very off the beaten track. When I was doing research there I noticed Bear Grylls’s signature in the visitors’ book of one jungle lodge I stayed in. Says it all, really.

What was your favourite part of the MA?

Having the luxury of a year to concentrate on writing. My manuscript tutor was Fay Weldon. I couldn’t have asked for more.

What classes did you take?

I studied poetry, as I knew nothing about it, and had avoided it since schooldays. I feel I know even less now. Also a module on place – I’m a bit of a psychogeographer.

What are you reading right now?

There’s a whole pile of books by my bed including two by Colin Thurberon, as I’m planning to travel to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Also, the collected Bertie Wooster on my Kindle.

What famous authors have a similar style to yours?

I’d love to think Geoff Dyer, Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe.

If you were to compare your novel to another[s], what would they be?

Adrian Mole meets Heart of Darkness.