Interview: Timothy Graves

Following a great success with his first novel Homo Jihad, Timothy Graves released his second, Pharmakeia, in January this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pharmakeia and was delighted to be able to catch up with him last month to find out all about his new book.
AT: Tell us a little bit about you, your history and how you came to be a writer.

TG:  I suppose it starts with my first book Homo Jihad,  which was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. I’d previously written poetry and short stories, but that was the first piece of big fiction that I wrote. I had an idea and wanted to get it out there. That was semi-autobiographical, and took quite a while. I then did an MA at Birkbeck in Creative Writing, so that helped a bit in terms of style and plotting the narrative of Pharmakeia.

AT: What was the journey like with your first novel, Homo Jihadi? How long did it take you?

TG: It took two or three years.  The first draft took about nine months, and then it was a constant process of editing and refining.  The title is quite controversial, you could say.  It’s tied up with my own life, because I did go to Israel, I had a long distance relationship with a guy in Tel Aviv.  I also had a brief relationship with someone who was from Quatar, in the Middle-East and then 7/7 all kicked off, and I thought I had the bare bones of a story, so I started writing…

AT: Your latest novel Pharmakeia, is fabulous, I love the Faustian nature of the story.  Where did the idea come from? Was it something that came over time, or more of a lightbulb moment?

TG: I wrote a short story called ‘Bright Fire of Morning’ which appears in an anthology of short stories called ‘The Mechanics Institute 8’.  that’s is a reference to this book, again it’s a Faustian type story, full of temptation.  That was the springboard for the big piece of work, which became Pharmakeia. I read a lot of novels that influenced me – there was one that was centred around a creative temptation, Thomas Mann’s novel ‘Doctor Faustus’, and I went with that idea, though Pharmakeia’s more layered and Mahvand (the protagonist) keeps crossing all these lines with hard-core drugs or sex-magic and so on.  I love the theme of temptation and wanted to put it in a modern day setting. Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’ was also a huge inspiration to me.

AT: Which I love – the setting, the locations, they’re really vividly conjured –

TG: It’s rooted in a specific time, it’s the generic selling-your-soul-to-the-Devil type story, but I think the time and locations help to root it somewhere new.

AT: They really do. Out of interest, is the shop, Soho Books, where a lot of the action happens, a real place?

TG: I think there is a book shop called Soho books, but this one’s fictitious.  I’m not sure if there’s a sex shop in the basement of the real Soho Books, but it’s possible that there was in the past.  But I like this two-tiered shop, with Candy Darling, the Geordie transsexual, down in the basement of the fetish sex shop and the books upstairs.

AT:  And in terms of this book, it was published in January, how have things been going since then?

TG: Good.  It got a nice review in Attitude, and we did Polari, as well as an interview with Out in South London, on Resonance FM.  With Homo-Jihadi TimeOut did a nice review, because they did quite a lot of LGBT coverage back then, but they don’t do that anymore, which is a shame. The book was launched at Gay’s The Word bookshop and I was invited to read at Polari, the literary salon at the South bank centre, hosted by Paul Burston’

AT:  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but have to admit it possibly wouldn’t be the first thing I’d pick up if I was browsing in a book shop, just because it’s different to what I’d usually read, but I absolutely loved this. In terms of audience, is there anyone specific you’re targeting

TG: Well, an LGBT audience, as it has gay and trans characters, but I think it has a wider appeal to anyone who has an interest in comics or conceptual art, and of course the more universal Faustian story, so I certainly hope it will cross in to a wider audience.

AT:  And what are you working on now?

TG:  I’m currently working on a memoir, I’m about 30,000 words in to that.  I started it last year, so hoping to have it finished by the end of 2016.

AT: And do you have a writing process?  What’s your ideal writing day?

TG: I’ve been very busy with an acting course I’m doing at City Lit, which I’ve been doing since September, so I haven’t done as much recently, but I’m on holiday at the moment, so I’ll tend to get up and write for three hours in the morning and then go for a long run.  Writing in the morning works for me, when my brain’s a bit fresher.

AT: Thank you Tim.
You can find out more about Tim by visiting his website. And can order his book here, we loved it at LGBTQ Arts.  Read our review.

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