By Sophie Truelove
Will Conway looks like a writer. He has the slightly messy hair, the beat-poet wardrobe and the Beatles’ features; he is an attractive bookworm.
Having read his new book of short stories,Tastes of Ink, I am rather surprised to find him an approachable man. I say this because Tastes of Ink is sodden with intellect. The stories are fresh and insightful and his prose is spotless. I guess I expected the man behind them to be middle-aged and bored by mortals who frequent a lower plane; wonderfully, he is not. He is a 27-year-old unassuming individual who lives in East London.
Tastes of Ink is the first book that Will has had published and he views it more as an introduction to his writing than the main event. He is dipping his toes in rather than diving headfirst; he wants to adjust to the new title of ‘author’ before he indulges himself.
He tells me: “I only started admitting I was a writer about five or six years ago when I realised I was writing a novel. It’s a form of therapy; once you get these things out of your head they are easier to manage.”
He was ‘discovered’ by Lazy Gramophone publishers after he performed some spoken-word poetry with them. Whilst at the reading, he mentioned that he had written a novel and they asked to read it. Once they had taken a look they offered to publish it, with some editing, but Will declined; he came back with some short stories instead.
He says: “I wanted the book to be a taste test, to show a few of my little stories so people could dip into my world and emerge with their appetites whet for more.”
He didn’t want to give them a whole meal, just a few morsels.
I think this was a wise choice because Will’s writing does push your mind into new dimensions. He is unwilling to let you lollop through the pages and as you read on you get the stretched feeling of someone who is having their horizons broadened.
The second story, Only Human, has a particularly dizzying effect. A monologue from God, the story chronicles the creation of mankind through his eyes… and his utter boredom.
It is a harrowing tale that provides an astute insight into man, degradation and love. The story manages to, simultaneously, marvel at creation and laugh at it. God doesn’t come across as appealing but there is a, paradoxical, humble arrogance that makes him endearing. The end result being that he must accept of his own impotent humanity.
Will has written hundreds of short stories and I wonder what makes the format so accessible to him, he replies: “I love the way a good short story can parachute you into a world of questions or emotions. I enjoy the journey of a novel but sometimes, if you want to introduce a concept or character, you don’t need to flesh it out.”
This is evident in his work where each story is perfectly formed and rounded. Like glass beads, they contain and mirror a moment of stirred thought – a question and the answer. All together, they form a string that instructs but never leaves you feeling overburdened. Rather, you grow slowly fat on Will’s bitesize portions.
The stories aren’t the only impressive thing about the book; the layout and the artwork are eye-catching and considered. As the book progresses, a symbol (one to represent each story) is added to a 3×3 square grid drawn on the page before the narrative’s start. Each symbol acts as a metaphor that reflects the heart of the story; they range from a skull, to a letter, to a toilet sign.
This concept was Will’s, whereas the faux-ink splattered cover and pages were the idea and illustrations of Danny Chidgey,- another artist with Lazy Gramophone.
When I ask Will what made him put so much effort into the layout he replies: “We [Will and Danny] wanted to draw attention to the creative process of designing and printing a book.”
This makes sense, as Lazy Gramophone doesn’t just support writers but also artists and musicians. If you go to their website www.lazygramophone.com and look through the individuals on their books you will see a catalogue of young, neoteric artists. The work is raw and often gothic with a fantastical edge. Imagine a Bret Easton Ellis book mating with a Terry Pratchett novel and you’ve about got the idea. These are the artists to watch out for.
I am a little enamoured with the publishers after Will’s glistening review of his experience. He says: “Lazy Gramophone are real gents and true artists; they strike the balance between offering sound advice earned from their experiences while allowing their artists the freedom to create.”
From what I gather, Lazy Gramophone works more as a giant organism than a single-celled entity. Will tells me how much one of the fellow artists, Sam Rawlings, assisted him during the creation of his book: “Sam helped me edit and structure the book and he’s been great at guiding me through the process without ever patronising me or being overbearing.”
There is a creative web to the company that seems to appeal to imaginative people unwilling to pigeonhole themselves. William, himself, is not only a writer and a poet, but also a stand-up comedian. Or, as he puts it: “I get up in front of people every once in a while and try to make them chuckle.”
If you want to know the way an author’s mind works always ask them what their favourite word is. Will’s choice is queueing.
When asked why, he replies: “It has five vowels in it. Splendid is a splendid word too. I don’t think that everyone needs to speak like a bard but I do like hearing people express themselves with flair or honesty.”
Well, he certainly achieves both in Tastes of Ink and hopefully his love of vowels is enough to encourage you to read his work.
His first entry to the literary lines is a treat for anyone with pulp-fiction-tired eyes. In fact, one might say that it’s… splendid.