Welcome Simon Kearns to Decoding Static. Simon is the author of Virtual Assassin, ‘it tracks the story of successful young graphic designer, Lee Coller, sickened with the Iraq war and the no-regrets position of Tony Blair. When he hears a VIP is about to visit his office, he obsesses it might be Blair and chalks out a plan of revenge. But will Blair visit after all? And will Lee do the unthinkable? Can one act of violence make up for so many others?’ Simon talks about his inspiration and hopes for Virtual Assassin below, as well as providing thought provoking and intelligent answers regarding our role in society and change.
What inspired you to write Virtual Assassin?
– The war in Iraq, anger, political impotence, general apathy. I was thinking about these feelings and my response as a writer. I started to consider the position of art in relation to the political, its usefulness or otherwise.
Is there a message/viewpoint that you wish to get across in Virtual Assassin?
– The viewpoint of the protagonist is an extreme one. I’d like my readers to think about their own responses to the issues in the book in comparison to his.
What (if any) impression do you hope it will leave on the reader?
– A desire for change. An intimation that every aspect of our lives has a political side, that whether we like it or not, we are all responsible for the actions of our government.
Do any particular experiences, philosophies, theories, writers influence your writing?
– As far as novelists are concerned, I haven’t seen many writers tackling the questions at the heart of my book. Some writers do: Noam Chomsky and Robert Fisk especially so. The site Media Lens is a big spur for my indignation. Campaign Against the Arms Trade, featured in the novel, is a charity dedicated to reminding people that our country profits from war.
From the extract available on your blog it feels as if there is a great need to write about the Blair regime and its implications. Why is it important to you?
– Blair, and now Cameron, represents the death of politics: the centrist, media friendly, emotive style of administration that homogenises the political landscape. Soundbites portray one reality, while their actions go in the completely opposite direction. Remember New Labour’s Ethical Foreign Policy? And yet, Blair started more wars than any PM in history.
The extract states ‘A novel about personal responsibility in a corrupt society’ – how far do you think personal responsibility can help us redeem society? Or is that not even the question and that we should just strive to be responsible for its own sake?
– I believe that personal responsibility is the one thing that can redeem society. The only people who get power are the people who want power. Power-hungry people do not seek to change the status quo. Recent world events, Tunisia, Egypt, Los Indignados, show us that, with Facebook and Twitter, individuals can challenge power when acting in unison. What started out as an entertainment of idle Westerners, ie: Flashmobs, has developed into something truly important. We are discovering our responsibilities, to the oppressed, to the planet.
You ask ‘Can one act of violence make up for so many others?’ Do you think violence has its place in change? Can you see another way to change in societies where one particular view dominates?
– As in the previous reply, we are starting to see a new form of societal expression, a display of will. Non-violent action is the ideal. Unfortunately, governments respond with violence and thus set the conditions for the interaction. In the book, a character discusses the taking up of arms by civilians in the Spanish Civil War and wonders if this kind of act is still possible in our times. Your mention of a dominant view is incisive, start to see things differently and you can start to act differently.
Could you tell us a little bit about your writing in general?
– The novels I am writing at the moment concern themselves with what I call versions of reality: an individual’s reality, a social reality, a political reality, reality television, virtual reality, heightened reality, hyperreality. A novelist creates another version of reality. Hamlet said the purpose of art is “to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature” – these days we have so many mirrors held up for us that the purpose of my art is to try to find the most authentic. As this confusion of spectacle multiplies I find that, as a writer, I am turning more and more to etymology to seek out a durable foundation for what I create.
What is next for you?
– My next novel, The Hyper Reality Show, will be released, again through Revenge Ink, in Spring 2012. I am currently working to finalise it, whilst also enjoying the delicious burgeoning of the subsequent book.
Anything else you like to add?
– Virtual Assassin is available in paperback, and now also in ebook format. I’m in two minds about this new platform, but it’s here and it means more chance of being read and that is a good thing. Thanks very much for the interesting questions and the opportunity to answer them.
Thank you Simon for your answers, on a personal level they are very timely for me as they remind me why I first started writing Deception and the importance of individual responsibility in creating change. I hope others engage with your answers and find themselves encouraged.
You can read an extract from Virtual Assassin on Simon’s website, where you can also read his flash fiction and about his upcoming novel, The Hyper Reality Show.