Unboxing (my favourite sport)

After a few days of camping and hiking in northern Gifu, I returned to three boxes waiting patiently in my garage. Better than Christmas morning, you can see my reaction to clapping eyes for the first time on the amazing work Liminal Ink has done putting this book together.

The book is out on September 16th and is available for pre-order here with free postage in the UK and Japan (sorry rest of world, you have to pay a little more). Orders in Japan will be signed (unless you specifically don’t want that, in which case say) but shipping books from the printers in Scotland to me in Japan to have them signed, and then shipping them back to the UK/Elsewhere is exactly the kind of thing that would make Greta very disappointed in us, so we won’t be doing that.

For those in or near Nagoya, I will be doing an in-person launch (State of Emergency permitting) at the Imaike Library Club, Nagoya, on September 26th at 3pm. In order to keep it safe and socially distanced we are asking people to register in advance and if we get a lot of responses, we might split into two groups. Physical copies of the book will be on sale there.

There will be an online event at some point but currently a number of factors are precluding settling on a date, so stay tuned.

Once you have a copy, please share a photo of it out in the wild, I’d love to see that. And as always, reviews are what drives sales, so Goodreads, Amazon, social media, anywhere you can say something positive about Life is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags would be hugely appreciated.

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Cover and Quotes

This is my sixth book and the excitement never lessens. If anything it increases with each book as the anxiety about “what comes next” decreases with experience. Not that there’s no anxiety, just that it’s tempered with understanding.

The cover was designed by Paul Docherty, one of the founders of Liminal Ink, and I absolutely love it. Simple lines, colours that stand out, one image capturing multiple meanings from the novella. I’ve been blessed in my career with cover designers who just get the book. As very non-visual artist, I tend to have no idea what I want in a cover other than a few strong disinclinations (I know it’s set in Japan but please, no cherry blossoms, no samurai, no geisha) and I know some writers have had hideous covers foisted upon them (the writer generally has no say in the process) but so far I’ve loved every single one.

We also have do gorgeous, generous quotes from two writers I admire greatly, Kirstin Innes and J. David Simons.

Kirstin, the author of Scabby Queen and Fishnet (another Freight survivor) said: “A beautiful, brutal meditation on love and death and the death of love. With these two compelling, tense, gorgeously-drawn and perfectly-paced character accounts, giving each side of an unhappy marriage, Iain Maloney has come into his own as a writer. From a Japanese mountainside, to the forced bonhomie between ex-pats in an Irish bar, to the angry intensity of feminist teenage punks in Tokyo in the late 80s, this seemingly slight novella travels worlds and light years in a few thousand words. Eri and Cormac, and all the things they say and leave unsaid, will stay with you for a long time.”

While David, whose brilliant novel The Responsibility of Love is coming out very soon said: “Maloney hits his stride here as he explores the tensions in a bicultural relationship straining under marital irritations and life’s disappointments, all while the tedium of the pandemic presses down on them like a long-suffering migraine. Follow Maloney’s experienced and knowing eye as he takes his readers back into a world that other writers about Japan don’t normally frequent – that of punk-rock Tokyo in the late 1980s – where drugged-up young women with electric blue hair and yellow Gibson guitars rant and rage against the system. A raw yet compassionate take on a couple trying to deal with their fears and frustrations, both with themselves and with each other, in the time of Covid.”

Which is just lovely of them both.

The first review has also dropped thanks to Metropolis Magazine in Tokyo. It always feels like an enormous weight has been lifted when the first review comes out and it’s a good one – and this is a good one. “Rashonomonian” is as good a description as I could have hoped for.

The book will be out on September 16th. You can either pre-order it from the publisher here or (and I’d love it if you did this) go into your local indie bookstore and order it there. Liminal Ink are a new small press and distribution is tricky in a crowded marketplace. If you go to your local indie and order it, it puts us on their radar, it gives them some money, and while they’re ordering your copy, they might add a couple more for their shelves while they’re at it. No one loses out apart from Jeff Bezos and one private rocket is one private rocket too many.

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Live(ish) at the BBC

It came around quicker than I thought, and here it is: me talking about Japanese literature on Radio 4’s Open Book. It’s also available as a podcast (under BBC Books and Authors). I haven’t listened to it yet because… well, if it’s bad I’ll have to curl up somewhere and never speak to the world again.

Also yesterday, my review of Takamura Kaoru’s Lady Joker: Volume One was in the Japan Times. I talk about it on the radio, but I had time to edit this and cut out my waffle and ums. Probably for the best.

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Lakeland Lectures & the BBC

So Thursday night was a busy one for me. At 7pm I gave a lecture/reading about me/my work as part of Lakeland University Japan’s ongoing series. It’s a great scheme they’ve got going, bringing in people of all different walks of life to talk to their students and the wider public and I was delighted to be invited.

I did a kind of overview of my writing to date, including readings from The Only Gaijin in the Village and my new book, Life is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags (pre-order here). It was a nice change because I never get to do that kind of thing – events are usually supporting a specific book and since I’ve been with a few publishers I tend to avoid cross-promoting.

After a short break, I was back online, this time to talk to the BBC. With my critic’s cap on, I joined writer Emily Itami to chat about Japanese literature on Radio 4’s Open Book. This was a huge deal for me, since I’ve listened to Radio 4 since I was a teenager. So much so that I honestly cannot remember my first couple of answers as my brain was just going RADIO 4!!!!!!! The host, Johny Pitt, was incredibly nice and the whole experience was a joy. God know how much of my noise made it into the final episode but we can all find out on Sunday afternoon, 4pm UK time, and thereafter on Sounds.

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New Book!

You may have seen a few social media posts regarding this, but here’s the full story about my new book! It’s called Life is Elsewhere/Burn Your Flags, and is a novella set during the pandemic in Japan. Here’s the official blurb:

Christmas Day, 2020 and in Japan, Cormac is headed for the hills. In the midst of the pandemic the bar he runs is closed, his marriage to Eri is falling apart and a phone call from his doctor could change everything.

As a teenager in late 1980s Tokyo, Eri documented the rise of a legendary female punk band. In the wake of its explosive demise, she shed her identity and ran. Now an unexpected message forces her to exhume long-buried memories and confront her past.

Over twenty-four hours, everything they’ve been repressing erupts under the pressure of a year in lockdown. In times like these, it’s hard to hold on.

It’s being published by Liminal Ink, a new face on the Scottish publishing scene run by Angela and Paul Docherty. I couldn’t be happier – the book is seeped in the punk DIY aesthetic and so is Liminal Ink:

[We’re] about blurring the lines between author and publisher. An idea of inclusion, of collaboration. An idea based around some of the work and play we’re involved in: writing, publishing, editing, theatre adaptation, proofreading, audiobook production, book cultures research and education… We’re either independent authors who publish, or independent publishers who write. Either way, we’re all about words. 

https://www.liminalink.com/about

Novellas are notoriously difficult to publish – although they are enjoying something of a moment with Alan Bissett and Linda Cracknell recently publishing fantastic novellas, and some publishers now actively seeking them – but it’s a form I adore, more sprawling than a short story but requiring less commitment from the reader (not that commitment is a bad thing, but a 500-page novel can be off-putting when you’re approaching a new writer for the first time), and as a storyteller the shape of a novella really suits me, combining my love of the novel (I’m a baggy monster) and the haiku. So to be able to publish one is a big tick on the bucket list.

It will be released on the world on September 16, 2021, but you can pre-order to ensure you get a copy here. There will be a physical launch in Nagoya, Japan (TBC) assuming we ever actually get vaccinated, and some online events around the pub date, but if you can’t wait that long, I’ll be talking about this book and my writing more generally on Thursday, July 8th as part of Lakeland University’s ongoing lecture series. It’s free but you need to register to get the link. It’s 7pm Japan Time which is 3am in the UK, but the video will be available afterwards.

If you feel so inclined, you could drop by your local indie bookstore and order your copy through them – it’ll get the book on their radar, and they might order some extra copies for the shelves, and you’ll be supporting an indie bookshop during these Terrible Times. Win win win. If you do order it through an indie bookstore, let me know – I’d love to see the book’s progress through the real world.

More, as and when…

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Live at the FCCJ

So this was a thing! On Wednesday last, as I type, I did an event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Japan. Hosted by Swiss journalist Christoph Neidhart, I did some readings from The Only Gaijin in the Village, and then we did a Q&A. The FCCJ is a pretty big deal and just getting invited sent my heart a-flutter – this is where the prime minister goes to hold press conferences with overseas media, and previous speakers include the Dalai Lama, Stan Lee and Donald Trump (who is listed as a casino owner, which made me laugh). They do an event called Book Bag, and previous guests include Kawakami Mieko and David Peace. Exalted company to be in.

The photo in the bottom right is Oe Kenzaburo, one of my absolute favourite writers.

It being the beginning of the fourth wave in Japan, and this being a long-delayed event, I figured there’d be a small crowd and it would be held in a side room somewhere, so I was pretty shocked on arrival to realise they were using the press conference room, that I’d be using the same stage as all those prime ministers (except Abe, who refused to come) and cultural deities. I’m not sure if it’s clear in the video above, but I am absolutely shitting it.

But it went well, everyone was really nice and supportive, and we sold some books which is, after all, the point of all of this!

Speaking of selling books, earlier in the day I stopped by Kinokuniya in Shinjuku where they have a massive English language section. We did a little signing of books, made a wee video for Instagram and I even sold a book then and there to a curious customer. It’s been over a year since I’ve been in a bookshop or been able to do anything to promote the book in the real world, so it was such a buzz being amongst the shelves again. So much so that I blew 15000 yen on books for myself and would have spent more if I didn’t have to head for the FCCJ.

It was all too short. I had to be back on the shinkansen by half eight and back at work the next morning. I could have done with a few days in Tokyo – the restaurants looked inviting, the people I met were interesting and I’d have loved to spend more time chatting. Christoph Neidhart turned me on to Per-Olov Enquist, the Swedish writer who died last year and who I had shamefully never heard of. I’ve missed experiences like that so much. Lockdown has been necessary but when you get a sniff of the things you’ve been deprived, it makes the loss all the more visceral. One day, hopefully soon, let’s all meet up and talk about the books we’ve read during the plague times.

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Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

It’s been a while since I last posted here, mainly because there’s been nothing to say. This area of Japan was in a state of emergency for a while (a state of emergency is like a lockdown but enforced by peer pressure rather than punishments) so like most people around the world we’ve gone nowhere, done little, and eaten lots. However, things seem to be loosening up and much-delayed IRL events are being rescheduled.

First up is the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. This is a real honour: the FCCJ is an institution with a long and important history, so to be invited to speak there is a thrill. It’ll take place on April 14th from 17:30-20:00 and will be streamed online as well. More information here.

There are a few things in the works, including one really exciting project that I can’t reveal quite yet, so watch this space, as they used to say, and I’ll be back soon with updates.

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Black Voices Matter

Sorry for the radio silence in the last few weeks but a combination of being back teaching full-time, suffering Zoom-related back pain and the world going to hell less in a handcart and more in one of those massive modified trucks complete with superfluous guitar player they have in Mad Max has left me with little of worth to contribute. I planned an update on book events and other writing-related things but as I started typing I was overcome with a sense of how meaningless it was to say “hey I wrote a book review” while people are on the streets. So, I stick my head above the parapet to say only this:

Black Lives Matter. We need to clear the stage so voices regularly silenced can be heard. Blackout Tuesday was a start, but one day and some changed profile pictures isn’t enough. I’ve been retweeting some of these voices as they cross my path and will continue to do so. The video above strikes me as too important to share only once. I urge you to do the same, to share as many silenced voices as you can, as often as you can. People like me have had the microphone for too long; it’s time to listen. Black Voices Matter. Black Lives Matter.

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Zooming On

Hi folks, I hope you’re all doing well and coping with the various stresses the plague times have brought us. Out here in the countryside life is much the same except they’ve closed the mountains, so that’s my main source of exercise gone. Ho hum.

Anyway, a few updates if you’re looking for ways of filling the day. The Sunday Times in the UK asked me to write a piece about lockdown in Japan, which you can find here, although it is behind a paywall.

The Only Gaijin in the Village has been selected in a couple of lists of travel books – 7 Japan Travel Books to Inspire Future Trips on Savvy Tokyo and Books To Inspire Travel on The Wise Traveller. Escape, figurative if not literal.

Some good reviews have also been posted, including in Geographical Magazine and by The Japan Society. Much thanks to those reviewers.

Events are also barreling down the pipeline. The University of Glasgow Creative Conversations event that was twice cancelled is back back on, this time online. Via Zoom on Monday May 25th at 1pm (UK)/9pm (Japan), you can find the relevant links here.

The lovely people at Wigtown Book Festival have invited me to join their #WigtownWednesdays online events. Also on Zoom, Wednesday May 20th at 7pm (UK) which is 3am in Japan! Only Gaijin After Dark.

I hope to see some of you in tiny celebrity squares on my laptop soon. In the meantime, live long, prosper, and remain indoors.

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Vote Remain (Indoors)

How are you all doing? It’s not great out there and, to be honest, after four weeks at home it’s not great in here either. Still, I’ve painted the kitchen and dining room. It’s amazing what boredom and procrastination will lead to.

I have a few updates to report on in case you missed them in the wash of social media. Firstly this amazing review by Will Heath of Books and Bao hit a couple of days ago. I studied English lit, I know all about the death of the author and how every text is open to mutual readings, but as a writer there is nothing more delightful than a reader who gets exactly what you were trying to do. Will does that. It’s even more satisfying when that book is a memoir. So thanks Will, you really made my week/month/year.

Ali Braidwood of Scots Whay Hae did a follow up to his podcast interview, this time a text interview in Snack… In magazine, the new lockdown version of Snack. It’s a “what happened next” piece about the cancellation of my tour and how I fled Scotland just in time. You can read that here.

The Japan Times put together a piece on Japanese literature to read during the lockdown to which I contributed (the article, not the lockdown – none of this is my fault). So if you’re looking for something to read (other than The Only Gaijin in the Village and my three novels, all still available) then check it out here.

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