I was never cut out for a career. I’m too socially awkward and I never found anything that stirred my passions enough to attempt to forge a livelihood from it. I have a job, but I refuse to be one of the arse-kissing yes-spitters in my workplace so I’ll never get on the ladder. I have found people who I get on with at work and they have similar principals/flaws (same thing, these days), which is why they’ve become my friends. If I enjoy any success in my lifetime it will be through something out of the ordinary, and I’ve known that since I was about twelve years old. It was obvious by the age of about eight that I was never going to be a professional footballer, due to my lack of a left foot and inability to, as my Dad said, “Get my head up”. By the age of fourteen I wanted to be a musician. I learned, very slowly, to play the guitar, and wrote lyrics. By the age of seventeen I had met someone who thought similarly, and we put our plans in progress to conquer the world with our punk band. And we told exactly no-one. This is the problem I have with my writing career. It was exactly the same as when I was in my band. Back then when someone would ask me if I was in a band, I’d raise a hand to my face, shuffle my feet, look at the floor and mumble “Well, yeah, sort of…” when I should have been drawing myself up to my full height, drilling my eyes into the questioner’s face in the manner of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and saying with all the arrogance in the world, “Damn right I’m in a band, we’re brilliant, and pretty soon you’re gonna be hearing all about us.” Even when we were in a position of promise, my inner-Costanza would race to the surface, making me spout forth a woefully misjudged joke or attempt to be ironic. I remember once we played a venue that was absolutely rammed with young emo kids who had come to see the band we were supporting, not exactly our market but one we certainly could have worked on. Rather than seeing the potential, I took the mic and sighed “Good evening, we’re Sal Paradise, you won’t like us.” The reasons I don’t brag about my literary endeavours are three-fold: The first is, I think, pretty acceptable. I hate it when people who have no interest in literature ask me questions about my book. The question is always “What’s it about?” and the answer I want to give is thus: “It’s a collection of short stories and prose, based mainly on themes of isolation and escapism, it’s pretty dark but has a fair bit of black humour in there. . In many ways it’s a reaction to the way our society has become so fleeting and impersonal in recent times. I nicked the title from a Scott Walker song, and I drew lots of influence from the work of Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski and John Fante, as well as the lyrics of Elvis Costello and the life and times of Howard Hughes.” But I don’t say that. I say: “I dunno really, I just wrote a few stories about things that I’ve seen…” Secondly, I worry that I’m no good. Well, not exactly that, but I’ve always been wary of becoming an Adrian Mole or Brian Griffin-type figure, someone who constantly tells everyone loudly that they’re a writer, and when they eventually produce a piece of work it is absolutely abysmal. These characters, along with hundreds of others that I’ve seen Facebook posts by or met on various writers forums, have absolutely zero talent but astonishing faith in their own ability. I’ve never been able to develop that level of confidence, precisely for the reason that if I did march about telling everyone I’m great, and they all buy my book, they might think it’s terrible, and despite me having 100% certainty that my work is brilliant, the consensus is, it’s shite. It’s not shite, obviously. My book is very good, but delusion is so common in the literary industry, and I’m terrified that I’ve succumbed to this disease. Last week I took morning refreshments with one of my best friends, she asked how my writing career is going, and I mentioned that there had been various developments, including interest from local bookshops and the possibility of a signing at Waterstones. “Wow, that’s great,” she said, “When is it?” I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I probably wasn’t going to do it as I was worried that no-one would turn up. Her facial expression hit some sort of mid-point between frenzied aggression and exasperation. This stylish, sexy and not-at-all-kindly woman then charged up to me and pretended to wring my neck. “What is wrong with you? Why are you constantly trying to sabotage your own success?” I couldn’t answer. The third reason is, I don’t like referring to myself as a writer. I have made very little money from my published work so far, and until I earn a living wage from it, I will describe myself in employment terms as an underpaid and undervalued healthcare assistant who works for the NHS, as I have no right to do anything other than that. The writing industry is a very cynical one, as are all what might be termed “creative” industries. You have to know the right people, and you are expected to pay homage to people whom you have no respect for. I don’t review other people’s work, mainly because I don’t feel I have any business judging them, and also because if I don’t like their work I would feel like a charlatan if I gave them a good review. The fact that I adopt this stance has hamstrung me in many ways, as I have very few friends in the business and I’m quite happy to keep it that way, which means I’ll get very few plugs, and very few breaks. My single proudest moment since I first wrote a story came not from reading a good review, not from signing a publishing deal and not from receiving praise from some big-wig in the industry. It came from a brief text message sent by my mate Wes, a builder by trade and a good man whom I don’t see as often as I’d like. It read: JUST SEEN YOU IN HULL DAILY MAIL. HONOURED AND PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND. A simple message of encouragement from a person that I like. Sometimes that’s enough. I mentioned the very few friends I have made in the business, but those few have shown massive faith in me, and for this I am grateful. Mrs Hoffs, Mrs Johnson and Messrs Bracha and Quantrill have given me huge encouragement, and Darren Sant has shown an almost biblical belief in me from the day we met, blind-pissed at a all-night party. I’ve also had ego-boosting support from many of my work colleagues. To continue to sub-consciously sabotage my career would be to let them all down, so it ends here. I am immensely proud of This Is How You Disappear, it is the best work I have ever produced, and it’s better than ninety percent of the shite that sells millions every year. It is not always pleasant, it is not a “light holiday read”, it will upset you in places, but it will also make you laugh. It will put images and thoughts in your head that you are not necessarily comfortable with and it will challenge your morale values, but it will also introduce you to characters who you may feel sympathy and affection for. If whoring myself at public signings and readings is what I have to do to sell this book, then so be it, I’ll do it, and if I make a living wage out of it, then, and only then, will I call myself a writer. It’s out NOW on Amazon, the link is below. Buy the paperback and I’ll sign it for you. “I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process, I’ll get self-satisfaction. And I know that a minority, a strong minority, will listen, and that will be enough for me.” Scott Walker Allen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. Get it here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014
Before you read the following coruscating diatribe, I’d like to point out that, even though I’ve written over 2000 words here, I could’ve written over 10,000. I actually just wanted to write about Coldplay and Piers Morgan, but my doctor told me that it would not be good for my blood pressure. Other near misses included Self-Service checkouts, pubs that encourage family dining on Sundays, Jonathan Ross, Bohemian Rhapsody (its nonsense, before you complain. Utter nonsense.) and Donnie Darko. So here you go, to quote the magnificent John Lydon: “Anger is an energy.”
1. Beyonce Knowles.
I hate Jessie J. I utterly loathe her and all she stands for and given half a chance I would drop her, Fargo-style, into a wood-chipper and feed her pulverized carcass to stray animals in the inner cities. But in five years time, no-one will remember her, because she is that worthless, and in ten years time she will be dead, having been spat out the bottom of the porn industry with a needle in her arm. Beyonce, however, is genuinely revered by a lot of people. I am absolutely mystified by this, as it seems to me that she is the most disingenuous, hypocritical “artist” in history.
She is supposed to encourage feminism, being an “independent woman,” and writes songs about not being objectified by men. If she looked like Susan Boyle, or even someone average-looking like Polly Harvey or Lauryn Hill, she’d have sold about fifteen records. Her songs have now taken the place of Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive as the songs that are played loudly in cars by lonely women who pretend they don’t even want a boyfriend and paint themselves orange on a night out. That Destiny’s Child song “Independent Woman.” For crying out loud. I actually think that proper feminists would feel offended or at the very least patronised upon hearing it. Someone needs to sit down with Beyonce and explain to her that, in 2013, and actually, for quite some time before that, it is in fact commonplace for women to have their own jobs, own dwellings, and not be reliant on men to fund them. It is their right, and there is no real need to show off about it.
And “All The Single Ladies.” Yeah! Beyonce leads the charge of all those single ladies all together, all the single ladies, all the single ladies… Yeah! Only… you’re not single are you Beyonce? You’re married to a man who for much of the millennium has been one of the most powerful men in music, and whose often openly misogynistic songs should really be the polar opposite of everything that Ms Knowles claims to stand for. One can only imagine the scenes around the Carter household when he’s practicing his raps for a forthcoming tour.
Beyonce: Shawn darling, I was wondering if I could suggest a few changes to your lyrics?
Jay-Z: (Looks up with absolute distain)
Beyonce: I was wondering if instead of “bitch,” you could say “I got 99 problems but an Independent Woman ain’t one?”
Beyonce: Ok, well maybe rather than using the word “Ho,” perhaps you could say “Make a mill’ off a sorry Single Lady, then sit back and peep my scenario.”
Beyonce: Ok… Erm…
Jay-Z: Go and make me a sandwich.
Beyonce: Yes, dear.
Piss off Beyonce. Just piss off.
2. Any Customer Service Facility For A U.K-based Company.
Four years ago, I went to Newcastle for my stag do. Quite late on, we added an extra member to the party, therefore we required an extra room at the hotel, or an extra bed in one of our rooms. I can’t remember which hotel chain we were booked with, but it was a major one, possibly the Ibis. I approached the girl at the reception desk and explained the situation and the following conversation took place.
Me: So would you be able to do us another room for tonight please?
Receptionist: I don’t know.
Receptionist: I don’t know if we’ve got any available.
Me: Well, would you be able to find out for us please?
Receptionist: I can’t do it from here. You’ll have to ring the booking office in Leicester, the direct line is over there. (Indicates red phone in some sort of booth.)
Me: But I want a room in this hotel, can’t you just tell us if there’s one available? Haven’t you got it on your computer?
Receptionist: No, you have to ring the booking line or do it online.
At this point my friends and I look with complete bewilderment at each other and walk over to the booking line. I pick up the phone and get put through to a man who was evidently speaking verbatim from a script, and had a very loose grip on the English language.
Me: Hello, I’d like to book a room at your Newcastle branch for tonight please.
Imbecile: Yes at Newcastle, Uk?
Me: Yes please.
Imbecile: What is your address please?
Imbecile: What is your address please?
With a vein throbbing in my temple, I proceeded to give this man my address, and card number, as I was told I couldn’t pay over the counter. This took quite some time, as the guy certainly wasn’t from Leicester. Eventually, after a spate of bleeding from my eyeballs, I walked back over to the desk.
Me: Right, I have reserved a room over the phone. My name is Miles.
Receptionist: Miles, Miles, Miles…. yes, here you are Sir, you’re in Room 104.
She then proceeded to gesture to her right to Room 104, which was about FIFTEEN FUCKING FEET FROM THE RECEPTION DESK!!! SHE COULD SEE THE ROOM FROM WHERE SHE WAS STOOD!! THIS IS THE SAME REASON THAT MY GAS BILL IS IN ARREARS, THAT CAPITAL ONE SEND ME SNOTTY LETTERS AND MY HOUSE HAD PRACTICALLY FALLEN DOWN BEFORE THE INSURERS PULLED THEIR FINGERS OUT OF THEIR ARSES AND PAID OUT FOR THE REPAIRS. BECAUSE EVERYONE WHO WORKS BEHIND A SCREEN WITH A HEADSET ON IS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, A COMPLETE FUCKING MORON!!!
As used in the first instance by Sixth Form College tutors. English Lit, English Lang, or for those of you who did the combined course, Lang-Lit. These people did not give a fuck how they butchered this wonderful language of ours. One of them even used to refer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as Pride and Pred. For God’s sake, it’s a terrible book in the first place don’t make it worse.
The latest one is “App.” Which is an abbreviation of Application, if you didn’t know, which brings me on to the latest form of abbreviations, fucking text speak. I realised that this was becoming a genuine threat to society when my father, bless him, attempted to use this cool new language and texted me the phrase “DAT’S GREA8T,” presumably trying to say “That’s great.” And failing catastrophically.
My mate Robbie Lawson has repeatedly attempted to tell me that stylistic progressions such as text language can be traced back through the ages and are neccessary for language to develop, but I repeatedly dismiss his arguments as “shite.” I can’t bear to see our mother tongue reduced to a minimal dirge of consonants and numbers. I will not, therefore, LOL, nor will I ROFL, or even PMSL, due to the fact that I am far too upset that the language that I have spent thirty-one years studying and attempting to master has become yet another tool that the world is using to fuck me over.
4. People With Trendy Opinions About Music
I’m going to have to divide this into a few sub-catagories…
A) Liking Things Ironically: Popular among students and arty types are things such as buying The Best Of Steps because “It’s so bad it’s good.” No its not, its shite. Easy Lover by Phil Collins is not a “chooooon,” its shite. And so on…
B) Proclaiming Stars Who Have Clearly Lost It “Legends.” For example, when people see footage of popular singers way past their prime and still proclaim them “cool.” Tom Jones, Barry White, James Brown and 70’s Elvis are/were all preposterous figures and should be openly ridiculed for not packing it in when they had their last shred of dignity left.
C) Wearing T-Shirts Of Bands You Have No Knowledge Of In The Hope It Will Give You Credibility: Especially Ramones T-Shirts. For further reference I’ll relay the following conversation my friend Dunham once had in Welly.
18 Year-old Kid in Rolling Stones T-Shirt: Alright mate can I buy a cig off you?
Dunham: I’ll give you this cigarette for nothing if you can name five Rolling Stones songs.
Kid: Erm… Satisfaction… Brown Sugar…. erm… oh just let me buy a cig!
Dunham: Fuck Off.
D) Declaring Bands “Shit” Who Clearly Aren’t: It does not make you the next Jo Whiley to loudly tell everybody that popular bands are “soooooo overrated.” It’s perfectly alright to say that U2, REM, Oasis, Bruce Springsteen or The Beatles aren’t your cup of tea, but to say that they were crap is clearly idiocy and your opinion is utterly worthless. Actually, it probably does make you the next Jo Whiley, she’s a fucking mental defective as well.
E) “Guilty Pleasures:” Apparently the least credible artist that I’m a fan of is Robbie Williams. I do not feel guilty about this at all; he’s a brilliant showman, a great singer and a completely overlooked lyricist who has made some brilliant records and put on some fantastic concerts. I will argue that he is great, in a completely unashamed way, until I slip off the hook. If you feel guilty about enjoying the likes of Crowded House or Simply Red, imagine how guilty you’ll feel in a few years time when you’re stealing small change from your social worker. Prat.
5. Everything To Do With The Writing Industry
I’ll be honest, my book didn’t sell very many copies. But that’s fine, I didn’t expect it to; it’s bleak and disturbing and it was never going to appeal to the “holiday reader” market. However, I did sign a publishing deal with a real publishing house and it was judged my somebody other than myself to be worthy of public consumption. That entitles me to call myself a writer, right? WRONG. I work for the NHS in an operating theatre, I will never call myself a writer until I earn a living wage from writing, which will probably never happen. Yet I have met, through multiple writers’ sites on Facebook and Twitter, so many people who are so utterly deluded about the way they perceive themselves and their contribution to the literary world that I’m not sure I can do for much longer.
My friend and mentor Darren recently told me a story, as he shook his head with incredulity over a pint, of an author who will remain nameless who has proclaimed loudly on many forums that his book is being made into a Hollywood movie that is commanding a $30 million budget. This is a complete lie, in order to provoke interest. Pathetic. When 18 Days was first released, I tentatively sent an extremely polite message to several people who claimed to be writers on their Facebook pages that I’d been put in touch with through the writer’s groups, explaining that I’d just had my first book published and I was a bit of a rookie at this game, and asking for advice on how to about getting a bit of publicity. The response I got from about 90% of the messages I’d sent was “I don’t know, I’ve never been published.”
I read an interview a bit back in The Observer Review segment about an author whose name I can’t remember, but who made a big performance about making sure everyone knew that he did his writing in an abandoned tube carriage. Why did he feel the need to hammer this fact home? To appear quirky, in order to sell books was it? I bought his book for my Kindle out of curiosity and deleted it after twenty pages. It was awful.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met lots of great people through writing, if only online. Gill Hoffs and Vic Watson have both written for this site and are fantastic people. Darren Sant and Nick Quantrill have taken time out of their lives to sit with me and explain why I should carry on writing when I throw my silly tantrums (like this one,) and many others have interviewed me, given me fantastic reviews and helped me get a bit of exposure for my work. The rest of them though, are largely self-righteous frauds with gargantuan egos. I’ve seen their likes down Princes Ave, sat in Pave in the middle of the day with their laptops out, loudly shouting into their mobiles “I’m just working on my novel,” as they glance out of the corner of their eye to make sure that everyone can hear them.
So in closing, sod the writing industry, it’s full of scum.
Burnt my fucking bridges there, haven’t I?
Allen Miles is 31 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of 18 Days, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/8d2pysx