Ben Hourigan

Biography

I was born in 1981 in Rosebud, a tourist town on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour and a half's drive from Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne. The son of two art teachers, I grew up in a large house in nearby Tootgarook, filled with books and art and paints and paper and love.

My first novel—Kiss Me, Genius Boy—includes a lot of autobiographical material. It's set in the culturally isolated bayside area where I grew up. Like me, the main character, Joshua Rivers, learned to read very young, and skipped two grades in primary school. He endures a lot of unhappiness in love (all his own fault), but also has some undeserved good luck in that area, which he's frequently ungrateful for. His favorite book and mine are the same: The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin.

But my characters are not exactly me, or the people I know, and the stories I tell aren't exactly the stories of our lives. The kind of fiction I write is a mashup: bits cut out of reality, rearranged and spliced with outright fabrications, in the service of telling a story and exploring the deeper truths in life. In this case, what's fascinated me over the past few years I've been working on this first novel, and the two further volumes of No More Dreams that follow it, is the peril of living solely for one's dream of a perfect future.

I like to read a wide range of things: aside from Le Guin, I'm deeply attached to Kundera, Tolstoy, Laozi, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Leonard Cohen, and Ayn Rand. But the author who's influenced me the most is the Japanese Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Ôe, author of A Personal Matter and The Silent Cry. It's Ôe that I've taken my present semi-autobiographical approach from, and Ôe that inspired me not to gloss over the ignoble and grotesque things that we think, that we do, and that are done to us and others.

As I grow older, and as I confront the world through art, it strikes me more and more that as humans we are united in suffering, in death, and also in love. My mission as a writer, should I have one, is not just to disseminate whatever small degree of vision or wisdom I may have, but also to remind people that in their alienation and their darkness, they are not alone.

May you find, in the pages I have written for you, something to light your way in the night.

Smashwords Interview

What are you working on next?
Right now I'm finishing up the very last stages of the redraft for “Seize the Girl”, a third book that concludes the story begun in “Kiss Me”. The whole series is pretty epic, and after the sort of slow-burn, “Empire Strikes Back” kind of story hat you see in the second volume, “My Generation’s Lament”, the finale is where I get to make everything blow up. It's an exciting thing to be finishing.

And after that, I'll be writing a novel about pick-up artists, which I've already done a lot of planning for.
Who are your favorite authors?
In a sense, my answering this question could be misleading, because a lot of these authors are people whose books I haven't returned as often as I'd like. I read very widely, and often in response to what other people are reading, which means I often don't get deep into an author's whole body of work.

For some idea of what I'm talking about, check out my posts on what I read in 2011: http://benhourigan.com/2012/01/02/2011-a-year-in-reading-elation-and-heartbreak-part-1-of-3/ I mean to put these together into an book someday.

But there are a few authors whose work has been really influential for me, and I can call these my favorites. Here's my top 5.

No. 1, no one ever seems to have heard of---the Japanese Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburô Ôe. Even when I was living in Japan, people there would tell me that nobody reads him. They should! He writes harrowing semi-autobiographical books that explore the darkest sides of everyday human experience, in particular the thoughts and motivations that we hide from others. But he does this without being misanthropic. I've read many of his books: my favorite is *A Personal Matter*, which is about the birth of his intellectually disabled son.

No. 2 is a new addition, and someone I've not read nearly enough of: Graham Greene. *The Quiet American* is a fabulous example of great short books can be, and it's a fantastic dramatization of the conflict between youthful idealism and aged cynicism. Also, parts of the film version with Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine were shot in Hoi An, which is currently my favorite place to escape to and write. *The Power and the Glory* is also magnificent, especially for being a warning against the kind of conspicuous moral superiority that social media now gives us so many opportunities to exercise. In reality, the people who speak most loudly about their own virtue and what others should do can be horrible, substantially driven by pride and hatred. The protagonist of *The Power and the Glory*, who is one of the few decent people in the book, thinks of himself as weak and reprehensible, and makes no attempt to convince anyone otherwise.

No. 3 is Milan Kundera, who again, I haven't read nearly enough of. It's such a cliché to love *The Unbearable Lightness of Being*, but Kundera's writing is beautiful and clear, and he's the best writer I know of when it comes to infusing a story with profound philosophy without making it too heavy. If I wished I wrote like anyone else, it would be Kundera. You might also notice a bit of Tomas from *Unbearable Lightness* in Lily from *Kiss Me*.

No. 4 is Tolstoy. I read *War and Peace* when I was fifteen or sixteen, to keep pace with a brilliant guy I was friends with at school. Though at times it drags---I found the “war“ parts incredibly boring---it's also the most impressive book I've ever read. It seems to include the whole of life. For a shot of Tolstoy that's relatively easy to get through, I recommend his later book *Resurrection*. It gives you a some of the grandeur and intensity of *War and Peace* in a much more concentrated form.

No. 5 is Charles Bukowski. I read him only after hearing Hank Moody's daughter, Becca, calling him a "poor man's Bukowski" in an early season of *Californication*. I can't imagine Moody being anywhere near as good as Bukowski, so it was probably a fitting insult. I read *Post Office* when I in a job I hated, felt I hadn't achieved anything, and was feeling lost and worthless. And it made me feel less alone, and like it might be worth hanging in there in life and at my artistic pursuits. Bukowski was *fifty* before he got out of his horrible job at the post office, but he got out. I'm very, very lucky, that I had the chance to get out at thirty-two. One of my greatest fears is that circumstances might one day compel me to go back. That's quite a motivator in terms of trying to make my writing and my business work.
Read more of this interview.

Where to find Ben Hourigan online


Books

My Generation's Lament (No More Dreams #2)
Series: No More Dreams, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 60,690. Language: English. Published: January 5, 2013 by Nameless Books. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(5.00)
It's been ten years since Joshua Rivers had his dream of the girl he believes he is supposed to marry, and she's still nowhere in sight. Now twenty-two, Joshua is stuck in a life markedly different from what he expected. Little does Joshua know that by the end of the year he'll have met his destined love at last.
Kiss Me, Genius Boy (No More Dreams #1)
Series: No More Dreams, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 51,470. Language: English. Published: September 10, 2011 by Nameless Books. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
(5.00)
Joshua Rivers was born to expect great things. A former child prodigy and the son of a lottery winner, he also believes himself blessed with a vision of his perfect destiny and his perfect love. Now in his early twenties, he waits for the moment, and the girl, that will show him his time has finally arrived. And when it does, he resolves to take what is his, whatever it costs him or anyone.

Ben Hourigan's tag cloud

australia    campus    campus novel    college    destiny    fiction    gifted children    gifted teens    intellectual    literature    love    melbourne    politics    romance    semiautobiographical    sex    teen    utopia    young adult