Interview with Gun Arvidssen

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sadly, the first factor is obligation. Fortunately, this issue is often circumvented when my metabolism and divergence from normal circadian rhythms combine to dictate that after four or five hours' sleep, I am sufficiently well-rested to start my day. When this happens, the stars are aligned, my creative instinct is like a nuclear furnace supplying me with seemingly unbounded energy, and I am spurred into action -- on whatever crazy task is at the top of my agenda at a given moment.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Writing is my most instinctual form of creative expression. It is tantamount to a holiday in the midst of every avalanche-like onslaught of obligations; these are most often related to my day job (which, incidentally, is centred around writing -- although it's not exactly of the edifying kind), my family commitments, and my endeavours to make the lives of others more meaningful. When I have the luxury of spending my time as I choose, I am often studying, manufacturing various insane devices, playing music and so forth. In the past, I was financially solvent enough to fly stunt planes, and I hope to return to this in future.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I have only ever read two ebooks, to be perfectly honest. I spend eight hours a day -- in the best case -- reading (and correcting, sometimes writing) for a living, so in addition to that, a book has to be >exceptional< to capture my interest. I suppose the best answer would be to say that the universe tends to spontaneously deliver material to my attention, and when it does, I tend to be so captivated that I will skip meals and sleep to absorb the brilliance of the words I come across.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The one that distinctly comes to mind is a hackneyed reimagining of The Theta Syndrome by Elleston Trevor. I was 14 years old at the time, and the outcome was some 500 words long. I added considerably more blood and intestines than were in the original -- probably because I had only read the blurb of that novel at the time.
What is your writing process?
In the worst case, I might be at my day job, on a break, and I am so gripped by the creative urge that I simply open a window in Google Docs or even a text editor, and unload two or three thousand words of intense imagination. In the best case, when I have no immediate time limits, I might have a specific project I'm working on, and I will write five or six scenes in parallel -- bashing out a few hundred words on one before switching to the next. I tend to envisage novels as a homogenous reality rather than a story in the linear sense, so with Purgatory, for example, the first thing I wrote was the last scene of the second act. I had a rough idea of where everything else fitted in, so it made the utmost sense to paint the images that were most salient for me at the time. By the way, it was on a bus en route to Sydney International, and I was writing on a Palm device using a remote keyboard. It was great fun. ^w^
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not the first story, but certainly the first novel. It was A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I was seven years old, and a visionary librarian at my primary school put that book in my hands. I suppose, the simplest way to answer what impact it had on me, would be to say that it blew my mind and changed my life.
How do you approach cover design?
Most often, the way I conceptualise a novel's overall impact is easily represented as a single image. From there, it is simply a matter of translating that mental vision into an actual artwork, then adding the fonts and a framework that complement the image. Purgatory was particularly easy, because being a visual and cinematically styled novel, it called for a tagline. And I knew from the outset what that should be.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. Martin Eden, by Jack London. Illusions, by Richard Bach. I can't think of a fifth one straight away, but these four come to mind immediately, because they resonate with my atypical and slightly unhinged drive to succeed. With regards to the first two, I am also a great believer in the Samurai ethos and a pragmatic way of approaching conflict, so from this perspective, such books represent sound advice regarding how I can make the most of my strengths.
What do you read for pleasure?
That is like asking a prostitute what his or her favourite position is when they're not working. But seriously, the words that inspire me most are from Alan Watts; the reality is, though, that I find his lectures on YouTube and listen to them while meditating. At the precious few moments when I can.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Samsung Galaxy SII. It is the first device since my Palm Tungsten that has earned my deepest respect, despite its shortcomings; I hope you will forgive the cliche, but I have gone through palmtop computers like Kleenex, and it has been a matter of years since I've had such a trusted machine serving as my backup brain. The fact it enabled me to crack the air gap on an iBook (which I legitimately purchased, mind you) is worth particular mention.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
As I am just barely starting out in this field, I cannot say with any degree of accuracy what techniques will prove effective. I do, however, have high hopes for planting QR codes in strategic locations, as well as collaborating with an animator to create a YouTube trailer of Purgatory in an anime format.
Describe your desk.
A digital pigsty cluttered with empty energy drink cans, several computers, at least three pairs of earphones, composite filler, surgical devices (true story!) and receipts for next year's tax return. Photos of my son and artifacts of his creation also feature prominently, as do images of anime stills, cyborgs and warrior women.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I would rather describe the process behind Purgatory, as it's more relevant. After my son was born, events conspired to induce a lite version of Cotard delusion: I became fixated on the idea that I was a consciousness trapped in a synthetic environment that deliberately subjected me to an insidious and unyielding procession of torment. I perceived reality as responding to my actions and decisions, so it followed that I felt the downward spiral along which I was continually being pushed as something of an intentional, conscious and over-arching activity by an unknown intelligence. Obviously there were many more factors involved, but in short, I felt that I was truly in Hell -- and more than anything else, I wanted to wake up. I believed there were latent yet repetitive patterns in the fabric of reality that would allow me to do so, and I endeavoured to respond to these in the interest of attaining my ultimate goal. You will notice all these themes in Purgatory, however I am only noting them here superficially; I actively tried to make the novel as open to the reader's personal interpretation as I could, and there are certainly questions raised in it for which I don't have a comprehensive answer.
Published 2013-11-13.
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Books by This Author

Purgatory
Price: $2.15 USD. Words: 89,550. Language: Australian English. Published: November 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Utopias & dystopias
Purgatory is a dystopian mystery in three acts, with elements of surrealism, horror and science fiction. It describes the protagonist's experiences in an environment he believes to be Hell, although it gradually becomes apparent that his understanding of reality may not be entirely sound.