Why do you write?
The information that triggered the Big Bang was encoded in all the matter that was subsequently created; if you write, sing, dance, paint, or simply pass on your genes you are communicating that bit of the information you have. Stanislaw Lem said this a lot better than me in ‘His Master’s Voice’. Alternatively, when aged nine years old in primary school I discovered I could write a bit I thought it might be an easy way to earn a living. Writing never has earned me a living by the way.
What books do you read?
Right now a lot of literary theory and the novels of Hugh Walpole for a PhD; he wrote over thirty books, I’ve read quite a few of them but I’ve still a way to go.
What inspires you?
Art inspires me a lot and seeing stuff about the 1960s; I was too young to participate in what still seems to have been an outpouring of creativity at that time but old enough to be aware of it.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
At primary school I wrote a story that got a lot of attention and even a bit of preferential treatment I’m guessing that had something to do with it.
How do you deal with rejection?
I sulk. To be honest I’m never completely happy with stuff I’ve written so I can totally understand if an editor feels that way too.
Who are some writers you admire?
I went through phases of latching onto writers and reading as much of their stuff as I could. Science Fiction in my early teens, all the usual suspects, Asimov, Heinlein, Andre Norton was a favourite then too. Then Alistair Maclean and Anthony Burgess in my mid-teens. I was unemployed for a bit at the end of the 70s and used to work my way through the mobile library. Stanislaw Lem and Milan Kundera around that time too, I read pretty much everything J G Ballard brought out. My favourite books of all time are Moorcock’s ‘Jerry Cornelius’ fables, and Hunter S Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. I read a lot of non-fiction now, I quite like biographies. When I was writing a lot in the 80s I followed writers I shared space with in the small press, like Steve Sneyd and Andy Darlington. I pretty much admire anyone who can get published within genres I admire.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
Yes. I’d love to be able to paint or play an instrument but I’ve no patience and I’m notoriously lazy. I used to create collage but that period of my life seems to have been tied up with recreational drug use, and when that stopped so did that particular form of inspiration.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Don’t down that optics cocktail.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’m the last person to give anyone any advice, except for the preceding question, that would have been good advice.
What is your writing process?
It doesn’t come as easily as it used to. I worked as a postman and the ideas used to crowd in while I did my delivery. I dried up for a long time after my kids were born; no act of artistic creation seemed to quite match that one. I hoped I might discover a ‘mature’ style but it doesn’t appear to have happened yet. I wrestle with stuff then cast it aside and then maybe come back and try to make it appear less forced.
John Hartley published quite a bit of Science Fiction themed poetry and prose throughout the 80s and 90s, and still has the magazines and the unsold collections to prove it. For the poetry he writes now he stares at people on trains and dredges up embarrassing incidents from his own youth.