Today our blog guest is Nick Bantock, the author of the new Perigee book THE TRICKSTER’S HAT: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity. A wonderful visual artist, Nick’s work breaks through genre conventions to create something truly different in the world of publishing–the most famous example of how he’s done this is with Griffin and Sabine, an epistolary novel fashioned from letters and postcards drawn and painted by Nick. His books feel like the perfect way to pull yourself out of the “same-old” in your routine, and discover something new about yourself as a writer.
LS: Describe for us what our community can get from your book. How does it help jump-start writing creativity?
NB: Sooner or later, as writers or artists we hit a rut. Our work becomes predictable, and we get bored with it. If we don’t find a way to change direction we hit the dreaded BLOCK. THE TRICKSTER’S HAT is made up of 49 exercises designed to help the reader slip-slide into a plethora of new universes. Some of the exercises use words, some images. Interestingly in my workshops I’ve found that it is often the collage that frees the writers and the writing that helps the artists.
LS: How does artistic expression manifest itself differently in different media for you?
NB: Marrying the words and images (intuitive and logical thinking) is I believe the key to my books working. Not a narrative that’s illustrated nor art captioned, but stories that and information that use both halves of our perceptive abilities equally. The image set free the words and visa versa. I came to the writing much later than the art and it’s taken me a while for the words to catch up. If you ask me to name my process I’d describe it as gestalt-duende…but then again, a Trickster’s Apprentice never spells it out.
LS: Your Griffin and Sabine books are like nothing else in publishing. Was breaking the mold frightening?
NB: Good grief, no, never frightening. As the song says, “What’s the point of first night nerves in a one night stand?” With Griffin and Sabine I wasn’t consciously trying to create a new genre. I was trying to express the way I felt and the way I saw the world. Creating things has always been exhilarating, mostly because I want to make something different each time I sit down. I’ve put in my 100,000 hours of painting and writing, now it’s all about letting go and seeing what pops out. Looking back, I’d say Griffin and Sabine was fired by its innate interactive novelty, a voyeurism with permission, and that’s what brought them to the public attention with such an almighty rush (which was almost totally “word of mouth” recommendations from independent book store staff). But the books’ longevity and the reason they bit deeply, was more to do with the way the story’s (art and text) alchemical roots wrapped themselves around each reader psyche in a different way.
LS: Your book challenges us to do creative exercises with pen, paint, and paper, rather than on our computers. Why?
NB: THE TRICKSTER’S HAT is hands on—no computers. For a few different reasons. Risk and accident are a big part. When you put torn paper down, cover it up and then squish paint on top, you can’t press a key and go back. What you are looking at is where you are at, and that brings in a different level of concentration and commitment. The accident part is about trusting the process and moving forward, constantly inventing and hanging on to the tiger’s tail. Also, working with tactile ‘things’ grounds and re-centers the creative core, bringing together a dance of hands and mind. Nothing wrong with computers, brilliant tools, in the right circumstances.
LS: Tell us about that process of working with your editor, Meg Leder, and the team at Perigee to make a book that is a full tactile experience.
NB: Meg is a wonderful editor. I’ve had a number so I have comparisons. The best, like Meg, play midwife. Others might be inclined to ram their personal agendas into every corner. Not Meg. She steered me through with a delicate touch, making sure my ideas didn’t get the better of me.
With my books there is a stage of pulling together the art, the text and the design. In this I had the extraordinary help of Mr. Brian Foot, my production design buddy. He and I spent many hundreds of hours with our heads nailed together moving the bits hither and thither until they clicked into place. Once that was done, Team Penguin stepped in and brought their surgical skills to the table. Not a dry eye in the house, and then…the babe was born.
LS: Your books have been published all over the world. When you see your work translated into other languages and published in other cultures, what is the weirdest part of that for you?
NB: Yep, you are bang on. It is strange seeing your books in multiple languages (and who knows how they’ve been translated!). What the weirdest part? Finding out that regardless of nationality or culture or caste, I stumblebummed into a means of self-expression that seems to meaningful to other people.
LS: Early spring is a mischievous time: mischievous weather, mischievous behavior (especially on April Fool’s Day), and it always feels like a season full of unexpected events. Anything strange or goofy happening to you lately? Any tricks played on you?
NB: Every day, The Trickster ties my shoe laces together, blindfolds me and pushes me off the edge of the cliff… that’s how each work day begins. At the moment “work” is a new fiction called The Isle of Sarte. The book has ten main characters and they are all, constantly playing tricks on me. Damn them!
Nick Bantock is the author of 25 books, including 11 New York Times bestsellers. Griffin and Sabine stayed on the NYT bestseller list for over two years. He lives in Canada. Learn more about Nick on his website, and follow him on Twitter and get doses of his inspiring, gorgeously quirky artwork by liking him on Facebook. THE TRICKSTER’S HAT is now out from Perigee Books. Use it to jump-start a springtime of creativity in your writing.
How else besides writing do you tap into your inner artist? Join the discussion on Book Country here.