Although he’s not a first-time author, Benjamin Myers’ latest book is the first he’s written under his full name. Nick Ahad met the writer.
After years of music journalism and two published novels, Benjamin Myers is able to claim his own name.
So far in his writing career he has written under the name Ben Myers, but has made the conscious decision that, with his latest novel, Pig Iron, he is publishing under his entire given name.
“I’ve been trying at this for 15 years and I feel like this is the thing that I’ve been wanting to write,” he says. “It’s the first time that I’ve written anything entirely fictional and it’s taken a long time to get to this point.”
Presumably, then, the writer thinks he has cracked it. “I don’t think any writer ever feels like they’ve really ‘cracked it’. You’re always trying to get better and improve, become a better writer.”
While Pig Iron was three years in the writing, Myers has been working at his craft for some considerable time.
The 36-year-old has spent most of his career so far working in the world of music journalism, far removed from the country dwelling existence he now enjoys in Hebden Bridge.
It was a move to the Yorkshire countryside, away from London and the hectic pace of the lifestyle, that allowed him the distance to finally write the novel he wanted to complete.
“It sounds such a cliche, but I just wanted to get away from the city and be closer to nature,” says Myers.
“I grew up near Durham and so being near to nature is really important and it really feeds in to my writing.”
It was while studying English Literature at the University of Bedfordshire that Myers began a career in professional writing. He began by sending articles to Melody Maker and was soon working on a freelance basis for the magazine. Within days of graduating he was on the doorstep of the office, a staff job opened up and he took it.
He spent three years working for the music magazine and had a lifestyle that many would envy.
“It really was as you’d imagine – getting a call and being told you were getting sent to Beverley Hills to interview Marilyn Manson the following day, flying backwards and forwards to New York to do interviews,” he says.
“It was at the height of Britpop, which I had no interest in, so it felt like I was one of the few people who was writing about the more extreme end of heavy metal and that sort of stuff. I was interviewing Rage Against the Machine and bands like that, I was the first person to interview Marilyn Manson after he withdrew from public life after the Columbine High School Massacre.”
It was a fun time, but Myers’ health suffered and he developed a stomach ulcer.
“It was quite a rock and roll lifestyle I guess, but it’s not the best thing for your health.” He left the staff job and began working as a freelancer again, writing for NME, Mojo, The Guardian and an assortment of other magazines. He also continued to work on his other writing, the fiction and creative writing.
“It’s just something that I have always done. The journalism, when I went freelance, was something I did to buy me time to write. I’d work for a couple of weeks, then take a week off to write.”
His first book, The Book of F*** was published in 2004 by Wrecking Ball Press and told a fictionalised account of a hapless music journalist. It received wide acclaim and his second book, Richard: A Novel, was a fictionalised account of what happened to Manic Street Preachers’ guitarist Richey Edwards, who disappeared in 1995. The controversy around the book was similar to that faced by David Peace, who wrote a fictionalised account from the first person perspective of Brian Clough.
With his latest, first entirely fictional, novel, Myers may have finally arrived – and with his own name.
Pig Iron by Benjamin Myers
The story of a traveller who hasn’t travelled, a young man fighting for survival.
John-John, of Durham traveller stock, wants to escape his past, but the legacy of brutality left by his bare-knuckle boxing father, King of the Gipsies Mac Wisdom, overshadows his life.
Despite his last novel being published by Picador, Myers chose to go with local publisher Bluemoose books, to allow more “creative control and freedom”.
The decision appears to have paid off, with one national newspaper already providing a glowing review.
Published May 31, book signings, Waterstones Leeds June 9, Bradford, June 30.