Mr Writer

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I am interviewed by Kelly Buckley in the first issue of The Great Small Fishes (September-November 2007):

MR WRITER

Andrew Gallix is The Editor-in-Chief at the critically acclaimed literary magazine, 3:AM. Not only has he been hailed as a man who has championed underground writing for years, but his own delicious oeuvre, published via the internet or small press, is well worth checking out. His style has been described as if ‘he invented Warhol on Monday, punk rock on Tuesday and then took the rest of the week off after declaring the project a sodding mess’ by renowned author Jim Ruland. Among other literary-related side-projects of Andrew’s, the 42-year-old is also part of a music band called The Ungodly Hours, the members of which are all writers. Oh, and if that isn’t bohemian enough for you, Andrew is half-English and half-French and lives in Paris.

Q: How do you think your passion for literature began?
A: Sadness and madness is the short answer. I don’t want to turn this into a sob story, but I had a very unhappy childhood during which make-believe was my only refuge. I used to invent characters I literally lived with: not only did I draw their pictures and write stories about them, but — more worryingly perhaps — I would talk to them all the time in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought for one minute that these characters were real, but their ‘presence’ was such a source of comfort that I came to view interaction with other human beings — especially of my age — as a distraction from my mind games. For instance, I would hold silent conversations with my imaginary friends at the same time as I was talking to real people. The result is that I perceived reality through the idealistic prism of fiction and, like Emma Bovary, found it sorely lacking. Tom McCarthy, the author of Remainder, was telling me about trauma victims’ feeling of unreality and compulsion to re-enact the traumatic experience — the only one that seems real to them. My relationship with books and writing is linked to something very similar. Anyway, those who knew me as a kid always say that I was always either reading or writing. Both activities went hand-in-hand: if I read a book I liked, I started trying to write something similar. Nothing much has changed.

Q: Who have been your main influences throughout life, personally, professionally, creatively etc?
A: I could quote many writers who have meant so much to me over the years, but if I had to single out one defining influence, I’d have to say: punk. The punk movement was my Dada, my Surrealism, my May 1968… Nothing comes close to the adrenaline rush of those days. The fact that I was a kid at the time also meant that I experienced the whole thing at one remove, so it remained untainted by the necessary disappointments of reality. Trying to recapture that excitement is one of my main goals as a writer.

Q: What made you start 3:AM Magazine?
A: The site already existed. It had been launched by an enterprising young American called Kent Wilson. I sent him one of my short stories, he published it, we exchanged ideas on how to transform 3:AM into a proper webzine and he immediately offered me the position of editor-in-chief. Why did I accept his offer? Because webzines were a new phenomenon and everything was yet to be invented. Because I had this clear vision of a magazine which would put cutting-edge fiction into a wider cultural context through literary news (“Buzzwords” was arguably the world’s very first literary blog), or music coverage (many of the authors we liked had been influenced by punk, indie or rave music). The last reason, which I wasn’t fully conscious of at the time, is that 3:AM would provide the perfect excuse not to focus on what was most important to me: my own writing!

Q: What drives you to continue with it and your other projects every day?
A: The main reason why I’ve never been able to pack it in is that we’ve been so damn successful. Lots of other similar webzines have appeared in our wake, but I still think there is something pretty unique about what we’re doing. 3:AM is also a collective endeavor whereas writing is a very solitary exercise. That collective element restores a little sanity in my life.

Q: Did you imagine 3:AM would take off in the way that it has? Did you have a goal in mind at the beginning or has it been a purely organic process?
A: I had a clear vision of a post-punk literary magazine, but I had no idea we would become so influential. The internet was still largely uncharted territory back in 2000. There were already many websites publishing poetry and fiction, but no online literary magazines as such. We pretty much created the template, not only with our blog, but also by embracing the digital age. Most of our contemporaries were secretly hoping to graduate from the Net to traditional paper organs. We didn’t, which is why we soon abandoned the monthly issue format and went ‘live’ with constant updates. Similarly, we were the first truly international webzine with editors located all over the world collaborating on a daily basis although none of us (at the time) had ever met.

Q: You have quite a team working with you now at 3:AM now. How did the team grow?
A: At first, it was just me, then people gradually started getting in touch. Whenever I received really interesting submissions I tried to bring the authors on board. Today, we have a pretty large team but most of the work is still done by two or three people.

Q: Please tell us about the 3:AM book, The Edgier Waters, how it came about, how it was funded, etc?
A: We’d been toying with the idea of an anthology for a while and 3:AM‘s fifth anniversary seemed the perfect opportunity. The main problem is that most anthologies don’t sell, so publishers were very reluctant, which is why I came to the conclusion that we were wasting our time. Andrew Stevens then met James Bridle who worked for a new cutting-edge publisher called Snowbooks and it turned out that they were willing to publish it. There were no funding issues as the book was released by a proper publisher. Had we not found Snowbooks, we may have gone down the self-publishing route.

Q: Please tell us how you make a living — do any of your independent projects make you money?
A: I have been teaching at the Sorbonne University in Paris for quite a while now. The day job funds all my other projects, none of which have ever made any money (apart from journalism). I’d love to be able to write full-time. Then again, having a day job means that I don’t have to make any compromises in my writing. Paradoxically, many ‘alternative’ writers spend their time trying to make money precisely because they have shunned a steady day job, although there is little demand for what they produce.

Q: Can you tell us more about The Ungodly Hours and what exactly your involvement is.
A: I’ve always liked writers in bands, so we decided to create a band composed solely of writers as a kind of art project. Vim Cortez, who edits Paris Bitter Hearts Pit, writes most of the music. Matthew Coleman, with whom I’m editing the forthcoming Offbeat Generation anthology, is the singer. I play bass, drums and manage the band. Film should be a big part of this project (Matthew is also a film director), but we haven’t got round to that yet.

Q: Would you like to get a big publishing deal?
A: I’d love to.

Q: What can we expect next from Andrew Gallix?
A: Well, there’s the Offbeat Generation anthology I’m co-editing, which will be published by Social Disease towards the end of the year. I have a couple of short stories in forthcoming anthologies. I’m also working on a series of interviews for 3:AM, as well as a non-fiction piece. The next big step will be the novel.

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