Hindsight is one of our favourite blog features: we ask our favourite authors to confess what they'd change about their first book. James Smythe goes under the gun for this instalment. Although you might know him from The Explorer or The Testimony, before those books, there was Hereditation...
I had a conversation with a bookseller recently about debut novels. We were surrounded by piles of Nick Harkaway’s second (amazing) novel, Angelmaker, and talking about how different it is to The Gone-Away World, his (amazing) debut. The bookseller likened TGAW to Zadie Smith’s White Teeth: a sense that the book was all-encompassing, wide-reaching, so full of things, of knowledge, of stuff that the authors were desperate to say. He asked about my first novel, Hereditation: whether it shared similar ideas. I hung my head in shame. It tried to, but nobody should read it, I said. It’s just not very good.
Hereditation (and really, what a godawful title) was born out of my doing a PhD. In a story far too long (and potentially litigious) for here and now, I had to come up with a new creative component for my Critical & Creative Writing doctorate when my first supervisor left the university. I had been working on a post-apocalyptic novel about religion (two things I’d revisit when I wrote The Testimony), and when she went, I needed something different. My new supervisor asked if I had anything else, anything fresh that would work. I was going to, essentially, start the PhD again.
I’d been toying with something that was, then, called The Sloane Brothers. It was initially inspired by Frasier – as all good art should be – specifically, an episode where Niles compares his relationship with Frasier to being like the Collyer Brothers.