His latest work, Phoebe Jeebies And The Man Who Annoyed Everybody, is a love story/satirical tale told through the colourful prism of Bracha-Vision.
PMM got in a few words with the man.
PFatMWAE is, as its title tells us, a book filled to its evil brim with ways of poking fun at the seriousness of fellow humans and their choices to conform to the 9 to 5 life, why did you choose to focus on cultural pranksterism and its way of exposing the hypocrisy and desperation in a bid to enlighten or enrage others?
It stems from my own insecurities and concerns about what I’m doing, I guess, and the balancing act in my head between writing (and wishing I could hit that one break so that I could comfortably do it for a living) and working to pay the bills/feed my family. I’m forever envious of the creatives who’ll always claim not to be cut out for the 9-5 life, and who actually make the leap to make it work. The pranksterism simply gave me the widest scope for having fun with selecting parts of my own insecurities to lampoon.
I’m the writer who wants to get paid, I’m the gamer who throws a controller, I’m the person who’ll throw his arms up in a rage at the injustice of somebody getting served before me at the bar. A major part of it came from a cold shower that ruined my whole day a couple of months back. I mean, I went to a seriously dark place. After a night’s sleep and some reflection, it astounded me how much I could let such a small thing affect me enough to waste a full day. I considered that the small things do have the power to make or break us depending on our state of mind, so pranking society became the vehicle for my message that we are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of all of time, why waste it sweating the small stuff?
These days the idea of trolling others is seen, especially online, as a way of hurting others out of spite. In your book and other work, besides dragging your characters through the blocked u-bend of a story, you seem to view them with a certain disdain that even your characters are self-aware of.
How much do you view your role as a writer as one of a King-Troll, poking at your characters with a shitty stick to expose the corruption inside themselves?
Quite a lot, to be honest. Human nature fascinates me, especially the part that we keep hidden from plain view. I think we all have the capacity for badness inside us, even the inherently nice people among us. I find it to be a far more interesting ride as a writer to find the limits of even the kindest and sweetest of characters, then push them further and harder until something happens. Until either their goodness prevails or they snap and become as bad as the rest of the cast. I’m the schoolyard bully. They’re the new kids from two years below. I’ll find out how many of them have what it takes to make it through to the end of the ordeal. If they do, then fair play to them. They’ve earned my respect.
The way you tell the story through the lense of Phoebe and the protagonist’s seemingly loving relationship makes for an interesting juxtaposition to the more depraved aspects of the story.
How important is it, do you think, for a writer to act as a conductor, guiding the audience’s sympathy and keeping them on their toes while the story develops?
I think it’s very important. The juxtaposition is most certainly an intentional device to hopefully take the audience on a journey of mixed emotions. While some of my previous work actively breaks the fourth wall to get a message across, I wanted this book to be some way more subtle but no less effective in its mission to highlight our shortfalls. We laugh at the misfortune of others with some serious regularity, and as long as everybody else is laughing, we won’t stop. The past tense part of the tale is intended to drag you in as a willing and laughing accomplice to the wicked acts, before the present pulls you back in admonishment. Phoebe is Jiminy Cricket to your Pinocchio, hopefully making you feel slightly guilty about yourself. If it doesn’t, then well done, you proved my point about us being terrible people.
How many of the dirty unlovable bastards or events that inhabit Bracha-world are inspired by real life? Outside of other writers what else sparks your writing and its frisky world-view?
Apart from After Call Work, which is directly inspired by my time working in a call centre, most are inspired by taking a throwaway comment I’ve heard on the bus or a story I’ve seen somebody live out on Facebook, or the slightest of concepts, and stretching it to its exaggerated limit. My inspiration does come from eavesdropping on society, be it in public, or through viral stories and the response to them. I like to give back-stories to conversations I’ve overheard, and see if they have legs enough to kick-start a novel. The woman I can hear behind me now, for example. She’s on the phone saying she’d rather have no friends than those friends. If I were looking to start a new book now, that might be it. The chances are that somebody’s been mean about her and it’s got back to her. In my head, they’ve done very much worse than that, and she’s about to get taken on a very dark journey as she pushes back.
Do you think current audiences are more – or less – sophisticated than before? Is there a sense of affected boredom in our 24/7 internet world, and where does that leave us, as writers?
I think audiences are very much the same as always, it’s just that the divide between those who perceive themselves as sophisticated and those who don’t grows wider, and it’s probably driven by those who do, myself included. The belief that what we love is somehow better because it’s slightly more considered and artistically relevant than something intended to provide mindless entertainment. You’ve seen the meme, I’m sure. Something about one song from the seventies being written, arranged and performed by one artist or band, versus the Beyoncé song that has about ten people working on it and it mostly consists of the word ‘girls’? That’s the perfect illustration of the divide, right there.
As a writer, I try to cover both sides, by making my work an easy read in its delivery and use of language, but a difficult and in some way more credible read in its content, to try to engage everybody. Whether I’ve been successful in this mission isn’t for me to say. For writers in general, and with the way publishing is going, it’s a struggle. There are divides everywhere. Traditional publishing versus indie publishing, publishing house versus self publishing, ‘credible’ self publishers versus ‘chancers’. I don’t think I answered your question. First world audiences have unlimited access to pretty much anything because of the internet, and there’s a lot of pretty much anything out there. As writers, we have to find ways of telling already told stories in new ways to keep them on their toes.
Last two questions… Greatest prankster in history?
Jeremy Beadle. I loved that tiny-handed bastard. I’m sure there’s a more cerebral answer to this question, but you can’t deny Jeremy Beadle’s ability to put some glasses and a police uniform on and make you believe he’s not Jeremy Beadle. Lesser pranksters would need full blown surgery for that.
And… look in your crystal ball and tell us what is next for Ryan Bracha if the human race actually survives until the end of the 2016…
Lots going on, fella. I hope to put four books out in 2017. Ryan Bracha the writer is going to be adapting Phoebe Jeebies for the screen to try to sell, as well as immediately focusing on finishing the second book from the After Call Work series. I do still intend to resurrect the Exquisite Corpse project, and also I’d like to write a companion piece novel for Phoebe Jeebies, from a female perspective. I have a character from a short story that I think would be perfect for it. Beyond that, I have a novel set in the cut throat world of TV quizzes called Turkey Vs Chicken that’s about 10k words in. Ryan Bracha the man is going to try to be a better person. I’m 37 now and have a 2 year daughter old to train, being a cunt is more effort than it used to be.
Bio: Ryan Bracha is the author of nine novels and an anthology, and is doing his best to cultivate and cement a reputation for infinitely entertaining and original writing. He lives in Barnsley with his wife and daughter.