INTERVIEW – Chris McNamee
I was pleased to get to interview another author, local writer Chris McNamee, who just published his first book, Love, Lust and the Last Resort.
About the book:
Love, Lust and the Last Resort dog ears a chapter of a young writer’s transition into manhood. This collection of poems and stories take readers on an exploration of passion and the uncontrollable misunderstandings that come with falling in love. With genuine honesty and vivid detail, McNamee puts into words what he could not speak creating a time capsule of the most formative decade of his life. It chronicles the search for affection in a time surrounded by self discovery and bewilderment. From his teenage years to late twenties – from first love to first regret – he documents his struggles and hopes for happiness all the while battling the realization that dreams and ambitions, for both romance and life, are sometimes just that. – via Letters from Afar
We chatted about the book, literary influences, the writing and publishing processes, and of course, Hamilton!
IHH: You just released your first book Love, Lust and the Last Resort. The collection of writing explores a decade of your life, from your teenage years to now. Over how long of a period were these written? Did you know when writing that you wanted to someday put together a collection for a book?
Chris: In the days before mobile phones, I picked up a notebook to keep busy waiting at a bus stop. I’ve never able to doodle or draw so I would write as a means to pass the time. One notebook turned into another and another until I found a style I enjoyed and then I couldn’t stop myself. Even then, I wouldn’t have pictured myself writing a book. In fact, I didn’t think I would ever have enough (coherent) material to ever do so.
Your writings are obviously very personal. Is it ever difficult to be so open with your writing? Are you ever hesitant to share with the public your thoughts and experiences?
I’ve always hesitated to share anything I wrote but over the years it became easier. My biggest fear was that the wrong criticism would take the fun out of it for me, but without sharing it, it’s hard to develop as a writer. Once you grow out of nervousness and doubt it gets easier. To help with that, I began writing tales as an onlooker. I picture how it is to be in certain situations and also to watch someone in that situation – to see the topic in two different lights as if it’s not happening to me, it’s happening to someone else. That mentality separates me from the story in a sense and by doing so, makes it no longer about the perspective of one personal moment but how that moment reflected on everyone involved in the story.
I picked up on a nautical theme a few times, and it was all the more fitting the book’s launch was at The Ship! What is it about the sea/ocean and that type of imagery that you’re drawn to?
The ocean has always been a curiosity for me; there is something about the tales and lifestyle of the sea that is timeless. From Captain Ahab or the HMS Bounty to present, not much has changed; it’s that stability coupled with an unknowing sense of adventure that interests me.
Haha. I love the Ship and the folks there, it seemed like a good fit for both of us and luckily, it worked out.
What’s your writing process like? Do you sit down with the intention to write or does inspiration just strike and you’re compelled to scribble something down?
Sometimes it’s easy – you get a thought and your hands can’t stop moving. Other times, it could sit on the shelf for months or years. When I write I often think of a scenario anyone can relate too, a situation we’d like to see happen or, maybe not happen. In any case, I think about what it would be like to experience it, what it would be like to recite that experience to someone else and what somebody watching might think. With each perspective the details differ but get more precise. The more elements and detail the easier I find it to tell the story.
I often ask musicians about their musical influences and I guess it’s the same with writing. Are there writers who inspire you or do you try not to think about that when writing?
There are writers that inspire me but it’s more often to try and be a better writer. Haha.
I’m a bit of an old soul when it comes to many things and reading is no exception. I find much interest in the classic heavyweights – Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford, T.S. Elliot, Edward Thomas – mostly because of the uncensored style of the dialog and topics during the time period. Creatively, I’ve always found interest in people like Andy Warhol, Roger Waters or Jim Morrison that followed emotion as oppose to traditional structure.
What was the process like to independently publish the book?
I did much research before deciding to go at it independently. My background is in graphic design and journalism. I worked at both for many years and because of that, the process for me was slightly easier. I wanted to control every aspect – the layout, the design and cover, everything – so it was the prefect route for me. However, without my past knowledge I would have been lost, although you can get help from companies and other resources, but I found they lacked the personality I was looking for. Independence means exactly that. There are no editors or advisors (unless you pay for them) so it’s tough there and a lot of work but it can be easy if you know the right people.
The book is available online but also in local bookshops The James Street Bookseller, J.H. Gordon, and Bryan Prince Bookseller (all of which have been featured on I Heart Hamilton – great shops!). How have you found the support of Hamilton for local talent?
James Street Bookseller and Bryan Prince Bookseller have been so good to me; great support from them. I have been pretty positive about the response I got from Hamilton in this regard. Folks in this city have been supportive in all the best ways. I didn’t know of too many locals releasing independent books so I knew it would be a bit of an uphill battle. I’ve been a promoter of local music and shops for almost a decade (running events, shows and so on) but that was easy compared to this. The city prides itself on support of local musicians and artists but there isn’t many venues for local authors so I knew that may be a struggle… and it was. The support I received from local media and businesses were non-existent. I mean, I don’t expect everyone to get it but it’s disappointing when places claim to support local people or buy local products because it is a trendy thing to say. It’s sad to see. Luckily, folks who want to show support do and go out of their way to do so. It’s reassuring to know there is a community behind you regardless of backing from the ‘establishment’. Plus, there are folks like you that encourage all talent in Hamilton, which is always fantastic!
You also have prints and postcards available of Hamilton and other places you’ve travelled to (which I like – it goes with my tourist motif!). I also like how your website pairs up photography with a piece of writing. Which came first for you – the writing or photography?
Since I was a kid with a Polaroid camera, I’ve been shooting pictures and loving it. I began pairing the two together as a means to change the dynamic of the entries. I could think of the setting one way but by adding photos, the whole concept and language could be read in a different way. As I said, I’m a bit of an old soul when it comes to nostalgia. I had much fun as a child writing and receiving letters, there was something so personal about it. That’s how I wanted the site to read, as if a friend from far out places still kept you in mind – even halfway across the world.
A lot of Hamilton sights are documented in your images. As you say, many shots are hidden gems of the city. What do you find inspiring about Hamilton?
I’ve always been in love with this town. Even in its old condition, rundown and dirty, I liked it. It had character that nobody talked about, you had to go out and find it. A scavenger hunt for the rustic beauty that was once so prominent – it peaked my interest and is where I found the inspiration to capture it. Everyone always spoke about New York and Montreal as having these historical landscapes but Hamilton had much of the same classic architecture and clever designs. I wanted to prove to people that it did exist. I mean, we’re no New York City, but we do have a long history and it’s something I’m glad I realized before so much of it disappeared.
Favourite place to eat in Hamilton: Shehnai Restaurant
Favourite breakfast food: Square Sausage
If you were an alcoholic beverage, what would you be? Whiskey
Your go-to karaoke song: Anything Bryan Adams!
If you could speak flawlessly with any other accent, what would it be? Spanish
Favourite word: Piggly-wiggly
Favourite concert/live performance you’ve seen: Franz Ferdinand
What is on your playlist right now: Holy Ghost, Bleached and 112.
If you could detour to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? South Korea
Favourite mode of transportation: Boat
What’s one thing on your bucket list: Time Travel
My thanks to Chris for taking the time to chat! Be sure to pick up copy of Love, Lust and the Last Resort at a local bookstore.