Raised in the East End of London, Joseph Ridgwell (the writer) has lived in Cuba, Mexico, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Belize and Thailand -and- has lived in a shack, a boat, a bar, a brothel, bedsits, and with strangers from all over the world. At nineteen, he was stabbed in a bar brawl and, cheating death, decided to leave the UK, travel the world, and teach himself how to write. He has published novels, poetry, and short fiction from the U.K to New Zealand. His most recent work is the novella Indonesia, available from Kilmog Press.
What projects are you currently working on?
Aside from cirrhosis of the liver, and indoor assault courses for housebound cats and kittens, I’m working on a novel, called the Jago. It’s set in the East End of London in the early Edwardian era. As a genuine Eastender I felt it only right that the definitive East End novel should be written by a true Cockney, and not by some over educated cunt from Oxbridge or wherever. Also, aside from the slim volume, Into the Abyss, by an American called Jack London, there is absolutely no working class literature from this period. Aside for this, my latest novel, The Buddha Bar, will be out on Blackheath Books, sometime later this year.
When and why did you begin writing?
I saw a gap in the market, a massive fucking gap, e.g 99.9 percent of published writers were completely fucking shit. I figured I’d steam in and let them know what was what…you know liven things up a little.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I do not consider myself a writer, no man or woman can consider themselves to be a writer unless they are able to earn a living by it, and that goes for all the shit poets in the world. The wannabe writer has to ask themselves the question. What pays the rent? If the answer is their parents, the monthly check from their employer, or some government grant. Then they stack shelves in a supermarket, or are on welfare, or are subsidized by the taxpayer, e.g all students and public sector workers. I rest my case.
What inspired you to write your first book?
All the terrible books on the bookshelves, by shit writers connected or unconnected, but still controlled by the corporate mainstream publishing industry. (Actually it’s always referred to as an industry, but in reality our cultural literary heritage, past and present, is in the hands of a few incredibly wealthy freaks who, if they’re not related by blood, are all fucking each other and fucking over everyone else.) Think about it, you’re about to go on holiday and you need to buy a book at the airport, in fact you are desperate for a good read, but what choice are you presented with, fuck all choice!
Who or what has influenced your writing?
John Fante, Knut Hamsun, Jack Kerouac, Marquis de Sade, Terry Southern, Jack London, Bukowski, Celine, Blaise Cendrars, Henry Lawson, Jean Rhys, Patrick Hamilton and Richard Brautigan.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Inestimably. I’m a Cockney, we are free spirits and non conformists. In fact I don’t think Cockney’s can be referred to as English or British, they have somehow evolved into a sub-species, with their own language, mannerisms and culture. This sort of upbringing is incredibly creative. From a very young age we are taught how to lie, cheat, thieve, and fight the system at all times, manna from heaven for any would be writer.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Cosmic realism, which I invented. This is the ability to tell a story so far-fetched and bizarre and obviously not based in any sort of reality, but which the reader willingly accepts as the gospel truth. Try it, it’s not easy.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
A message I try to convey to readers of my work, is one of peace love and harmony. You know, at the time of writing, my readership is composed of a select band of visionaries. I treat each and every one of them like an extended family. They are all my children.
What book are you reading now?
A Canvey Island of the Mind by Ford Dagenham – required reading for all underground lit fiends and heads.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Hosho McCreesh US poet, Jenni Fagan Scottish writer, whose debut novel, The Panoptican will be the next big thing.
What is the most misunderstood aspect of your work?
That I’m not the greatest writer of my generation. I am, and if anyone disagrees, they misunderstand the times I write in
Any memories of particular works: the writing of, feedback, the thought behind…etc.
I wrote my debut novel, Last Days of the Cross, in under three weeks. When I tell people this they often criticize, e.g, saying I must have rushed it. I disagree. It was the only way that book could’ve been written. All I can say is get hold of a copy of the book and see or make a judgment for yourselves. As far as I’m concerned, some writers take their time, others just do it. I did it.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t bother. Do something constructive with your life, become a politician, a lawyer, a brain surgeon, or an international financier. Go make some money hammerhead.