We’ve been fortunate enough to speak to some authors who have created great stories of Glasgow and the people in it but this time, we’re catching up with an author that has been around the world a bit and found a little piece called home in the Weeg.
Jimmy Wilde’s collection of short stories called ‘Albania & The Moon’ has been receiving some pretty good write-ups in all manner of places recently, so we decided to catch up with him to get some insight into his work and the man behind the book.
Jimmy, in brief, how would you describe your life and journey to this point in time?
In brief? Wobbly.
Your short-story collection is entitled ‘Albania & The Moon’. Have you been to either?
I’ve never been to Albania, but I may have connected to the moon at a party.
What is your favourite place in the world?
I’ve enjoyed a little bit of travel, although nowhere near enough. I stayed in London for a long time and I still like it, but I couldn’t afford to live there. I never really could, to be honest, but as you get older you also want a bit more for your money like your own space. I’ve been in Glasgow for 3 years now and it’s good. In fact, I can see my favourite place from my window.
What would you consider to be the biggest influences on your work?
Back in the early 90s, I was living in a grim bedsit in a ramshackle house in Hammersmith, where the landlady was a miser. She had to sleep on the chair because the bed was full of junk that she couldn’t chuck out, and every nook and cranny of her room was crammed with garbage that would never see the light of day again. I was only in her room once, to pay the deposit, and she offered me a bowl of soup. I declined and was glad about it, because on the way out I saw some rotten vegetables and realised that’s what would have gone in the pot. The bedsit was tiny (I could touch both walls if I stretched out) and this was where my life was contained. At the time, there was a program on TV called ‘Halfway To Paradise’. I was watching on a 5” TV screen that someone had given me (Nowadays, 5” screens are cool, back then a friend cried when they saw it). This particular night, James Kelman came on and read from his book of short stories ‘Greyhound For Breakfast’.
The characters reminded me of Airdrie, where I’d grown up. In London, I’d tell stories of those days and people had said I should write them down, but I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading about that world, those people and the way that they spoke. That reading from Kelman (I think the first and only time I’ve seen him on the telly) planted a seed in my head that maybe I could write from this world, but it would be a couple of years before I wrote my first short story.
Later, when I started writing more regularly, I was reading the Rebel Inc classics and I think they would have had a big influence on me at the time. To what extent, it’s hard to quantify, but those are the books I was reading when I started writing a novel. John Fante, Knut Hamsun, Nelson Algren and Richard Brautigan. Trainspotting was a big eyeopener too. The novel was finished about 13 years ago, but will remain locked away in the dusty recesses of my hard drive.
What was your first short story about?
It was about a guy struggling to get out of bed in the morning, contemplating the situation as he smoked his first cigarette of the day. By the time the fag has reached the end, he’s decided against his better judgement that he wasn’t going to work, even though he was on his last warning.
Is it autobiographical?
I think when you start writing, you draw a lot on what you know so it’s probably fair enough to say there was a lot of me in that. Things weren’t running smoothly at that particular time and I probably wrestled a lot with myself, but I wouldn’t have lost a job in a similar manner. When you start writing, I found, there’s a point where reality and fiction fuse. So it doesn’t really matter if I would have acted in the same way, so long as the character is real and believable. It could have been about me, but it could also have been about tens of thousands of other people on that particular morning.
Why have you no plans to do anything with your novel?
I think I don’t like the main character anymore. I think I’d like to move on to something else. I wrote it years ago and stopped writing for a few years, while I got into other things. I have the desire back and the ideas too. For a number of years, the ideas weren’t coming so gradually I stopped taking my pad and pen with me everywhere I went. The short stories were started many years ago, but last year I revisited them. They needed some work, but I felt they had some merit so I decided to start working on them. I then met Glasgow illustrator Adrian McMurchie and showed him a few stories and he was interested, so we took it from there. His illustrations are fantastic and really complement the stories.
Albania & The Moon book has received a lot of praise and positive write-ups. How do you deal with people saying nice things about your work?
There have been a few positive write-ups on Amazon, but I’ve not been inundated so I don’t think I’ll be getting too carried away. It’s good to know that some people like it. I got a great endorsement from Gordon Legge, who I’ve never met but contacted after reading his excellent book of short stories In Between Talking About The Football. When you’re an unknown writer, it’s hard getting people to read your work, so it was greatly appreciated. As for people liking it, I think you have to realise that no one has ever written anything that has been liked by everyone, so conversely there will always be someone who likes what you’ve done. Then you take it from there. Ultimately, I guess the main person you have to convince is yourself because if you don’t then the characters aren’t going anywhere.
What are the highlights in an average week in the life of Jimmy Wilde?
I’ve been living like a wolf for a while, but there have been a few changes recently so I’m looking forward to rejoining the world.
One of the stories focuses on making a connection in different countries due to footballers. Has a connection to your Glasgowness or Scottishness ever opened doors for you abroad?
The last story in the book is based on a true story, so that was a bit of a lifesaver, in the heat of Spain with no food or water and stuck miles between towns. Apart from that, I don’t think so. I once said in the pub that Malcolm Rifkind got me a job in London after he nearly ran me down whilst driving erratically. It was totally made up, so I was surprised when someone brought it up about five years later having believed it all that time. It was just one of those bits of bullshit that you don’t expect someone to believe. I also once told a couple of Australian fanatics of Keanu Reeves that I used to play cards with his granny in Fife. They badgered me for an intro to the granny, so I had to come clean on that one too. I’d only been to Fife once in my life at that point for the time it takes to get in and out of a football match in Dunfermline.
There are also a number of stories focusing on characters in enjoying a session or dealing with the aftermath of a “good night out”. How close are these stories to the real life experiences of Jimmy Wilde?
As above, I think the thing with fiction is that you can really do whatever you want, so long as it’s plausible in that context. Some characters might be entirely made up, some might be an amalgamation of other characters and some situations in the stories might be near enough bang on the truth, such as the rubber gloves stuff up the toilet. That particular example might seem too daft to be based on a true story, even though it is, so the lines can be blurred between fact and fiction and it often doesn’t really matter. That said, ultimately, they are fiction. You probably leave a bit of yourself in a story though, a faint mental signature perhaps. I’m not really sure, I never studied literature so I’m always impressed by people who can talk in some depth about these things.
Do you have plans for any future collections?
I do, yes. I have a lot of notes for stories and I have an idea for a novel. I started scribbling the beginnings of it. I’ll keep the plot to myself for the time being.
If you could quickly justify why someone should buy your book… how would you do it?
It’s dark and it’s funny, just like Glasgow.
You can find the book on Amazon, by following these links:
Kindle: Albania & The Moon
Book: Albania & The Moon
Both: Book and Kindle
If you want to find out more about Jimmy, be sure to check out these pages:
Site: Jimmy’s website
Twitter: Jimmy’s Twitter