Joshua Ferris: The writer on hard work, an obsessive love of sports - and failing to keep up with technology


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

I have a strange relationship with technology I live a pretty analogue life. Ten years ago I felt like I was cutting-edge because I checked my emails, but now technology has completely overtaken me.

I feel grateful to have been successful so young That said, the work is what matters to me and it's where I go to find myself. I didn't love everything else that went with it and dealt with it by drinking. If it hadn't worked out, maybe I'd have tried to discover planets or cure cancer. I'd need to do something I could never exhaust.

My working day looks really boring I start at nine, I'm still going at one and it looks the same at five. Breaks for food are the most exciting bit. My wife is also a writer and we square off against each other and compete to see who can make the least noise. Hard work paves the way for luck, though. Without it you might as well just play the Lottery.

I suffer from fear of missing out in a big way I can get it just by waking up in the morning. It was worse when I was younger. There's something quite sad about still having it at the age of 39, but I'm definitely better than I used to be.

Writing is like musical improvisation I know what key a novel is in once I work out the voice. In terms of the particular notes, I have to find them as I write. Each sentence is quite intuitive and mystical – that's where the pleasure comes from.

People sometimes think I'm Jewish The new novel is partly inspired by that. It happened once on the street in New York and it was Orthodox Jews making the mistake. I admire the sturdiness the infrastructure of religion gives you. I have a longing for community.

I used to be a huge sports fan So much has fallen away from when I was younger in the pursuit of writing . The amount of obsessive love displayed in rooting for a team always fascinated me. I have a friend who reached the stage of obsession where he couldn't even watch hockey any more so he switched to soccer. It was all too much for him.

I realised I wanted to be a writer when I was 13 I read Nabokov but understood none of it. I was too young to get what was going on, but I knew that whatever was in there was adult, cool and beautiful and I wanted to be part of it. Then, when I was 17, writing a book seemed so impossible and like it might be a worthy thing to devote a life to. The whole idea was daunting and compelling; like most teenagers I could barely gather my thoughts enough to write my name down never mind a book.

I suffer from fashion myopia I'm always horrified once I get a bit of distance after I've bought something. These days I just wear pretty much the same thing every day. I'm a lot like Superman in that respect.

You should never try too hard to please others as a writer Only please yourself. Pursue your own interests. My biggest influences all adhere to that maxim: Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. The same could be said of [the rock band] The National. They're a very curious group but they're brilliant.

The thing I'm proudest of is that I've managed to achieve some measure of hard-fought contentment. I'm surprised to find myself at ease to some extent. I used to moan about almost everything.

Joshua Ferris, 39, is the author of 'Then We Came to the End'. His new novel, 'To Rise Again at a Decent Hour', is published on Thursday (Viking, £16.99)