How we met: David Huggins & Marc Quinn

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The Independent Culture
David Huggins, 39, lives in Notting Hill. He worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for 10 years before becoming a writer. His first novel, 'The Big Kiss', won the 'Literary Review' Bad Sex Award. His second novel, 'Luxury Amnesia', is set in contemporary London and features washed-up pop stars and spoilt delinquents

Artist Marc Quinn, 35, lives in Clerkenwell, London. He studied 17th-century Dutch painting at Cambridge. In 1991, Quinn's signature piece 'Self' - a bust of his head cast in his own frozen blood - brought him both respect and notoriety. Last year, Quinn published 'Incarna', a coffee-table art book with guest- written critiques. He describes art as 'concrete philosophy'

DAVID HUGGINS: I first ran into Marc about 11 years ago at a party given by the artist Daniel Chadwick. It was in Gloucestershire, near Stroud. Not long after that, Marc moved to Notting Hill and we used to hang out, get pissed together and have fun in what became known as the "W11 years". Marc was pretty wild back then, but these days he's much more circumspect.

The first work I saw of his was the blood head. It was in a tiny little gallery at the top of an office building near Oxford Circus, and it looked like a great big ice lolly. Marc had gone to this Basil Street quack to have eight pints of blood drawn to fill the mould. I soon realised that it wasn't the kind of item that was going to be suitable for the Marie Claire horoscope page, which was probably what I was working on at the time.

Sometimes the science-fiction element in Marc's work seems to spill over into our lives. I remember we'd gone to this party once, and the next day a crowd of us were out driving in the country. We were making these sloppy crop circles in figures of eight, the windows were down, and a tiny piece of wheat or corn flew into Marc's eye. Within seconds, our rural idyll became a nightmare. His eye blew-up to the size of a cricket ball, and it looked like a slit plum. It was some kind of allergic reaction and we had to rush him to hospital.

Marc and I talk on the telephone a lot. "Work avoidance", I call it. I feel that writing is very lonely; much lonelier than the kind of work that Marc does now. He always seems to be going off to Italy and getting some glass-blower to make something for him. I've tried going out of London to work, but I go bananas, run up enormous phone bills and get nothing done.

Our friendship's very easy-going; I think the thing we disagree about most is what time to go home. When Marc gave up drinking I tried too, but alcohol's a social grease and without it you can feel squeaky and wooden. Ironically, I think we get on much better now that Marc doesn't drink. It's a challenge that he's met, he's very relaxed about it, and I respect his decision. When I gave up smoking, he was really helpful. He kept reminding me that that intense longing for a cigarette would pass.

Marc's always had the bottle to follow his ideas through, and I admire that. It's quite brave to make a cast of your own body parts and display them in a West End Gallery. The truth is that he's actually quite shy, but his relationship with his own body is a tremendous source of inspiration to him. I remember staying with him at this cottage in Hampshire once, and noticing a roll of clingfilm by the bog. He'd been freeze-drying his own shit to smear on these canvases in the woods.

These days, Marc's a lot happier and I'm a lot happier, and I think our friendship has become a bit more mellow. If I had to give him a piece of unsolicited advice, it would be "get a driving licence". As he doesn't drink anymore, he might as well drive me everywhere.

MARC QUINN: I must have met David in the mid to late Eighties. I'm afraid that period's a bit of a haze, but I think it was at a party in Gloucestershire. Later, I moved into a flat directly opposite David in Notting Hill, and we started going out drinking a lot, moving in the same circles. I remember he had this little green sportscar. He'd had it for ages, and he seemed to identify with it.

David's always seemed pretty consistent to me, so I guess on first impression he came across the same as he does now. He's always had a very strong observational sense of humour. Even before the novels, it was in his conversation, and now it's become the backbone of his writing. When I first met him, he was still working as an illustrator, but he'd written this short story which I found really intriguing. It was called "The Mandragora", and it was about these miniature people living in a normal house in west London. Later, when I read The Big Kiss, I was impressed by the tightness of David's writing and the way that he just takes you straight through the story. I also like his sense of the macabre. That's something we share. If David has any other special talents, it's that he's good at roasting root vegetables. I think they're his staple nibbles while he works.

At one point, we talked about David writing something for Incarna, a book I did last year. He came up with this short story idea about billionaires being cryogenically frozen. When they wake up, instead of being cured of their illnesses and leading a normal life, they find themselves being press-ganged into appearing on this sadistic game-show where they're tortured by kids. In the end we didn't do it, because David had to finish Luxury Amnesia.

Now that I live in EC1 and David lives in W whatever it is, we have to make more of an effort to see each other. Our friendship's never hit a rocky patch; I think that one of the key reasons it's endured is that we expect absolutely nothing of each other. Increasingly, we have these great telephone conversations where we just shoot the breeze about stuff. We talk about ideas, people, different situations and substance abuse. It's a good way of breaking up the sense of isolation that we both feel when we're working, and the conversations feed the work.

We both gave up smoking within a year of each other, and about six years ago I gave up drinking. David's very interested in drinking - and in not drinking. I think he likes to talk to me to convince himself that he's not an alcoholic. I also think it's significant that our friendship has endured despite some fairly radical changes of lifestyle. We're actually better friends now than when we used to go out on the razz together. I think the thing I most admire about David is the way he's swapped careers and managed to make such a success of it.

'Luxury Amnesia', by David Huggins, is published by Faber & Faber on 23 June, price pounds 9.99

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