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Interview with DC Gallin, author of ‘Kiss the Sky’

10 September 2012 | Charlie Kenber

"The 90’s were the 60’s upside down if you like... times of change, innovation and expanded consciousness which enabled us to think and communicate the way we do now..."

London Calling: It must have been an amazing year, what with getting the novel out and the response it has received. How does it feel?

DC Gallin: It feels great, especially when Kiss the Sky makes an impact on people’s lives and readers come back to me and say ‘hey, I’m cycling everywhere now’, or ‘I know I’m doing the right thing after reading your book’. Thanks to social media I’m striking some deep, lasting friendships through KTS and that is fantastic.

LC: To what degree does the novel draw on your personal experiences?

DG: Ah that old chestnut! The art is autobiographical and right now the story of the book seems so much more real to me than anything that happened in the distant past, some of it blurred and merged into the story of KTS. For the rest I mostly played God. That’s what makes fiction writing so addictive: the all-powerful writer creating a reality that takes on a life of its own with unexpected twists and turns that teach us so much about life.

LC: London plays a central role in the book – what does the city mean to you? Does the East End hold special significance?

DG: I’ve lived in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris but London is my spiritual home. London is one of the most progressive cities in the world and that is where I found the path I’m still on today. In the 90’s the East End was simply the most affordable place to be. I loved Brick Lane Market and the people, so unaffected and real and then there was always that Dickensian touch, as if any moment a bare-footed street urchin could appear and take you on a different tour of London.

LC: You chose to set the novel in the 1990s, with great reference to the 60s – why this focus?

DG: Because in both eras the freedom of exploring alternative realities was the crux:
 What is material abundance without freedom? There is very little literary fiction covering the spirit of the nineties and I really, really don’t agree with the handle ‘the chemical generation’. Far too facile, like it was only about the drugs and not about music and unity, hope and freedom! The 90’s were the 60’s upside down if you like: both were times of experimental drug use, but most importantly they were - as a direct result of those experiments - times of change, innovation and expanded consciousness which enabled us to think and communicate the way we do now.

LC: You’ve mentioned before that you are exploring challenges to creative freedom. How do you think it has changed since the 90s – especially in light of the recent Pussy Riot case?

DG: In the 90s our creative freedom lead us to gather in abandoned quarries or buildings to dance, with no security or violence … The criminal justice bill made that illegal:
I counted NINE cameras directed at one single street corner of dancers during Notting Hill carnival. Is that acceptable? Do we really need governments to protect us from ourselves? Have we turned into a nation of farmed citizens under constant surveillance of cameras? An Orwellian reality created by a population enthralled by ‘made in China’ gadgets?
The Pussy Riot case is a good example of how we can harness online communication to question those in authority. Who knows what would have happened to them without the eyes of the world watching? Whether this ability to connect on-line will lead to greater creative freedom depends entirely on us as individuals taking part in the real world as well.

LC: The first couple of thousand book sales came from an impressive feat of personal selling – how did selling in London compare to that in Thailand and Ibiza? In what ways did Londoners respond differently?

DG: Well, I was selling the book in places such as Camden, Shoreditch and Portobello Road and by the time I’d done six months on the beaches in Thailand, I was experienced enough to select the right customers from a big crowd. One day in Camden Market was totally amazing: I approached 26 people in total and every single one of them said yes, one after the other! So it wasn’t that different, really. On the beach you take your clues from the books people are reading, the towels they lie on, in an urban environment you can observe the clothes they’re wearing, festival bracelets or other little clues. In other words you can train yourself to find relaxed, generous-looking folks especially when you go to places where people gather for art and music in the first place.

LC: London clearly inspired this novel, and you used to live here, but what made you move away?

DG: I haven’t really moved away! We come and go all the time to work and I cannot imagine my life without London, but we want our children to relate to nature and to learn another language while growing up. That’s important to us.

LC: Excitingly it sounds as if your next book is already well under way. What can we expect, and have you drawn on similar experiences?

DG: I’m flattered you find it exciting! That’s just what I need to hear to be spurred on: The next novel is set in India and I will draw from our experiences in the Goa scene, how we decided to stay on when we ran out of money and live and work like the Indians instead of flying home. That period taught us how to live our life as perpetually self-employed artists and that it’s possible to go into the streets and peddle whatever you make, be it art, food or books…

Kiss the Sky by DC Gallin is available to purchase online from Amazon UK.

Image credit: Amy Tatum

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