Filer nails it – Nathan Filer at Swindon Festival of Literature

16 May
Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Luckily ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is not a kiss and tell memoir by Mark E. Smith’s dentist, but an award-winning jewel of a book by first time novelist Nathan Filer.

Written completely from the point of view of nine-year old Matthew, the book has an implied darkness from the very start.

Filer was an enlightening guest, as he described the process of writing his novel from the very first moment the phrase ‘I had no intention of putting up a fight but these guys weren’t taking any chances’ entered his head and wouldn’t stop repeating.

A name – ‘Matthew Holmes’ followed the phrase and the book had begun.

But this was all back in 2004, Nathan lived with Matthew in his head for eight years, eight years working as a mental health nurse on one of the most challenging wards in Bristol.

Filer gave a great insight into his thinking and writing process and how a book changes in shape and is molded. He wrote many early drafts, all of which he rejected, he started to understand that the book was about knowing Matthew.

Part of the task was the get the jargon just right and also get the moments of calm accurately caught too, obviously his job helped him with this but again Filer returned to the to the idea of inhabiting what Matthew found important. He had to know Matthew better than anyone, better than Matthew himself.

Filer also gave some interesting insight into an often ignored area of successful writing, reading, when he listed the novels he read during the writing of ‘The Shock of the Fall’. They were, ‘The Wasp Factory’ by Iain Banks, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’ by Mark Haddon, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger and ‘Vernon God Little’ by DBC Pierre.

Many aspiring writers fear that reading will encourage them to steal or copy from other books, the opposite is true with a greater confidence and elasticity coming from being immersed in words (that’s my opinion not Nathan Filer’s, but that’s sort of what he was getting at by listing his reading).

For Filer the ‘penny dropped’ in 2009, ‘Characters make stories’. He struggled with the title and in the end it was provided by Harper Collins. Filer has received hostility towards the novel from people who feel he has ‘borrowed people’s lives’ a charge he rejects completely, all fiction is made up of the overhead, the body language, the look, the eyes of others.

Filer finished by saying how pleased he is that the book seems to have achieved a Young Adult/Adult crossover even though he considers it an adult title.

Nathan Filer was at Swindon Arts Centre, 12 May 2014, with his Costa Book of the Year 2014, ‘The Shock of the Fall’.
Words by Michael Scott. Photo by Calyx Pictures.

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