Isaac Kuhnberg is not my real name 

I like to keep my everyday life and my writing life separate. My first book was published some years ago when I was the buyer in a bookshop, and I refused to stock it in case people who knew me identified me as the author. 

The Well Deceived

The Well Deceived

I have four children

Two are boys and two are girls. My eldest daughter read one of my books once, and was dismayed to come across a character who lived on iceberg lettuce and tinned tuna – pretty much her own diet at the time. Naturally she assumed that the character was based on her.  This is why I prefer to write under an assumed name – it frees me to use bits and pieces of my own experience without upsetting anyone.

I am also an illustrator

Last year I completed an MA course in children’s book illustration.  My final project was about a boy who breaks into an antique shop and meets the ghosts of the family who used to run it. I am now mapping out a graphic novel of the same story, much expanded and aimed at an older audience.

I live most of the year in France

My house is in a remote part of South West France, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland. I live alone, which helps me to concentrate on writing and painting. Almost any creative work, in my experience, calls for a large degree of selfishness: writers in particular run the risk of becoming domestic tyrants.

I like being single

I am a widower.  I gave up dating some years ago – it takes up too much time.  Again, I am quite a selfish person. Whenever I have someone here to stay, I find myself longing for them to leave, so that I can go back to work. 

I am unemployable

Early in life I took a number of jobs – teaching, lecturing, journalism, bookselling – simply in order to pay the bills.  I wasn’t much good at any of them. Not surprisingly I ended up working for myself, which suits me better. Three of my children hold down regular jobs, but my youngest is a freelance animator, and at the moment he lives pretty much from hand to mouth, much as I do myself.

I read all the time

I read books of all kinds: classics, modern novels, thrillers, biographies, histories. I also follow the news – obsessively: I depend on it to provide me with material.  Here in rural France I have no access to a library or bookshop, but thanks to the internet I can download any book, research any subject I choose, listen to any amount of recorded music, and if I need to mend something I can watch a video tutorial. The value of the internet as a tool for human betterment can’t be exaggerated. It is also, of course, perfectly adapted to activities like spreading lies and propaganda, enabling criminal activities, and helping deranged people to find kindred spirits with whom to plot all kinds of wickedness. Over the next couple of centuries this technology is likely to exert more and more influence over our lives. It will either help us evolve into wiser and more tolerant human-beings, or drive us collectively mad – maybe both at the same time.

I can’t write realistic fiction

Every time I start a novel based on my own experience it turns into some type of science-fiction. I can read realistic fiction with enjoyment; I just can’t write it. What interests me as a writer is building models of a possible future, based on present-day events. Russia’s use of the internet to interfere with with elections, for example, is a subject made for dystopian fiction. Here as elsewhere, George Orwell’s 1984, which describes a state in which all information is manipulated by an authoritarian government, is alarmingly prophetic. Democracies in the age of the internet are especially vulnerable to manipulation; the information war is intimately connected with the struggle to win or hold on to power. 

I am fascinated by gender and sexuality

My novel The Well Deceived follows the fortunes of William Riddle, a scholar at an ancient private school whose father clashes with the government and disappears. William’s world, as the reader soon learns, is mysteriously devoid of women. The book is set in a version of England in the 1950s, but the issues it explores seem relevant to the current debate on sexuality and gender. The process of change in our society has been accelerated by the almost universal availability of the internet. Sexuality is becoming increasingly fluid, gender identity is beginning to blur. Childbirth, motherhood, the nurturing of children, sexual etiquette and sexual behaviour are all set to change in ways we can only guess at. These developments can’t be dismissed as mere fads; I suspect they are driven by some evolutionary force more powerful than any political movement. Where society leads technology and medicine is bound to follow. This is a frightening prospect, and also a fascinating one.

My next novel will be set in the distant future

The novel I am planning at the moment will be set in a world far in the future, where an individual’s consciousness can be downloaded into one of a number of host bodies of different genders and different physical types. Access to this technology is restricted to the very wealthy and to agents of the interplanetary government. The practice of eugenics has been revived in the form of ‘positive pairing’ and genome editing. Political opposition is outlawed; anyone interested in plotting a revolution has to seek out co-conspirators in the forbidden corners of cyberspace. It is interesting material, but before I can explore it I need to come up with a plot. This isn’t the sort of thing you can force. Sometimes you have to go outside and do some gardening in the hope that sooner or later inspiration will arrive.

About the author: Splitting his time between the South of France and Cambridge, Issac Kuhnberg enjoys spending his time writing and painting. At The University of Hull he gained his PhD in English focussing on the novels and authors of the 1930’s, including Christopher Isherwood and Evelyn Waugh, which would later inspire his own writing. His debut novel The Well Deceived by Issac Kuhnberg (published by Clink Street Publishing 1ST May 2018 in paperback and ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including Amazon and to order from all good bookstores.