I have a strange accent. Born in London, raised in Vancouver, I hardly know how words will come out until I say them. In Canada, people claim I have a British accent; in Britain, they think I’m American.
I dreamed of becoming a filmmaker. At the University in Toronto, I studied cinema, yet found myself growing increasingly engaged with reading and writing. I could close myself in a room, and disappear into stories (others’ or, sometimes, trying to write my own).
I was a journalist -- but never wanted to end up one. After university, my hope was to write fiction. But I needed experiences first. Reporting might supply them, I reckoned, so I launched myself into that career rather than taking the navel-gazing route I imagined (unfairly, I’m sure) was found in creative-writing programs.
I was terrifyingly unqualified. At 23, I had my first job in news, editing international stories by seasoned reporters at the Associated Press in New York. Every day, colleagues berated me across the newsroom for incompetence. A painful experience -- but perhaps it’s useful to fail abjectly now and then? Or is that me just trying to make myself feel better?
I lived the good life in Rome. Somehow, I survived my brutal initiation in journalism, and was eventually dispatched abroad as a foreign correspondent. This was heavenly – an ocean apart from bullying headquarters, I could pursue my own stories. Me, in my mid-twenties, paid to live in Italy!
I quit everything, and moved to Paris to write. Nearing age 30, I decided it was time to seriously try fiction. But I needed a place with no distractions, where I knew no one, but could also enrich myself by exploring the location. Hence, Paris. I wrote daily – and very badly. It was crushing to realize how hopeless I was. Yet I learned much, and improved.
I had the best week of my life as some had one of their worst. When the 2008 financial crash hit, New York publishers were looking at my debut novel. To my amazement, a plethora wanted it. Overnight, I went from feeling like a schmuck to feeling like a writer! Top Manhattan editors were phoning me urgently in Paris, bidding for my book. Will I ever match that feeling?
Nope, I never met Brad Pitt. His production company optioned the right to make my first novel, The Imperfectionists, into a movie. This provided me with an amusing glimpse into the movie world that I’d once longed to enter. The film failed to materialize, but producers are now developing it as a TV series.
I’m a little regretful about my second novel. The Rise & Fall of Great Powers – a story about escaping into books and escaping into lies – didn’t catch on like the first. But I’m probably proudest of this book.
Never before have I written in such an impassioned flurry. Basket of Deplorables, my new novella-in-stories, is a portrait of the madness of Trump times in America. I had to get this out – and fast!
Tom Rachman's political satire Basket of Deplorables is available as an audiobook now on Audible.co.uk, and will appear as a paperback in August. His eagerly awaited novel The Italian Teacher comes out in March next year.