Issue #205 / September 2022

How come you decided to give interviews again?


Dear Jeroen,

A little while after Arthur died, I did an interview for a mainstream newspaper, but I felt so bad about it, so unsettled by what I said, that I vowed never to do one again. I felt completely unequipped to talk about anything, least of all the death of my son. I just didn’t have the words.

A few years later I began The Red Hand Files (which was four years old last week!). The process of answering your questions taught me how to write about certain things. Your questions became exercises in how to be and what to believe. I was able to construct a world view based on intimacy, vulnerability, uncertainty and commonality.

During lockdown, I spent a certain amount of time on the phone talking to people. One of those people was Seán O’Hagan. I’d run into him from time to time over the years, mostly backstage at various gigs. I didn’t actually know him all that well but I always enjoyed talking to him, mostly because we tended to clash on certain issues. Being the sometimes contrarian, I liked the friction but also understood the clarifying benefits of a certain amount of variance. To my surprise, during our lockdown calls we began to talk about things beyond our more strident opinions. On the other side of our disagreements we found good faith conversation, and within that conversation a rich seam of common interests and fascinations. Seán began taping the conversations, and after fifty or more hours of them and some radical editing we found we had a book.

Through the making of the book I learned how to talk about the way I felt about things – not just write about them, but to converse about them. I learned how to speak into another person’s concerns and differing position on things. I learned that a good faith conversation was dependent on the understanding that we may not be right and may not always know. I grew to love the conversations with Seán because I was afforded the opportunity to be wrong, as was he.

Over time, thanks to The Red Hand Files and the conversations with Seán, I have become more adept at doing an interview. I feel ready to be able to sit down and talk about all manner of things, on my terms, and not do my situation a disservice.

And so I have done a handful of interviews around Faith, Hope and Carnage because, well, the book means a great deal to me and I think some people may genuinely find it beneficial – people whose lives have turned into some kind of misadventure, people with creative blocks, people with addiction problems, grieving people, people in spiritual crisis, people looking for meaning, people searching for beauty, people who want to learn how to write a song, or play a gig, or just be in the world.

And before this post becomes just a plug for the book, let me share what the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said about it –

‘An absolutely wonderful book. I don’t think I’ve ever read so integrated and searching an engagement with how faith works, how creativity works, and how grief is bound up with both.’

Just thought I’d throw that in there!

Love, Nick


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