Interview: James Goss discusses Haterz, social media, and more

jamesgossHaterz, James Goss’s brand new book, just came out yesterday, and he stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more!

Will you tell us a little about Haterz and what inspired you to write it?
Wondering if we were all so angry before the internet, or if it’s made us this way. Remember how, even back in 2007 (which isn’t that long ago), Facebook was just a nice place where people posted holiday photos. Now that’s a warzone. And Twitter, Twitter is so angry and weird. Like people wake up and go “what can I be FURIOUS about today?”.

So much of what’s happened over the last few years with social media is baffling, surprising, and downright upsetting. Who knew we liked issuing death threats so much? Who knew that men were really quite so sexist? Who knew that adults were quite so capable of behaving like toddlers? Who killed the possessive apostrophe? And then there’s the cats.

Yes. Haterz was born out of that.

Tell us more about Dave and what you think makes him compelling. Why do you think readers will root for him?
Dave genuinely believes the world will be a nicer place if he kills a few people. Which sounds unpleasant, but he doesn’t see it that way. He just wants to get rid of the annoying people. Which is where it all gets out of hand.

Hopefully people will root for him because the people he picks on really are awful. It’s basically like Kind Hearts And Coronets, which is the funniest movie about a serial killer ever made.

You’ve written a few Torchwood novels and also a Doctor Who novel and have been nominated for the British Fantasy Award, but have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I’m lucky in that I just sort of stumbled into it. With a schoolfriend I adapted Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency into a play, which is still being performed worldwide. I wanted to do something more with that, but then went and got a really fun job which, honestly, took my mind off it for over a decade. Then, in 2007 that stage play won an award in LA and I decided I’d quite like to write something else. It was a very odd day.

What kind of research did you do for Haterz?
I sat on the sofa, honestly meaning to go to the gym, and stared into the internet until it stared back at me. Basically, I get to write off all those wasted half hours clicking “refresh” on Facebook as research.

Do you think that peoples’ willingness to be so hateful on the internet is as simple as anonymity, or do you think there’s much more to it than that?
I find it really troubling. We’ve all worked with people who, to your face, wouldn’t say boo, but via email are toxic. Twitter accidentally functions as a breeding ground for these people, allowing them to be really mean to complete strangers. I think it’s just bizarre and sad. Like we’ve all gone through our lives secretly pretending to be nice, and Twitter’s allowed us to drop the mask and go “that sportsman says they’re gay – let’s send them death threats”, or “we don’t like that female comedian, let’s print her phone number”.

Sadly, that was just the first wave of it. Now we’re onto the weird age of the Social Justice Warriors who are VERY ANGRY and TAKE A LOT OF OFFENCE on behalf of other people.

Then along came GamerGate, and all the nice people moved to Mars. Or Kettering. Whichever was further.

What authors or novels have inspired you the most?
Traitor’s Purse by Margery Allingham. It’s a brilliant, brilliant crime novel about a man who wakes up in hospital. Everyone tells him he’s the world’s greatest detective, but only he knows he’s a murderer. Go on. Beat that for an opening.

What book that you’ve recently read would you recommend without hesitation?
After all that furor about Harper Lee, I decided I should read To Kill A Mockingbird. My English class at school didn’t get fun books. We just had Wuthering Heights a lot. So I’ve always resented To Kill A Mockingbird due to my jealousy at every other English class. I sat down to read it assuming that it would be so worthy. Imagine my surprise to find it was just so funny. Occasionally very heartbreaking, and entirely wonderful.

What are you currently reading?
The Blessing by Nancy Mitford. No-one writes a scheming, evil British Nanny like a Mitford.

What’s next for you?
The novelization of Douglas Adams’ City Of Death comes out in May, which I’m really excited by. You know when people say “I’m really excited by” something, they’re normally being a bit polite? Nope. Basically, every day for three months I couldn’t wait to wake up to get to work it was just such a brilliant project to work on.

Keep up with James: Website | Twitter

About Haterz:
‘I’m not saying the internet made me kill, but it certainly helped.’

Is there someone online who really grates on you? That friend who’s always bragging about their awesome life and endlessly sharing tired memes, and who just doesn’t get jokes? Look at your Twitter feed: don’t you get cross at the endless rage, the thoughtless bigotry and the pleading for celebrity retweets? Meet Dave, a street fundraiser and fan of cat pictures. He’s decided that unfollowing just isn’t enough. He’s determined to make the internet a nicer place, whatever it takes.

When he killed his best friend’s girlfriend, he wasn’t planning on changing the world. She was just really annoying on Facebook. But someone saw, and made him an offer. Someone who knows what he’s capable of, and wants to use him to take control of the darkness at the heart of the internet. And now the bodies – the comment trolls, the sexual predators, the obnoxious pop stars – are starting to mount up…

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