GT: Well, right now there's Drunk At Vogue, for which I am a DJ and promoter; Off The Hook, for which I am the sole DJ and promoter now; I have two blogs - Manhattanchester, which has been going since 2007, and The Shakespeare Girl, which has been going for two years; I'm editing the second draft of my novel, also called The Shakespeare Girl; I'm trying my hand at freelance writing; I also guest DJ at various nights - I've played at Bollox, Homotopia, Queer Contact, Dalston Boys Club... all over the place really and I'm looking to do more DJing away from my own nights too. I also design book jackets, copy edit academic books... A jack of all trades really, which has its ups and downs because I always wanted to be a maestro of one thing I was passionate about and I've never been able to choose. Every time I've thought I was a writer, something happens and DJing takes off and vice versa too.
HoP: If you were suddenly asked to choose between being a DJ and a writer for the rest of your life, which would you go for?
GT: Writing. I've always wanted to be a writer even before I could write. Music has been a distraction... but also the thing I love most day to day. I don't write every day, but I do listen to music every day. There's often moments when I hear music and think "That's sublime and I'm so happy to be alive", but with writing it's often the opposite, reading something and thinking "I wish I wrote that" or "I'm not as good as she is". It's a humbling experience sometimes, but then sometimes you read something and think "I came up with that idea two years ago, but theirs is a better version of it." Music, however, has instant gratification and there's something that you just can't replicate elsewhere, when you know just what song to put on next.
GT: I started the blog in 2007. When I was a teenager, the plan was that I would move to New York as soon as I could. That was my only plan; move to New York and be a writer. That was it. As it transpired, I was from a poor family from Blackpool and chronically shy, and those aren't the kind of people who move to New York, so I moved to Manchester instead at eighteen. I was a student here, did all the partying and then finally remembered that I wanted to be writer again. I was reading lots of blogs at the time and I liked the anonymity of it. I was still obsessing about New York but decided to make the most of the city I was living in, so I started the blog being in one city and thinking about another.
HoP: As a lay person who didn't know that story, I got the impression that "Manhattanchester" was your attempt of trying to make Manchester seem like a cool and chic metropolis.
GT: In a way that is partly it. I didn't want to feel like I was missing out on anything by living in Manchester, so I wanted to do all of the things that I dreamed about doing in New York, but doing them here instead. I just wrote about what I was doing, which was mostly going out, but then I did the odd restaurant review, travel writing, music reviews and the more that I did it the more that people actually started to ask me to do it, sending gig tickets, music to review or asking me to come and review their restaurant. I wasn't getting paid for it, but I was getting to do things for free that I would otherwise have spent my money on. I was writing fiction at the time and blog-writing was a way of cleansing the palate. On the blog, I don't really edit what I write, so I just spell-check and post it. It's a good way to write and then sit down to your fiction and you find yourself already warmed up.
HoP: Well if there's one thing I've learned from Haus of Phag, it's that you definitely should read back what you've written on your blog before you post.
GT: I've had a lot of feedback on the blog, both good and bad, and sometimes I can't even remember what I've written. I wrote something about a writer and a DJ one time and it was mostly unkind and based on hearsay... and then I met him at a party and he pulled me up on it and it was ferociously embarrassing. Now we've been very good friends for about four years, so it was alright in the end. The blog has led to good things too though - I started to get theatre tickets and then eventually the blog led to some paid work. I did reviews for websites and album reviews for The Big Issue, but if you're working full-time it's very hard to pursue the avenues for freelance writing. You have to be persistent, you have to be regular and you have to be willing to work for next-to-nothing and I've never really been in a position to do that. So I let the freelancing come and go, but I've blogged throughout and before you know it, you've been doing it for six years.
GT: I worked in academic publishing for twelve years and I managed books and journals, proofreading, copyediting and did everything I could. There was nowhere I could progress because it was such a small company. The DJing was taking off, the novel was finished and I was getting quite good feedback for it, but I hadn't secured an agent because I hadn't the time to devote to it. Then I had a run of good luck with some gigs, earned enough to live off for a few months and just decided to take the plunge and hand in my notice. I hate the 9-5 lifestyle, but I'm a very hard worker and never procrastinate, I have lot of things on the go and always do them well, so I'm the perfect personality-type to be a freelancer. I can set my own hours, which suits me, and now I can actually say "yes" to things. If someone asks if I can DJ on Wednesday in London I can do it, because I have nowhere else to be. I can stay up all night DJing, sleep all day and then work into the next night editing my book and it's great. I'm much happier for taking the plunge.
HoP: So the book? The Shakespeare Girl.
GT: I've written one novel before, which is unpublished, like so many novels are...
HoP: I've got about six of them.
GT: You'll know this as well as me then: in the end you stop writing to publish and start writing to please yourself. I started writing The Shakespeare Girl and, as usual, my publishing job was getting in the way. So I signed up to a Masters with the Writing School at MMU so I would be forced to finish the book. The course was terrific and gave me so much more than just allowing me to finish the novel; confidence, critical abilities, industry knowledge... I got a distinction, the feedback from the book was incredible and when they marked it I just got a list of about five typos and that was all the changes they wanted me to make to it. That was an amazing feeling. Then I sent it out to an agent and publisher, probably too soon, earlier than probably I should, but they came back and said "This is wonderful, but we don't know who we'd sell it to."
HoP: I've had that before.
GT: Well when the Arts are in such a bad state as they are now, genre becomes what they're willing to invest in. It's the same for writing as it is for music and film; people don't like to sell outside genre. You'll get a lot of old books repackaged, formula books (it's been horror over the last few years, fantasy before that), but they'll pour all their resources into these books.
GT: If someone had said to me "This isn't for us, Greg", I'd have taken it on the chin, but because they said "This is great, we just can't sell it" I'm just left feeling frustrated that maybe there's nothing else I can do with it. I'm on the second draft now though and I know there are things that need fixing, so I'm doing that at the moment. I've got the next few months to finish my next draft and then I'll start sending it out again. But no matter how much you tell yourself that you just want to write something you'll be proud of, you do want people to read it.
HoP: Otherwise what's the point in spending so many hours pouring your heart and soul into something?
GT: I'm not sure who said this and I'm sure I'm paraphrasing, but "I don't enjoy writing; I enjoy having written." The act of doing it yourself; I don't spend my time patting myself on the back, thinking it's marvellous. You're always pushing toward the goal and that goal is always so far away. The satisfaction comes from having written something and that's what the life of a writer is all about - nobody really wants to spend all that time alone without having the pleasure of having people read what they've written afterwards. That's the part that you're always working toward and unless you're published, you never get to experience it. I'd like to enjoy "having written" this novel, but I'd also like to experience people "having read" it too.
HoP: Do you not enjoy the process then? Because I love it.
GT: I wouldn't say I'm a great writer, I'd say I'm a great editor. My first draft can be quite torturous, but it doesn't take a lot to hammer it into shape. That's the process that I love; throwing the clay on the table and then shaping it. I always imagined that sitting down and letting it flow out of me would be the pleasurable part, but I've since learned that it's not that at all. Plus the first draft that you get onto paper often isn't your actual first draft because you've already done most of it in your head beforehand. The days aren't long enough though. If I could stay up long enough to write a book, I would. Writing happens at a different pace than the rest of the world: eating, playing music, having a partner, having a family to visit; everything is an interruption and I resent having any interruptions when I'm writing, which isn't a very satisfying feeling sometimes.
HoP: I always find that when I'm in the middle of a creative project but having to do everything else in my life around it, every moment that you stop you're suddenly transported back to the project. And sometimes you get so lost in your thoughts, formulating plot and ideas that the whole world can be passing by without you even knowing what's going on.
GT: That's a lovely place to be, but sometimes very frustrating. Sometimes you'll find yourself at parties and think "Oh God, I don't want to be here and I've just thought exactly what that last line should be and I want to get back to writing".
HoP: I remember on one occasion I was at the gym and sat in the Jacuzzi and I lost myself in my thoughts and suddenly looked up at the clock and I'd lost myself for an hour and a half.
GT: You haven't even got a pen and paper to write things down. It's almost impossible to hold onto those thoughts sometimes. Of course it's pleasurable, otherwise you wouldn't carry on doing it, but it's hard sometimes, especially when some things provide instant gratification. Like music.
HoP: At least with your vast array of projects you have both the instant gratification of the DJing and the longer term pleasures that come from your blog and the novel.
GT: For a lot of people, DJing and writing go hand in hand. I always thought they were a weird pairing, but my friend Dave says "Play the long game, invest in lots of little things and one of them will come to fruition" and one of those things is obviously my writing. You've got to think about what the end-game is, but book a gig for the weekend in the meantime, because you've got to pay the rent, but you've also got this amazing new song that you want everyone to hear.