Interview: Author Joe Stretch

Critically acclaimed author Joe Stretch takes a moment to tell Victoria K. Walker about his second novel ‘Wildlife’, the effect he likes to have on his readers, and how important Manchester is to his writing... 

“It is important! I grew up in the countryside thinking cows and sheep were the pinnacles of civilisation, and we were somewhere down the scale. In some ways, I wonder whether, after eight years of urban life, I’ve ever settled around humans.” 

Stretch is the 26-year old author of the critically acclaimed ‘Friction’. He is also the talented lead singer and lyricist with electro-pop quarter (we are) Performance. Born in 1982, he grew up in Lancashire, moved to Manchester aged 18 to study politics at Manchester University, and is currently a fellow on the Martin Amis creative writing programme there. 

Relaxing in an Amsterdam cafe, with a Bond villain sitting at the opposite table, Joe is everything you expect him to be. With a slender 6ft 2” frame, pale skin, dark hair and high cheekbones, he has something of the literary hero about him. 

His debut novel ‘Friction’ was described as “vicious” and “provocative”, but what effect does Stretch want to have on his readers?

“I’d like to have a future in making people cry.” 

“I believe in depth of feeling. The deeper, the better. My published books tend to piss in shallow waters. The stuff I’m working on now is quite different. My days of pissing in shallow waters are nearly over, I think.” 

His eagerly awaited comedic second novel, ‘Wildlife’, is due out in March. Humorously black, it will stretch your mind and take you on an extraordinary journey to a frighteningly familiar world. The world of the social network site.

As a society now existing in front of a computer screen, people's interests, musical and film tastes, religious and political beliefs and every mundane fact of an individual’s daily life is constantly updated so the world at large gets to see who they ‘really are.’ In reaction to this ‘Wildlife’ presents us with a social network that exists in real-time - ‘The Wild World’. 

Janek, Anka, Roger and Joe are young and lonely, and find themselves being drawn to the promise of a perfect future in ‘The Wild World’ where sex lives, real lives and written lives merge. 

An original, sharp and satirical writer, in ‘Wildlife’, Stretch presents a distorted social commentary on 21st-century society.

“The year I wrote that book I was living in an ice age. I’m still living in an ice age, really. My address is Number One, The Ice Age.” 

“As a writer, you shut your eyes and listen as carefully as you can to the lie. The lie was loud that year. I think ‘Wildlife’ is about the generally perverted approach we have towards ourselves, and towards the idea of ‘the real’.” 

“In a world where we all seem so interesting, ‘Wildlife’ is about how we’re not.”

'Wildlife' is released by Bloomsbury on 12th March 2009, priced £8.99.

* Photograph of Joe Stretch by Ged Murray, 2007.