Thursday, 9 July 2015

filmbore chats with Liam Rodgers

An interview with Liam Rodgers
Author of 'Dogknife'

Like many cities, Nottingham is full of creatives. What's wonderful about this bustling town though is it's underbelly of interest in independent artists of all walks of life, whatever the inventive output. It's a great platform for up-and-coming writers, creators and performers, one of which is my good friend, Liam Rodgers. 

On 31st May 2014, Liam independently released his self-penned novel, 'Dogknife', joyfully accompanied with great support and positive responses. It's a local story with strong characters and real-life experiences. Reading it was an intimate experience and thought-provoking. Pick up a copy now at Amazon in Kindle form or Paperback and find out more at

Currently residing in Sheffield, we conducted it as an email interview. Read further to find out how it went...

Liam, for those not aware of your book’s plot, can you summarise the premise of Dogknife in a few sentences for us?

Essentially, it's a tale of three girls growing up in Radford and when one of them is raped by a bloke cruising for sex, the other two find him and stab him, which leads to the main character getting banged up in a young offenders institute. The story is then told from her point-of-view, how she ended up in jail.

Being from around Nottingham yourself, I understand that the story was influenced by your own experiences growing up. How much of the book is based on true facts? Were some of the experiences your own? How much of the story is influenced by your experiences?

Loads of the prison stuff is based on reality of my own time in a young offenders centre and all of the prison slang, some of the violence and other scenes are based on real events, that happened around me or involved me. The rape-revenge stuff is for the plot and is based loosely on stories I heard in jail and also when I was filming a documentary about prostitution in Nottingham in 2005. The book is very real in that way, even though it is a fiction novel.

Your lead character has an awesome nickname: ‘Gizmo’. Tell us a little bit about her and why you chose this name for her.

Well apart from it being, of course, the name of the main furry fella in the film Gremlins, it was also the nickname of a girl who hung about with some of the older lads in an area I grew up in and I always thought it was a cool nickname, although I don't know who that girl was or where she is now or anything. I wonder if she will ever know there is a character in a novel named after her? In the book, Gizmo is given the name because of her fluffy hair, which is a direct nod to the film which, when I was a lad, was a funny film to watch, highly entertaining, along with other classics like Back To The Future and The Breakfast Club. When I watch them now, I can't help cringe at certain points, but for our generation they are classics and invoke childhood memories and gooey feelings in our stomachs for everything to be nice and cosy, like it was when we were kids - or something. Haha. I watch Back To The Future once a year at Xmas, without fail, simply to marvel at how timeless it is.

Funnily enough, I watch 'Gremlins' every Christmas. Without fail. Best Xmas film ever! Staying with Gizmo, you mentioned about the story being from her perspective. Was it always your intention to write the story in the first person? And why did you choose this method?

I chose to write from a girl's point-of-view because I could not get some of the stories I heard, while making the doc, out of my head; girls being punched out cold on the streets for simply being a working girl or being dragged into cars and raped. It's all fucking bad stuff to be doing to women, to anyone, and so I thought I owed it to those people, to girls everywhere, to try and represent their story. I have had my own issues on life, from crazy relationships, to now I have a daughter who is 11, and so women's rights and the glass ceiling and feminism and all that, is close to my heart. It had to be from a girl's point-of-view, I think, as well because it was about what happens to a rapist...

In terms of method, I was on the run in 2006/2007 for my involvement in a silly fight that got out of hand and decided to write a book so that when I was eventually captured (which is inevitable, really, for any modern n'er do well), I would have something positive to show the court on top of all the amazing youth work and charity work I had been doing. To prepare myself for the book I read dozens and dozens (and I mean dozens and dozens) of autobiographies and other biographies, mostly of former convicts and gangsters and also a few other celebs and that really gave me the feel of that type of voice. I immersed myself in those books, often laying low in the library for hours at  time, sometimes all day, and then wandering back to my sofa or spare bed or wherever I was, to get my head down and think about Dogknife as a story. Gizmo's speech and mannerisms and her ideas came out of that intensely lonely time of being on the run, when I hardly ever went out socially except to trusted friends houses, etc. And so, I was not really working, or spending time doing one job. I had lots of time to kill. Dogknife came out of that. But, I have to say, I wasn't like Jesse James on the run. I was not a hero. I was a dick who made mistakes and I did still do some cash in hand work, and once MC'd a night in front of the lord mayor of Nottingham, which I found ironic...

Now, I'm just picturing you, on the mic, spitting some lines at the Mayor...brilliant! Speaking of our city, this tale is full to the brim with Nottingham dialect. It must be hard to keep this up? Did you ever slip out of the local colloquial?

Because I'm a Notts lad through and through, and not quite gone full hipster just yet, I can never get rid of that council estate, ruffian side of me that got me in so much trouble as I grew up, but who saved me when I was writing the book! Haha, you can take me out of the street, but you cant take the street out of me, I guess! I love the Notts dialect and had to make the book as real as possible so that other Notts people, either born and bred or migrants, such as your good Welsh self who have lived here for years and know the vibe, would understand it is authentic.

Only part-Welsh. I'm still a Herefordian (I'll never shift that will I?! Haha). As a honorary 'Nottinghamite', I really enjoyed its authenticity. Personally, from reading the book I picked up on two other key strengths: strong characters and it being very plot driven. This is just my view as the reader, and others may disagree. Would you say these are two factors of story writing that are important to you? What are elements are at the forefront of your writing process?

Liam Rodgers (right) gives filmbore his Dogknife
I think they are important as fuck because I love scenes, and scenes help to drive plot: I love watching scenes in films and TV and also imagining them in my mind when I read. So writers, I think, have to give their readers scenes, so that they can really immerse themselves in it and get those scenes imprinted on their minds. For example, in Farewell to Arms by Hemmingway, the scene of (spoiler alert) the bomb hitting the ambulance station and blowing him up is etched on my mind, but I can't at all recall how he describes the mountains and rivers and stuff. The scenes drive it for me. I literally have people messaging me, or chatting to me, and going "That scene where they 'x/y/z" and they pull a face, and I know that scene is etched in their minds. I have to write like that, because it's what I like to watch and read. You'll see there is not too much description in Dogknife, and it's because with writing, I think, it is not necessary to fill two pages with tree-lined streets and clouds and birds singing, and then have your scene at the end, the action. I think going "It was sunny, there were kids playing kerby by the road and a man shouting at his missis nearby, and then the cops pulled up to me..." is easier to set a scene and you can add description as the scene unfolds, if you like.

With characters, they have to be based on real people or amalgamations of real people, even if it's three or four people coming through one character. For example, Gizmo's name is based on the girl from my area when I was a kid, her looks are based on another girl I had a little fling with when I was 16 and her mannerisms and speech is based on me, and a few others I grew up with. So that's one character made up of multiple personalities. For me, it's normal to make my characters this way. However,  Crawley is based on one character though, a guy called Corley, from Lincolnshire who was shot and killed a few years back. I based Crawley on him out of respect for the friendship we made in jail. His shooting effected me, as I knew he was a good guy and the low down pieces of shit that killed him got away with it as well, so that also hurts. 

So characters can be a mix of others or one strong person. I think by doing that you create characters readers really relate to.

That's a great method for building characters... blending them, like our minds do with dreams. Methods of creativity is one thing but, for all the budding writers out there, what advise can you give to keep the writing spirit going?

Read a shit load of books to get a feel and then don't read anything the entire time while you write, as it will fuck with your voice. For example, if I listen to Nirvana all day (which I often have done) and then sit down to write what I think will be an original song, it will be a Grunge song by default. Or, if I listen to Wu-Tang Clan (which I often have done) and then sit down and write, what I think is gonna be original Hip-Hop, it wont will sound like the 'Wu'. So, I'd say read the genre you want to write in, to learn the craft and how those stories are told, then chuck them all away and get them out of your mind as stories, and wait a while, like a month or two. Then, get your pad out and start writing your original story. I didn't read fiction for 5 years during and after I wrote Dogknife so that my voice would not get screwed up by other work. I finally broke that by reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath in 2011 when I stayed at a mates house. I love that book, and I am glad I didn't read it while I was writing as it would have leaked into the voice, I reckon.

And another thing...don't write for the publishers and the agents, because they don't know dick! They are out to make money, not write stories. So write and get it out there yourself, self-publish and if you do a good enough job, they will come- a-knocking.

Sometimes, only the indie-way will do. One approach which seems to keep the fire stoking for all "creatives" these days is the “kick-starter” method. With a multitude of sites available these days, what’s your view on this new avenue?

Go for it. Gofundme. Indiegogo. Kickstarter. All of those sites are amazing and should be used absolutely 100% if you wanna raise cash to make a film, or publish a book, or do whatever. Go for it, but just make sure you have a decent video [see Liam's awesome campaign video here] explaining in a cool way what it is you're doing and people will figure out the rest. I gave £1 to the cause to re-master and edit Orson Welles's unfinished film because the video for the cause was cool and, well, it's fucking Orson Welles, but still, that £1 counts all the same. I rate Indiegogo personally as that's how I funded Dogknife's first print run, but there are others.

It's true, these sites provide an opportunity for so many. Promotion for lesser known is why I started filmbore. The more exposure the better, especially if it's raising funds. Let’s talk about the future for Liam Rodgers. You’ve mentioned to me previously that you’d like Dogknife to be considered for a film adaptation...

I would love to raise the money to make it into a film. A proper, gritty, UK film, punching above its weight, touring film festivals and film markets, slugging it out with all the other films trying to get distribution deals, etc, and I will one day for sure. I will probably do a massive crowd-funding campaign, as previously mentioned, but not until I have cleared a couple of thousand copies of the book off my own back. I am at about 600 copies so far, so a little bit more to go, but I'll get there. When I do, it will be a proper grass-roots film, filmed in Notts, on location, using local actors and amateurs and local crew and stuff. It will be a blinder, I'm sure. I sent it to Shane Meadows and his assistant politely emailed saying he is not reading anything new for a while as he is tied up for a couple of years. But I will get in front of Shane one day, I hope! But seriously, I can do the whole low-budget thing if it comes to it, I reckon for a about 50k I could get it done and edited. When you think Once, the Irish film, was made for 100k Euros and did 7 million in gross....It's doable.

Actually adapting it is another thing completely, a whole new marathon of writing and editing, lets not go there for now...hahaha. :)

Sounds like a lot of work. And hey, maybe Mr Meadows will cast his eyes across this interview and take notice. Have you had any involvement in film before?

As I mentioned, I filmed the documentary on prostitution in Nottingham in 2005, and have made a few little things here and there. I have recently submitted a short film to a competition in Leeds. It's about old people playing snooker in Sheffield; a mini-doc about 4 minutes long. I shot that on a Canon 600D with a H4N Zoom audio recorder and a Rode shotgun mic on a boom pole. It's all about indie stuff for me, I love doing it that way. I had to ask someone else to edit it though, but in my current job I am using Premiere Pro so I am learning about that now which will stand me in good stead for my own films. I love films: making them, thinking about them, watching them, day-dreaming about making them, reading about others making them. I fucking love film! Probably more than most things actually...

You're in good company here then, Liam! And finally, what can we see next from you? What new projects are you working on?

I am running a small publishing project working with vulnerable adults and young people getting their work into published books, and 'Dogknife Book Two' is currently at page 30-something. I am also working on a script for a mate who is producing a Notts-based film which is being [shot] in August. I just had a script dropped by an indie theatre company after a month or so of development and I think it's because it was too realistic and not theatre-y I said, you can take me out of the streets, but you can't...etc. haha. :) 

Or...maybe I just cant write plays??

'Dogknife' is available on Amazon on Paperbook or as Kindle. Grab a copy now!

If what Liam has said has moved you and you have any comments, please do so below, or tweet me @filmbore

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