In today's Indie Spotlight, we're giving Mike Russell the stage. Mike is an author and publisher and will share with you why he believes strange literature is where it's at.....
Why I Write Strange Books
For me, creating is discovering and storytelling is bringing into the world dreams that are universal. They come from a deep place; they want to be known and they want to help us. Storytelling is a way of turning the world inside out, which I believe it desperately needs.
Reading is a way, a really great way and a fun way, of exploring the infinite space inside ourselves. Life outside of us can be transformed by knowing life inside of us.
The stories I write aren’t inert. They aren’t escapism. They are, I hope, entertaining but they are also ways of exploring and ultimately transforming ourselves.
To talk of transformation through art may sound like reaching for the moon but consider the power of the dream: it has no boundaries, it isn’t polite, it will show you things that are beautiful or terrifying… whatever we need to be made aware of. Stories can have that power. Stories can be universal dreams rather than personal dreams.
Stories can be truly magical, truly transformative. Culture seems to have forgotten that, like someone who has given up on the possibility of their life ever getting better and who has settled for less than they desire. At www.strangebooks.com we say: “We wish our readers the highest possible outcome from their reading experience. We believe that stories have the potential to be life-changing. So let us not limit the power of the story; let us read with an expectation of the highest possible outcome and allow every story to work its magic.” The magical aspect of art has been negated in our present culture. www.strangebooks.com is our small contribution to the re-magicalising of the world. (Yes, I made that word up.)
How we see the world changes it. If we have a perception of the world that is very limited then our lives become limited and experiences that do not fit into our limited world view are denigrated and deemed unreal. To attempt to open up these limited perceptions, to reveal greater possibilities, to try to release us from all prisons, to move towards truth, these are my highest aspirations as a writer. Art has that power.
A representation, any representation, for example a soap opera, can either limit or liberate our experience of life. If our representations of life are limited then our lives become limited. If our representations of life did not change life, dictatorships and governments would not bother censoring the arts. Once we see the power that art has, we can consciously choose to engage with art that helps us to move towards freedom – real freedom.
I decided to claim the word ‘strange’ for my books as a badge of honour. If someone calls you strange it is usually meant as an insult but to be strange is to be unique, to refuse to conform, to not settle for anything less than authenticity.
There is unity and then there is similarity. The imposing of similarity or conformity comes I think from a misplaced desire for unity. It is a dreadful tragedy. We don’t have to turn on the news to see it; we can see it in our own lives. True unity celebrates difference because it includes rather than excludes. There are experiences we can have which can help us to see true unity. For this, we have to look inside ourselves. We need to strive for art that can fearlessly delve deep inside ourselves and help us to change. Strangeness can come to the rescue!
Mike Russell attempted to write his first novel at the age of 12. It was never completed as the young Mike decided that he needed more life experience. Years later, Mike began writing again. He is now the author of three (completed) books and there are many more to come. As well as publishing his stories, Mike also performs them in shows which incorporate both storytelling and performance-art.