A northern coastal city. A sinister, extra-dimensional intelligence is taking hold…
Joe Hakim draws the reader into the heart of a disenfranchised community impacted by strange forces beyond its control. A group of friends: separated by time, choices, and circumstance are reunited by their shared encounters with an uncanny presence that looms over their lives. The seeds were sewn in their childhoods, now they must try and understand what is happening, before it is too late.
Raw and uncompromising, The Community fuses social commentary with a dose of sci-fi horror, to cast a light on an existence spent in the Void.
Publisher’s note: this book contains strong language and explicit sexual references
-When and where do you prefer to write?
I have dreams of one day converting my shed into some kind of small writing sanctuary, but in the meantime, I write at my dining room table near my bookshelves. I also write on the go a lot.
In terms of when, it really depends on what I’m working on. I work in radio and theatre, so when I’m doing that, I grab my writing time whenever I can.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Funnily enough, I think any prolonged, sustained creative act is the same as conducting an occult ritual. If you look at magick as Crowley defined it, ‘the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will,’ then you’re essentially doing that whenever you put your work out into the world. And when you think about it, just the fact that you can create emotional responses in people – make laugh, cry, whatever – by putting little squiggles of ink on a blank page, that’s basically magic.
Sorry, went off topic a bit there.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
I’m terribly unhealthy unfortunately. It’s coffee and tobacco while I’m writing.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I’m up for having a go at anything, really. I hate the way so-called ‘genre fiction’ is still sneered at by the literary establishment. And just what is literary fiction anyway? Usually middle-class, middle-aged people fretting over having affairs and ‘finding themselves’ or whatever. Genre only exists for marketing and so people who work in bookshops have ways to arrange the shelves.
When I was writing The Community, I didn’t sit at the computer and think: ‘I’m going to write a scifi/horror novel’. I wanted to tell a story, and that story just happened to have aliens and weird stuff going on in it.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
No. But I have to say that so I don’t upset anyone I know. I take elements of people I know – and myself of course, can’t avoid it no matter how hard I try – and try and combine them into new and interesting variations. And all being well, they’ll eventually develop into something new and their own personalities and quirks emerge. It’s when I start hearing their voices in my head and they’re making demands that I know they’re taking on a life of their own.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
Due to the nature of my work, I have to carry a notebook around with me at all times, and I have done for years. But when I sit down to write, I rarely check it, unless it’s for something specific, like a fact or date or something. I use it as a kind of external brain, I doodle and scribble, jot down random sentences. If anyone found one of my notebooks, it would look like complete gibberish, and I suppose it is, but I find the process really useful, externalising my thoughts.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
As I said earlier, I’m sick of the way in which the so-called literary establishment look down their nose at genre. I’ve noticed that crime fiction seems to be the latest target, with crime novels being conspicuously left off ‘best of’ list and the like. It’s bollocks. I have a couple of friends who are crime writers, and I’m in awe of their dedication and work-rate. In fact, if it wasn’t for a crime author – Russel McLean, recommended to me by my good mate and crime writer Nick Quantrill – I would have never got The Community beyond its first draft. His comments and feedback were exactly what I needed, and I think part of that was down to his analytical, practical crime-fiction approach.
I respond to and admire anyone who is passionate about their favourite art, in whatever medium. Your average writer would kill for a fanbase as keen and friendly as say, fans of fantasy fiction. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
I don’t think I could do it if I’m honest. I write for theatre, and that’s a really collaborative process, so prose is something I like to keep for myself, well initially anyway. I don’t even know how I’d go about co-writing a book with someone.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Japan, without a shadow of a doubt. I’m hugely into the work of manga artist/writer Junji Ito at the moment, and I’m fascinated by Japanese/Asian approach to horror in general. Western horror is very much based around catharsis. Even if the characters die at the end, Western horror tends to rely upon establishing the rules that govern the monster or situation, leading up to some sort of violent pay-off at the peak. At the end, the reader feels as though they’ve stepped off a roller-coaster. J-horror is much more structured around creeping tension, with no real resolution at the conclusion. It focuses on the eerie and the weird; you have to look under your bed and sleep with the lights on when you get to the end of the story. I find that really appealing.
I also love Japanese food and culture as well, so I would love the opportunity to just hang out and soak it all in. If there’s anyone from British Council or anything like that reading this interview, drop me a line…
Thank you, Joe Hakim and Love Books Group Tours.
About the author
Joe Hakim lives and works in Hull.
He’s performed spoken word at venues and festivals around the UK, including Latitude, Big Chill and Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
He was co-host and organiser of Write to Speak, (Hull Truck Theatre 2009 to 2013).
He is currently working with schools in Hull as part of First Story.
In January 2017, Joe travelled to Trinidad with The Roundhouse and Wrecking Ball Press, as part of the Talking Doorsteps project. This culminated in a performance at the BBC’s Contains Strong Language festival in September 2017, which featured young people from Trinidad’s 2 Cents Movement working alongside young people from Hull’s Warren Youth Project and Goodwin Community Centre.
Theatre work includes co-writing and developing Omni-Science with Brick by Brick, performed at Assemble Fest 2017, and Come to Where I’m From, developed in association with Paines Plough and performed at Hull Truck in May 2017.
The album ‘The Science of Disconent’, his second with musician Ashley Reaks, was released in 2018.
Joe toured and performed with LIFE, a Hull-based punk band, performing on the UK leg of the Slaves European tour.