A fresh new voice on the publishing scene, Harry Gallon's debut novel The Shapes of Dog's Eyes will be out at the end of this month. The novel is part of Dead Ink's New Voices series, a follow-up to their ongoing project to publish new authors. Here is what Gallon has to say about the novel, his development as a writer, and what it's like working with an independent publisher.
The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes is a satirical novel about a young bartender’s ascent into adulthood. Convinced that the residents of London are being controlled by their dogs, the bartender embarks on a foolish campaign to rescue his peers from the stasis of domesticity. Sofa-hopping across a Hackney overrun with hungover musicians, craft brewers and their canine masters, he slips further into fantasy the more obsessed he becomes with setting himself, and everyone else, free. But after falling in love, he begins to realise that the thing he’s fighting against may have become the very thing he wants most of all. It’s a novel for the Y Generation. The Why Not? Generation. The What-The-Hell-Am-I-Doing? Generation, who’re presented with more opportunities in life than they can handle and often fall into the abyss of routine-based work and socialising, to the detriment of their dreams and ambition which remain obscured in subconsciousness.
The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes came out of nowhere. I wouldn’t say that any specific thing or event inspired me to write it, more the context of my life and what I was witnessing at the time presented what I considered to be another opportunity to write a novel. And that’s something I find very exciting. The most exciting thing I can think of. I wanted to explore the relationships I’d made and the stories I’d heard while working as a bartender during my first year in London. I’d been working bars since 2008, so I’d already accumulated a wealth of material and a lot of ideas on how to use that wealth, but nothing that really stood out. Hackney, it turns out, was the catalyst. I find it fascinating. Its history. The social change it has gone through and is going through currently, of which I am a part, for better or worse. My writing tends to be quite place orientated, or rather the relationship between a character and his or her geographical and mental location. Ironically, when I first moved to Hackney I slept on my brother’s sofa, so I wasn’t even a legitimate resident. I felt chimerical, my place there fragile yet almost untouchable. London is good at deleting its residents, but I wasn’t one of them.
And so I lurked in Stoke Newington, meeting new people, refinding old friends, recording conversations I’d overheard in my notebook and on till receipt paper at work. I’d get drunk and write great sprawling descriptions of Hackney late at night then type them up on my old Olympia typewriter before throwing them away. I always handwrite my notes. Having a notebook allows ease of access for referencing, revising, simply writing pages quickly, eighty percent of which get deleted when I move onto the typewritten phase, then the word processing phase for editing. The Shapes of Dog’s Eyes is the second novel I’ve written like this, the fourth in total. I’m an impatient person, easily distracted. I need deadlines. I’d been trying to find good ways of disciplining myself during my time in Winchester, where I did my BA and MA and wrote my first three novels. After each one I got the same feeling of accomplishment and self-worth, but it was immediately undermined by a hopeless sense of remoteness, of emptiness, as though I’d peaked and would never be able to do it again. Of course I hadn’t peaked. The fact that no agents or publishers wanted those early manuscripts attests to that. But as writing unsuccessful novel after unsuccessful novel is an exercise in development, improvement and growth on a practical level, so feeling directionless and unimportant as a result of their completion, if they are indeed complete, is a consequence of having chosen to be a writer in the first place.
When I finished The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes at the beginning of 2015 I was very pleased with what I’d written. I sent copies to a couple of friends of mine who also seemed pleased. But as an author who has only ever published short fiction and poetry in magazines and journals, my need for acknowledgement and appraisal as a novelist kept the doubts I’d been holding as a result of past rejections at the front of my brain. But it also maintained my drive to succeed. And it doesn’t take much for someone to notice the faith you have in your work or the amount of effort you’re putting in to achieve that. Sometimes it’s a chance meeting in a bookshop, making a new friend who knows someone in the industry. I was fortunate enough to be recommended Dead Ink Books by a friend of mine who knew Wes Brown, whose novel When Lights are Bright is being released by them in 2016. Nathan Connolly, Editorial Director, was in the midst of submitting their proposal to Arts Council England in order to finance the Publishing the Underground series when I submitted. Working with him over the last few months has been incredibly gratifying. Independent publishers operate without the restrictions of the risk-averse publishing industry, and that’s very refreshing. Smaller teams seem to have more personal levels of communication, development and organisation. Less money-centric, more soulful. Not only is it a good place, it is also the right place from which to launch my career as a novelist. And for that I am very thankful.
The Shapes of Dog's Eyes is now available to order on our website. You can also order the novel, along with the two others in the series, When Lights are Bright by Wes Brown and The Wave by Lochlan Bloom, through Dead Ink's Publishing the Underground project.