Interview // Marcus Bird on Naked As The Day
Recently released is the excellent book Naked As The Day by Marcus Bird. Set in the vibrant and neon city of Tokyo it tells a story of one man’s mission to change his life. #srcz decided a talk to the author was very much in need to find out just what the book is all about and what inspired its creation. Meet Marcus Bird…
One // Hi Marcus, your new book Naked as the Day was released very recently. Briefly, what’s the book all about?
The book takes a look into the mind of a young man in a state of extreme inner turmoil. He is restless and unhappy in the small town where he is, and decides to move to Tokyo to expand his horizons. He has limited savings and an extreme aversion to teaching English (the easiest occupation for foreigners in Japan), so he has to figure out a way to survive quickly.
Two // The main setting is of course Tokyo. The city itself is of course very unique and exciting for newcomers, both Japanese and foreign. What drew you to set Naked as the Day in Tokyo?
After living in Tokyo, I knew I’d write a book about it at some point, it was just a matter of the specific narrative. This was always going to be a Tokyo story.
Three // From your own experience, what makes Tokyo so special?
What a question! Tokyo has a pulse that one must experience to understand. The way a night can unravel in mysterious ways, or little odd things you see around town, plus the backdrop of the awesome city. The place is teeming with life and things to do, and I feel that people who go there tend to feel like they are bigger and cooler, just like the city.
Four // Apart from the city itself, what are the main narrative themes of the book?
The narrative deals with hard choices and dark inner battles. We all know that in fighting for a goal most of the time we are fighting ourselves. I analyze this phenomenon by taking the protagonist through a series of situations that test his will on multiple levels, as we are always tested.
Five // There are so many foreigners already in or going to Japan to find their future or just to experience a different place. What will those already familiar with the country find in this book to reflect their own experience?
This is a heavily Tokyo book, and I feel that any person who has lived in Tokyo for some time will be pulled into the framework of the narrative pretty easily. Inevitably when a person writes about a place like Japan, subtle things will appear in the text like the names of certain foods or popular drinks, hotspots and cultural observation or two. What I do know is that many of the people that travel to Japan or live there are searching for something. I call Japan a way station for lost souls because I think many folks are drawn there because it is so far away and magical, but often they have no specific agenda. Anyone who has been on that search in Japan, or elsewhere can relate to aspects of what the protagonist goes through in the book.
Six // There are so many books out there about Tokyo and its many visitors. What makes Naked as the Day stand out from them?
Two things: my background and the narrative of the novel. My book isn’t a memoir, a samurai era story, or a pop culture tale with sensational things like gangsters and ninjas. It is a dark, sexy look into Tokyo life from the perspective of an internationally savvy Jamaican. I take you into the fashion world, guesthouses and throughout the tight nooks and crannies of the Tokyo landscape with a guy trying to beat the system while being held in the unflinching gaze of a city that doesn’t care. The story is untraditional and lacks predictability. People are very drawn to novels set in Japan, because the narratives tend to be quite different, and my novel is the same in that regard.
Seven // There is a very high paced, Tokyo style to the prose of Naked as the Day. Was that deliberate or is that a reflection of your own personal style of writing?
I guess that is my style of writing. I’m not sure what ‘Tokyo style’ prose is (laughs). But I guess it is impossible to be in a city like Tokyo and not be constantly hit with sounds and experiences. But for the most part, my writing style has always been like this.
Eight // What do you hope the reader comes away with from the book?
Very few people have the luxury of waking up knowing exactly what they want to do in life. Even fewer make the choices necessary to make their dreams become a reality. The protagonist of this book isn’t chasing a specific dream, but makes a huge decision based on a kernel of a feeling, something subtle that tells him he is worth more and needs more from his life. I know that millions of people have felt this exact same way, and after reading this book, I hope it shows people that despite the trials your mind might go through in the face of significant change, you are still willing to face it all. You grow, you improve, you see things you probably didn’t dream you would have.
Nine // As a writer, what’s the best piece of advice you gave been given or given out for getting your work onto the page and out into the world?
Despite the fact that I don’t always agree with the somewhat dreamy notions super famous writers dole out to the legions of writers ready to follow the wake of their envious successes, there are a few things I’ve heard that hold true for me. Continuously writing is a must. I think that is the only way you can improve as a writer. Naked As The Day goes into some interesting mental territory, places I wouldn’t have dared to go to if I hadn’t released my last book, Sex, Drugs & Jerk Chicken, which I wouldn’t have dared to write if I didn’t decide to stretch and challenge myself. But more importantly than just “write a lot”, is to get people to read your work. Find serious people who value you as a person and have them give you brutally honest feedback on what you are working on. This feels like getting ‘naked’ and god knows it is still hard for me to imagine some of my family reading my book, but it is a contract an artist must sign with the world. You create something, and then it must be recognized whether good or bad. It doesn’t make sense to think your book is the best thing ever, and it is probably substandard. This has made me humble with my expectations, because if I read something that blows me away I always ask myself, I can do the same? So I read a lot of different kinds of books. Many of these books have phenomenal writing, or phenomenal characters. I read books that affect me that make me want to affect people. So I’m no longer in the closeted grey area of being a “sort of writer”. I’m putting my work out there for the masses to touch and feel because ultimately they are its true judges. So write, get feedback, improve and then put it out there and see what happens.
Ten // Finally - how would you describe Tokyo to the person who has never been in order to convey just what a life changing place it is?
Read my book. (smiles)
Interview by Sebastian Gahan. Naked As The Day is out now in digital and physical formats.