David’s top tip for aspiring authors: Pay attention to the mechanics: syntax, grammar, punctuation, etc. No matter how brilliant your ideas, you have to be able to express them clearly. Edit and proof-read your manuscript carefully – or pay someone else to do it – before submitting it anywhere.
Why do you write? I’ve always enjoyed the process of stringing words together, creating imaginary situations – and I like being on my own.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d be a professional surfer, were it not for the fact that I can’t surf.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? As far as novels go, the hardest thing, apart from producing a manuscript of publishable standard, has been finding a publisher who can see that book’s potential. I think a lot of publishers shy away from novels like Disappearing off the Face of the Earth – novels that don’t fit comfortably into a marketable category or fictional genre – so it took a long time before I found someone (in this case Barry Scott at Transit Lounge) who believed in it enough to want to publish it anyway.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Writing is for the most part a solitary endeavour and that suits me well; I like sitting alone in a room, making up stories.
—the worst? Not having sufficient time to do the above. It can be difficult to achieve a good balance between writing fiction and earning a living, which in my case are two very different pursuits.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I might go the academic route, get a PhD in Literature or Creative Writing, and become a lecturer, so that writing would be a legitimate part of my job.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Do something else altogether – why be miserable? But I probably would have ignored that advice anyway because writing is the only thing that genuinely interests me – even though I’ve always had to make a living by other means.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? I can’t recall, but I’ve always found the aphorism ‘less is more’ very helpful. I think it was the architect Mies van der Rohe who coined that one, but it applies equally to writing.
Disappearing off the Face of the Earth
‘David Cohen takes suburban life and turns it into a warped comedy with a body count, letting weirdness in, compellingly, irresistibly, until our sense of what’s real is flickering on and off like a dodgy fluoro tube.’ Nick Earls
Hideaway Self Storage, located just off Brisbane’s M1, is in decline. But manager Ken Guy and his assistant Bruce carry on with their daily rituals even as the facility falls apart around them. Lately, however, certain tenants have been disappearing off the face of the earth, leaving behind units full of valuable items. Ken has no idea where these rent defaulters have gone but he thinks he might be able to turn their abandoned ‘things’ into a nice little earner that could help save his business. But the disappearances are accompanied by strange occurrences such as Bruce’s inexplicable late-night excursions, Ken’s intensifying aversion to fluorescent lights, and Ken’s girlfriend’s intensifying aversion to Ken. While further along the motorway, construction of a rival facility – Pharaoh’s Tomb Self Storage, part of a nationwide franchise – hints at a mysterious past and a precarious future.
A surprisingly funny study of physical and mental deterioration, David Cohen’s second novel is never quite what it seems. Sharply attuned to the absurdities of contemporary urban life, it is that rare literary beast, a comic drama that is at once intelligent and suspenseful, humorous and deep.
Disappearing off the Face of the Earth is available here.