For Tim Maughan, choosing to be a writer wasn’t really a choice at all.
“It was the only thing I was any good at at school, to be quite honest,” said Maughan, a journalist, novelist and author of the book Infinite Detail. “And even then I wasn’t sure for decades — I kind of knew I’d always end up trying to do it professionally, but I didn’t have the confidence to give it a stab until I was in my thirties.”
As a teenager, Maughan said the authors William Gibson, J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson and Octavia Butler all had a “huge impact on me, for very different reasons.”
“But also a lot of music I was listening to at the time (inspired me),” he said. “In particular, there were rappers like Rakim, Guru, and KRS-1 that interested me because of how they used language, but also electronic musicians like Robert Hood and Jeff Mills who helped shape my aesthetic and how I think about the future.”
At 3:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, July 23, Maughan will present his debut novel, Infinite Detail, to a virtual audience on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Infinite Detail, which was published in March 2019, is the Week Four Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection. Infinite Detail, which chronicles a world in the not-so-distant future filled with fake news, a lack of privacy, and a cyberterrorism attack that has permanently turned off the internet, was a Locus Award finalist for best first novel.
“In the presentation, I’m going to focus on the real-world themes behind my book, especially around infrastructures and the complex systems that shape our lives,” Maughan said. “Mainly I’ll be talking about shipping containers and supply chains. Hopefully it’ll make people think about things they take for granted and how fragile they actually are, which was also the aim of the novel in a lot of ways.”
Lately, Maughan said he’s recently read Elvia Wilk’s book, Oval, as well as Will Wiles’ novel, Plume — two “great, very contemporary novels,” that he said have stayed with him long after reading.
But for Maughan, it’s the stories he reads in the news and on his Twitter feed that truly haunt him, especially those on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been watching lots of television, been doing lots of doomscrolling on Twitter,” he said. “Both my wife and I took up baking, just to be utterly clichéd, but it’s been surprisingly helpful. But it is a tough time. It’s less the quarantine and lockdown, as I work from home anyway — it’s the constant stress and anger from watching the news which is the hardest, and worrying about distant friends and family.”
Maughan’s advice for writers boils down to this maxim: “Stick to your guns.”
“Don’t listen to too much writing advice,” he said. “You don’t need everybody’s opinion on your work. Find one or two people you trust and that’s it. Find your own way. That’s one of the most exciting about writing — that you’re on your own. It’s just you and the story. It might be one of the last few creative pursuits where you still have that much control over the work. Relish it.”