PDB: Can you pitch SALARYMAN UNBOUND in 25 words or less?
EKE: Japanese crime novel that hits close to home – no hardboiled detective, formulaic genre devices, but one Everyman’s descent into muddy psychological waters. With murderous twists.
PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?
EKE: Getting back into dark Japanese fiction, surprised how current and edgy the best writers are, even 100 years later. Tanizaki, Akutagawa, Kawabata, Dazai, with their remarkably accessible, relevant and disturbing takes on the human condition.
Music for writing: Bach, Mozart, the Romantic composers, instrumental jazz, hard rock and some cringeworthy pop.
PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?
EKE: It’s a question I ask myself a lot since I’m also a book reviewer. The answer is always the same, though: I think so. Knowing a writer personally, or if the prose or characters resemble mine, doesn’t seem to affect my impressions, and I genuinely enjoy reading as much as ever. If anything, I’m more appreciative of texture, tone and nuance, but it’s hard to read a book without writing up the margins.
PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?
EKE: Hmm, in any other year I would have said no. I grew up with an inside view of the film industry and its superficiality and commercial focus always disappointed me, and the medium itself seemed so two-dimensional compared to books; film always seemed like a cheap magic trick full of formula and cliché that left otherwise reasonable people unreasonably entranced. But I’ll admit a good film can leave both immediate and lasting impressions on the psyche; in work I’m gravitating more and more towards photography, trying to capture visuals that previously had no impact. Writing scripts no longer seems like a big leap.
EKE: A lot, but research isn’t just Googling and thumbing through tomes of case studies. Salaryman Unbound is my first crime book, and I found it easier in many ways, as it was more a matter of getting into the head of a frustrated individual. The Japan depicted in the book is basically the one I lived in for many years, the characters based on no one in particular but more generally on the lonely, overworked, underappreciated friends and schemers I was surrounded by.
PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?
EKE: At the moment, unfortunately not much. I don’t even have a smartphone, or internet connection at home – so making use of online avenues isn’t something I’ve clued into yet. I’m sure this will change as more books come out and I need more effective ways of connecting with readers.
PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?
EKE: This will be an interesting year. I’m finishing up a long and literary coming-of-age novel and am halfway through a murder mystery, but what I’ll be doing and where I’ll be living at the end of the year is up in the air.
Bio: Ezra Kyrill Erker. Born in Berlin, Ezra grew up along the German Black Forest, in Switzerland, the Netherlands and across the South Pacific, and was largely educated in the US. He has lived most of his adult life in Japan and Southeast Asia, with longer working stints as university lecturer, newspaper reporter and photojournalist. Currently he lives in Bangkok.