Recently, Thomas attended a writers’ conference in Newcastle where he gave a presentation entitled “Is editing really necessary?” Admittedly he wasn’t invited to speak in any official capacity. it was more an act of whim on his part—although the police report describes it far less convivially, albeit with words also of four letters.
Thomas had been ordered to attend the conference as community service despite winning an appeal to have a case against him over-turned on the basis that he couldn’t be convicted as a bad writer because he didn’t have any credentials being a writer in the first place. This simple and arguably brilliant reprieve by his solicitor, Inkam Bakery-Sparr, won Thomas popular acclaim in the local media, especially when he generously shared his sandwiches with journalists. It’s a tragic irony that his short-lived popular acclaim did not spill over to his books. Unless one has tried reading them, in which case the lack of spillage is obvious.
“It was a case most hurtful,” Thomas said, in-between sandwiches. “There were all these publishers and literary agents who’d taken out this class-action against me because of the ebooks I was publishing. Apparently these individuals consider my writing so ghastly that I threatened both the publishing industry and the reading public.” Most writers, in the face of adversity would accept the fact and move on to other things. Thomas, however, did not. In fact, even in the light of such overwhelming loathing, Thomas sees it differently. “Apparently this is the first time anyone has been done for assault through writing,” he said. “So in one way, it’s almost impressive and something I intend to see as a positive.”
It’s not that Thomas believes himself to be a good writer. He knows he’s ghastly. But this ghastliness makes him stand apart from all other writers. Even the bad ones. And the irony is that the publishing industry agrees. “He’s just so shit,” Nathan Merrecle of Fabulous Agents said. “I mean he’s just so utterly shit. His writing’s worse than my son’s—and my son was only conceived three months ago. I mean, as literary agents there are standards we must adhere to if there is to be professionalism in the publishing industry. Certainly, there are many badly written indie books flooding the market , but Thomas’ are just so utterly dreadful that I fear for the clinical well-being of those reading them. Though I use the word reading in the loosest possible sense. Fortunately it seems that most attempts don’t get much further than the first page. At least not without some alcohol and a mouthful of panadol.”
“It is ironic,” Thomas agrees, “that they hate me for the very same reason that I accept myself. I know I’m shit. But I also know I can be nothing but shit. So this is really about my accepting who I am and not let others force me to change. They want me to stop writing for the very same reason I feel I must continue. Writing is the art of making myself feel better while making others feel worse. For me, this case is not about winning, it’s about standing up for myself and being who I am. Even if I’m shit.”
“Thomas is a man of a most remarkable denial,” Inkam Bakery-Sparr remarked later. “I have defended some pretty weird types in my legal career as I specialise in freaks, but Thomas is so weird I can’t even catagorise him as such. He’s obsessed with writing, although he clearly can’t manage in the vaguest sense of the word. Even his name is written badly. Have you seen his signature? It looks like it's giving birth to itself. The publishing industry is clearly trying to vilify him—and I must admit to understanding their reasons entirely. And yet despite this, Thomas still manages to see positives when everyone else is screaming at him that there are none and punching him in the face. If denial is a blindness, then Thomas is as blind as bat shit. Though I must admit, he’s very generous with sandwiches.”
Despite this, while attending the conference, Thomas was overwhelmed by the amount of emphasis put on editing a manuscript to have it the best it can possibly be before submitting it anywhere. “It just seemed a bit ridiculous that everyone was trying for the same thing: to get their work as perfect as it could be, with self-editing, critiques, beta-readers, technical editors and those sorts of things. It struck me that their work was at risk of normalisation: that the more any work is scrutinised, the more it might lose its character. That’s all I wanted to get across. I didn’t expect attendees and organises to get so riled at my doing so. And I certainly didn’t expect to be arrested. Not again, anyway.”
Concerned for this perceived normalisation, during a seminar on maintaining consistent point of view in narrative, Thomas got to his feet and demanded to know what point of view was. “The explanation hardly sufficed,” Thomas insisted. “They were using all these words I’d never heard of. I still think many of them were foreign. Frankly, I don’t want to know about any of it to ensure I preserve my originality.”