9 June 2015

Spotlight On: James Butler

James Butler

James Butler is a Brisbane-based writer, bookseller, and co-founder and fiction editor at Scum Magazine. He’s currently writing an honours thesis on representations of the body in postmodern film.


How old are you?

What state or territory do you live in?

What kind of writing do you do?
I normally work in creative non-fiction and memoir. I’ve been working on a book called Body Work about bodies and their representation in culture, gender and eating disorders, and my relationship with my own body, but I’ve had to put it on hiatus while I write my honours thesis.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading a whole bunch of film theory for my thesis. But for pleasure I am reading Mislaid by Nell Zink. Its a strange but satisfying satirical novel that subverts the American nuclear family.

How did you begin writing?
I really liked writing essays in school and I haven’t stopped. They’re just mostly about me now instead of Shakespeare.

How do you remain motivated?
This question is hard to answer since my academic work has totally pushed my creative work aside. But really, guilt is what motivates me to get any kind of writing done. I’m constantly guilty that I haven’t written enough, submitted enough, published enough, done enough. It is bad but also good I guess.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I’m a voracious reader so I’ll normally come across something that will get my brain ticking. Plus just the work of writers I love in general makes me wanna write. If I write something half as good as Hilton Als I’ll be so happy. That goes almost double for the work of young Australian writers I like. Whenever I read something by Ellena Savage or Sian Campbell or Emma Jones I’m immediately and intensely motivated.    

Do you think where you live in Australia has influenced your writing?
Brisbane is a really terrific place to be. There are a lot of exciting young writers here who push me to do more and do better.

What is the best and worst piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
Personally, when I started my undergrad degree I wrote a lot of shitty fiction and my friend Krissy said I should concentrate on nonfiction and I’m thankful for that.

I think that people putting the idea in your head that you need to be writing every single day otherwise you’re doing it wrong is sometimes counterproductive. Of course keeping a good practice is important, but equating not having the energy to write with not caring enough to write is problematic to me.

What is your goal for National Young Writer’s Month?
To watch as many online events as possible and to head to my local Voiceworks launch. I want to be reminded of the terrific communities I’m a part of.

What piece of published writing are you most proud of? Why?
A personal essay I wrote recently went up on Scum Magazine and I’m quite pleased with it. I think good personal essays situate the writer within culture and I’m working hard to get that balance right. People sent me friendly and complimentary messages when that essay was published and it felt nice.


Is there anything else you want to tell us?

Where can we find out more about you?
My twitter is @james_abutler and my instagram is @jamesbtlr. I’m a co-founding editor of Scum Magazine (www.scum-mag.com) which you should read/submit to/scream praise of.