“Thank you to the very attractive and intelligent Ryan Grubb for this article. It was written for his university character profile assessment, but I felt it would be nice to put an interview up on Meadowlake Street that discusses Enormity – for anyone that cares to know more about the novel. Enjoy.” – NM
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
by RYAN GRUBB
There are no secrets in a spacesuit, which is definitely the case amongst the Australian music industry and the arrival of Nick Milligan’s three-part novel Enormity. I first heard about Milligan’s intention to write a novel over a social cigarette and dubious liquid matter at The Cambridge Hotel three or four years ago. Nick had just resigned as the editor of Reverb, Australia’s largest non-metropolitan streetpress and took on an entertainment journalist gig at Fairfax Media’s Maitland Mercury. I recently sat down with the interviewer, reversing the conversation roles to find out more about Enormity and the influence that Milligan’s career has had on shaping the novel.
Milligan is in the middle of moving from his Newcastle CBD unit to Hamilton. Is Enormity about moving Milligan’s CD collection? Milligan chuckles, “No.” Had to say it. Dad jokes aside, Milligan has one of the biggest collections of media in his lounge room that I have ever seen, second only to JB Hi Fi. Every CD is arranged in alphabetical order and every disc goes back where it belongs. Milligan’s professionalism is clear, although he admits: “There are so many great albums there that I will just never get time to listen to.”
Milligan offers a drink while pouring himself a glass of red, making the most of the opportunity to be asked questions for a change. Milligan points out that the plonk “will be one less thing to pack.” It is impossible not to notice, nor mention the eyes of Manchester Orchestra, Panic! At the Disco and Kate Hudson’s rose-coloured glasses, from the cover of the film Almost Famous, staring on in the form of signed posters hanging from the wall. All that’s left in Milligan’s penthouse apartment are a dining table, chairs and a Glad-wrapped media library – ready for transport – that any music fan would die to own.
Milligan finds it “difficult” to describe Enormity to people that inquire. “After the first few times I was asked what it was about, I kind of [laughs] stopped trying to answer.”
Enormity is essentially the story of a failed musician named Jack who, through the air force, joins the space programme. After a botched space mission he lands on a planet that similar to Earth – and inhabited by humans. Hungry and homeless, Jack finds a guitar and passes off some of Earth’s greatest rock songs as his own; swallowing, smoking, snorting and fucking his way to become the biggest rock star on that planet. Enormity becomes a much darker story; it radiates music industry satire to explore some deeper themes of existentialism and morality when Jack is confronted with the consequences of his lie.
Milligan explains the influence that being an entertainment journalist had when it came to making the switch from writing journalism to a big bang of science fiction/music fan fiction. “I’ve talked to probably a thousand musicians and cross examined them with their writing process,” he says. The author highlights an interview for Rolling Stone with one of his “all time heroes”, novelist Bret Easton Ellis. “It was a really monumental interview for me personally. Even though, in hindsight, it was an interview for Rolling Stone, it was more a one-on-one master-class about writing.” Milligan concludes by admitting that the candid 45-minute interview with Ellis is “the best thing I’ve ever done”.
There is no denying Milligan is a music-tragic at heart. This aspect of the 29-year-old is ironically personified through his signed Almost Famous poster and summed up through the thousands of albums, DVDs and books in his collection.
There is a feeling within Milligan that Enormity sits proudly on the shelf, waiting for Penny Lane to fall in love with it. “The book includes conscious decisions I made to be clever – I have put a lot of hidden little music references in there.” One of which, as Milligan describes, is where Jack and his band are interviewed by a critic. “That is my tongue-in-cheek poke at music journalists, like myself. He’s this little, nerdy guy with glasses and a band t-shirt,” Milligan laughs. “Even though they are the most famous musicians on the planet, they are desperate to impress him.”
But not all his decisions were conscious. Milligan feels as if people who read the novel are going to make a connection between the author and the protagonist. He stresses the contrary: “I am definitely not Jack.” This detachment from the character created a mental phenomenon for Milligan where: “He’s [Jack] saying things that I would never say and making decisions that I would never do.” Being in a character’s mindset while writing the novel, Milligan says “I’ve lost hours writing, writing, writing”, and has sometimes found himself “shocked” when reading over the graphic content in Enormity.
The decision was made by Milligan to release Enormity in three parts because “there were two clear places where I could divide the novel on a cliff-hanger.” Though for every article Milligan read about the positives of releasing a book in instalments, there were just as many articles that recommended “not doing it”. But he followed his instinct. “When all three parts are out, I’ll be releasing a complete version of it [Enormity].” Where, as Milligan says, a more structured marketing plan will follow.
Nick Milligan can be summed up as a man on the move, literally and figuratively. There is the thought with Milligan that, no matter where he is located, he has the talent and ability to go anywhere in the universe that his mind will take him.
Part one and two of Nick Milligan’s Enormity are available to download through Amazon.com. Part three will be available June 21, 2013 via the same retailer.