Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How To Do Bad Things The Wrong Way: Guest Post by Finn Bell

Finn Bell is a finalist for the 2017 Ngaio Marsh Award in two categories. How cool is that? Pancake Money is is up for Best Crime novel while Dead Lemons is up for Best First Novel. Finn Bell lives in the far south of New Zealand where he writes full time. The Ngaio Marsh Awards are literary awards presented annually in New Zealand to recognize excellence in crime fiction, mystery, and thriller writing. The Award was established by journalist and crime fiction reviewer Craig Sisterson in 2010, and is named after Dame Ngaio Marsh. Today's post is part of the Ngaio Marsh Award Blog Tour (scroll down for dates and locations of future posts). Thanks, Finn, for this post. I think your books are amazing and unique!

Finn Bell:
How To Do Bad Things The Wrong Way . . .

I’m Finn Bell and I write books. (And if you’re reading this to decide whether to try my books I wouldn’t recommend it. Don’t get me wrong – please buy my books so I can eat, seriously tell your friends. I just don’t think talking about something is the same as actually doing it. But we’ll get back to that later).

Instead I’ll abuse this space. Which was kindly given me to talk about myself, my writing, and my next books, to rather talk about something that I’m so much better at: Failure.

This is a true story and mine (although I suspect there’s a universal aspect to human stupidity and possibly I’m not as lonely as I feel). To start our tale, we’re going to need to go back about two decades. Witness now my former self:

There stands young Finn (poor bugger) currently being told by his favourite university lecturer (who dislikes Finn for all the right reasons) something he is (as yet) too inexperienced in the painful ways of stupidity to learn. The pearl of wisdom is this:

People who think they’re so fucking smart aren’t always as fucking smart as they think.

The reason I was being told this was because I had (almost but not quite) gotten caught. Before we talk about what I was being accused of let me first mention that I’m bad at most things (can’t sing, can’t dance, not good at any kind of sport, not easy on the eyes either, and my friends and family routinely have their overly kind patience tested by my many, many character flaws). I am and always have been however, good at learning things (I wouldn’t call myself intelligent, because intelligent people wouldn’t have done all the dumb things I have) but I’d say it’s a knack for reading fast and remembering things and for writing it all down again. Which can (trust me) be a very good substitute for actual wisdom and knowledge, if you’re making your way through university.

And I (mostly) was making my way through university. I was dirt poor, holding down two jobs at night to cover the parts of the tuition fees the academic scholarships didn’t and sleeping through most of my classes in the day time (which was fine because of my aforementioned knack). All I still had to overcome was the annoying habit of needed to eat most days. And food costs money. Which is where the wrong thing I almost got caught doing comes in.

You see universities are (luckily for my younger self) often populated by kids from rich families who have just too much money and parties in their schedule to bother with pedantic things like doing their own assignments, or preparing their own study notes for exams. It was meant to be really. So, by my 3rd year I was attending classes I wasn’t even signed up for. Churning out assignments and study notes (available at really very reasonable prices of course) on everything from law and philosophy to art history (hell I was at the point where I was taking bookings). It was wrong and I knew it but hey I was eating and it wasn’t just me doing it (the 2nd most money I ever made was selling an ethics assignment, go figure). Eventually the lecturers put just enough of it together and dragged me in to the office to thoroughly threaten me (they didn’t have enough to prove it though, I wasn’t quite that dumb) and hence I was left with that piece of advice about not being as smart as you might think (which I ignored). Thus far doing things the wrong way was working out just fine thank you.

Now fast forward several years of everything going to plan.

We find Finn walking into his upscale city-centre apartment (part of the boringly predictable trappings of success). At 30 he was the youngest national manager in his company (feel free to add any cliché of the stereotypical soul-less, career driven young man and it would probably stick).

Except today is different.

This is the very first time I come home after another long, successful day of doing bad things (now without even a hint of a possibility of getting caught) and feel absolutely fine. Not a doubt, not even an inkling of conscience. Through the sweat of my dishonest brow I had worked hard and sacrificed and gotten everything I wanted (without getting anything I needed). I had finally reached the point where all the bad things I had done didn’t even bother me one little bit. And I thought to myself that there should be a word for this, this point right at the crest of the momentum of your own wrongness.

Where you can still look over your shoulder and see right from wrong receding behind you, but really not care anymore. For that place where you realise you had become an enthusiastic part of everything you used to think was wrong with the world and know that you’re only about one effortless step away from not being able to turn around at all. That’s when I realised my old professor was right.

I wasn’t really as smart as I’d thought. You see up to that point, for me, the end justified the means. I did (as long as I could get away with it) the things that got me what I wanted. Right or wrong didn’t come into it. Survival was my excuse. In an unfair world, I had become exactly the kind of wrong person it required to succeed. Except that wasn’t really my intention when I started out. I just wanted to be happy. I wanted a good life. Not this. But somewhere along the way surviving (in increasing levels of comfort) became more important that actually living. Which even most kids will be able to tell you is plain stupid. Because the end doesn’t ever justify the means no matter what you tell yourself. So, I decided to tell myself something else. The money, the safety, the status, none of it mattered, not really. Surviving didn’t even matter, not if it meant I couldn’t live with myself. I was done doing the wrong things because they got me what I wanted. For a change (and against all my instincts) I was going to do the right thing without even caring about what it got me.

For me that’s writing books (and I’m not saying there’s anything better about writing than any other job just that for me this is that thing - where I get to be a good person doing good things, even if it means I starve). And that’s what I’d wish for all the other stupid people out there (speaking as a former member): Not that you buy my books but rather that you mess things up enough to realise that you need to risk everything to do the right thing for its own sake not yours. And that you then go and find that right thing.

(And also, maybe buy my books, but only if you really want to).

1 comment:

Grandma Cootie said...

Great post! Took me straight to Finn's website and then to read samples of his books and then to buy those books. Glad he tossed that old life and switched to writing full time.