Daniel Kramb is the author of three novels, Central (2015), From Here (2012), and Dark Times (2010); and a collection of poetry, Timid Takes (2013).
He is the co-founder of the Lonely Coot imprint, and is currently collaborating with Jean Casey on Sin Sceal Eile – a listening project that turns life stories into poetry.
Daniel works in arts communications at FMcM, where he promotes poetry, short stories and small presses especially. He lives in London.
In other words.
I started writing what would become my first novel in 2009. "The crisis" had just hit, and things were looking bad. I had a job as a journalist at the time, and only managed half a page here, a fragment there. A first draft appeared, then disappeared. I decided to leave London for the first time since moving here - from Germany, in 2003 - to spent a year working for Greenpeace International in Amsterdam. To force myself to keep going with my story of four young Londoners colliding on the streets of their neighbourhood, Hackney, I started one of many online projects to come - writing and publishing the novel from the beginning to the end, one chapter at the time, two chapters a week. Many of these were written at the crack of dawn in a tiny, unheated attic overlooking the Amstel. It's a nice memory now. The story reached its conclusion, I moved back to London, and Dark Times became a book.
Over the last decade and a half, few issues have occupied me more than climate change. At times I was so concerned, I didn't know how to go on, or where to look. But the message wasn't getting through. People were talking past each other, or not talking at all. Nothing was moving and nothing, it seemed, could move. From Here arose out of a desire - which quickly turned into an obsession - to address the issue differently. Could it come to life in a piece of fiction? In a love story, even? For a year, I did nothing else. When it came to sharing the result - a campaigning novel, of sorts; something many told me could never exist - I didn't want to make compromises. That's when the Lonely Coot was born, the tiny imprint that would publish this, and all my subsequent books. We launched From Here at the Dalston Curve Garden. It was a warm spring evening, and I got drunk on the hope I allowed my characters to feel.
Writing in your second language - even when it has long started to feel natural, like your own - is daring, some would say foolish, and, at times, frightening. When I decided to turn to poetry - the form which, all things considered, has been my favourite ever since Rilke angel-rode into my teenage bedroom - I knew that it would be all too easy for self-doubt to massacre any attempt before it bore fruit, and turn me away, possibly for good. Not to, I figured, would mean to click before. That's how the Timid Takes came to be - 31 intimate, raw and immediate poems, later collected in a book, published online, between May 2012 and February 2013: as they came to me, and when they did.
And after that: nothing. What would be gained from attempting another novel, I wrote into my notebook, again and again. When the prose of Anne Michaels came to me, decades delayed - like a hand on my shoulder - something opened up again. One after the other, characters arrived, and they insisted, and I said Yes, and, for the next three years, this demon-haunted story set in an empty house on Bloomsbury Square would be the force that kept me going, and the force that drove me to the edge. In the end, I isolated myself completely: I endangered friendships; I drank too much. Unable to give up on what I had started, I moved back into the basement of my parents. When, at last, the Lonely Coot took the manuscript out of my hands, I didn't know what to feel. When I'm placing the book into the hands of readers now, I still don't. But Central had to happen, and I'm glad it did. In a letter to me, Anne Michaels wrote: "This purity is a kind of oxygen."
Look at Us started with the picture of a young couple, spending their nights and days in a London flatshare, in bed: unable to deal with the situation, in thrall of social media; utterly powerless. I knew it had to be a play - something I had wanted to do for a long time - and I passionately wanted it to be a collaboration. A first draft was written over two feverish weeks in the summer of 2016, and when I found myself sitting opposite the poet and novelist JJ Bola at the British Library shortly afterwards, discussing not mine, but our characters, I knew a new chapter had started.
London, July 2018