Deborah Curtis interview 2005 / 2006
Topic 2: Questions about Touching From A Distance
Joy Division Central email to Deborah Curtis December 2005.
We like the fact that your book is clearly written by you, not a ghost writer, and it comes across as a very honest and personal account. Was it difficult to write? What was it like working with the publisher, did they insist on any alterations to the book after you submitted your first draft?

Fiction writers say that when they write sub-plots and references appear in the finished article that weren’t consciously put there. When you read your book after it was published did anything surprise you, or perhaps change your perspective on things?

There’s a theory that a lot of people could write a book, but don’t because they know they’d upset the friends and family that they wrote about – or based fictional characters on.

When you wrote your book you had a young daughter, and you were living close to Ian’s relatives and other people you were writing about. Did you leave anything out of your book because of this? More broadly, is there anything you wish you’d put in, left out, or described differently? Are you planning to amend and republish the book to coincide with the film?

We all change our views as time passes and we get older, and we’re interested about how you feel about one of the central themes of the book some 20 years after it was first published. You described how Ian idolised those who had died young such as Jim Morrison and others and you put forward the idea that, on some level, Ian had always intended to do the same. Is this still the way you look back on this, or do you see things in a different light now?

On a lighter note: In Touching From a Distance you recall Ian saying that "I'm going to make so much money you'll never have to work again”. We all know that the financial side of the music industry is a strange place where almost anything can happen – and it would be interesting to know if this promise came true (in broad terms that is, we’re not after copies of bank statements or anything!).

You may have noticed that at Joy Division Central we like to get to the bottom of every issue, no detail too trivial and all that - and we have a couple of questions of that ilk:

The first chapter of your book has the title “An Urban Soundtrack” (in Ian's writing, as are all the chapter titles). So we wondered whether this was an early or an alternative title of a Joy Division song, if not can you shed any light on the Urban Soundtrack reference?

The handwritten set list from the Marquee lists Soundtrack as the first item. It is not clear whether this refers to a song title or a pre-recorded tape. Do you happen to know which it was?

According to recent reports Bernard apparently hypnotically regressed Ian and recorded the experience on tape. You didn’t mention this in your book, so we’re wondering if this actually happened. Did you ever hear this recording? If so it must have been quite strange …

And finally, we believe that you’re planning to write a children’s book. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
Topic 2: Questions about Touching From A Distance
Deborah Curtis's response January 2006.
I can't think about the book in terms of difficult or easy to write. It was time consuming but liberating and satisfying. I felt that in not being asked for my version of events that I'd been effectively silenced. The basic storyline is a very old one - boy meet girl, boy gets to travel, boy meets another girl. It was Ian's charisma and talent and of course his illness that made the scenario different from any other.

My editor at Faber & Faber was alert to the sensitivity of the subject, so I felt secure with her. I knew she wasn't going to suggest any alterations purely for the sake of sensationalism. I don't remember them requesting any major alterations. Maybe, there were one or two colloquialisms she felt had to come out, or comments that were more surmising than logical. I wanted the book to be taken seriously.

I did my own proof reading so by the time the book was published I knew it back to front and inside out so no there were no surprises after it was published. It wasn't until I started thinking about the film that I found typos I'd missed or minor detail that I'd got wrong. The publisher will try to amend typos when possible e.g. there's an error where A Certain Ratio is called A Certain Ration; but anything bigger than that such as a new jacket to coincide with the film is at the publisher's discretion. I tried to make the book factual without colouring it with my own personal opinion of other people, mainly because I knew that in time my feelings towards other people might change. There's nothing I'd put in or take out - I wrote it mainly to help myself put the events into some kind of order and I think I achieved that.

Yes, Ian did idolise Jim Morrison and he did talk about dying and say that he wanted to die young. It was something we argued about and he would not change the way he thought. When I look back now, it's not possible to see things in any other light, let alone understand why he felt like that from such a young age.

The chapter titles in the book were chosen by faber from Ian's original lyrics. There are many proposed titles and little thoughts that Ian put onto paper. It's not always clear which are titles and which are ideas that Ian was playing around with. Much of his work could be described as an urban soundtrack. I think Soundtrack would have referred to a song but really you'd have to ask the band.

Sorry but hypnotic regression isn't my thing! If you want to get to the bottom of that then that's something you'd have to ask Bernard about.

I may have thought about writing a children's book in the past but it's definitely not on the agenda now. I think fact is easier to write than fiction. With fiction everything has to tie up neatly at the end and as you can see from my book real life just isn't like that, so to some degree the author is let off the hook.
>Part three - October 2007

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