The Cardiff-based author Dan Tyte chats to Karla Brading about his latest novel The Offline Project, published by Graffeg and the perils of the internet age.
Having bumped into Dan Tyte many moons ago – as he slipped into Waterstones to inspect the display of his first novel Half Plus Seven – it bore great privilege to finally sit down and talk about his wild ideas at length; particularly his ambitious creation, The Offline Project.
As a novel relevant to our time on surmountable levels, Tyte’s protagonist Gerard leaves the overbearing reality of every-day technology to immerse himself in a Scandinavian environment, minus access to the mind-melting world wide web. But what sparked the idea of a man kissing goodbye to his smart phone for a (potentially) simpler life?
“It’s hard not to notice that a massive proportion of the nation is addicted to social media,” Tyte explained. “I’m of an age that I can compare the desire to check four different media apps the second I wake up, to a latter-day existence, where the only thing on my mind was breakfast and making the bed.” Tyte reminds us that social media can seriously influence mental health, boost or lower self-esteem, and give people an unnatural sense of validation, if only through posting something that is responded to with a positive ‘like’ or ‘share.’ “If someone had told me when I was younger that in years to come people would be looking down at a square of plastic for roughly twenty hours a week, observing the lives of people they barely know and probably wouldn’t say hello to in the street, I’d have thought them mad.”
This spurred Tyte to create a story that reflected the pros and cons of being online. But as an author using various platforms himself and with a character that has a rather crummy experience, what does he actually feel the pros are?
“The internet gives people a voice. A chance to share an opinion. Change views for the better and be exposed to new ideas. There are people that may have struggled in social situations that can now use the net to form friendships. I met my wife through the use of the internet, so it’s really not all negative.
With every novel, there’s a certain amount of research involved. Tyte, however, was already brimming with enough knowledge that little research was needed. “It’s already so easy to see how the world is affected [by the internet]. I have Scandinavian family, which fed my interest of placing my protagonist in a wooded, isolated area; rebuilding without online support.
But could Tyte give up his internet access and live the life of his leading man? “Hey, I’d love to try! But I’ll admit: I’m not a very practical man. For a start, I’m a vegetarian, so I couldn’t catch a fish. Which would progress to me eating poison berries, or something life threatening. I’d see a bear and think it would be okay to just pet it. Basically, if I went off the grid, for a television series for example, I’d be the guy that died in the first episode.
As with a lot of novels exploring easily-relatable yet sensitive subject matter, Tyte had a message for his readers. “Life isn’t just about what other people are doing and if they’re doing it better or worse than you. Don’t be defined by the net because you are a brave soul. You’re a beautiful person. Never forget that.”
Convincingly a beautiful person himself with his ideas and insightful literature, Tyte has now returned to the project he previously abandoned in order to start what is now his current publication. “I’m three quarters of the way through,” he says. “It’s about four women and their experiences of a male at certain points in their lives. I’m exploring what I call ‘mystical coincidence.’”
It goes without saying, we can’t wait to read the finished product and see this Cardiff-based author’s career expand exponentially.
The Offline Project by Dan Tyte. Published by Graffeg Books. Price: £8.99. Info: www.graffeg.com