Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Anna Chilvers

Hello to everybody. My last interview was pretty successful, lots and lots of views, so I’ve managed to nab another interview from a Bluemoose Books champion.  Anna Chilvers is the author of East Coast Road, my best fiction winner of 2020 (the awards don’t get much bigger than that…in your face Nobel Prize!), I am super excited to be asking odd questions to Anna.  Please stop dunking biscuits in your tea and welcome Anna to this here interview. 

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?  Done anything embarrassing? 

I’ve been teaching online a lot. The other day I got to the end of a class and realised my top was on inside out. I guess I could have done that in real life, but someone might have pointed it out to me. I have, on occasions, only got dressed on the top half, and taught in my pyjamas. Other than that, I’ve been baking bread, making smoothies, doing yoga and walking a lot. I lost my dog last summer, so I’m suffering from dog envy. I’ve managed to resist kidnapping a puppy so far. 

Here is Betty

Q2:  Tell us a bit about East Coast Road, what is it about and how did you come up with the idea? 

Jen, the main character of East Coast Road, forms a relationship with St. Etheldreda, an Anglo Saxon princess, and travels with her down the east coast of England. This relationship was formed in a different (unpublished) novel which I started nearly twenty years ago. That novel was abandoned, but the connection between Jen and Ethie stayed alive, and I revived it for this novel.  

Etheldreda ran away from her husband, who was the King of Northumbria. On her journey various miracles happened, which helped her along the way. I wanted Jen and some of the other characters to go on this journey with Ethie. I knew some of the route, but not all of it, so I applied to the Arts Council and was lucky enough to get funding to walk five hundred miles from St.Abbs in Scotland to Ely in Cambridgeshire. 

Q3:  This here blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and whilst reading East Coast Road I noticed no Gnomes, there must have been plenty of Gnomes walking the same route, and yet they don’t get a mention….any chance of a complete re-write? 

There would have been some Gnomads, I’m sure. But they are very shy creatures, and when you spot them they freeze and pretend to be garden ornaments. So Jen and Ethie might not have realised the Gnomads were walking the route with them. 

Ahhh the pun gnomes are the hardest to spot.

Q4:  Seeing as we are now in another lockdown and many people are having to do home schooling, is there any speciality lessons you could offer?  (You don’t have to actually carry out the lesson…JK You actually do) 

What to do with too many bananas when you don’t want to make banana bread. The answer is to freeze them and use them to make smoothies and ice-cream. Though that lesson might be over quite quickly as there’s not much to it, so maybe I could offer a course in Gnome photoshop skills, or walking long distance trails virtually during lockdown.

The virtual walking tours is a good idea. 

Q5:  I see from your blog that you enjoying reading, what is your favourite book and do you remember the first book you fell in love with? 

I read so much as a child, and devoured all the books I could get my hands on. One of the first I loved was The Secret Island by Enid Blyton – I really wanted to run away to an island and live in a cave after I read that, even though I had nothing to run away from. It’s hard to say what my favourite book is, there are so many. Maybe Middlemarch. I come from the same town as George Eliot and feel a strong connection to her. Another contender is The Count of Monte Cristo, as it’s both a fantastic adventure, and really long, so that cold-water moment when you get to the end of a really good book is delayed as long as possible. 

Q6:  What set up do you have for writing?  Nice view?  Also when drinking tea which is the best biscuit to dunk? 

I either write at home at the kitchen table, or in my office. The view is OK, but I’m in the valley and the view is best higher up. To make the most of it I get out for regular walks (sans dog at the moment 🙁 ). Most definitely gingernuts. 

Q7:  When writing are there any words you love to use?  What is your favourite rude word? 

I used the word ‘plash’ in East Coast Road, which various editors tried to change to splash. I like it as it’s softer without the sibilance of the s. It’s the sound of water lapping quietly and it’s onomatopoeic.  My favourite rude words are anglo saxon and have strong vowels. They are very satisfying to say. 

Q8:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters which book would you choose and how would you influence the story? 

I think I’d have to be Spiderman (or woman) as it would be so much fun climbing buildings and swinging through the air. The story would change because I’d be far too busy enjoying myself to stop any bad stuff happening in the neighbourhood, so the baddies would get away with it.   

Q9:  What is your favourite meal?  And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick? 

Cheese and olives and bread and tomatoes and wine and more cheese. My companion should be someone who doesn’t like olives so that I can eat them all.  I’d really like to invite loads of friends who I haven’t been able to see during lockdown and have a good catch up, followed by music and dancing. But you say only one. Hmm. I think it would be my friend Sarah, because while we were drinking the wine and eating the cheese, we’d come up with some mad plans, and the next day we’d actually carry them out.   

Q10:  I love the fact that you walked the route as part of the research for your book, such an epic walk and fantastic photos.  I was wondering if there is a map of the route you took? 

Yes, I made a map on my phone. Here it is: 

There is also a map in the front of the book. 

Q11:  What plans you got for the future, you made a start on the next book? 

I’m nearly at the end of the first draft of my next novel, which I’m writing as part of a PhD. It’s about walking and woodlands, which means that I’ve had to do lots of research involving walking in forests (luckily before the pandemic). The main character is (possibly) a cyborg. 

Practical task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.   

A Woodland Gnomad  (I never said they were good photoshop skills) 

Thank you very much for taking part and giving some fantastic answers, Looking forward to seeing on the next reboot of Spiderman. For the stalkers out there you can find Anna on Twitter, her WEBSITE (Be sure to check out the blogs on the walk) and FACEBOOK….don’t worry folks you’ll not find Trump at any of these places. And if you want to read her fantastic book you can get a copy from HERE:

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Colette Snowden

Hello to the survivors of 2020, I am 100% certain that 2021 is gonna be completely different to 2020, much calmer and more huggier….what!?! another lockdown already? Well it didn’t take long for the fan to get by the brown stuff did it? Also, I’m still being ignored by the Nobel Prize committee, even though I call each interview prize winning…oh well I’ll wear them down eventually. To help keep my sanity in the crazy zone I’m going to put more effort into doing these interviews. First up is Colette Snowden, her second book (the amazingly titled Captain Jesus) is released at the end on January, you can pre-order it HERE: Everybody flap enthusiastically at Colette!

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?

I bought a 16kg bag of flour from an enterprising local when panic buying emptied the shelves at the start of the first lockdown, then baked a lot and drank a lot of wine (sometimes at the same time). There was some walking up hills and celebrating being able to go places when lockdown eased, followed by a Zoom social life and more wine in tier 4. The virus got me in December, just in time to save me from the Christmas food shop, and I’m starting the year with a recently acquired dog and a horror of home schooling – all the clichés except banana bread really.

Q2: I’m absolutely gutted for you having your book launch in the middle of the current lockdown. Have you got any unique plans of getting the book out there? Any online events planned?

There is a virtual launch on Wednesday 27th January at 7.30pm, which anyone can attend by emailing bluemoosedeli@gmail.com for an invite. I’m really sad that I won’t get to be physically in a room with people for the launch because meeting people and chatting was something I really enjoyed when my first book, The Secret to Not Drowning, was published. Readers’ experience of a book is so personal to them and the ability to talk and hear individuals’ stories of how the narrative has touched a chord with them is a really special thing. However, there are lots of upsides to doing launch events online – no-one has to travel so anyone can join in, bad weather and childcare won’t keep people away, there’s a brew or a bar down the hall, and if you can’t decide what to wear you can just rock up in your PJs.

Q3: Tell us a bit about Captain Jesus, what is it about and how did you come up with the idea?

Captain Jesus is a story across two narratives, told by Jim, a 10-year-old boy, in the present, and Marie, Jim’s mother, when she was a 16-year-old girl in the 1990s. In the present day narrative, we meet Jim’s family just before a tragedy happens and the story takes us through how it impacts them. In Marie’s narrative, we learn about the events that shaped her adult life and her mother’s, which explain Marie’s responses to the tragedy and the role of guilt and bitterness.

I set out to write a novel about faith and the different forms it takes. My theory is that, as children, we put all our faith in our parents and, when we can no longer do that because they are only human, just like us, we need to put our faith in something else. For some people that’s religion, or it might be superstition, astrology, nature, or a God substitute, like a lucky charm. It might even be a combination of things. That idea led me to a Catholic family and a magpie, but the actual starting point was my neighbour’s washing line. They had black pegs on the empty line, which looked like birds (I am short-sighted; it’s an advantage for exercising the imagination). So I began with the visual image of a magpie pegged on the washing line in a pseudo-resurrection and went from there.

I write quite organically [does that sound better than with a serious lack of planning?] so I didn’t know where the story would go. It was only when I read it back that I realised that it’s as much about loss and healing as it is about faith.

Q4: This here blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and whilst reading Captain Jesus I noticed no Gnomes, there is a garden in your story and yet no Gnome. What gives?

You didn’t see the gnomes? Is that a failure or my imagination or yours?

Ha! I also suffer from bad eye-sight, unfortunately so bad it ruins my imagination.

Q5: Are you much of a reader? What is your favourite book?

I think all writers are also readers, which can be a catalyst for sitting down and writing and a source or creeping imposter syndrome. It’s those books that you read and wish with every chapter that you’d written it that become the benchmark for everything you read and everything you write.

Favourite book is a hard one to call because there are so many to choose from and so many I haven’t read yet. I’m going to say Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón; there is so much packed into so few pages and a really beautiful ending.

Not heard of Moonstone, sounds interesting, another book added to the epic reading list.

Q6: What set up do you have for writing? Nice view? Any music playing in the background?

I prefer quiet and an empty room if I can. Between working and lone parenting time is precious, so a lot of Captain Jesus was written in the early morning when it was dark outside with just me, my laptop and a pot of coffee. It was good to focus on making the most of the time before I was pulled away by school runs and work and a great way to tap into my half-awake creative brain.

Q7: I have seen on twitter that you have been posting some images to show scenes from Captain Jesus which I think is a great idea, how about a soundtrack for the book? Care to name a few songs that would go well with the reading experience?

I like the idea of a soundtrack but I think my need for quiet when I’m writing means that I don’t associate the story with songs. There are a couple of references in the book that might be the start of a play list – Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping and some Spice Girls; I’d probably go for Viva Forever. If I were travelling back in time to 1997, my playlist would be full of Oasis and the Charlatans so I’d throw them in, and perhaps some classics that link to sunny days in the garden but have dark undertones – Mr Blue Sky, Seasons in the Sun, Perfect Day.

Mr Blue Sky, that one goes so well with the book.

Q8: If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters which book would you choose and how would you influence the story?

On a purely soppy, emotional level I would be Cathy in Wuthering Heights. At the point where Heathcliff overhears her saying she could never marry him, I’d make sure I/she noticed he was standing there and that he heard the end of the sentence about how much she loves him. Then they could both be saved from the miserable stuff that happens afterwards. It would be a much shorter book though and I’m still not sure it would be a happy ending for either of them.

As my very wise English teacher told us, by all means fall in love with Mr Rochester but don’t fall for a Heathcliff. Excellent advice.

Q9: What is your favourite meal? And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick?

I love Moroccan food, so maybe a lamb tagine with couscous and a salad grown under a hot sun as nature intended. At this moment in time, the one person I would share it with is my mum – she’s been shielding for the best part of a year so it would be wonderful to sit down for a meal with her.

Q10: What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done during the lockdown and if we are ever free of the rules again what is the first thing you’ll do?

I’m not sure I’ve done anything embarrassing during lockdown – it’s been a pretty quiet and fairly dull time. I did have a ‘Get Cummings Out’ poster in my window for months, which people assumed had been drawn by my 11-year-old, but I did it with her felt tips. I’m very proud of that terrible artwork though, and I’d like to think it tipped the balance for his resignation in the end.

When we’re free of rules I will go to interesting places every weekend, visiting people I’ve not seen, except on a screen, for months and using my red passport as much as I can across Europe before I’m forced to trade it in for a black one.

The rainbow was my daughter’s handiwork

Q11: What plans you got for the future, you made a start on the next book?

Yes, I have started the next book and I’m enjoying writing something that’s quite different from what I’ve done before – third person narrative and multiple points of view across a really defined and restricted time frame. I have another one in mind after that, but it involves travelling to somewhere that’s not very accessible to do some research/experience the place, so we’ll see if I can make that happen. Definitely a project for after lockdowns of all kinds are lifted!

That is fantastic news, I still have to read The Secret To Not Drowning but it is great to know there is more on the way.

Practical task: I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.

Gnome biscuit made by Jenny from Captain Jesus

Fantastic idea, biscuit art!

Thank you to Colette for taking part in this, I really enjoyed finding out about how Captain Jesus came about. If like me you want to stalk Colette then you can find her on TWITTER and FACEBOOK.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with A. F. Harrold

Hello, would you believe it, still no sign of a Nobel prize for yours truly, I must have done loads of interviews and they’ve ignored me so far.  This time I’m feeling reeeeealllly lucky, I am interviewing the awesome children’s author A. F. Harrold, not sure what the A and F stand for but I’m gonna guess Angus Foxtrot.  Three of the best books that both my daughter and I love have been written by Angus Foxtrot, so please wave your hands in the air at Mr Harrold. (gonna call him Mr Harrold on the very slim chance I guessed his first names wrong)

Q1: Let’s deal with the big question first, how have you been handling the pandemic? 

The pandemic has been fine for me, thank you for asking. I sit in my shed at the end of the garden and pretend to do a bit of writing. And so it goes.

Q2:  One of the best children’s books I’ve ever read was The Imaginary, my daughter loves it and it changed her reading tastes big time, no more reading little kiddy books for her, She would like to know “How did you come up with the idea for this story?”  She thinks it is a true story.  😊

I’m really pleased to hear you both like it so much, it’s a thing I’m very fond of. It started with a false draft of a Fizzlebert Stump novel, in which Fizz (who lives in a travelling circus) got lost in the woods one night and was found by a girl called Amanda (who was there on a Girl Scout camping trip) who mistake him for her imaginary friend, for whom Fizz was the spitting image. (Her imaginary friend, Rudger, hadn’t been allowed on the camping trip because it was girls only, so she was surprised to find him there.) This story didn’t really go anywhere much, and so I wrote a completely different Fizz story (Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Cried Fish), and reused the ‘lost in the woods/mistaken identity’ story for a later book (Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Did PE in His Pants).

At the same time I signed a contract for two books – one Fizzlebert Stump story and one ‘whatever you want’ book. So when it came to the ‘whatever you want’ book the imaginary friend idea had been sitting around in my head, doing what ideas do (keeping out of the way and humming to itself), and an image came to mind of an imaginary friend stood at the side of the road, their real friend gone (killed in an accident), and the thought ‘what now…?’ in their mind.

When it came to writing the story, I worked backwards, to get to that place, which meant writing about the real friend, and so I decided to just use the names I’d already come up with (since names are surprisingly hard to come by), hence Amanda Shuffleup and Rudger, and then the story sort of unfolded from there.

There was a first draft without Mr Bunting (named after the poet Basil Bunting, because his book of Collected Poems was next to my desk when I needed a name) and his imaginary friend, that sort of drifted off into vagueness, so I started again, knowing I needed an antagonist, and so I rang the doorbell and let Amanda’s mum open it and we both peered round together to see who was there… and it was that duo and fortunately they were just what the story needed.

I’m happy to think it’s a true story.

Q3:  Having a good illustrator for a children’s book is very important, you seem to have surpassed so many other books by finding some incredible artists.  Where did you find them and how does the whole process work?  Do you write the story, hand it over and give them free range or do you state in advance what you are looking for?

I get paired up with illustrators by my publisher. So, very basically, I write a story and hand it in and they find someone they think will be good for it. (That’s a conversation between my editor, the design team, the publicity and marketing… everyone gets a say, weighing their various needs and desires.) So far it’s always worked well.

Obviously, once you’re writing a series you know who you’re working with (Sarah Horne and I did six Fizzlebert Stump novels together, and Joe Todd-Stanton and I did two Greta Zargo books), and I might’ve asked Sarah or Joe what they wanted to draw and put it in the book. (I remember a brief chat with Joe about the third Greta Zargo book, which never happened.)

And once The Imaginary had happened Bloomsbury were eager to offer the next book-a-bit-like-that (non-comedy, strange fantasy, whatever you want to call it) to Emily Gravett, who had done such an amazing job. But I knew and Emily was not backwards in saying, that it wasn’t her cup of tea – the tone is quite different – and so I got to see the names on the ‘back up’ list they were considering. Crikey!

Fortunately Levi Pinfold was the first to be asked and the first to say ‘Yes’ and he was exactly the right choice and made The Song From Somewhere Else look like something really special (he was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal for it, and won the Amnesty International Honour).

The strange book I wrote after that was The Afterwards and it just felt to me like a book for Emily, and so, because my editor was on maternity leave that year (and I wanted to wait until she came back to work on it), I sent it to Emily first. And Emily loved it and I was able to present it as a fait accompli: ‘Here’s the new book, Emily wants to do it, please, thank you.’

And I’m currently working on rewrites on a new book for Levi, a (very) sort of follow up to The Song From Somewhere Else, currently untitled and rather strange and dark and moody – lots of action down the woods on the rope swing… and if anyone can do good woods, Levi can.

Although I write stories and hand them over, I’m very happy and willing to change the text to match the pictures. And so certain aspects of the look of characters, like Mr Bunting, changed because Emily did it better. Nothing is precious.

The most collaborative book, though, is the latest thing, The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice. It’s a poetry collection by me and picture book supremo Mini Grey, and it’s very much a half-and-half book, where her illustrations are just as important and carry just many jokes as the poems. This was wholly intentional and part of the plan – I wanted whoever illustrated this book to really take ownership and play with it and share the responsibility (rather than just ‘do some pictures’ (which is a perfectly reasonable way to illustrate, but not what this book wanted))… and so they thought long and hard about who to ask, and eventually they asked Mini, and when you look at the book, you’ll understand what I mean – she does not treat my words as sacred!

Q4:  Seeing as my blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and I’ve not seen a Gnome in the three books of yours that I’ve read, do they get featured in any of your other books?

The only gnomes I know of in my books are actually in The Imaginary… I’m surprised you missed them. I forget if they’re named as such in the text, but they’re pretty easy to spot in Emily’s drawings, especially since one of them bears a rather striking resemblance to a certain author and poet that you’re interviewing. (You have permission to photocopy the picture for your blog!)

(And one of these AFH-gnomes adorns my invoices, so if I were to charge you for this interview you’d see another one… but I guess you’ll have to miss out on that for now!)

No way?  I’m off to look at the book again,  In my defence it is a scary book and I might have been hiding at that point. 

Q5:  I seem to remember that last year you were heavily involved in a literature festival, I’m guessing that hasn’t happened again this year,  have you managed to do any online events instead?

Yes, in person real world literary festivals, like the school visits that usually pay my bills, haven’t been happening this year. I have done a few online things, but not a huge number of them. As ever, I go where I’m asked.

Q6:  I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme in your books…Cats, quite often they seem to save the day.  Have you got any cats?

Zinzan, the cat that appears in The Imaginary was one of those characters that walks in without being invited. Then after I’d written that and people said to me, ‘Are you going to write The Imaginary II?’ and I said, ‘No.’ I followed up by saying, ‘I’d like to write a ‘trilogy’ of cat books, though.’ Three books each with that cat that look at the world in a new direction (because we know cats see things that we don’t, that they’re linked to the stranger currents of reality) – so imaginary friends, parallel worlds, the land of the dead… And so I did.

There is a cat in at least one of the Greta Zargo books, and there was a lion called Charles in a few of the Fizzlebert Stump books, and a few cat poems in the new book… So, yes, they do turn up.

(It’s one of the things that’s making this new book for Levi tricky, not having the cat in it (since it does what it does at the end of The Afterwards) to act as guide.)

But yes, to answer your question, I live with two cats, Susan and Vincent, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll often see them.

Q7:  I have seen on twitter that you have a mighty beard, what is the longest you’ve let it grow?  My beard manages to get halfway down my chest and gets bored with growing any further.

Yes, they find their own length and go no further. Mine sits where it sits (not even as far as yours goes), as much as I’d wish it to grow to Gandalfian proportions.

Q8:  Where do you do your writing?

These days I have a shed-office at the end of the garden. Previously it was a spare-room office in the house. That’s it though, at a desk, on a computer. Very prosaic.

Q9:  Can you remember the first book you fell in love with?

I often go on about Raymond Briggs’ book Gentleman Jim, and I lived for a lot of my childhood in The Hobbit, so I’m very happy to hold them up as an answer.

I loved Ethel and Ernest when I was a kid.

Q10:  I know you have written some books of poetry, do you fancy sharing one here?

Autumn Speaks to the Leaves

Won’t you please
get off the trees!?

Q11:  What plans you got for the future, any more books in the style of The Imaginary?

As said above, I’m currently working on a new book for Levi, so in the style of The Song From Somewhere Else, rather than The Imaginary. It’s about Frank’s little brother, now ten or eleven himself, getting into trouble down the woods, finding a strange woman with a cottage in a part of the forest that shouldn’t be there, and being offered a deal he shouldn’t say yes to. I think it’s going to be readable and possibly interesting… I’m wrestling with rewrites on the final day right now… And it should be out autumn of 2022…

Fantastic,  Really looking forward to having a read of that one.

Practical task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 

Gnominally a Gnome Catches some Nom Noms (There is a reason other people illustrate my books.)

I would like to thank A. F. Harrold for taking part in this interview, it has been very interesting to find out about how it all works between author and illustrator. Be sure to check out his books, the three mentioned above are wonderful for reading with your kids and even on your own.

You can stalk him on Twitter, Website, and sign up for his mailing list to get some brilliant emails.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Harry Whitewolf

Hello there, it’s been a while but I’ve been very busy hacking the US election in the hope of making myself the President, it has not gone well….so instead here is an interview with the mighty Anti-Poet-Laureate Harry Whitewolf who has just released two new books  Woooooo  Book 1 is a collaboration with Daniel Clausen and is called “They’re Making It Up As They Go Along” and the second book is a collection of poetry called “The Gulag Village Green”.  So please dress up as a gnome and welcome Harry to the Interview.

Q1: How have you been handling the pandemic?  Releasing 2 books must have meant you’ve been pretty busy.

Before 2020, I was quite happy spending most of my time at home (as I work from home anyway). But as soon as I was forced to be in that position, and as soon as I started to see the lockdowns and new rules as heavily questionable, the more I got angry. But I used that anger to write The Gulag Village Green.

And it was good to do another book that’s the complete opposite of my new poetry book, ‘cos They’re Making It Up As They Go Along was a purely do-it-for-fun project of extreme comedic silliness. The two books kind of sum up my two different moods of 2020.

Q2:  “They’re Making It Up As They Go Along” is another collaboration with Daniel Clausen, how many is that now?  How does it work doing a book with somebody else?  Also how did you first get together?

It’s only our second collaboration, and the first project we’ve actually written jointly, as the pieces in ReejecttIIon were solo pieces. The last chapter of the book, however, was written taking turns.

That chapter was the inspiration for the experimental book They’re Making It Up As They Go Along. The premise was simple: me and Daniel would start writing a book without knowing what it was going to be about whatsoever, taking it in turn to write segments of a few hundred words. We ended up with a crazy and highly comedic novella about robots, aliens, and penises.

Me and Daniel first got together when Daniel held me up at gun point wearing a gorilla costume, but we have a good laugh about it now.

Seriously, though, Daniel Clausen is a fantastic writer, and we have a very similar sense of humour (Daniel’s telling me it’s “humor”), so it was a joy to write with the geezer.

Q3:  “The Gulag Village Green” is your new book of poetry, I know in the past your work has been a bit controversial, what can we expect this time?

Hm, I wouldn’t say my books are particularly controversial, other than my conspiracy-themed book Matrix Visions. But, in fact, The Gulag Village Green could potentially be a very controversial book indeed if people misunderstand what I’m saying, as in some ways it could feel like I’m attacking the very groups I’ve always stood up for. To give you an idea of what I mean, in the synopsis I say: “Harry vehemently believes in standing up against racism and transphobia, but he also believes in standing up against the calls for censorship and word-control coming from some in the BLM and trans communities.” That kind of outspokenness is actually becoming very risky. And that’s the point of me highlighting it. I’m not attacking BLM or the trans community. I’m attacking censorship.

And I’m having a go at “the Left” as much as I’ve always had a go at “the Right”. Trying to get the correct balance in this book was tricky. But it’s the pandemic, lockdowns, new draconian laws, and ludicrousness of 2020 that pulls the book together. And my stance on all that is certainly an alternative view point, so I guess it’s pretty controversial to mainstream audiences who only ever listen to what Piers bloody Morgan has to say.

Q4:  Now for the important question….any gnomes get featured in the new books?  If not why not?

No, no, no, no, no! Why not? Because your very blog name and gnome gallery evolved out of banter being had on goodreads.com after discovering our pal Rupert Dreyfus’ book The Rebel’s Sketchbook mentioned “gnome fetish”. And several years on, here we are still talking about bloody gnomes!

Q5:  Do you have a particular process whilst writing?  Do you listen to music at the same time?

I’ll write poetry and ideas in notebooks while I’m listening to music, but other than that, I need complete silence to be able to write. I don’t understand how people can write prose or edit when they’re listening to tunes, despite the fact I know many writers who do. What’s my process for writing? Well, you can find my list of “Harry Whitewolf’s Rules for Writing Poetry” in The Gulag Village Green. What I can tell you is, I only write when I am compelled to. Which is why I didn’t write anything for a couple of years and have now come back in full force in 2020 with three releases! (January’s Broken Albion being the other one, but no one cares about Brexit now anyway, even though we’re all about to become fucked by it.)

Q6:  My favourite book from what you done wroted is “Route Number 11: Argentina, Angels & Alcohol” it is a very unique method of writing.  Care to explain how it works and why you decided to write it like that.

Thank you matey! There are a few different writing methods going on in Route Number 11. Firstly, the short, sharp, snippets of often alliterative poetic writing were simply a result of my style evolving over many years. If you read my early work, like Propaganda Monkeys, you’ll see hints of my later writing style. But also, the writing style of Route Number 11 just felt like it came out of nowhere. I was basically inventing a style as I wrote, which is why it’s rough around the edges.

Secondly, the chapters of Route Number 11 aren’t in chronological order. Thirdly, the segments of each chapter aren’t in chronological order. I was playing with the cut-up prose ideas of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, but doing it in a different way, where the segments themselves aren’t cut-up, but the whole book is. But more than anything, doing the book in that way was my attempt at summing up what travel FEELS like. The book would also have been a helluva lot more boring if I’d have written it all in chronological quaint travel-book fashion. Route Number 11 isn’t supposed to be a travel book. Nor is it supposed to be a memoir. At the nearest, it’s supposed to be in the spirit of Kerouac. I don’t think everyone gets what I’m trying to do with my travel tales, and that’s fine. But one thing I’m not trying to do is fit into any goddamn genre.

Q7:  You mention quite a lot of conspiracy theories and one that has messed up my life the most is the 11:11 theory.  Can you give us a rundown of what it is about and then we can mess up a few more lives.

Well, the 11:11 Phenomenon sounds like nothing to those who’ve never experienced it. It begins by noticing 11:11 all the time, everywhere, where it becomes so much more than coincidental. Looking at the clock: 11:11, getting change in a shop of £11:11 and then walking out the shop and seeing a taxi go past with the numbers 111 on the side and then looking at your bank balance and finding you’ve got £111.11, for example. This scene from the film I Origin is exactly what I’ve been experiencing for about twenty years:

But then 11:11 becomes wackier. Once it starts happening to you, you look it up online and find thousands of people around the world experience it. Not only that, but 11:11 is sometimes almost-subliminally placed into films, which implies a conspiratorial angle. For example, all the clocks in the film Joker are set at 11:11. Interestingly, the GMT time of the Mayan end date in 2012 was also 11:11. And the way the world’s going at the moment, maybe the Maya were right after all…

This phenomenon is so weird, I sent these questions to Harry in the morning, a bit later I had to go see the mother-in-law, I happened to glance at the clock whilst driving and it was 11:11!

Q8:  As you are a fellow Red Dwarf fan can you tell me your favourite scene, what cracks you up every time?

Ah mate, so many to choose from, as you know only too well. Just one line from Norman Lovett can crack me up. But I think it has to be the scene from the episode Polymorph where Kryten, complete with groinal-attachment-hoover, is removing Lister’s ever-shrinking boxer shorts which the shape-shifting Polymorph has turned itself into, as Rimmer enters and says, “I can’t say I’m totally shocked. You’ll bonk anything, won’t you Lister?”

I know this was a bit of a mean question as it is so tough to pick a favourite, for me it is the “everybody’s dead Dave” scene, which I expect wouldn’t be as funny without Norman Lovett.

Q9:  Can you remember the first book you fell in love with?

As an adult, at around the age of 18, it was Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. As a kid, it’s a toss-up between Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat, The Shrinking of Treehorn, and The Twits.

Q10:  What is your favourite meal?  And if you could pick one person to share that meal with who would you pick?

A veggie Madras. With you, silly!

Woohoo! What an answer! That there is gonna be what wins me a Nobel Prize!

Q11:  This question is from my daughter as I told her that you know Mr Wolf.  “Is Mr Wolf going to be doing another book soon?

Aw, bless. I’ve just had a quick chat with my mate Mr. Wolf and he tells me he wrote a book about three years ago that gets an edit about once a year, that needs a change of ending and illustrations doing. It could take another three years before it’s published at this rate. But then Mr. Wolf is a lazy ****. Sorry Gnome Master’s daughter. I’ll see if I can give him a nudge to get things moving along.

Practical task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 

Many thanks go to Harry for taking part in this interview and for keeping me entertained for a few years now with his poetry. Please go an check out his books, for a sample check out his readings on Soundcloud.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Guy Portman

Hello there, I’m gonna start this interview off with saying how outraged I am, the week that my first Nobel Prize Winning Interview went live I didn’t hear anything from the Nobel committee, not even a missed call, and in that same week the sociopath president in the USA goes and gets himself a nomination! Well I can only think of one course of revenge, another interview with an amazing writer, this time it is with the chap who has created one of my favourite killers in literature, the smartly dressed and very sinister Dyson Devereux.  Please wag yer tails at Guy Portman the man with an impressive 7 books under his belt.

Q1: Tell us a bit about the trilogy that Dyson Devereux is a part of.  Also how did you come up with the idea of setting it in the Burials and Cemeteries department at the council?

The Necropolis Trilogy is a darkly humorous work of Transgressive Fiction brimming with satirical observations. It is written in the first-person from the perspective of sociopath and sometime council worker Dyson Devereux. The first two instalments are largely set in a council’s Burials and Cemeteries department. I once spent a few months working at a council and I guess the experience must have stayed with me. It certainly wasn’t an inspirational stint but it was an eye-opening one. My assumption was that the contrast between the predictable nature of the public sector and the unpredictability of protagonist Dyson would work well. As for the burials and cemeteries department bit, it was its morbid nature that led me to choose that particular department.

Q2:  The Gazebo is your latest book to be released.  Care to tell us what it is about?  (I seem to remember you recently had a Gazebo built in your garden did that inspire this book?)

The Gazebo consists of two stories. The first features a gazebo, hence the title. It is essentially about the breakup of a marriage. As for the gazebo itself, it is a sinister presence in the background. The second story sees an entrepreneur unwisely fall the charms of a Transylvanian temptress. You’ll have to read the stories to find out what happens. By the way, the structure in my garden is a summerhouse not a gazebo. I could have called the book The Summerhouse I suppose, but it doesn’t sound as catchy as The Gazebo.

Q3:  Who designs your covers as they look very professional?

Ebook Launch – well four of them anyway. I like their work and plan to keep using them. Stylish simplicity is how’d I’d describe the covers. I have toyed with different concepts as to how my books should look and now feel that I have something approaching a brand.

Q4:  I know it is only a matter of time before Netflix realise what they are missing out on and give Dyson the TV series he deserves.  Who would you like to see playing the lead role?

Netflix are certainly taking their time about it. As for actors, it needs to be someone male, who is English, or can do a good English accent. And they need to be good looking, not too young and not too old. Perhaps Henry Cavill of Superman fame.

Q5:  Do you have a particular process whilst writing?  Do you listen to music at the same time?

I love listening to music, but find it hard to concentrate on writing when I do. So I usually write in silence and save the music for when I am doing admin stuff/other things.

Q6:  I have read 4 of your books so far and none of them feature Gnomes, is there a reason for this prejudice?  Will there be a Gnome in a future book?

Damn, I knew I’d forgotten something. And my new book The Gazebo even features a gazebo in a back garden, so there is really no excuse for not having at least one gnome in there. A gnome in one of my future books – that’s food for thought. Only time will tell …

I am looking forward to your Gnome apology story.

Q7:  How have you been handling life in the time of Coronavirus?

As an introverted creature who lives alone in the countryside, it didn’t affect me as much as many others. When you are isolated and think everyone else is out having fun, it can be slightly unnerving. During lockdown I assumed everyone else is at home too and I’m not missing out on anything. There is nothing in life if not by comparison. I have had concerns of course, particularly how it might affect finances. However, my plight could be worse, much worse, and I can’t really complain.

Q8:  You got any ideas for a story based on the virus or the quarantine?

In one word, no. Seemingly a lot of writers have got virus and quarantine-inspired ideas but I’m not one of them. Maybe it’s because I’m so intent on getting my present set of ideas onto the page that I have not given the subject any thought. That could change of course.

Q9:  Can you remember the first book you fell in love with?

I’d love to say it was War and Peace or Crime and Punishment, but the reality is that it was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Lots of great pictures and not a lot of writing. A few novels spring to mind from my formative years, particularly White Fang by Jack London, Perfume by Patrick Suskind and Canary Row by John Steinbeck.   

I loved Perfume and Canary Row, great books.

Q10:  I’ve been stalking you on your blog for a while now and I see you posting quite a few photos of food, what is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten and how was it?

Scorpion, crocodile or turtle perhaps. I guess one of the three. 

Q11:  What’s next for you?  Got a new book in the pipeline?

Yes, I am hard at work on a new book which will have a similar format to The Gazebo. It (title undecided) will likely contain three stories of a darkly humorous nature.

Interesting…cos Gnomes have a darkly humorous nature. hehe

Practical task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 

Massive thanks to Guy for taking part in this and adding to the gnome gallery, pretty certain we got the Nobel prize in the back this time.

If you would like to stalk Guy on the Internets then click the links below:

Goodreads

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Robin Gregory

Hello everyone.  Today I have an interview with a lady who lives in a cottage made out of caramel, I got that info from the back of her book and I’m assuming it is a typo because what is a Carmel cottage?  Her book is on my gotta read list and when you see the cover you’ll want to check it out too, one of the most spectacular I’ve seen.

Please stare open mouthed at Robin Gregory.

Question 1: Give us a quick run down about The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman.

Thank you for the lovely introduction, Jason. The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman is book one of a trilogy. Moojie is introduced as an orphan whose unrestrained preternatural powers jeopardize his ability to fit in. He forms an unlikely friendship with otherworldly outcasts which threatens to shatter an already shaky connection to his adoptive family. 

Question 2: Assuming it won’t give anything away how did you come up with the name Moojie?

I wanted a name that would reflect his contradictory natures. Moojie is a budding saint with a nasty temper. Locals mistake him for a “hostile,” a Native American renegade, when he’s actually part-human and part-alien. Add to that, he’s disabled early on, and yet he can heal others.

The name is derived from two sources. “Moojibaba” is a revered spiritual teacher in Portugal today, whose teachings are based on self-realization. Also, the Hindu word “moojie” is an offensive slur against Muslim Indians. In the book, we don’t know much about the biological father who gave Moojie his name, except that he’s a white immigrant who rejects his son after birth because he resembles the deceased, dark-skinned mother, who is actually an alien.   The name and recurrent allusions to mistaken identity are an attempt to show the absurdity of racism. Can we ever know the truth about anyone when we judge by appearances?

Question 3:  What is your favourite word?

My favourite word right now is “Perhaps.” Not the American pronunciation but the high-brow, UK  “p’aps.” It slays me. I chant it like a mantra.   

Question 4:  Are there any gnomes in your book and if not, why not?

I’ve often been asked this and must confess that it was a great oversight on my part. How could I have overlooked the gnomes of gaslit America? I’m sure their influence was tremendous! P’haps I’ll slip one or two into my next book.

Question 5:  Do you have a particular process whilst writing?  Do you listen to music at the same time?

I usually rise at about 5 am and go over yesterday’s writing, checking notes, refining outlines. (Once I was a panster, but I learned that lack of structure will invariably make revisions as fun as tooth extractions.) After working a few hours, I tend to family matters, then get back to work. It’s a good day if I can heel in another 5-6 hours of writing.

For me, writing fiction is like composing music. If I listen to someone else, it‘s distracting, and I tend to come under the influence of their voice. However, music breaks are fun. Lately, I’ve been cranking up the Bluetooth and listening to Leon Bridges. Oh my gosh, have you heard this “Bad News, Bad News”?

I have not heard of Leon Bridges, probably because I have been listening to THIS SONG on repeat for the last 14 years.

Question 6:  When Netflix gets around to making a film version of your book who would you like to see cast to play the part of Moojie?

Actually, I’m working on a screen adaptation with distinguished film producer/director, John Crye. We’d love to have Netflix pick it up! Since book one covers Moojie from birth to 14 years old, we’ll need actors at several ages. And since it can take years to make a film, start to finish, there’s the fact that a child actor who is 8 years old today will be 11 or 12 by the time shooting starts. That said, I’m on the lookout for young Johnny Depp dopplegangers.  

Pretty sure Gnomes are ageless and will be able to play any age for you, you can pay them in fishing rods.

Question 7:  Are you any good at baking?  Got any good photos?  And would you like to post me some cakes?

I love to cook but am not much of a baker. The last cake I made was for my son’s birthday in 2011. In lieu of a cake shot, I do have a fetching picture of my latest blueberry pancake.

Questions 8:  What is your favourite book?  Can you remember the first book you ever read?  And roughly how many books do you own?

In light of recent events (wildfires, the end of the world, and such), I was forced to consider which ones to grab if we had to evacuate. It’s impossible to tell how many books I own (6,003). I suspect the stacks are fused together and holding up the walls.

It came down to my favourite book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (my guru), 1958 Letters, by Joel Goldsmith (my other guru), and Mushrooms Demystified, by David Arora (more on this later).  Oh… and one signed, hardbound copy of The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman to inspire mercy from invading aliens.

The first book I ever read.

“Look Jane,” said Dick. “See Spot go. Go, go, go.”

Question 9:  How has your lockdown been?  Did you go far enough into insanity to be unable to find your way back?

As a writer I’m used to sheltering in. However, being a wife and mom has taken on new dimensions. Instead of kissing loved ones and sending them off for the day, they are here all the time now, and we are growing very close (to throttling each other). An esteemed colleague coined a term for persistent family interruptions caused by sheltering in: “peanut butter emergencies.”

Question 10:  As you are a writer, you got any good ideas for a quarantine story?

When a two-year pandemic leads to social breakdown and loss of internet access, a woman who channels St. Francis of Assisi sends out squirrels to forage for her. (*That’s where Mushrooms Demystified comes in handy.) One day, the squirrels return without food and a handwritten note. It reads: Please help!!! I was kidnaped 3 months ago. Being held against my will. A hand drawn  map shows the way to a house. Terrified of venturing out into the lawless, virus-laden, friendless world, the woman-channelling-Assisi sends the squirrels to do reconnaissance. But they get snatched, too. She is forced to do what she would never do. Armed with a pogo stick, a lot of string, and the gift of clairvoyance, she leaves the shelter of her home to engineer a rescue of the kidnapee and squirrels. But a danger worse than plague lies ahead. The kidnaper happens to be trillionaire founder, CEO, and president of a multi-national technology corporation, Geoffrey Beesoze.

Question 11:  There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories about this virus, create a new one now, let us spread it on social media and see how long it is before breakfast news or Trump mentions it. (so far he has ignored all attempts to trick him)

I was in danger of irreparable lunacy until I uncovered viable research on the cause of the pandemic. I have it on good authority that Covid-19 originated in Rowan Atkinson’s refrigerator.

Question 12:  What’s the thing you miss most about life before the lockdown and what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when we are free again?

I miss seeing people’s faces. No matter how cute Covid-19 face masks are, they make the nicest people look shifty. Everyone resembles a bank robber or an undertaker. Once the lockdown order is lifted, I’m going to autograph my pretty little designer masks and put them up for auction to cover the cost of cleaning out Sir Atkinson’s fridge.  

One thing I’ve enjoyed about the mask wearing is the covering up before going into a bank with my sawn-off shotgun, it really makes me feel like a proper bank robber.

Question 13:  Got any plans for another book?

Why yes! As we speak, I’m editing book two of the trilogy. In Halfkin, eighteen-year-old Moojie, now a renown healer, takes a perilous journey to an alternate universe to find his first love, and gets involved in a plot to save the inhabitants from a threatening atmospheric condition. It’s an adult fantasy, told in the style of magical realism (Speculative and mystical experiences interwoven with true historic events.)

And now for the crazy tasks!

Task 1:  Robin is to decide on a task, carry it out and challenge me to best her.

Today I will walk up my street like one of my favourite male actors, Jacques Tati. The challenge: you pick a female actor and walk at least one block like her. Hehe.

I will enact the walk of Daryl Hannah in Attack of the 50ft Woman. This actually made the news in the UK, of course I am too short to have been seen but people felt my precense. Check out the story HERE:

Art task:  I am doing a gnome gallery on my blog, can you create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.  No pressure hehe.

###

Thank you kindly for the delightful interview, Jason. I enjoyed the opportunity for deep, cultural exchange, and to show off my pancakes. Keep being amazing!

Thank you for taking part in the madness that is an interview with me, when I win a Noble Prize for this interview I promise to give you at least 10% of the prize money.

*The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman is available through all major online and brick and mortar sellers. (Hardbound, paperback, ebook)

Website: www.robingregory.net

www.facebook.com/RobinGregoryAuthor

Twitter: @tweety_robin

Interviews

Locked-down & Bored with Jay Spencer Green

Hello everyone.  I got another interview in the locked-down & bored series,  this time it is one of my favouritist one-of-them-that-writes-books people.  He once was the proud owner of a moustache and is rumoured to have a collection of giraffes.

Please wave enthusiastically at Jay Spencer Green!

 

Question 1: How are you handling the lockdown? What’s the most exciting thing to happen to you so far?

Hi Jason. My pre-lockdown life involved sitting at my desk all day (with the odd break for tea) editing other people’s work—you know, people who actually venture out into the world and experience things—but last year I was struck with a bout of sciatica, so just before lockdown I bought myself a standing desk. Thus, my lockdown life has consisted of standing at my desk all day (with the odd break for tea) editing other people’s work. The arrival of the stand-up desk has been the most exciting thing to happen, but technically it was pre-lockdown and doesn’t count. The most exciting thing has therefore been the absence of sciatica. As my Instagram profile says, I am boring as fuck.

 

Task 1:  (Testing artistic skill) To celebrate the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston, draw a picture to commemorate to event.

Here’s Keir Starmer taking the knee for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter while weeping uncontrollably about the Colston statue being removed “the wrong way.”keircry

And here is my masterpiece, I feel nobody asked the little fishes if they wanted a statue in their house.

evilstatue

 

Question 2:  For those trapped inside recommend 1 book, 1 movie and 1 album.

Book: I’m a really slow reader but even I have managed four or five books thus far during the lockdown, so if you’re looking for one book to last the lockdown, it will have to be a biggie. I recommend Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang. It’s over 1300 pages of fascinating, inventive, and imaginative word use. Where else would you learn the meaning of “finty,” “munket,” or “felcherman”?

Movie: I suppose it needs to be lockdown-appropriate, so Room or The Shawshank Redemption. For the more adventurous, Pasolini’s Salò.

Album: Not an album as such, but the Genius Jon Langford, who designs the covers for my novels, has just embarked on a massive project that will see him release 23 singles in as many months. The first three have been released as an “LP” and can be bought HERE. You also get a Jon Langford–designed cover if you’re fed up waiting for my next book to come out.

I quite like Jon Langford’s video for Losers, it reminds me of somebody but I just can’t quite put my finger on who…

 

Task 2:  (Testing athletic ability)  My favourite game at a party is musical statues, sticking with the statue theme, how long can you stand still?  Bonus points given if your family don’t notice you.

See my answer to question one. I’m usually standing for eight hours every day (with the odd wobble). And as I’m shut away in the study, nobody notices me at all.

Well I stood no chance there….intentional pun…little did I realise I was up against a professional standing hermit.  I managed just over a minute before I gave up, the dog staring at me started to freak me out, maybe I shouldn’t have stood by his lead for this challenge?

 

Question 3:  As you are a writer, you got any good ideas for a quarantine story?

Huzzah! A chance to plug my next novel (thank you for the set-up, Jason):  The inhabitants of a remote desert island in the Atlantic endure a state of peaceless co-existence with the Gambies, victims of a strain of non-lethal rabies that renders them something of an inconvenience to the tourist industry. This suits Manuel Estímulo, retired from an illustrious career as a brothel-keeper and drug dealer for Spanish intelligence, who generally tries to keep a low profile and rarely receives any visitors, devoting his days to producing his fascist encyclopedia. However, when news reaches him that the Beast with Three Fingers has arrived on the island, thereby fulfilling an ancient Falangist prophecy, he is forced to up sticks and make the perilous journey South to the Nazi redoubt of his longtime friends the Köhlers. Equipped with only a Spanish army knife, a map of England, a vast armory of guns, and the body of his sister Candelaria, can Manuel make it to safety, or will his past catch up with him on the land that Time just remembered? You can find out by reading Manuel Estimulo’s Fascist Book of Everything, the ultimate zombie-Brexit-Nazi satire until the next one.

I’m really looking forward to this one, and what a great title….it’s weird you starting writing this before the pandemic…it’s almost as if you released the virus as a publicity stunt???

Task 3:  Jay is to decide on a task, carry it out and challenge me to best him.

Could you take the washing in for me? I did it the other day and was stopped by a neighbour for not wearing the correct PPE.

OK, no worries I was in the bushes in your garden anyways….it was going well until I saw your neighbour so I quickly threw a pair of pants from the line over my face and that seemed to satisfy him.  Either that is considered correct PPE or he is used to seeing you running around the garden with pants on your head.  I took the liberty of folding the clothes and putting them away…I also laid out what I’d like you to wear tomorrow.

Question 4:  There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories about this virus, create a new one now, let us spread it on social media and see how long it is before breakfast news or Trump mentions it. (so far he has ignored all attempts to trick him)

Always ask, cui bono? Who benefits? Clearly the virus is the work of mask manufacturers in cahoots with Big Rubber Gloves.

 

Question 5:  What’s the thing you miss most about life before the lockdown and what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when we are free again?

Oh god, I’ve really missed shoplifting. I can’t wait for the big stores to re-open. I have an order list as long as your arm (though not as long as mine, obviously). Plus, we have a big wedding anniversary coming up this year, so the priority will be jewellery or sex toys, depending on what the charity shop has in stock.

 

Thank you Jay for taking part in this and I hope you have a nice anniversary…it looks like you’ve got it all sorted to be a day to remember.  For the stalkers out there go find Jay on Goodreads, Instagrams and Twitter.  Check out his books because they are hilarious, if you look at the gallery on his website you’ll find my dog modelling the books.

If anybody else out there wants to do one of these then just give me a shout.

 

Interviews

Locked-down & Bored with James Birch

Hello everyone.  The victims for this insane series are coming thick and fastly, today we are zooming across the pond to that fine country run by the modest and totally “not insane” King Trump.  He is an expert on the mysterious Emory Walden, go check out his books so you can become an expert too.

Please welcome James Birch.

 

Question 1: How are you handling the lockdown? What’s the most exciting thing to happen to you so far? 

Here, we’ve all been very fortunate so far in terms of employment and health, and the health of my family. So I have nothing to complain about when so many people are suffering – when 100,000 Americans have died and tens of millions have lost their jobs. That’s just in the states. The worldwide numbers are staggering. My heart goes out to all of those who have lost a loved one, have struggled with this disease, and/or who have lost their jobs.

Still, there are the pressures we are all facing. And a lot of life plans have been put on hold or cancelled. In terms of stress, I have my good days and my rough days. I have learned that life is so fragile, that what we take for granted cannot be taken for granted anymore. I have learned that we must live for today while also making sure that we are planning for catastrophes such as this.

Nothing too exciting has happened. I take that as a good thing as I’ve been trying to keep my life as mellow as possible, given everything. The most exciting thing that has happened so far is that someone crashed into something across the street and left a few souvenirs from their car that flew into my yard. They fled in the heat of the night.  Fortunately, no property was damaged at my neighbor’s house.

 

Task 1:  (Testing artistic skill) Did you know that surnames have a history and tells you what job your ancestors did?  Seeing as your name is Birch I’m assuming that your ancestors all had parts in Christmas plays as trees.  For this challenge, do a tree-based piece of artwork.

Challenge accepted! Here’s an ASCI throwback to my early AOL days.

/*\

/*\/*/\

/\/*/\/\*/\/\

/*\/\/*\/\/*\/\/*\

II

II

 Very old school, I’ve gone back ever further to pre-school and done a bark rubbing whilst chatting to the tree about the dumbass leader of the UK.

hornbeam bark rubbing June2016

Question 2:  For those trapped inside recommend 1 book, 1 movie and 1 album.

 

Book: If You Find Emory Walden. That’s a shameless plug because it’s my new novel. But I truly believe your readers will enjoy it. It’s a fast-paced suspense & psychological mystery about the search for a missing friend and $3 million dollars. People have been telling me they couldn’t put it down. You can find the book HERE.

JB1

Movie: Ford v Ferrari is the best movie I’ve seen in a long while. I’m not a huge car guy, but the racing sequences were amazing. And the story keeps you captivated the entire time. I don’t often do this, but I spent the extra money and rented the Blu-Ray and it was well worth it!

220px-Ford_v._Ferrari_(2019_film_poster)

Album: You cannot go wrong with Clarity by Jimmy Eat World. Time tested, quarantine approved!

 

Task 2:  (Testing athletic ability)  Find the nearest set of stairs (more than 7 steps) and run up them as fast as you can.  Time how fast you can do it and also how many teeth you lose.

15 steps one way. 11.8 seconds! No teeth lost.

I had a real good go at this one,  15min spent on warm up exercising, not gonna rupture a nut during this athletic event.  I even planned the route, 13 steps, no obstructions, no puddles or electrical wires.  I managed 6 steps before there was a scream from the next room, “WTF are you doing out there?”  in the end I managed it in 10min 8seconds….those 10minutes spent on the naughty step did not help me win this challenge.

 

Question 3:  As you are a writer, you got any good ideas for a quarantine story? 

I haven’t (Although my good friends at Loud Coffee Press have a micro fiction contest I tried to think of something for. I love the prompt: Check out the contest HERE.

Instead, have decided to put my creative energies into creating an audiobook podcast of my first novel, Discontents: The Disappearance of a Young Radical. I am learning a lot about audio production! I figured it was another way to provide the public entertainment during these challenging times. I have finished 2 episodes. When I have 3 done, I will launch the podcast – hopefully by early June. The podcast will be available free just about anywhere people get podcasts.  You can access it from HERE.

 

Task 3:  James is to decide on a task, carry it out and challenge me to best him.

 Make a pancake that looks like a letter A while blindfolded!

James’s attempt:

IMG_20200531_100037

Well here is my attempt at this challenge, luckily I had enough ingredients in the house to make pancakes, I went with a thick mixture in the hope that it would keep it’s shape.

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Tasted good too, I like challenges that I can eat.

 

Question 4:  There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories about this virus, create a new one now, let us spread it on social media and see how long it is before breakfast news or Trump mentions it. (so far he has ignored all attempts to trick him)

Oh. Such a tough challenge because there are folks who seem to make a career out of this. I’m a neophyte to the conspiracy world. Here goes…

Small children, Mr. Rogers and the international federation of animal shelters created a cabal underneath a pizza shop in Portland Oregon, trying to come up with a way to get parents to spend less time working and more time hanging out, watching TV, and adopt more pets. They invented the corona virus, giving it the name corona because they figured parents would think it was just a beer and not prepare adequately for its arrival.

Does that seem reasonable?

Finally!  Somebody has been brave enough to bring Mr Rogers into this…you think it is weird that he looks a bit like Forrest Gump?

hanks

 

Question 5:  What’s the thing you miss most about life before the lockdown and what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when we are free again? 

The thing I like least: Just the way that everyday things like going to the grocery store is so much more laborious now. Small tasks take on monumental consequences. One thinks, will I bring the virus into my home on this bag of salt & vinegar potato chips? So, there are a lot of little things – like home repairs – that I would be doing that I can’t for fear of contracting the virus.

 

The thing I like most: How much sleep I’ve been getting during lockdown. I sleep in until 8:30-9am!

When I’m free again I plan to go to the beach!

I’d like to thank James for taking part in this interview,  I did enjoy his challenge.  Be sure to check out his books and to also stalk him on the Internets.  Instagrams  and Goodreads.  What’s that?  You want to know if he has hands and if he is strong enough to hold a book?  Why, yes he does and yes he can!

jb2

If anybody else wants to be interviewed just shout, what’s the worst that could happen?  Broken teeth and melted butter in your face is easy to fix.

Interviews

Locked-Down & Bored with Anthony Thorogood

Hello everyone.  I’ve got another victim for this interview series, this time we are travelling around the world (assuming everybody lives in the UK) to the land where people walk on their head and all animals are a little bit weird…The land of Oz.

Please welcome the Agatha Christie look-a-like Mr Anthony Thorogood.

No not Agatha Christie, James Bond yes that is a more sophisticated, good looking, Devon air that’s debonair, charming, witty, well dressed, self-assured, resourceful, intelligent, well to put it in a nutshell fabulously brilliant James Bond not to forget  modest, unpretentious and humble.

OK  Mr Bond it  is.

Please welcome the Agatha Christie look-a-like Mr James Bond.

 

Question 1: How are you handling the lockdown? What’s the most exciting thing to happen to you so far?

Talking about Covid 19 the name sounds to me like a young cowboy Covid Carson, alias The Covid Cowboy. He came out of Virginia and now he is riding the wilds of Wyoming. I first saw The Covid Cowboy one hot and dusty July day. I was standing out back of our homestead helping dad corralling some steers, we kept a few steers, grew a bit of corn dad got work doing a bit of fencing you know the sort of thing. I saw him in the distance, The Covid Cowboy, raising a bit of dust as his horse lazily rambled along the old stage coach road. His twin colt forty five six gun sparkled in the midday sun.

Task 1:  (Testing artistic skill) Design a new animal to live in the wild, you can create this from off-cuts of other animals or a drawing will do.

Getting back to the Covid Cowboy he rode a horse and what a horse, it was a thoroughbred or should I call it a Thorogood, 18 hands high, 4 legs, air bags climate control, all around sound. It was called the Red Arrow and when it took off it flew.

I have gone for the most dangerous of creatures…an inept President Steak.

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Question 2:  For those trapped inside recommend 1 book, 1 movie and 1 album.

Well the book I recommend is The Covid Cowboy and the Ventilator Kid. The Movie of the Covid Cowboy Starring Whoopi Goldberg as the Covid Cowboy. The album’s got to be a Lonesome Covid Cowboy sung by Johnny Cash music by Tiny Tim.

 

Task 2:  (Testing athletic ability)  Can you tie both shoelaces whilst sitting on I recommend the floor and holding your breath? you have an ambulance on standby during this incredible feat of endurance.

The Covid Cowboy just pulls on his riding boots. He can spin a silver dollar up in the air and can pull out a six shooter from its holster and shoot a hole through the middle of it while bind folded and with both hands tied behind his back.

 I was unable to do the shooting thing because a magpie stole all my silver dollars, but I managed to tie my shoelaces in one breath but only just.

 

Question 3:  As you are a writer, you got any good ideas for a quarantine story?

Let me see quarantine story: The Covid Cowboy and then the sequel The Covid Cowboy Rides Again, then there is The Return of the Covid Cowboy, The Adventures of the Covid Cowboy, What the Covid Cowboy Did Next, The Covid Cowboy meets The Girl on the Train, and not to forget Gunfight at Middlesex Hospital.

Task 3:  Anthony is to decide on a task, carry it out and challenge me to best him.

Read the complete series of the Covid Cowboy backwards whilst lying on your stomach with a ventilator stuck up your nose.

Once you’ve written the Covid Cowboy series and set me signed first editions I’ll then be able to complete this challenge.

 

Question 4:  There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories about this virus, create a new one now, let us spread it on social media and see how long it is before breakfast news or Trump mentions it. (so far he has ignored all attempts to trick him)

The truth about Covid 19, that is the absolute truth, the whole truth and nothing but so help me god, is that Covid 19 is a Conspiracy Theory all by its self, it never happened. Yes, yes I know that 300,000 thousand people died but I have it on good authority from Donald Duck no that’s Trump that it never happened at all, and if you did catch it although you can’t because it doesn’t exist but if you did then all you need to do is drink toilet cleaner and you’ll be right.

 

Question 5:  What’s the thing you miss most about life before the lockdown and what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when we are free again?

The Covid Cowboy is going to get into some cattle rustling. He said: that it was lonely in the saddle now that his horse had died.  He also said: Did you realize that when you are walking in the country and you find a horse shoe that some poor horse is walking around in its socks!

All a lot of nonsense but you do have to feel sorry for the poor horse walking about in its socks.

Cheers Me myself and I

Thank you Mr Bond for taking part in this, I have to admit that I was completely unaware of the cowboy infatuation before starting this interview…it does explain a lot of things though.  🙂  If you would like to stalk him then you’ll find him on Goodreads.  Make sure you check out his books, I especially like the Jack Hamma Series.

Interviews

Locked-down & Bored with Madeleine Swann

Hello everyone.  Would you believe it, in the last interview Arthur Graham stripped down to his undies and showed the world his hairy body,  after that I thought, nooooo way is anybody else gonna wanna take part in this madness but nope there was one brave/insane soul.

Welcome to Madeleine Swann, Queen of Tea Parties, a person that writes and also owns clothes.

 

Question 1: How are you handling the lockdown? What’s the most exciting thing to happen to you so far.

Well, I just got a subscription to Shudder and Hayu, so now I can watch The Real Housewives of New York all day while Bill slowly despairs

 

Task 1:  (Testing artistic skill) Now, I know you are a massive fan of unicorns, at least that’s what it told me in the Madeleine Swann Haynes manual I got off of ebay.  So either re-create or draw a unicorn tea party.

MS1

Here’s my attempt

UniParty

Question 2:  For those trapped inside recommend 1 book, 1 movie and 1 album.

Everyone needs cheering up so you should read The Midnight Pals. It’s funny, easy, and there are pictures

EXSWY4tU0AAlF5T

For a film I recommend Fateful Findings by Neil Breen. You’ll thank me

MV5BNzYyMDU3ND

 

The album I can’t stop listening to are my favourite songs by Doja Cat. When I really like an artist I tend to gather my favourite ones from their albums and sod off the rest. I think Bill knows all the words to So High by now

Task 2:  (Testing athletic ability)  I have been told nothing too athletic, after that one-armed press-up saga my doctor said the next time I try anything like that could result in a diet for me.  So something more sensible will be done this time….How fast can you eat 4 biscuits?

The rules for this challenge are:

  1. Any biscuit of your choice.
  2. Remember to do warm-up exercises first, a test biscuit should suffice.
  3. If you are hungry you may do a best of 3.
  4. If you dunk the biscuit first and it breaks you are disqualified.

Madeleine has recorded her attempt:

 

Using one of my inventions the Biscuit Enabler, I managed to eat 3 in 0.17seconds…One spun out of control and ended up in my eye.

RockyVsBiscuits

Question 3:  As you are a writer, you got any good ideas for a quarantine story?

The flash fictions have been leaking from my ears since this all began. They’re all quite different, some apocalyptic but I like to keep things small. I prefer just a few characters relating to each other sometimes over big event stories.

 

Task 3:  Madeleine is to decide on a task, carry it out and challenge me to best her.

Ok, do I have to carry it out now? I shall see how many things I can balance on my remote control.

MS2

Clever having a remote at the top and the bottom, just incase the world somehow flips upside-down.

Here be my attempt:

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Question 4:  There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories about this virus, create a new one now, let us spread it on social media and see how long it is before breakfast news or Trump mentions it. (so far he has ignored all attempts to trick him)

The virus was caused by windmills picking up signals from terminators with conjunctivitis from the future and inadvertently spreading a mutated form of the disease

Ooooh  that’s a good one,  a nice sensible conspiracy theory and you also make sense of Don Quixote at the same time.

 

Question 5:  What’s the thing you miss most about life before the lockdown and what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when we are free again?

Watch Real Housewives of New York.

Thank you Madeleine for taking part in this interview it was fun, especially trying to balance an open book on a remote control with a curved bottom.  🙂