Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Jeff Chon

Check it out, another Interview completed, 3 in a row, I can sense that Nobel Prize heading my way now.  This time around I am chatting with one of the Jeffs from the writing world, having already put out his first novel Hashtag Good Guy With A Gun he is back with a collection of short stories called This Is The Afterlife.  So welcome Jeff Chon to here by waving yer gnomes in the air….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself and your books?

I’ve written two books so far. Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun is a satire about the America we’ve lived in since 2016, as well as long before that. My latest is This Is the Afterlife, a collection of stories I like think of as sequels to unwritten stories. They tend to deal with aftermaths, consequences. A lot of the stories are about guilt or mourning, but I hope people can find the hope and humor in the pieces.

Q2:  Whilst reading This Is The Afterlife I was wondering if any of this book was based on your life?  Did you dress up as Dracula as a kid is what I really wanna know?

To answer the second question first: That did, in fact, happen to me as a little kid. I did have someone say, “Chinese Dracula” in what was meant to be a playful sort of way, then another, then another until it got in my head. After that, I wore masks. Then after that, I just simply quit Trick or Treating. Adults are fun.

As far as the first question, it is fictional, but I’d say it’s based on my life—even if it’s an imagined, interior one. Every character in this book is an aspect of me in some way or another, even the bad ones, because they came from my head.

Q3:  How have you found life as a published author?  Has it been super easy and stress free?

Haha. No and no. But I’m sure that has more to do with life as me, as opposed to life as a published author. At the same time, it’s brought me great joy. I’ve been able to meet amazing readers and writers throughout this process. I need to really remind myself life is pretty good. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happened these past few years.

Q4:  One of your characters is called Jeff and he is very good artist, as a real life Jeff are you any good with a Sharpie?

I doodle, but I’m not any good. I have a real soft spot for that story, which, along with a couple others, helped me find the shape of my novel, Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun, as I was able to really know these characters as people before I dove in. Jeff, aka “Jeff the Killer” was a very popular character with people who read the novel, so I’m really excited for people to see who he was before all the bad things went down—the bad things from the novel, as opposed to the bad things in this story (poor, poor Jeff).

Q5:  How many millions of money have you made from this book? And can I borrow a bit of cash for some traps?  This year for sure I’m gonna catch Santa.

*pulls out empty pockets like Monopoly Guy* I really wish you the best of luck catching Santa, though. Hot tip: according to TV commercials, he’s going to be in Qatar for the World Cup.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?

Reading is very important, so I consider myself very much of a reader. I found a really awesome 1960s paperback version of Mother Night in the Little Free Library, and one thing led to another, and I started rereading it. Therefore, it’s the best book I’ve read recently. I’m learning that rereading things when you’re smarter is always a good thing.

The book I first fell in love with, I think, it’s Dear Mr. Henshaw. It’s the first time I remember being genuinely moved while reading a book.

Q7:  So far I’ve not noticed any Gnomes in your books, is there a reason they have been ignored?

This is a fair question. I’m definitely going to have to include a gnome or two in a story. Come to think of it, there’s a hoarder in one of the stories in This Is the Afterlife. I’d like to imagine there’s a lawn gnome or two in that house, just hidden from the narrative.

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

Maybe take Santa to a nice Mexican restaurant, help you catch him for all the kindness you’ve shown me.

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Really wanted to be an X-Man as a kid. Just hang out with Colossus, go to the arcade with Kitty, smoke cigars with Wolverine. My mutant power would be to curl into a ball like an armadillo until all the fighting’s over.

Q10:  You going to be one of those that will be leaving twitter or you gonna hang out with Me, Elon and the Russian bots?

In some parts of the country, the police confiscate loads of marijuana and then burn it all in a giant pile. I hear people come from miles around, and line up along the fence, and inhale the fumes while enjoying the dancing flames. I imagine what’s happening to Twitter is very similar to that.

Q11:  I know your latest book has only just come out, but you got any plans for what is next?

I think I do. At the same time, I’m not sure. But I hope to know soon.

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

Many thanks to Jeff for taking part in this here interview and teaching me how to look deeper into a book when searching for Gnomes, maybe they are there all along…watching us.  If you haven’t already checked out this book then I hope this has inspired you to pick one of them up, This Is The Afterlife is a great place to start.  And if you are looking to stalk Jeff you can find him on Twitter At least until Twitter has crashed and burnt to dust.

Advertisement
Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Kimber Silver

Ey up mighty followers!  After the huge success of my last interview (3 likes, no restraining orders and one crazee lady who plans to read it every day) I am back with a blockbuster of an interview…a debut author, an expert wordsmith and the voice of handsome sheriffs, we shall find out about her book and question the absence of the Gnomes.  So, give a massive welcome to Kimber Silver….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself and your new book?

Broken Rhodes is a murder mystery set in rural Kansas. I am a lifelong Kansan, and the provincial town in my book is loosely based on the one in which I grew up.

Q2:  Broken Rhodes is your first novel, how did you come up with the idea?

Honestly, I don’t know where my story ideas come from. They simply show up and demand to be written.

And randomly…where did you write the book?

I wrote quite a bit of this book longhand, jotting down sections in a netbook throughout the day whenever I had a free moment.

Q3:  Who is your favourite character in Broken Rhodes?

My favorite character to paint a picture of was Sheriff Lincoln James because he is easygoing and funny. Developing his character felt completely natural and he almost wrote himself.

Q4:  How difficult do you find coming up with names for characters?  I think if I ever wrote a book it would fail cos everybody would be called Bob.

Bob is a great choice, Jason, but you might need to go with full names to avoid confusion — The Book of Bobs — I can see it on the big screen.

Lincoln and Kinsley’s names came about organically, but I did wrestle with what to name Lincoln’s son before finally settling on Thomas.

Thank goodness I’ve never had to name a child! I would have done a very poor job of it.

Q5:  How many millions of money have you made from this book? And can I borrow a few grand so I can buy some stilts, need to find a way to become taller than my youngest.

If you were to convert all of the money I’ve made into the smallest coin denomination and then pile it up, it would resemble a tiny ant hill.

I should have just enough to be able to buy you an ice cream, Jason, but a pair of stilts would be out of reach. With a bit of luck, you might have a late growth spurt.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?  If you have a library can we have a photo?

I do read quite extensively.

My favorite read of 2022 was ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez.

The first book I loved as a kid was ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White

I don’t have a library. I wish I did!

Q7:  Soooooooo….when reading a book I always keep an eye out for the hidden gnome but couldn’t spot it in Broken Rhodes?  How come they be missing?

Regrettably, all gnome removal happened during the editing process. I tried to persuade my editor to keep those little buggers in there, but in the end, I lost the battle.

Everyone knows that gnomes are the mainstay of great literature, so there is always hope for the next book…

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

If I could have one more meal with my grandmother, that would be brilliant. She loved a good steak, so I’d take her for a nice filet.

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Tom Baker captured my imagination in the ’70s, and it has been my lifelong dream to be a companion of Doctor Who. The sidekicks always influence the storyline!

Q10:  When Broken Rhodes gets made into a movie who would you want in the main roles?

From your pen to Hollywood’s eyes…

I think Liam Hemsworth would fit nicely in the role of Lincoln (assuming you didn’t audition for the part, of course).

Kinsley is a difficult call. Maybe Hailee Steinfeld because she gives an excellent evil eye.

Q11:  You got plans for a new book?  I’m hoping Sheriff Lincoln gets another case, a nice new juicy murder.

There is another Rhodes book in the works, but you’ll have to wait and see what is in store for the illustrious Sheriff James.

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

So folks, what did we learn from this interview? 1: When the Gnome uprising happens top of the hitlist will be The Editors!!!! 2: Kimber banks with ants and has a big old mound of cash lying around. 3: I’m going to star across from Hailee Steinfeld in a movie. and 4: There is going to be a second book. wooooooo.

Many thanks to Kimber for taking part in this weird interview and producing a fine piece of Gnome art for my gallery, you really should check out her debut novel Broken Rhodes cos it is a proper good murder mystery. Finally, for the stalkers out there you can find her on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Maxim Peter Griffin

Yo yo yo!  What’s up my loyal followers?  My first interview in ages, not since that massive fight I had with the Nobel judging committee in a B&Q car park, the delay was due to my limbs having to grow back, but all is good now.  Today I’s got an interview with a proper good artist and writer, he has a book out called Field Notes: Walking the Territory, a wonderful blending of prose and art.  Please jump up and down and scream out loud for Maxim Peter Griffin….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself, how long you been playing with the crayons?

First – some facts – My name is Maxim Peter Griffin – 39 – father to 4 sons – husband – 2 dogs (an English Springer named Banjo and a Deerhound cross from the Carpathian mountains called Meg – both rescues)

Half the time I work nights in adult social care – the other half I draw and write.

My first serious drawings were at the age of 5 or 6 – I liked knights and history – I’d draw battles, usually Hastings – all the Normans and all their rings.

I’ll list some things from my biography.

My grandfather was called Martin O’Flanagan and he was the postmaster of Skibbereen.

In 1987 I claimed ownership of Loweswater in Cumbria – my claim still stands.

My father worked on missiles and Vulcans before settling into stonemasonry.

I take the dogs on the same walk every morning – there are foxes.

As a kid, one of my bedroom windows looked out over a theatre and the mouth of the Humber, the other over an engineer’s yard where there were traction engines.

Van Morrison’s cats preferred me.

I’m currently trying to buy a haunted house.

Q2:  I enjoyed looking closely at the art in Field Notes, you can see textures on some of them.  Can you tell us the technique you use?

Pen and ink on paper for the most part – everything starts on paper – black paint and Sharpies – a vast quantity of masking tape – digital stuff – Humbrol.

I layer things up – doing a lot of collage lately too – turning the Shell Guide to Rural Britain into pictures of my chalks and flints.

Q3:  How did you come up with the idea for the book?  And why did you start at the end of October?

The book had genesis out of a few different strands of things I was doing around 2016,17 – images and words together – space and place, something local and something other – people thought it was alright and an ally in publishing helped open a few doors.

As for the October thing – everyone likes October – Halloween orange and chimney red.

That October we ended up at Woody’s Top to regroup.

I just read that Bob Dylan is fond of October Song by the Incredible String Band – we went to see Bob last week, front row – should have asked.

Also, October is the prime month – loads of geese – mushrooms – all the best parties I’ve ever been to were in October (best being Peter’s birthday party 30/10/90)

Q4:  In the book you did a lot of exploring, what’s the craziest thing you found?

I found a silver cross in the middle of a field – in the clay, in the furrow – I buried it deeper because no good would come if I took it.

Worked flint, fossil trees – bits of Lancaster – musket ball – skull.

An old god in the tunnels.

42 belemnites in an hour.

Near Saltfleet there is a pillbox full of jazz magazines.

There was a shipwreck, we all saw it – but it turned into a thousand of jackdaws as we approached and flew off.

Olaf the snowman at the edge of everything.

Q5:  How many millions of pounds have you made from this book? And can I borrow a few grand so I can run for PM in the next general election (Yes, I am starting early on the corruption)?

I got 500 quid a year ago for a version of the cover that didn’t get used.

Funnily enough I’ve just had my author statement through from Unbound – haven’t made a penny – not a sausage – mind you – Field Notes is up for an award next year – one never knows – that side of things doesn’t really matter.

Still, means I’ll not be jacking in the night shift yet.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?

All the time I can – when I can – mostly on quiet nights, after Ghost Adventures.

I just read a few old books about caving – we’ve not got the geology for caves around here though – I used to live in the west country, knew some cavers and went a couple of times but they’re weird folk cavers – goblin men with dogs on the surface – PE teachers underground.

Can’t recall the first book I loved – we were a bookish house growing up – Mum and Dad were both deep readers – every room had books – Guardian every morning from the shop across the road.

Here’s a list of books I’ve got next to me while I type this

Undergound Britain.

Observer Book of Geology.

Narrow Road to the Deep North – Basho.

Moby Dick.

The University of California Book of Modern and Post Modern Poetry.

The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

3 books on cave paintings.

Ancient Farming.

Modern Nature – D. Jarman.

A book of ship burials.

A book of Paul Nash.

A book of krautrockers.

Some art books – early British carving – David Jones – Dada

A wine stained copy of the big Chatwin biography that belonged to my mum

Assorted maps – on the wall is a picture of Elvis, a sea chart of Heligoland, a print by N. Latimer and a painting I made of a buffalo.

A brass crocodile, a couple of badgers skulls.

A picture of King Tubby from the paper.

Q7:  Ever grown a beard or moustache?  Photo needed if you have.

Yes

No

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

Chippy tea with my wife

Chicken shish with my brother

I miss pubs when they change – The White Hart at Ludford, The Mason’s Arms in Louth – perhaps a winter meal at the White Hart will be my Valhalla – Mick, the landlord, kept very pale beers and served whitebait and suet puddings, rabbit pie, pickled his own onions and if you wanted something sweet he’d offer a Caramac from behind the bar – deep stout, dogs in the back room, he still did basket meals

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Ghost Dog – more pigeons and ice cream.

Rogue Male – I wouldn’t miss.

The Jackal – extra suave capers.

Q10:  You got any advice for anybody out there with zero art skillz who wants to shock the world?

Make more drawings

Commit to the Quest

Don’t worry about failure

Make more drawings

Q11:  You got plans for a new book?  I’m looking forward to some kind of sequel to Field Notes.

Field Notes 2 aka Mother Sky : Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven will happen.

It is all written and drawn – just looking for a home for it.

Whatever happens I’ll keep on the good foot – keep moving – keep looking.

Onwards.

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


here is your Gnome

2/11/22

Massive thanks to Maxim for taking part, I loved how the answers are using the same style as in the book and reading it like this gives it a real Jazz vibe, which reminds me I must get the location of that pillbox filled with Jazz mags. And if there are any publishers out there reading this then can you publish his next book for me? Who wouldn’t want to have “Field Notes 2 aka Mother Sky : Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven” on their list? If you wanna read more by this author then you can grab a copy from Unbound HERE:

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Leah Angstman

Hey everybody, it has been a little while since my last interview and there are two reasons for that: the continual ignoring of me by the Nobel Prize committee and a crazy number of amazing books turning up that are begging to be read by me. One of those that turned up was by Leah Angstman, a rather stunning story that made the ice cold heart inside me melt…I reckon Leah started some kind of climate change in me…so I thought she was the ideal candidate to get my interviewing back on track. So, wave hysterically at Leah as she answers the following questions.

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself and how have you been handling the pandemic? 

LA: I have trouble introducing myself—I know myself quite well, but I struggle to put words to what I know. I process in blips of odd facts rather than in any kind of linear structure. I’m a mama to 1-year-old Torgo—a German Shepherd christened after a laughable villain with goat legs in a tragically awful 60s horror movie—the editor of Alternating Current Press and The Coil, and the author of Out Front the Following Sea, a novel of French and English colonial tensions during King William’s War in 17th-century New England (Regal House, January 2022). I’m good at arranging other people’s syntax, terrible at speaking aloud, and sorta okay at history.

I’m as bored as is everyone of the pandemic, but I’ve gotten by all right. I run my own business and work from home, so I was luckily in a better position than a lot of people, and I was able to hustle for some freelance editing gigs when my partner was put on half-pay. But 2020 was 10 years in one: my dog died, my cat died, my dad almost died, my state was on fire, ash fell from the sky every time I tried to breathe. Funny thing is that I haven’t written one single word about the pandemic the whole time we’ve been enduring it—it drains me even to think about. If historians look back on other historians, then some future historian will wonder why my slate is so blank for such a crucial moment in time. But the world was too real to me; I lost the desire to read novels, fiction felt cheap, and I suppose I looked for answers in the past, like I usually do—I read more research archives in 2020 alone than I had for the entirety of my life prior combined. But, hey, I’m still here. Still staying home. Vaccinated. Just … waiting it out, partially calm and partially binge-raging a lot like this.

Q2:  How did you come up with the idea for the plot of Out Front The Following Sea?

LA: Everything about Out Front the Following Sea was an accident. I had written poetry since I was a teenager and had never even penned so much as a prose poem or microfiction when I randomly thought one day that I should start an epic novel. Which I of course shouldn’t have, because I spent the next 11 years trying to undo every sentence I’d initially written. The book was an excellent exercise in editing and reediting and reediting, but the first iteration, clocking in at nearly double the length she is now, didn’t even have a plot. I was Virginia Woolfing just to hear myself talk and purple-prosing like a Melvillian disciple, but so much of it ended up being useless. I don’t think the plot even truly found itself until draft two or three.

Q3:  You must have done a lot of research to create this story. It comes across as feeling very authentic, especially the use of language. How did you go about doing the research? (I loved that you included a map of the ship at the start, did you get the chance to go on one?)

LA: In the most simplistic terms, I love language. I thrill at discovering “new” old words and can’t wait to insert them into some future passage. For this particular book, it was very important for me to make sure the Pequot language was portrayed as authentically as possible, which was its own kind of challenge because it wasn’t a written language, and the last Native Pequot speaker died in 1908. It’s considered an extinct language. There are close dialectal variations (Mohegan), close Eastern Algonquian cognates, some fragments of remaining scholarly attempts to capture a few phrases and syntax, but I largely had to piece together the structure from white translators’ and colonial settlers’ vocabulary lists from the 1600s and 1700s, which of course is problematic in its own right. You can find a resource list for those translations in the back of the novel.

The older words I use within the English language tend to come from diaries and written accounts of the time. My favorite way to get the feel of a place and time is to read really boring things, like itemized cost lists from merchant shops, town records (births, deaths, weddings, properties, census, wealth accounts), farming almanacs, newspapers (especially classifieds and advertisements), local diaries or record-keeping journals of regular civilians, local histories put together by resident town historians and archivists, scientific papers, and personal letters written back and forth between everyday people. My reading list tends to look a little like Henry David Thoreau mentioning the cost of each nail to build his house. I pay particular attention to architecture, how people would have moved within a given space under certain restrictions, historical weather, and even what the actual phase of the moon was on a given night.

And lastly, the ship. Ah, the ship. I love to draw maps, and since so much time is spent onboard the fluyt Primrose, the diagram had to be included. But the nautical realm is not my area of expertise (though it is my area of affection), so I do my best with my Treasure Island-understanding of daring ship adventures, close my eyes, and cross my fingers that I get most of it right, and I avoid mentioning the difficult ship lingo and items that escape me as a land-dweller. The diagram comes from an amalgamation of real diagrams of the time period, but no, I’ve never been on a fluyt, nor any ship that old. I have been on some stunning and fascinating ships, however—among them Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous flagship US Brig Niagara, a great 1797 East Indiaman replica called the Friendship of Salem, and the world’s actual oldest ship of any type still afloat, the USS Constitution aka “Old Ironsides.”

Q4:  There are some brutal scenes in your book. Was it is hard to write them?  Are there any bits you wished you had done differently?

LA: My book is a lot less brutal than actual history was, but yes, I write brutal and violent stories. There are enough people who romanticize history into silly ruffles and cotillions, and I’ve never been big on that. History generally sucked for most people, and only the tiniest sliver of a privileged class got to enjoy anything—mind you, they still pooped in pots and holes in the ground—and usually their privilege was at the expense of someone else’s agony. I consider it a great trait of mine that I can look back at historical events without rose-colored glasses and am able to see clearly that even the historical folks I admire had plenty of flaws. There are no real heroes in history—just people doing what they think is right (or specifically what they think is wrong) at the time to muddy it all up into a palette of grays. I love the nuances that so many stories miss, but with each nuance comes the necessity of tackling uncomfortable truths. History is an ugly beast, and the discomfort is what I love most about her. She’s wildly imperfect and dark.

So, were the brutal scenes hard to write? No, on the contrary—they were hard for me to rein in. I could have made everything so much worse and still been within historical accuracy, and I don’t always know where to draw that line. I have to rely on editors to tell me when my brutality is too much.

As for what I might have done differently, eh. A story goes through so many different iterations, and at some point, you finally have to say you’re done and walk away from it. I could write it and rewrite it and change a hundred things and end up with an entirely different story, but it ends where it ends, and I’ve walked away from it. I’m too busy for that kind of regret. If there’s something I should have done differently, I’ll recycle it for some other story in the future. She is the beast she is. Let her go.

Q5:  Where do you do your writing?  Do you have an interesting view?

LA: I don’t have any one specific place where I do my writing. I lounge on multiple couches, sit at the kitchen table, stand at a standing desk, write in bed, sit in my backyard, write in the car, pace all through the house, talk into my voice recorder while I’m walking the dog. This entire book was first handwritten (yes, handwritten!) on loose-leaf lined paper while sitting on a bean bag in front of an iron stove heater in the dead of a freezing winter over the course of a few weeks, and by the end of the first draft, my neck hurt so bad that I had to ice it for days. So, do I have an interesting view? Sometimes. I do have the Rocky Mountains right in my backyard. Sometimes I have an incredible sunrise. Sometimes this face is my view.

Q6:  Your book is out this January. You got any publicity plans to get it noticed?

LA: Wait, I thought this interview was going to win the Nobel Prize? That’s what I’ve been banking on all along.

In all seriousness, I have purchased lots of advertising space in literary marketplaces, am in the middle of a huge mailing campaign to bookstores, am spending a ton of money I don’t have on advance reader copies, and am planning several U.S. tours throughout 2022 to bookstores, colleges, libraries, and literary festivals. Everything else is just hustle, hustle, hustle.

Q7:  Are you much of a reader?  What is your favourite book?

LA: I’m an avid reader, though most of what I read “doesn’t count” for reading challenges, Goodreads, or booklists. I read a ton of old research documents, letters, treaties, legislature, old medical journals, and of course I read a ton of submissions for Alternating Current Press. I try to read one “real” book per week, so I always set my Goodreads Challenge for 52 books per year, but most of them tend to be audiobooks while dogwalking or poetry books if I slip behind in my challenge and have to catch up. The rest of the time, I’m stuck reading these 800-page biographies that I can hardly hold open in my hands.

My favorite books are all old nostalgic (and brutal) kids’/YA books from my youth: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, My Brother Sam Is Dead, The Summer of My German Soldier, Johnny Tremain, Call of the Wild. For big-kid books, I love the ones that tear me to pieces: Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Killer Angels, The Things They Carried, Lonely Hearts Hotel, and a handful of others that you can find on my Bookshop list. My favorite book is in there somewhere, but it changes from day to day.

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?

LA: The dog lover in me would say Rin Tin Tin, or Buck from Call of the Wild, but there’s little I’d change except giving a swift buttkick to the Man in the Red Sweater for clubbing dogs. I guess I should leave it at that, so I don’t crash headlong into spoiler alerts. I can think of a gazillion I’d-make-this-person-not-die scenarios, but I don’t want to spoil the stories for those who haven’t read them!

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

LA: Comfort food, mostly any kind of mac and cheese. The history nerd in me says I’d want to share it with the marquis de Lafayette, first circa 1781, coming off the triumph of Yorktown, to see him at his happiest, but then at a second meal later, after the agony of the French Revolution, after being jailed for years, after leaving the French legislature (but before being asked to come back to America, so let’s say early 1824), to ask him what parts were worth it, and what parts he’d do over if he could. Maybe I’d have a third mac and cheese with him on his deathbed and just let him ramble and reflect in a pneumoniatic haze while I write it all down, the arbiter of his memoirs.

But if you caught me unawares with this question on the street, the fangirl in me would probably just squeal and blurt out: Bruce Springsteen! I’d totally have mac and cheese with The Boss.

Q10:  When your book eventually gets made into a series/movie who would you like to play the parts of Ruth, Owen and Samuel?

LA: Oooof, this is very difficult because Owen was actually fashioned with a young Wes Bentley in mind, circa 2002 in The Four Feathers (only with shaggy hair), and I just don’t know anyone today who comes close to that. Wes Bentley is too old now to play a twenty-something, but Hollywood! If you’re listening! Find me a young Wes Bentley! But if I have to pick someone of age, then okay, let’s go with … Dylan Sprayberry? With shoulder-length scruffy hair, some dirt and sweat, rolled-up sleeves, and a five o’clock shadow. Is he versatile enough, though? It’s a pretty taxing role.

For Ruth, hmmm, I don’t know very many young stars these days. I think I’ll pick Sophia Lillis. She’s the rightish age and has incredible natural beauty (those freckles!). Give her long hair and we’ve got a Ruth.

For Sam, I guess I imagine him as a younger Russell-Crowe-as-Javert, but since that’s not an option anymore, well, I’ve always been a fan of the unnerving eyes and commanding voice of Richard Armitage. He can be equally placating and terrifying.

Q11:  What plans you got for the future? Any new books coming out after Out Front the Following Sea?

LA: I’m slow to finish things, but I’m not slow to start things. I always have a poetry collection, a story collection, an immediate novel, and a long-range novel that I’m working on at any given time. I try to write one poem per weekend, one short story per month, one novel per year, and one long-range novel over the span of as long as it takes. (For the bigtime fans, you can subscribe to my Patreon for my story-a-month and poem-a-week posts.)

So, my poetry project is currently a longform narrative about the marquis de Lafayette during his time in the French National Guard; and following the completion of that one, I’ll begin an epic biography-in-verse of my twelfth-great uncle, American Revolutionary War “hero” (myth? legend? folklore? actually a stubborn pain-in-the-arse?) Ethan Allen. I’m currently shopping a poetry collection about the American Midwest and the selling of my childhood home (which has been three times a bridesmaid, never a bride: she’s been a finalist in the Cowles Poetry Book Prize and the Able Muse Book Award, and a semifinalist in the Hillary Gravendyk Prize), and I’ve got another completed feminist poetry collection about women in history that’s getting its final editing touches from beta readers and should be ready to shop in 2022.

For short stories, my current project is Second Sons. It’s a riff on the horrible “The _____’s Daughter” title trend, but each historical story is titled “The _____’s Son,” and it’s about the tragedies of secondborn sons throughout history (but don’t worry, there are plenty of ladies in it; it’s not a sausagefest, I promise). It’s turned out to be shockingly dark so far, even for me. Next on deck after that is Imagined Endings for the Disappeared, a collection of made-up endings for the real-life disappearances of historical people. And my agent and I are currently shopping my first completed story collection of short, non-linked “histories,” which includes my favorite thing I’ve ever written, a novella about a female botanist in the 1850s.

And ah, the novels, novels, novels. My second novel, about the French Revolution, currently longlisted for a Goethe Award for post-1750s historical fiction, is under consideration from a press right now, and we’re hoping for a spring 2023 release for that one, especially since Paris seems to be a hot trending topic in historical fiction at the moment (though the book was first written in 2011, when no one cared about the trend yet). If you thought my first novel was brutal, lol, wait until you get to the noyades de Nantes. My agent is also shopping my third novel, about the decline of the Gold Rush in 1850s Sacramento Valley, which is currently longlisted for a Laramie Award for Americana fiction; and my in-the-works project is my fourth novel—an accidental loose sequel to the latter book, taking place ten years later at the end of the American Civil War in the western wilderness. And of less interest to you, probably, is that I’m working on a series of historical coming-of-age stories for middle-graders, about young girls and boys/pre-teens/teens living in various places in the U.S. throughout history, exploring different regions, historical events, wars, cultures, &c. Those are under a pen name because of the brutality of my adult books.

The current long-range novel project looks like it’s going to end up being a trilogy. It’s an ungodly ambitious alternative history of the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars, featuring real-life historical individuals. It’s a lot. I’ve had to read six huge biographies just for the first two paragraphs’ worth of writing. Based on that, I think the first book will take me three years to finish, and the entire trilogy (if it turns out to be a trilogy) will take me 10 to 15 years. Wish me luck!

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 Leah for such a great interview, some fantastic books to look forward to in the future. And Sophia Lillis is an awesome actress and would love to see her playing Ruth.

Leah Angstman is the author of the debut novel of King William’s War in 17th-century New England, OUT FRONT THE FOLLOWING SEA (Regal House, January 2022), and the editor-in-chief of Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine. Find her at leahangstman.com and all over social media as @leahangstman.

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Strobe Witherspoon

Hi everybody, I hope you’re all behaving!  As I’m writing these questions there is a big meeting in Cornwall where the leaders of the world have all flown planes to chat about climate change and the Euros are about to kick off, which is football….probably played in planes, the virus is still going strong in the UK…so whilst the world continues to fall apart, what better time to interview Strobe Witherspoon, author of one of the cleverest books I’ve read in ages.  OOF: An Online Outrage Fiesta for the Ages.

Q1: Wassup Strobe!  I hope you are well, how has life been for you during the pandemic? 

Hi!

My concept of time is no longer reliable. Misinformation on the Internet  took an even more sinister and destructive turn than when I wrote OOF. And  our ability to tell ourselves whatever story we want regardless of what’s happening in the real world has skyrocketed! Good job humans. Otherwise, same same.

Q2a:  Tell us a bit about OOF.

I think humanity’s greatest challenge right now is our inability to have a good faith discussion about the issues of the day. All other challenges succeed or fail from that. I realize that humans have struggled with this before, but the nature of this moment feels exceptional. The current media ecosystem is incentivized to create outrage and division, and productive exchanges become close to impossible in this environment. Also, it’s occurring at a scale (on the internet) that is unprecedented. OOF is essentially about that. It’s a story that takes on a life of its own. It’s so unhinged from reality and driven by cynical opportunists trafficking in anger that any real understanding and shared sense of reality becomes a pipe dream.

Q2b:  When I read OOF it gave me the feeling that the story had come alive and was almost writing itself, did the story play out exactly as you planned at the start?

My original plan was to tell the dumbest, angriest story possible via only very dry and dense academic journals. Turns out that had its limits. I did ultimately have a basic outline for the story that I stuck to. And I made a list of all of the different mediums that could be used to tell that story. As I went through the outline I decided which medium would work best to move the plot along and provide comic relief. I ended up using most but not all of the media formats on my list (never found a spot for those nuanced YOUTUBE comment debates).

Q3:  How did you come up with the idea and the technique you used to get the story over?

OOF is essentially a combination of the idea I mentioned above and another idea I had for a satirical twitter account that asked the question: what if a certain former first lady of the United States was an insightful social critic? I never did put that together, but it kind of exists from someone else! Link HERE:

Also, the term OOF was born out of this thing I wrote in 2018: You can read the piece HERE:

Q4:  Before I interview a person on here I like to stalk them online for a bit, I’ve found you to be very elusive…especially when you consider how social media is used in OOF…is that deliberate?  Are you super shy? Maybe you have a secret identity online?  (I think I’m on to something there with the secret identity, time to get the Gnomes on the google machine to track you down).

I did not want to use my real full name for this endeavour. But I will reveal it now. Strobe Westminster Swanson Carlson. I am, indeed, Tucker McNeal Swanson Carlson’s brother that he refuses to recognize. Tucker C, the heir to the Swanson fortune and a driving force behind some of the dumbest outrage fiestas ever has made me persona non grata at the Carlson family compound and the soon to be released labotomypillow product launch. But seriously, like most people, I’m simultaneously attracted to and repulsed by what happens when people share online. So I choose to split the difference.

Q5:  What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen online?

Because I’m a very literal person and a big fan, I would say: CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT WHAT STROBE THINKS IS WEIRD.

Q6:  Favourite book, favourite musician and favourite film please.

Animal Farm

Propagandhi

Dr. Strangelove

Just realising now that the crazy out of control plot of OOF is very much like Dr Strangelove. haha Brilliant.

Q7:  Have you ever grown a beard?

The Swanson Carlsons would hear of no such thing.

Q8:  Is your book self-published, why did you decide to go in that direction?

If this book was going to succeed it needed to come out sooner than later. So I put it out on my burgeoning imprint, Marginal Books.

Q9:  What’s your opinion of Gnomes?  The only good left in the world or are they super evil for jokingly getting Trump into power?

My favourite Gn words in order of least to most:

5. Gnarly

4. Gnat

3. Gnash

2. Gnome

1.  Gnocchi

So… not nearly as bad as Gnarly, but I would still probably prefer Gnocchi.

Q10:  What would be the perfect meal and who would you spend it with?

I guess I need to say Gnocchi here. How about Gnocchi surrounded by Gnomes?

Sounds perfect.

Q11:  What‘s next for you?  Any plans for a new book? 

The sequel will be called OOF OOF. Logline: When OOF wins the Pulitzer, an OOF occurs.

Practical task:  Nobody gets out of this part, 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. 

(very literal)

Massive thanks to Strobe for taking part in this interview and giving us a glimpse inside the mind of a beardless person with a fetish to be watched by gnomes as they eat gnocchi.

OOF is a book that I’m recommending to everybody, if you think the Internet is a scary place where people can lose their mind over the littlest things then go get yourself a copy of his book from HERE:

If you want to stalk/sue/complain Strobe online then he can be found in the following places:

Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Thommy Waite

Ey up, it’s been a while since I’ve done an interview, partly because life getting back to normal, partly because of just how good the books I’ve been reading lately are, so easy to get caught up in things but mostly because the Nobel Prize committee continue to ignore me…well that changes now!  One of those damn good books I’ve been distracted by recently was by today’s victim/interviewee, Thommy Waite, his book Any Day You Can Die was a right good yarn, full of great characters, tonnes of sex and plenty of partying. If you want to see what he looks like (maybe you’ve seen him lurking in the shadows) then check out this little VIDEO about his book.

Q1: Hey Thommy!  For the first question lets get covid out of the way, how have you been handling the pandemic? 

I was living in Medellín when it kicked off, and like everyone else I was initially unperturbed, thinking it wouldn’t directly impact my life. But then things started getting hot and heavy in Colombia in terms of lockdowns so I made the difficult decision to relocate temporarily back to my hometown of Perth. I got back to Australia in the nick of time, just before all the international flights started getting cancelled.

It was a good call. Covid barely reached Australia, and Perth has been the least impacted of all the Australian cities. So I’ve been ridiculously fortunate. The long haul flight to get back to Australia was pretty harrowing. But everything else has been gravy, which is a bit embarrassing to be honest. The goddmann spicy cough has caused a lot of pain and turmoil all around the world and I’ve managed to avoid all of the malarkey through complete dumb luck.

Q2a:  Tell us a bit about your book.

Any Day You Can Die is about a group of digital nomad gringo bros who live together in Medellín. They are all a bit lost in their own ways, and this leads them to getting mixed up with a drug hustle on the dark web.

Q2b:  I noticed a recurring theme in your book, the positive portrayal of Colombia, you show it is safer and more beautiful than the movies make it seem, was that your intention or was that just a natural part of your writing seeing as you were living there?

I was based in Medellín from 2017 to 2020, and the city got under my skin, which is a very common story. The landscapes are breathtaking, but what really makes the place special is the people. Colombians are incredibly kind and friendly.

Pre-Covid, Medellín was becoming a hotspot for digital nomad expats. These are people who work online remotely, and they place a high value on entrepreneurship, freedom and independence. The vast majority of digital nomad expats are lovely people with good intentions. But like any group there’s a few bad apples. And bad apples make great fodder for naughty stories. The standard Latin American drug story involves gringos getting corrupted by shady locals into doing nefarious shit. With Any Day You Can Die, I wanted to write about gringos who arrive in Colombia already corrupted.

Q3:  How did you come up with the story?  Whilst reading it I kept getting the feeling that things could possibly be true, Is any of the book based on real events?

The emotional spine of the story is the sense of ennui I felt in Medellín. On paper my life was perfect. I had a very comfortable existence that afforded me a lot of freedom. Yet I felt caught between two worlds. Before Medellín I lived in New York for 7 years, and New York is a hard place to let go of. I knew in my heart it would be years before I truly felt at home in Colombia due to various cultural barriers, namely the language.

When I was living in Medellín there was a story on the news about a guy from Perth who was hiding from the narcos and the police somewhere in Medellín. He was roughly my age too. So that’s the real Tony Fletcher, the protagonist and narrator of Any Day You Can Die. I used a lot of my personal shortcomings to flesh out Tony’s personality. All of the other characters are garish composites of real friends, acquaintances, and infamous strangers.

As for the events in the book, I drew on my real experiences e.g. partying in Poblado, going to the fútbol, spending time at coworking spaces, but I  supercharged everything for comedic and dramatic effect.

Q4:  My blog is the Gnome Appreciation Society and one thing I felt was missing from your book was Gnomes, are there no Gnomes in Colombia?

There are tons of quaint little hippie towns in the mountains surrounding Medellín. One of my last trips before Covid was out to this beautiful finca with a few friends. We took mushrooms, vibed to the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood soundtrack and stared at the surrounding valley for hours.

There had to be gnomes on this property. I didn’t see them but they definitely saw me.

Spot the gnome competition

Q5:  Music plays a big part of the main character’s life, hundreds of songs get a mention, have you made a playlist?  If not do ya fancy picking the 10 best songs to listen to whilst reading your book?

There is indeed a PLAYLIST

Brilliant, I haven’t heard that song by Pulp is such a long time. 🙂

The song Oedipus Race by the NYC band Native Sun was one of the biggest behind-the-scenes musical inspirations when I was writing the novel. I wanted the book to be as fun and aggressive and wild as this tune. The lead singer of the band Danny Gomez is Colombian-American too, so it kind of ties in.

Good song, never heard of them before.

Q6:  Who is your main influence? (thought I’d ask this one seeing as Bri Bri was such an awesome influencer)

Probably the comedian Bill Burr. I love the way he sees the world. I dig his no bullshit approach to creativity. Listening to his podcast over the last decade has improved my life immeasurably.

Q7:  Have you ever grown a beard?

Never on purpose. Sometimes out of laziness I won’t shave for a few weeks and there will be something on my face, but it’s always too patchy to call it a legit beard. Find an example below – me and the missus drunk on a boat in the Philippines from a few years back.

Q8:  Your book is self published, why did you decide to go in that direction?

Impatience. I was worried that other people were writing similar books about Medellín’s digital nomad subculture. I wanted to get mine out first. Fucking around with the trad publishing process would have slowed me down.

Who knows about the future, but so far, self-publishing has been great for me.

Q9:  I’m sure it is only a matter of time before (I always say Netflix but they always ignore me…as bad as those bloody Nobel people) Hulu pick up your book and make it into a movie,  In the book it gets revealed who should play the main character, so tell me….who would you like to direct it?

I would say the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. He did an amazing job with the recent flick Another Round, which is a very similar tale to Any Day You Can Die – four troubled men, lots of drinking, plenty of terrible decisions. Plus, he could probably coerce old mate Mads Mikkelsen into the production to cameo as Tony Fletcher’s father for a flashback scene. That would be sweet.

Q10:  During my stalking of you I noticed that you have a podcast, what’s it about and how long you been doing it?

I believe I started in 2013, so I’ve been doing it on and off for 8 years now. The current iteration is called Thommy Waite’s Square Record. Most of the episodes are me just ranting by myself, Bill Burr style. I use those episodes to test ideas I’m looking to explore with my writing.

And I’m gonna start doing a lot more interviews with other writers. There are plenty of wonderful blogs such as this one where writers can get their books reviewed. But there are limited opportunities for writers to talk free form about their own work and all that comes with being a scribe, so I plan to do more of that.

Q11:  What ‘s next for you?  Any plans for a new book?  Will you return to Colombia when safe to do so?

I’m working on the sequel to Any Day You Can Die. It will be out for Christmas 2021. 

And yes, I hope to return to Colombia when I’m vaccinated at some point in 2022. I left Medellín in a hurry – my cat Hilsy is still over there. She’s living her best life at an amiga’s apartment. I don’t know how long I’ll stay, but next time, I won’t be leaving Colombia without my goddamn pussycat.

Practical task:  Nobody gets out of this part, 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. 

Of course. I’d like to introduce you to my old mate ‘Gnome-aste’.

Massive thanks to Thommy for taking part in this and for doing me a great piece of art for the Gnome Gallery. If you want to stalk the man or even buy a copy of his book (which you should def give a go) then check out the links below.

Listen to Thommy Waite’s Square Record on Spotify

Follow Thommy Waite on @thommywaite

Subscribe to Thommy Waite on YouTube

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.com.au Amazon.ca

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.