Yet More Quick Questions with . . . Nick Kolakowski

Man…this is the third time I’ve got to pick Nick Kolakowski’s brain (the first and the second, for you completists). I can’t believe he keeps coming back for more — but when I get great answers like these, I’ve gotta keep asking, you know? Do read the others if you’re wanting to learn more about him in general — I stuck to Maxine Unleashes Doomsday (I posted about it earlier today, in case you missed that) this time.

Hope you enjoy!

Did you set out to write Science Fiction or is that something that came about as you started the project?
I’ve always wanted to write a dystopian novel, but all my early attempts were ignoble failures; they were Diet Cormac McCarthy, pastiches of “The Road” that were just retreads of what everyone else was trying to do. It’s only when I mashed the concept onto a noir framework that it started to work for me—a heist novel was the grounding that I needed, even if the target of that heist, in this post-apocalyptic context, is really, really weird.
What were some of the new challenges (and/or freedoms) compared to your earlier works given this setting/genre?
I’ve never written a book that covers the whole scope of someone’s life. Any novel comes with its share of continuity challenges; even if the timeframe is really short (i.e., a few hours or days), you need to keep all of your pieces and characters aligned and consistent. But keeping the details of a character’s life aligned across decades can prove much more difficult—did this happen to her left or right arm when she was a teenager, etc.

In terms of freedoms, though, you can create an incredible character arc if you have that kind of super-expansive timeframe to play with. There’s a real poignancy to tracing someone’s life from their teenagehood to the very end, especially if the country is radically changing around them at the same time.

What came first—the story or Maxine? Is that your typical approach, or does it vary from project to project?
Maxine came first: I had a vision of a badass woman, bitter and chain-smoking but refusing to give up no matter what life threw at her. From there, I wanted a story that put her in worse and worse circumstances. What happens to someone who loses everything? What’s left?

In terms of actual writing, this book started in the middle. Then I wrote Maxine’s childhood and teenage-dom. Then I stalled for about a year because I couldn’t think of where to take her from there; it was only when I came up with the broader framework—of academics discussing her life and her impact on society—that I figured out where to take everything.

In this book, Preacher reminded me a lot of Main Bad Guy’s Walker—but a very different take on the character type. Is 2019 your Year of the Aging Badass, or is that just a coincidence?  I’m having a hard time not asking a spoiler-laden question about him, so let me take the easy way out – what would a prospective reader want to know about Maxine’s very disfunctional paternal figure?
That was a coincidence, but now that you mention it… yeah, Preacher and Walker are brothers of a type! I didn’t mean it that way; Preacher made his first appearance in my head circa 2014, while Walker emerged around 2017-18, when I was writing “Main Bad Guy.”

Not to spoil too much, but Preacher isn’t the badass that Maxine thinks. He’s ultra-tough, and he deserves his fearsome reputation in the ruined part of the world where Maxine and her family lives. But his weaknesses—and frankly, his lies—eventually force Maxine to step up. The thing about badasses like Preacher and Walker, they can serve as crutches for your main character; at some point, you need to neuter them or take them away if your protagonist is truly going to move on and grow.

Are you far enough into your next book to talk about it – are you sticking with SF, going back to Crime Fiction, or trying your hand at something like Wizards?
Haha! Noir-ish wizards would be pretty cool, although I’m sure someone has already covered that arena already. Up next is actually the sequel to “Boise Longpig Hunting Club,” so it’s back to crime fiction (and Idaho!). The as-yet-untitled sequel is actually giving me a bit of trouble, because I’m trying to ratchet up the tension as tightly as possible on Jake and Frankie, my two main characters (and siblings). They survived some insane crap in the first book, so I have to figure out a way to make things even crazier.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for introducing me to Maxine
Thank you! I love her. I hope readers will, too.

A Few Quick Questions With…Beth Ruggiero York

Earlier, I posted about Beth Ruggiero York’s Flying Alone. York kindly took the time to provide a few As to some Qs that I sent her. They probably do a better job of recommending the book to you than I may have pulled off. I think I’ve said it before, but I don’t read what an author says in these before I write a post about the book. So it looks like she’s actually responding to that post I wrote over the weekend. Which works out nicely.

Hope you enjoy this, I did.

Could you start off by giving the reader a quick “elevator pitch” for your book and tell us why you decided to tell this particular story and why do it now?
“From the time she was a teenager, Beth knew she wanted to fly, and a solo trip across the country to visit family confirmed her aspirations of becoming a pilot. But her dreams were almost grounded before they could take off when she received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the age of 22. Beth vowed that this new challenge would not put restrictions on her life and embarked on journey to become an airline pilot. Starting at the small local airport, the aviation world swallowed her whole, and the next five years of her life were as turbulent as an airplane in a thunderstorm, never knowing when, how or if she would emerge. An agonizing love affair with her flight instructor, dangerous risks in the sky and flying broken airplanes for shady companies all intertwined to define her road to the airlines, eventually being hired by Trans World Airlines in 1989. Flying Alone takes readers through the struggles and the challenges of civil aviation that Beth faced 30 years ago. Ultimately a story of survival and overcoming overwhelming odds, Flying Alone is told with soul-baring candor, taking readers on a suspenseful journey through terror, romance and victory.”

I wrote Flying Alone when my aviation career came to an abrupt end in 1990. The years leading up to that had been so turbulent and challenging that I wanted to write it all down while the events were still fresh in my memory. The story is of the challenges of a young woman and how she battled through them and came through on the other side a stronger person. The message is very important for young women of any generation as they find their place in the world.

I’m always interested in the writing process, why writers make the choices they make along the way—and know that so often the important choices aren’t what to include, but are what not to include. How did you make those choices? Especially looking back at the book now, are there things you’re kicking yourself for not finding a way to work in (or the opposite, I guess)?
Because this is my memoir, it was extremely difficult to decide to include certain things for fear of making myself look like, for lack of a better word, an ‘idiot’. I made many bad decisions during those years, so the ultimate decision to tell the story candidly and expose my vulnerability was difficult. In the end, I bared it all and am so glad I did. It couldn’t just be a story of triumphs, because triumph doesn’t come without struggles and setbacks.

Looking back now, though, I wish I had not ended it where I did. I’ve had feedback that readers want to know more, and, in fact, there is so much more to tell from that time. So, I am planning to write a follow-up memoir to give ‘the rest of the story’.

What was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
The biggest surprise about writing has been how therapeutic it can be to go into my own physical and mental space and let the words flow.
A lot of what makes a writer are the books that they’ve read—what books, in particular, do you think made you the writer you are/the book the book it is?
There are a number of books that will always be with me because of their words and messages. Foremost are Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient, and Beryl Markham’s West with The Night.
(This is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but not wholly) How do you expect your readers to feel safe flying – or being anywhere near a flight path – after some of what you say about Cash Air and other ill-advised piloting choices here?
I’ve had some readers tell me they’re going to take it on vacation and read it on the flight, and I always squirm a little. Really, though, commercial flying is very safe. It has changed quite a bit since the 1980s, and the world of Cash Air and those types of companies were isolated situations flying freight. I feel safe flying, and I know what goes on up there in the cockpit!
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Flying Alone, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.

A Few Quick Questions With… Anne Dolleri

Earlier, I posted my thoughts about Anne Dolleri’s debut, Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard. Now, she’s generously agreed to this brief Q&A. I enjoyed her responses to the questions and the opportunity to get to know her a bit better, I hope you do, too.

Tell us about your road to publication—was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I started writing when I was 13 years old. I never really did it with the intention to become a novelist. I was just thrilled about stories, about those beautiful things you could experience in the eternity of your own mind. Even today I consider myself as an amateur. Writing is a beautiful hobby and as weird as it sounds but I never want to make it a day job. I guess that would just rob it of it’s magic. I am a skilled gardener which on the first look might seem like something completely different, but really the fresh air and the hard work inspire me a lot.
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one—what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
I don’t really have a lot of ideas floating around. My ideas are born from the characters that occupy my mind. Nareth was actually my first book character I ever created. The first story I told was his and somehow there was this world growing around him. This sounds quite vague, I know, but sometimes I got the impression that writing is a mystery to the author even more than to the reader.

Well what made me spent that much time with this book? It’s the unbearable feeling of untold stories. It’s the feeling most of us have when our favorite series seasons finale has aired and ended with the worst cliffhanger you can imagine. You’ll just have to keep going until the story is told. I got my people in my head. And they got their story. And the story needs to be told.

I loved your use of Nareth;s dog and horse. Sure, as with 99% of all books, more of the dog would’ve helped. Was that a conscious choice or just something that happened along the way? [Note: I forgot I asked this question when I wrote about that in my post. I don’t mean to harp on the point, it just happened]
That is a really hard question. As a war horse Alahar has his purpose of course but I can’t recall having planned to create him. The same counts for Revo, who is Nareths dog. I do like having animals in rather descriptive episodes of a book (like journeys) so my character is capable of interacting with something. So you can say in retrospective Revo is a beloved unexpected helper, who does a great job in those scenes. But like Alahar this wasn’t a conscious decision, more a very happy coincidence. Of course I do have a thing for animals, so I guess it would be harder for me to write a book without animals in it.
Similarly, I loved Keni. Without spoiling anything, what can you tell readers about him? Where did the idea to include him come from—not just to include him, but to use him so often?
When Nareth enters Anbatar for the first time I needed someone he could talk to. As a stranger and even more so an enemy to the people of the North it needed to be someone he could risk talking to. Who could be better for that than a boy, who is experiencing the poverty of Anbatar every day while he’s roaming the streets for food. So at first Keni was only planned as Nareths first contact. But the naughty little thief turned out to be a great counterpart for Nareths soldier-like disciplined attitude. And to be honest Nareth grew very fond of the little guy. So he found his way into the story, and turned out to be an awesome character who finds his way from the beginning of the book until the very last chapter.
Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work—you know they’re there)
Of course most of us authors insist on being a unique sparkling unicorn but to be honest the stories of Terry Goodkind (The Sword of Truth), Kristen Britain (The Green Rider Series) and Naomi Novik (Temeraire) had a huge impact on me. What might be seen in my own work from these books is the very character based writing. I am telling my story through the eyes of my main character. And I believe this is what I adapted from the writers above.
What’s next for Anne Dolleri, author (if you know)?
I wish I had an idea. Considering that I am a self-published author and not a native english writer, it’ll definitely take some time until there will be something new to read from me. I had planned to continue Nareth’s story but until it is written, published, translated, edited and published in english, many month will pass I’m afraid.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Anbatar: Legacy of the Blood Guard, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
Thanks for the interview, thanks for reading it, I am glad you enjoyed your time in Anbatar.

A Few Quick Questions With…Malcolm J. Wardlaw

A little bit ago, I blogged about A Bloody Arrogant Power, and now it’s time for a quick Q&A with the author, Malcolm J. Wardlaw.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
I am a natural-born scribbler. That said, I studied engineering at university (and later business administration) and have spent my working life to date in big-name corporations. Why? Because it has brought me a good living, and the work interested me. My writing has developed rather slowly, and in fits and starts. Being a “pantser” has pros and cons. I finished lots of drafts, but could never work out how to raise them above the level of scribbles. Oddly enough, it was the toughest nightmare of an engineering project that gave me the necessary determination to apply the same relentless force to my writing: to stick at editing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting until eventually I was closing in on something presentable. It has taken a long time.
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
My objective in Sovereigns of the Collapse is to dramatize how the world will settle after systemic financial collapse. The collapse is inherent within the model of debt-fueled infinite growth on a finite planet. However, it proceeds more like a glacier than an avalanche, due to the flexibility of our affable, liberal-democratic traditions. I would judge its starting point as the decoupling of the US dollar from gold in 1971, although you need to look carefully to see the signs. The politics required to avoid final collapse appear so unlikely, at least at present, that I expect it to run its course within my lifetime (I can reasonably expect to live at least to 2050). The resulting world is still orderly, people go about their daily lives, there are Haves and there are Have-nots. The big difference is that the value system of this society is virtually the inverse of ours.
What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your planning that you loved, but ultimately couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one).
I would not say I consciously sat down to complete a research program. This theme has been an obsession for the best part of twenty years. Early drafts failed repeatedly. This stimulated my curiosity. I read more. I imagined more, and this fed my curiosity further. I would describe my “research” as haphazard, but these explorations did eventually identify a series of processes that eventually culminate in the Glorious Resolution.
In the writing of A Bloody Arrogant Power, what was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
Definitely the latter. Had I known just how frustrating it would be to shape the story I wanted, I would not have had the courage to sit down and write Page 1. Ignorance served me well! But it was a crucial learning experience. I am now engaged in writing Book 3 of the series (Book 2 The Night of Blind Ambition is now published on Amazon). This has followed several months of free-writing ideas every day, picking out the promising leads and working them further to construct a summary of just a couple of pages. In this way, the writing has a general sense of direction, whilst still leaving plenty of room for white-water scribbling (pantsing). The best ideas I have ever had only came after I consciously threw myself into the unknown. Hopefully I have at last found a sensible balance between writing-by-numbers and pure pants.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
I have never had this feeling. What I will say is this (considering my whole life, not just the last five years). If there is one book that overwhelming impressed me, and inspired me across years of dead ends and futility, it was Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dr Zhivago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Madame Bovary also deeply impressed me.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for A Bloody Arrogant Power, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after that ending!

A Few Quick Questions With…F J Curlew

I appreciate Curlew taking the time to do this Q&A, I hope you enjoy it and she says something to tempt you to give her work a try. I didn’t ask her everything I wanted to, because it would’ve spoiled things for the rest of you (and, frankly, I need the mystery).

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                     I would love to be able to say that I had always dreamed of being a writer, but no. I was a primary school teacher who had barely enough energy to read at the end of the day, let alone write! I got sick, could no longer work, but was determined not to allow that to take over my life. I decided to study creative writing at the Open University, predominantly to keep my brain active. I found out that I was quite good at it and completed the standard and advanced courses with distinctions. I haven’t stopped since. Not only has writing given me a purpose, I also absolutely love it. Whatever else is going on in my life my stories can take me away to places of my imagination. How fantastic is that? I can’t not write!
I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
                     I lived in Ukraine for four years and was left with so many stories, feelings, experiences. To say the country touched me would be an understatement. I used what I had seen and heard to write some short stories for my OU coursework.They were well received and I knew there was more to come. A novel was scratching away at me. In Kyiv I had met, and spent time with, quite a few street-kids. Two of them have haunted me ever since – the two who would become Sasha and Alyona in the story. Their lives were…awful, and yet they had this innocence and grace to them. I placed them in a feasable scenario around which I could write a thriller and sprinkled them with a little bit of magic because I felt they deserved it. I hope my story has done them justice.
The Holodomor provides a lot of background to one of the stories here. As I told you before, this is the second book I’ve read this year influenced by that. You have a character say why we don’t know much about it in the West – could you tell us a little more about our lack of awareness about it, and why it captured your attention?
                     The Holodomor was something that Stalin wouldn’t show to the West, or own up to. It didn’t happen. It was all lies. And that carried on through the subsequent Soviet years. Anti-soviet propoganda would result in a stint in the gulags or death. Best to keep quiet. Despite having lived there I hadn’t heard of it myself. It wasn’t until I was researching more about the lives of Ukrainian street-kids on You-tube that I came across the Holodomor. I was horrified. My social conscience is strong and I am politically motivated. Of course I had to use it! It wasn’t until 2006 that the Ukrainian parliament recognised the Holodomor as a deliberate act of genocide. There is now a Holodomor monument in Kyiv.
What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your research that you loved, but just couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one)
                     A good deal of the events are actually based on things that I had first hand experience of, or stories I had been told. Of course there was also a hefty amount of research done. I read accounts of the Holodomor, Misha Glenny’s non-fiction book “McMafia” helped greatly with facts about the Mafia, and I spent hours trolling through videos and news clips about all things Ukrainian. I read Shevchenko and listened to Yarmak (Ukrainian rap) to get me in Ukrainian mode. There actually wasn’t anything I came across and loved that I couldn’t use, except perhaps a horse-riding, sword-yielding Cossack!
(yeah, that’d have been hard to fit in)

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)

                     Andrei Makine, Leif Davidsen, Sofi Oksanen. Of course there are many others, but for Eastern European stories, definitely them!
One of the things I appreciated most about the cast of characters was Maggie. Most books like this would have Nadia befriend a fun-loving local woman, instead, you provide her an Austrialian friend. Can you tell us anything about that choice (or anything else you want ot say about Maggie)?
                     Ah, Maggie! I hadn’t factored her into the story at all to begin with. Planning isn’t something I do very much of as I prefer my stories to unfold as I write; my characters to lead the way. Maggie popped up and said, “Hey! Over here! Write me!” She was a lot of fun to work with. A wise woman who lives life to the fullest and offers her own unique perspective on everything from men to politics. I think it was important for Nadia to be able to have that in this story. A friend, a confidante, an opposite. Someone to guide her strength to the surface. The expat in her becomes a core element of the story. A local wouldn’t have had the same impact.
What’s next for F. J. Curlew?
                     I seem to be working my way through the countries I have lived in! I am currently writing a novel involving Estonia’s journey from Independence to Soviet occupation and back to independence again. It’s quite a challenge because Estonia is important to me. I lived there for seven years and I love the wee place. I want, no need, to do it justice. Suffice to say hefty amounts of research are being done. My central characters are an old lady and a young drug addict. That’s all I can say for now!
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Don’t Get Involved, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.

My thanks to F J Curlew for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) provided for it.

A Few Quick Questions With…Christy J. Breedlove

I talked a little bit ago about, Screamcatcher: Web World and now I have the pleasure of sharing a Q&A I did with the author, Christy J. Breedlove. I liked the book and I like what she had to say here (there seems to be a theme…). I hope you enjoy and I hope this helps convince you to give Breedlove and her work a shot.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                     My early writing accomplishment were multiple hits within a few years: In my first year of writing back in 1987, I wrote three Sf short stories that were accepted by major slick magazines which qualified me for the Science Fiction Writers of America, and at the same time achieved a Finalist award in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. This recognition garnered me a top gun SF agent at the time, Richard Curtis Associates. My first novel went to John Badham (Director) and the Producers, the Cohen Brothers. Only an option, but an extreme honor. The writer who beat me out of contention for a feature movie, was Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. My book was called Dinothon.

A year after that I published two best-selling non-fiction books and landed on radio, TV, in every library in the U.S. and in hundreds of newspapers.

I have been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle ever since. My YA dystopian novel, The Girl They Sold to the Moon won the grand prize in a publisher’s YA novel writing contest, went to a small auction and got tagged for a film option. So, I’m getting there, I hope!

I don’t want to ask “where do you get your ideas?” But out of all the ideas floating around in your head, why’d you latch onto this one — what was it about these characters, this idea that drove you to commit months/years to it?
                     I was always under the illusion that everything hasn’t been done. I fool myself into think that because premise is my number one priority. If it isn’t unique, out-of-the-box or distinctive, I won’t attempt it. We have a dream catcher in the living room, and one day I stared at it and remember some of the legend behind it. Then I looked up the lore associated with the dream catcher. That really started a fire within.
What kinds of research went into the construction of this concept and the world? What was the thing you came across in your research that you loved, but just couldn’t figure out how to use? (assuming there was one)
                     It all started with the dream catcher. This iconic item, which is rightfully ingrained in Indian lore, is a dream symbol respected by the culture that created it. It is mystifying, an enigma that that prods the imagination. Legends about the dream catcher are passed down from multiple tribes. There are variations, but the one fact that can be agreed upon is that it is a nightmare entrapment device, designed to sift through evil thoughts and images and only allow pleasant and peaceful dreams to enter into consciousness of the sleeper.

I wondered what would happen to a very ancient dream catcher that was topped off with dreams and nightmares. What if the nightmares became too sick or deathly? What if the web strings could not hold anymore visions? Would the dream catcher melt, burst, vanish, implode? I reasoned that something would have to give if too much evil was allowed to congregate inside of its structure. I found nothing on the Internet that offered a solution to this problem—I might have missed a relevant story, but nothing stood out to me. Stephen King had a story called Dream Catcher, but I found nothing in it that was similar to what I had in mind. So I took it upon myself to answer such a burning question. Like too much death on a battlefield could inundate the immediate location with lost and angry spirits, so could a dream catcher hold no more of its fill of sheer terror without morphing into something else, or opening up a lost and forbidden existence. What would it be like to be caught up in another world inside the webs of a dream catcher, and how would you get out? What would this world look like? How could it be navigated? What was the source of the exit, and what was inside of it that threatened your existence? Screamcatcher: Web World, the first in the series, was my answer. I can only hope that I have done it justice. The readers can be the judge of that.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                     Oh, like what I consider stylists: Poul Anderson, Virgin Planet, Peter Benchley, The Island and Jaws, Joseph Wambaugh, The Onion Field and Black Marble, Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, Alan Dean Foster, Icerigger trilogy, and some Stephen King. Anne Rice impresses with just about anything she has written. I think it’s the humor and irony that attracts me the most–and it’s all character related As far as Ya material, I was really floored when I studied Jo Rowling’s world building. As far as dangers, toils and snares, I was attracted to the action in The Hunger Games—a real mind changer for me.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                     Totally off the spec genre, I was captivated by Rocketman, the story of Elton John, and Bohemian Rhapsody, the story of Queen. I’m a sucker for bio-dramas, like Cinderella Man, and such. There is something about the human struggle to fame and fortune that fascinated me. I get emotionally involved in the character/characters. It’s true to life, and I’ve a similar life picture painted with such ups and down.
I see there’s another Screamcatcher volume on the way, are there more to come after that? Or have you latched on to some other idea for what’s next, and can you tell us a little about that?
                     Two more Screamcatcher books are finished and sold to the same publisher. The second in the trilogy is called Screamcatcher: Dream Chasers. The third and final is called Screamcatcher: The Shimmering Eye. By the second book, the kids have formed the Badlands Paranormal Society. The fancy themselves as true paranormal investigators since they escaped alive from the first Web World in book 1. The third books, via the blessings of George Knapp, investigative reporter out of Las Vegas, is my fiction account of what really happened at Skin Walker Ranch, the most haunting tale I’ve ever heard in my life.
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Screamcatcher, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.
                     I’m honored, H.C. Newton to grace your pages and thank you for your time and consideration of my life and work.

A Few Quick Questions With…Richard Steele

So, yeah, Richard Steele’s book wasn’t my kind of thing, but like I said, Steele’s been great throughout. I appreciate his answers here and it helps me get what he was going for. I know there are people out there who’ll dig his stuff, and hope they find it.

I’ve never been given a warning before from an author after agreeing to read their book—what was behind that? Would you warn all your readers?
                     I’d probably best describe this decision as “Debut Author Jitters”.

I wrote Time Travel + Brain Stealing… by the seat of my pants (a big no-no for many writers), with almost no outlining and all spontaneity. It was quite a ride! Because of this, I labeled it’s genre Dark Humor from what I subjectively believed it to be, rather than the roller coaster of insanity it turned out to be.

It was only until I received my first review from a reader who was taken aback by the gore and vulgarity that I realized I may have misplaced the genre of my book, and therefore the pending reviewers who were currently reading it in good faith were also under that same false impression.

I researched and researched and found its home in Bizarro Fiction, albeit a rather vanilla version when compared to others, and felt it was my duty as an Author to let those who dedicated their time voluntarily to read my book know there was a potential for some to be offended by my writing and give them an opportunity to decide if this new genre was best suited to their reading taste.

Would I warn everyone now? No, I believe my honest blurb and preface should suffice. It was more time, place and circumstance. With my previous warning and I’ve learnt very quickly that my audience is out there, but so too are my critics and I can’t control that if I want to write how I want to write.

I’ve not come across anything that describes itself as “Bizarro Fiction,” for the myself and the rest of the uninitiated, could you describe that genre?
                     Join the club! It is a great genre I literally stumbled into, and I’m sure those who are fanatic Bizarro readers may even argue that my book is too vanilla for it. However, I would deem Bizarro to be that line you cross in Dark Humor where you incorporate gore, over the top violence, toilet humor and gross-out comedy with a blend of satire and wit.

It goes beyond what the average person would deem comfortable and forces them to laugh or contemplate laughing at situations they ordinarily wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

Tell us about your road to publication — was your plan/dream always to become a novelist and your education/other jobs were just to get you to this point, or was this a later-in-life desire?
                     I did what a lot of first time foolish authors do and sent it to the big publishers, thinking I cracked a niche and had the perfect new formula.

A few nice rejections later and a small press independent publisher in Tenth Street Press found me and loved the boundaries I was pushing. They gave me a chance I believe I may have never found elsewhere to write pure and free.

I actually drafted this book as a set of small short stories when I was twelve, albeit a diluted and less Bizarro-esque version. I always remembered that feeling of making others laugh or cry or run away in horror at my writing and although I have a serious full-time occupation, that urge to write bizarre comedy never left me and only grew stronger the older I got.

In saying that, I’m still relatively young to publish (unless you believe my Author Bio then I’m almost retired), and I’m hoping this is the first of many books.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
                     Ah, well I can’t go past the late and great Leslie Nielsen who whilst he wasn’t an author, his style of satire and slap-stick comedy in the likes of ‘The Naked Gun’, ‘Spy Hard’ and my favorite ‘Wrongfully Accused’ have stuck with me for decades.

I always wanted to take what they could do on screen, that randomness and insanity but with such strict seriousness and splash it onto paper.

As far as other authors go, I can’t go past Andy Griffiths and his Bum Trilogy books, such as ‘Zombie Bums from Uranus’. Whilst written for a younger audience than mine, his ability to take the ridiculous and toilet humor and make it serious and funny at the same time was a large influence.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
                     It may be older than 5 years but I can’t go past ‘Hot Rod’. That was absolute genius. Along with others (older also, sorry) like ‘Kung Pow: Enter the Fist’ and ‘Black Dynamite’. It’s again due to the random nature of their satirical and slap-stick humor that sometimes makes me think if they syphoned my thoughts while I slept.
What’s next for Richard Steele, author?
                     I’ve planned out 3 more books to the Good Times series, all standalone with a very minor entanglement between them. These will be splices of different genres each, just like ‘Time Travel + Brain Stealing…’ is Science Fiction and Horror etc, so the humor in each pulls on different elements from the differing genres.
However, a recent reviewee challenged me to write serious books instead and put my talent to good use. And to that I say touché!
I also have a trilogy of Science Fiction Adventure underway also aimed at Middle Grade level, a re-invented ‘Redwall’ of sorts. Under a different name of course…can you imagine parents and priests checking my name to see if my writing is appropriate? Ha!
I’ll wait to see if my legions of non-existent Bizarro fans enjoy my debut novella first before I dive back into that cesspool style of writing. So until then, Richard Steele salutes you.
Thanks for your time! I hope Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times finds its audience and that you have plenty of success with the book.