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.

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Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times by Richard Steele is a Thing that I Read

Time Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good TimesTime Travel + Brain Stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

by Richard Steele
Kindle Edition, 141 pg.
Tenth Street Press, 2019
Read: July 15, 2019

A few weeks back, I received a request to read/review this book, this is what Steele entered under “Tell me about the book”:

Time Travel + Brain stealing = Murderous Appliances and Good Times

Following the death of his parents, who died in a cliché’ [sic] and completely unimportant way, young Joe Brown is about to find out that living in a town conveniently named Doomsville, does have its draw backs [sic].

For reasons unknown, Joe now must face the demonic creations of a stereotypically bad villain known only as ‘The Master’, who has a penchant for pickled brains and poor puns.

Dumpsters of Doom, Toasters of Terror and the occasional Cheese Sandwich of Carnage all set out to hunt poor Joe and retrieve his brain to fulfil The Master’s destiny.

With the help of his best friend, a disturbingly gross Godmother and some random stalker he just met, Joe Brown is about to learn that what’s between his gunk ridden ears could be the key to saving the world and time itself.

Come and embark on an epic mind-bending, time-travelling quest full of confusing sub-plots, poorly constructed characters, science fiction that only a Flat Earther would believe, and every inappropriate joke you’ve ever thought of but couldn’t say out loud at your Grandmother’s funeral.

I take full responsibility for not reading that as closely as I should have. For example, that first line isn’t a tag line, or a quick synopsis as I assumed. That’s the title. I’ll tell you now if I’d realized that I would’ve stopped reading there. But no, I took it as a tag line and moved on. I ignored the inability to correctly use accent marks on “cliché” (that sounds persnickety, but there’s a pretty high correlation to typo-ridden submissions and bad books in my experience). This seemed just goofy enough that it might be a good way to spend a day or so, I could use some light-hearted fun.

I didn’t realize that “disturbingly gross”, “poorly constructed characters,” “inappropriate”, and “stereotypically bad” weren’t modest descriptions, but selling points in Steele’s mind. Then when he sent me the file, he ended it with, “Good luck, you’re a brave soul indeed…” This should’ve been a warning sign. I took it to be a little self-deprecating humor. Now I don’t think that’s the case, he really meant that this is a book not-for-the-faint-of-heart.

Now, throughout the process, Steele has been a pleasure to work with, and very accommodating—I want to be clear that this isn’t personal. It’s all about my reaction to his novella, not him.

The novella itself? “Self-indulgent twaddle” shows up in my notes at one point, and I think that pretty well sums it up. Juvenile. Vulgar (and not in an interesting way). Enough scatological humor to make a 13-year-old boy say, “Stop!” The plot seems unnecessarily convoluted, yet pretty simple. Although, plot isn’t what this novella’s about—it’s about the telling. They way that Steele tells the story, the voice, the manner, the attitude. That’s the star of the story.

And it didn’t work for me. At all. I couldn’t connect with the story, the characters, the narrator, the style, the voice, the vocabulary. Anything.

Steele clearly worked hard. You could feel on every page the effort to shock, disgust, and be stranger than he had been previously. Mark Leyner can do that kind of thing and make it seem interesting, effortless, engaging and fun. Steele just makes me want to find a new hobby.

The very chatty and fourth-wall ignoring narrator warns in the third paragraph of the Prologue,

Things are going to get stranger than having your sister accidently [sic] kiss you at a county fair kissing booth, only for her to line up for seconds.

Right there, I should’ve stopped and called it a day. Instead, I rolled my eyes and plowed on, little realizing that was going to be the high-point of the book’s figurative language.

I’ve already cited everything you need to know about the plot and characters in the first citation. I’m just going to leave it there…I try to find something positive to say about every book. But I just can’t here beyond saying that I can tell that Steele put a lot of effort into this. I just don’t understand why anyone would.

Your mileage may vary, obviously. If you find something redeeming/entertaining about this novella? Good on you. I’m curious about what you liked, but I won’t argue with you. But there’s just no way I can recommend this to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the author in exchange for my opinion and this post. Clearly, this didn’t keep me from speaking my mind.

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2 Stars

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