And Yet Another “ism”!
Posted by Literary Titan
“The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen” is a humorous and unpredictable collection of short stories following the eccentric day-to-day life of a man who finds the most absurd situations perfectly normal. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?
There are several sources of inspiration. It’s not at all obvious, but H.P. Lovecraft was a major inspiration. Without him, I never would have started writing. I was also inspired by my own dreams, which I kept in a journal. In my journal, I developed a simple, straightforward, matter-of-fact description of extremely odd dreams (incidentally, a style that drew comparisons with Franz Kafka, who I discovered years later). The more I researched it, the more I was inspired by surrealism. In fact, I am inspired by the three main “isms” – surrealism, absurdism and Buddhism. The shock and awe of punk rock, the indie music DIY ethic and the intellectual approach of Monty Python’s Flying Circus were also sources of inspiration. Lastly, I was inspired by events in my own life, and how I chose to manage those events, long before I was diagnosed with autism. Autism is a powerful source of inspiration for me – and yet another “ism”!
Anthony Zen is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Thank you for that kind analysis. In his search for peace and comfort, Anthony is driven to overcome obstacles in his life (interfering parents, awkward workplace relationships, lawless giraffes etc.). Guided by his fierce individuality and strong sense of self, he must achieve success on his own terms. He does not change who he is, or deny the “child inside the man” (nor is he perfect); he is accepting and finds much humour in life, even in places where you’d least expect it. Fundamentally, it is a story about dealing with the social norms of contemporary life that can constrain and degrade us, without losing our sense of humour and child-like sense of wonder. In this regard, my own life is reflected in Anthony’s efforts; as an autistic person, even the most seemingly mundane task can spiral into so much more, just like in the stories.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
If I’ve already answered this previously it’s because an ongoing theme of mine is taking a holistic approach to everything and embracing redundancies – much like a healthy ecosystem. I think the main theme is the lost of individuality, humour, childlike sense of wonder and happiness to the grind of contemporary life. Another theme is the never ending hurdles we must overcome, much like Sisyphus pushing that rock up the hill, but somehow find joy and solace in our labours. Lastly, if you look deep enough, you’ll find that Anthony’s adventures relate to how an autistic person senses, feels, reacts and manages the environment around them. These are the themes that resonate with me; this is what I relate to.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I never have a problem with writer’s block; my problem is TOO MANY ideas! As a result, I have eight projects on the go, with three that could be released in 2024. The first one may be a graphic novel; I’m planning on using the same illustrator, Pradipta Mukherjee, I used for Anthony Zen. It will be based on a stage play I wrote called “Bear Mask”; a part of it was performed at the Autism Arts Festival, University of Kent, UK. The second project is my first novel – “Once Upon a Time in Transylvania”. It is a surreal horror-western hybrid with an environmental theme. I travelled to Transylvania to research it. Lastly, I have a novella entitled “Missteps” that is an absurd look at the male psyche and how one man’s paranoia causes fissures in his relationship with his fiancé.
Posted in Interviews
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