Whole Lot of Hullabaloo follows a college sophomore whose life gets turned upside down by a whirlwind of events he did not see coming. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Since I had graduated from college in 2007, I had noticed what I view as questionable trends in university life. It seemed like there was an increasingly censorious nature on college campuses. This is abetted by social and news media outlets wanting to push scandal stories without getting the facts and background on the situations, as well as campus administration, faculty and student governance moved by mob mentality, weak wills, or even spite. However, I didn’t want to write an overly somber story, so I tried to include the humorous tone of 1980s popular cinema, such as Steven Spielberg and John Hughes films, and 20th century English comedic authors like Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh. I wrote and revised the novel in 2014, but set it aside until 2020 when I hired a new editor go over it and had it published myself.
The characters in your book were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
It’s important for characters to have a life outside the pages of a story, especially in a novel. This means that though the story focuses on life in 2011-2012, it’s important to show that the characters have lived before the timeframe, and will live after the last page. I tried interweave minor details of the characters’ pasts that might point to the reason why they’re reacting in the current situation. Also, even though a number of characters act or think in ways that are suspect, or destructive, from my point-of-view, I tried to draw them as foolish, or capable of doing bad, but not entirely wicked. They may have zeal, and that is usually a good quality, but it’s for the wrong thing, or it’s taken too far. Conversely, for the more positive characters, even if they make the better choice in the end, it’s rather dull if they don’t stumble or express doubt along the way. I think even heroic characters should express cowardice at times, otherwise it can be hard for us to relate to them as readers.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
As mentioned above, campus culture, especially around topic of excessive judgment, thought conformity, and free speech. The notion that the university as it was intended to be is in a state of decline. T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland took the reader through a succession of images showing civilization in disrepair. I wanted to take the reader through a similarly nightmarish journey of contemporary academia from the eyes of the protagonist Troy Thomas (hence the subtitle) that sadly is all too real. However, on the positive note, I wanted to show the value of individuality and loyalty. I also highlight the importance of art (books, films, paintings, etc.) as a unifying factor. That’s why I include references to highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow materials.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently, I’m not working on a book, though I do have an idea that has been circulating in my mind. Though it’s not as firm so as to start sketching characters and an outlined plot. I don’t like getting involved in something then quitting mid-way due to lack of interest or other reasons. Outside of work, my time has been taken up by writing poetry and non-fiction articles, something I was involved in before I went into fiction. Also, as a supporter of 1980s culture and lover of science fiction, I’ve been serving as an advisor to an upcoming documentary on 1980s science fiction films, In Search of Tomorrow. Once it finishes and is released, I encourage all 1980s and sci-fi fans to check it out. It’s a bit of positivity in a sea of negativity.
The Modern Aztec’s Guide to Dating and Time Travel follows a savvy woman who must protect her DIY time travel device from some dangerous people. What was the inspiration for the setup to this fun story?
First off, thank you for your review and kind words about my novel! It’s always a thrilling and humbling moment when I hear that someone actually enjoyed it!
The list of things that inspired The Modern Aztec’s Guide to Dating and Time Travel would take up about 514 pages, but here’s the very condensed version. Time travel stories like Back to the Future, the delightfully comedic works of authors like Christopher Moore, Alexander C. Kane, and Jenny Lawson, the current socio-political climate, my own experiences as a Mexican-American, and, of course, my love of strong, female leads.
I wanted a story about a very exceptional but downtrodden character who, despite all her gifts and skills, just wants a normal, simple life. But because of those gifts and skills, normalcy just isn’t in the cards for her. With supervillains, evil corporations, and guardian demons and angels alike coming after her, the story really is about Quality having to decide whether she’s going to rise to the challenge and reluctantly embrace her role as badass heroine.
I wanted a funny fish-out-of-water adventure where this character has every reason in the world to be a jerk…yet somehow remains positive and committed to protecting this pesky little thing called the space-time continuum.
Quality Jones is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character development?
I wanted her to be, at heart, a good, moral character despite a lifetime of never fitting in, never being accepted, and forever living under the fear of persecution and even death. It was important for me that she remain true to her core despite all the temptations to just give in and make lots of money off of her time travel technology. More importantly, I wanted her to be real. She’s not perfect by any means. She’s kind of selfish, a little bit immature despite her age, a little bit ditzy despite being very clever, and not the wisest person despite being a technical genius.
But I wanted her to endure lots of suffering, including the loss of her great love, but still be able to bounce back and fight through. Even though she prefers to live an anonymous, normal life, things outside of her control push her into extraordinary circumstances, and how she chooses to respond is at the heart of this planned trilogy.
Finally, I really wanted Quality to serve as a lens through which to view our own reality. She is, after all, an outsider that grew up in a parallel timeline where there never was a United States. Now, she’s in a world where corporations can invasively enforce brand loyalty, where corrupt police can do whatever they want to whomever they want, and where it’s illegal for someone like her (i.e., half Mexican) to hold a good job. Quality’s earnest observation of things is, in my opinion, the perfect vehicle for some much-needed satire for this day and age.
This novel delivers some very entertaining scenes. What was the funnest thing about writing this novel?
Without giving too much away, there are some characters that serve as perfect foils to Quality, and it was a blast to just put them in the same room and see what happened. When you have a character as relatively straight-laced as her, and when she has to deal with some genuinely absurd people (I’m looking at you, Sevastian), the results were often unpredictable. I’d have plot ideas, yes, but the most fun part of writing this was just letting loose and letting the characters’ respective foibles play off one another.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m torn between doing the sequel to my second novel, The Perfect Teresa (which you also reviewed, by the way!), and the sequel to this one. The good news is that the sequel to The Modern Aztec’s Guide to Dating and Time Travel is already kind of written. I began this story much farther along before realizing that the backstory was just too much (and too funny) to leave as backstory. So that’s how this particular book came about, and why I’m technically far along into writing the sequel.
And while I’d love to say, “Oh, the sequel is coming out in 2021,” every time I put a date on things, I tend to jinx myself. So let’s just say, it’s coming out in the near future!
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Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a genre-crossing novel with elements of over-the-top action, science fiction, and dark humor as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
The science fiction part was planned, but the rest evolved. I started out with a loose goal to try and write something like Neuromancer, but it ended up being a lot less serious.
Suzy is a fugitive on the run and takes no crap from anyone. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight her character’s development?
The situations involving her tendency to be impulsive – her inclination to shoot first, ask no questions, and then shoot again. Also, the situations involving trust. Suzy isn’t very trusting, but it’s hard to get through a good fight without a few friends, and she needs to deal with that.
There was rarely a dull moment in the story and I enjoyed the rapid fire action. How did you balance action with storytelling?
I try to make the action all about how the characters react to the stress. The real story is in the characters, otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty gunfire and explosions. To paraphrase Jim Butcher, “The action is just a light show.”
Also, I think action comes in different forms. Two people talking is action – as long as there’s tension, or it’s entertaining in a way that relates to the plot, or both. Kurt Vonnegut once said that “Every line should either reveal character or advance the plot.” I think about that quote a lot.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have outlines for four new books, but I’m not sure which one I want to do. One of the outlines is for another Suzy Spitfire story, and I might do it. It was a fun book to write. It would be available next year.
When outlaw Suzy Spitfire discovers her father was murdered after creating a super-duper artificial intelligence, she races across the solar system in search of the brain he built—but it’s a rough ride, and she’s soon forced to tangle with pirates, predators, and her father’s killer—as well as a man she thinks she can love.
Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a smash-bang sci-fi adventure filled with action, intrigue, and a dose of dark humor.
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The Game Changer revolves around the life of creative businessman Henk who finds himself in trouble after an art robbery takes place in the heart of Rotterdam. This book is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a romance, crime, and art history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Thanks first for all the time and effort to read my book. This is a very good question and maybe therefore not easy to answer: it’s both in a mixture I would say. I started with some basic ideas and investigations, did some research on the subjects and meanwhile, on the other hand, write highly intuitive. Then I switch from these two mindsets every now and then, like in a loop that rolls forth until you get the feeling it’s almost finished. I certainly have no idea how it will end when writing and I am surprised at times about the direction the novel or characters takes… so then I change the research and idea’s to be able to go on a bit further. In the end, it takes a lot of editing, and in this process the book is also enriched a bit, blended.
The relationship between Henk and his daughter Julia is intriguing and risque. What was the driving ideas behind these characters traits and relationship?
Emancipation and seeking of one’s identity/freedom of Julia and maybe also the idea that world problems might need to be solved by women. But in this novel, it’s mainly about Henk, the businessman whom you might in some ways see as a Donald Trump kind of guy (thinking now of the open letter I read on the website of Michael Moore written to Ivanka Trump: ‘your dad is not well’, but it’s written after writing my novel). It’s about the chaos in Henk’s mind, the obsession of dominating, maybe caused by fear of women taking over power, confused with and entangled in the love for his daughter.
There is some fantastic art history in this novel. Was that intentional? Did you have to do research for this book?
Yes, I did quite some research, but in the intuitive writing process most of it is done for nothing probably, you never know for sure. The general idea I guess is indeed that art can maybe help us, it’s an investigation if so and if the answer is yes, how this can be done. What role can art play, seen from the viewpoint of the eighteen-year young Julia. She wants art to be decisive.
Why did you choose Rotterdam as the setting for this novel?
It’s close to my hometown, Vlaardingen, and plays a major role in the area where I live, historically and still from this day on, although the work in the harbour gets more automated nowadays. Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that Elias Canetti’s Auto-da-fe (‘Die Blendung’), written in 1935, was an inspiration for my novel, mainly regarding the atmosphere. As a tribute, I mentioned his name once deliberately within the novel in the middle somewhere, as well as using the term ‘stipendium’, which I came to know reading this novel and ‘Masse und Macht’. I consider this novel my personal and modern ‘die blendung’.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
The next book is all about Julia, Henk his artistic daughter. At this point in time I feel that it can still take a while before it will be finished, although there are more than 100k words written and severely edited so far. I tend to be rather ambitious regarding goals and ideas of a new book I guess, so to finish it, to pull it off is unsure: it might not work at all. Especially since the new novel will partly be science fiction, playing in 2050, I wonder if I will manage.
Sneak preview of the new novel:
The floating pavilion called The Game Changer, peacefully located between the landscaped garden and artistic attributes crammed with solar – panels, foils and conductive basins along the eaves – is virtually deserted, a rarity. As if Providence feels there is something special happening since I will, after all these years, speak privately with her. After several decades, the moment finally arrives. The ring gives an orange signal, I will have to do sport for half an hour the least, followed by a silent meditation to bring my blood pressure and pulse combination back to acceptable levels. The nerves vultures in my throat, my nasal breathing is irregular, but I consider it too late for intense exercise; I can at best apply a short-term yoga technique, click the ring signal back to inactive and start enjoying the view. In the distance I see a dot rising, it could be the amphibian taxi, one that brings her to this magnificent pavilion, two miles off the coast of Hoek van Holland situated in the North Sea, a sea largely transformed into a sea farm: one big floating habitat of many thousands of hectares. It remains beautiful to see how the east side of our integrated Maasvlakte has become a place for handling assembly of environmentally friendly products surrounded by renewables and encapsulated between tens of thousands of wind turbines, seaweed farms and solar generating systems with modern forms of salt mining. We are a leader in the world, people! Mom will not believe her eyes. In a country like the U.S.A., they are still jealous; they have looked with uttermost suspicion at our ultra-modern business, our activities that saved the planet and ourselves, mankind, from The Great Catastrophe.
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The Game Changer, written by Dave Dröge and set in Rotterdam, revolves around the life of creative businessman Henk van Wijnen-Swarttouw. Henk finds himself caught up within a web of trouble with the law after an art robbery that takes place in the heart of Rotterdam.
Meanwhile Henk’s daughter, Julia, attempts to reach for liberty and human rights through art that is confrontational and provocative. She showcases her talent within her parents art gallery, located in the famous Witte de Withstraat. Henk’s clear distaste for Julia’s “shock value” art drives a dividing wedge between father and daughter and he becomes obsessed with knowing every aspect of Julia’s life.
Through the help of German psychiatrist Von Stürmer, Henk and his daughter must come to grips with understanding her desires for a green sustainable future, whilst facing investigation on his own business practices.
Dave Dröge’s words are enriched with an artistic flair that allows the reader to feel as though they are more than just a spectator in the story of flamboyant Henk van Wijnen-Swarttouw. A mixture of modern era and a touch of old school, The Game Changer allows the reader to easily picture the charming life within Rotterdam. The wine, decadent buildings and lively characters of the novel piece together a picture of beauty and intrigue.
If you enjoy an element of lust in your novels, The Game Changer will satisfy your needs in an elusive room 33. However the relationships in this novel are often short lived and instead the novel draws focus towards the father-daughter relationship and the relationships with Henk’s business associates. Secret meetings, codes lined with dark, red leather and a detective are all part of the mysterious circumstances surrounding art and business.
Henk’s daughter Julia is a free bird, a lover of all things green and a passionate advocate for creating a green, sustainable future. Julia has plans to go to medical school however during her sabbatical she uses her father’s art gallery to display her provocative art. In retaliation, Henk becomes obsessed with his daughter as he fights to control every element of her life. This sometimes leaves the reader feeling slightly uncomfortable as he borders the line between concerned father and an obsessive stalker.
The Game Changer switches between first and third person easily in order to portray various characters points of view. Cor Figee, an account manager, is one character that I came to admire due to his unwavering moral compass, even in the face of adversity. Figee’s neighbour, Elenoor, is handicapped and with her low IQ is often the target of bullies and Figee heroically defends her- even if he needs to cross cultural boundaries. Hard working, he establishes himself with Russian businessmen and creates an honest lifestyle for himself and soccer mad son, Daan.
Many of the characters find themselves stumbling through life and the excessive drinking implies lavish lifestyles of ordinary folk, such as Johanna the barmaid. She indulges in liquor and is almost sycophant to Henk but proves her friendship to Henk loyal when the time arises. Henk’s German psychiatrist, although small in stature, proves to be an integral part of reviving the relationship between father and daughter.
Best read with a pot of fresh mint tea, I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in learning about life within Rotterdam whilst indulging in a spoonful of romance, crime and art history.
Pages: 384 | ASIN: B01N5CQY1A
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