“End Times” is satirical look at a dystopian America that is eerily reminiscent of real life. What was the inspiration behind this thought-provoking novel?
I combined my own experiences as a journalist covering this political devolution in style and content to use satire to explain the collapsing political climate and set the stage for a Real America.
I’ve been asked numerous times in interviews and in speaking to groups how the Real America of my fevered imagination came about. I have said repeatedly anyone paying close attention to the dark roots of American politics since say 1980, or at least since 1994, would see something seriously amiss. In particular, in case you haven’t noticed, the Republican Party has gradually abandoned the idea of governing and embraced wholesale nihilism. They replaced it with a maniacal dedication to the snake oil of cutting taxes for the already filthy rich, filling the federal judiciary with as many unqualified and ideologically stupid judges imaginable, driving up federal deficits to science fiction levels, and generally mucking up the fragile nuts and bolts of democracy on a daily basis.
I chose a satirical fiction avenue because I wasn’t interested in writing a more conventional non-fiction book about what was happening.
Lawrence Bowie is an exceptionally developed character that I loved to hate. What were some themes you felt were important to capture in his character?
Good point: Bowie is either loved or hated with no middle ground. He was an amalgamation of five to six (real) Republican politicians known for their profound ignorance, incoherence and ability to lie without hesitation. In the first book (“The Execution Channel: A Political Fable”), one of the original concepts was the existence of a Congressional “Imbecile Caucus” and then I needed an incoherent and ignorant savant to lead them. This led to Congressman Lawrence C. “Demon Seed” Bowie of Texas who would go on to become the governor of the Real America Republic of Texas.
The totally immoral Bowie arrived to take advantage of a cynical climate ripe for a rabid minority to worship a truly corrupt leader. This pied piper would mock and degrade his followers while demanding their total loyalty and calling it love. He promised the best traits of a national crime syndicate and a death cult. He would keep them entertained with blatant racism, lies, fear mongering, conspiracy theories, and embracing ignorance. Bowie, a true pathological narcissist, would be the first to tell you, he made his mark before Trump in part because there was no shortage of marks in Real America for his political con. Bowie’s career path would eventually lead to a Real America secession and glory as Emperor Supreme for Life of Real America. Bowie keeps the public stupefied with cruel spectacle and the excitement of secession and a 21st Century Civil War.
Your book delivers a stark view of America’s political future. What things do you see in your book as only fiction and what things do you see as possible?
“End Times” is meant to entertain and enlighten with equal amounts of satirical humor, zaniness, and shock. The book is not for the political faint of heart or for those who believe America is on the right path. In a sense it’s not unlike the ghost of Christmas future in “The Christmas Carol”. I’m not saying this or that will happen. I am saying this alternative universe of Real America has the same seeds of decay and fraying of the chords of civility and decency that we see happening each and every day now. Though some may disagree, our American democracy is fragile and ripe for further destruction. Real America is one many dark versions that could replace our current political system – if the slippery slope of more economic and social chaos, less accountability, crueler and blatantly racist policies, and destruction of democratic norms continues.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Penelope will the third and final book in the Real America saga. Hopefully, by 2021-2022 readers will experience the final showdown between Penelope the Psychic and Emperor Supreme for Life Bowie.
Michael McCord’s provocative 2013 political satire The Execution Channel: A Political Fable was the first act of the Real America saga.
The saga continues with the fantastical and farcical End Times: More Great Adventures in Real America. Set in an alternative (yet eerily familiar) political universe, this tale of American dystopia answers the question: What happens when America goes politically bonkers?
The colorful cast is topped by the righteously amoral and thoroughly corrupt Lawrence C. ‘Demon Seed’ Bowie. After surviving an attempted coup in 2018, he has rebounded with his customary good karma. Bowie is Chairman, CEO, President, and toga-wearing Emperor Supreme for Life of Real America, Inc., the Confederate-admiring, whites-preferred, and corporate-run nation that seceded from Old USA in 2020.
As he nurtures a new country combining the best aspects of a national crime syndicate and a death cult, Bowie prepares for a 2021 Coronation Night extravaganza to celebrate his magnificence and dazzle the world. Though his apocalyptic destiny seems assured, a rising resistance and many foes conspire against him and threaten the Real American dream.
W900 is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a satire, humor and fantasy as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
Whenever I put the very first written letter on the page, at the start of a new story, ‘The Beast,’ as I call him, slowly emerges from his hibernation, growling What began its existence as a concept, suddenly has structure. From that point, I am only the conveyer of the messages related by the personalities in the story. Their characters speak to me from the text, almost demanding to be heard.
I’m a firm believer in allowing my ‘players’ to evolve, bringing my stories to life. This part of the process, could indeed be described as organic. However, I wish that just occasionally, they would be willing to listen to me.
What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
The ending of W900, was the direct result of an event that took place much earlier in my life, involving a girl who chose a better life in Canada, to staying here with me. “Smart kid,” I hear you say and I would be pushed to convince you, or anybody else, otherwise. The end of the book also exhibits certain traits of “What was and what could never be,” which sadly, is probably the case for most people. I’m just happy, that Hovis wrote such a joyous end, to a potentially bleak story and it must always be remembered, that hindsight is always a questionably wonderful thing.
I enjoyed the depth of Hovis’s character. What was your process to bring that character to life?
Hovis Monk, is a conglomerate being, made up from the mosaic of problems that assail many people as they grow older and the increasingly impractical solutions which become more conceivably possible, almost by the day. Think of it as a sort of ‘What would my inner child do,’ response. Yet, as everybody knows, time and the retelling, can often distort.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
And finally, the next book. I’m about to begin work on the tentatively titled, “Your Luggage is in Leningrad,” (details withheld), in the hope that it will be published around, or before Christmas of 2020 but like all written works, there are no steadfast guarantee’s involved.
Hovis Monk had been decieved. Perhaps he always had been. His comfortable life in the Snowdonian bubble, provided by The Blue Yonder Mining Company, was ending.
As his world implodes Hovis spins into a realm of inner and outer realities, chance occurances, memories, music, luck and laughter.
This story describes the reunion of Hovis with his old Paisley Underground band, a little known group called The Festers, and his struggles with a very special Flame Red Time Trialing Onesey…
No Old Souls at Fury Tavern follows the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. What pulls you towards telling the story of the people many others seem to use only as background characters?
While watching movies or reading books, like many other people I’m sure, I take note of as many background details as I can, including the people populating the background. I get to thinking, I wonder what that person’s story is, I wonder what they do for a living, what their troubles are and all that juicy stuff that we’re supposed to wonder about the main characters. No Old Souls at Fury Tavern most definitely has a story that follows the main character, but it’s also largely about the other characters and how all their pieces fit together to form the overall picture. In a way, Rocko Pitts wouldn’t be who he is without the other characters, and vice versa.
I always enjoy how you bring your characters to life and make them seem real. Were you able to use anything from your own life in this book?
Every one of the people populating Fury Tavern and Grocer Junction in the book were inspired by people I’ve worked with, drank with, had relationships with, and lost my sense of morality alongside of.
What were the driving ideals behind Rocko Pitts character development throughout the story?
Rocko Pitts, if he can be, while compared to most everyone else in the story, really has no particular drive. He’s a wallflower and he’s okay with that. But while the book progresses, he starts to wonder if he’s going to be okay with that lack of purpose for the remainder of his life, or if he’s just going through a phase of apathy. The main story of “Fury Tavern” is his coming-to-the-realization that while everyone else around him has their own lives, he really doesn’t have much of a life at all.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
Currently I’m working on the follow up to “Fury Tavern”, titled “A Scorched and Mystified Wilderness”. It continues the story of Rocko Pitts and the other denizens of Fury Tavern. I can’t really say too much about the plot without spoiling the end of Fury Tavern. But there will be chaos of all kinds, and I’ll be exploring deeper into the characters introduced in the first book. I am also working on Book II in a western/post-apocalypse trilogy, and my seventh collection of poetry. All three of those books I’m hoping to have released at various times next year.
Rocko Pitts is a low-ranking receiving clerk at Junction Grocer Supermarket. He doesn’t like going to Fury Tavern with his coworkers, but he does it anyway. He likes the woman at Register 4 but everyone says she’s ugly. He doesn’t have any interest in politics, but the Mayor wannabe, Rand Sleeman, will do whatever it takes to get his vote. Rocko lives a quiet life and likes it that way but doesn’t seem to know why he likes it that way. In fact he doesn’t seem to have any purpose at all, and he’s okay with that. But travesty begets travesty, forcing the simple-pleasure-seeking Rocko to complicate his life just a little bit more than he’d normally be comfortable with. “No Old Souls at Fury Tavern” is a story about the seemingly meaningless meanderings of the dredges and sloths of society who exist in the background and behind closed doors, the denizens who populate the barstools at Fury Tavern, and more importantly, the very soul of Fury Tavern itself.
The United States has ceased to exist and a new and utterly foul nation stands in its place. Ruled by Lawrence Bowie and riddled with shades of slavery, white supremacy, and abounding ignorance of its citizens, this new nation is called Real America. Bowie is a tyrant who thrives on the adoration and unquestioning manner with which his followers hang on his every word. The power he possesses and the increasing hold he has over his newly-founded nation only grows as the people around him continue to relinquish their own beliefs, morals, and standards in exchange for increasing ignorance and poverty. Thriving on his own ego, Bowie grows more and more powerful as the world he has created suffers gleefully.
I am going to say right out of the gate that End Times by Michael McCord is one of the most psychologically disturbing pieces of political satire that I have ever read. McCord hits a nerve with virtually every paragraph. The things many US citizens have not been able to put into words, McCord easily spreads across his pages like so much sticky poisonous political jelly. With every chapter, the author manages to bring to light yet another aspect of the current political climate with vibrant and frighteningly obvious characters.
Bowie, the book’s main character, is as vile as they come. His narcissism is nauseating and will drive readers to loathe his every word–the hallmark of fantastic writing. McCord truly strikes a chord with this president-gone-mad and the way in which he manipulates everyone around him into believing his every word even when they know his intentions and realize he is a liar. The scope with which McCord is able to cover current events is quite amazing. He manages to include even the most minute aspects of the recent presidential election and the events that ensued.
One of the most striking aspects of McCord’s work is the way he magnifies his main character’s behaviors. All of Bowie’s speeches and each of his interactions with his minions displays a grossly inflated ego and a deep desire to be recognized as a winner at all costs. Though he isn’t portrayed as a creature of fantasy, he is, indeed, bigger than life and almost too incredible to be believed. His mannerisms and his monologues are terrifying.
McCord has given fans of political satire a quick read fraught with the worst of the worst in current events–an aspect that makes it beyond fascinating. I don’t often say this about books as I like to pour over word choice and let the author’s intent settle in as I read, but End Times, for me at least, was a book I found more appealing in audio. McCord uses some amazing and flowery language to describe the fall of the United States as we know it. I was much more comfortable listening to the book than working my way through the verbiage.
There is nothing out there quite like McCord’s take on the current state of politics in the United States. Readers who don’t mind a harsh look and deeply disturbing take on the U.S. government will find McCord’s work well worth the read.
Pages: 183 | ASIN: B07S4C3J2L
Hovis Monk received his verbal dismissal a few days ago so he knows that his simple and paid for life will not last long. Then his old buddy delivers the written dismissal in a shit covered envelope and Hovis knows he has three weeks left at no. 37. He sits with his friend Lee Kelso and the trips down memory lane start. He talks about his days as a struggling musical legend. Later, Hovis takes us through The Festers 2.0.
Tom McNulty regales the tale of Hovis’ life in the wake of dismissal from Blue Yonder Mining Company. He executes the story with flourish and profane delight. The story flows seamlessly allowing the reader to take in the surroundings. The author creates a rapport between Lee and Hovis that is both sad and brilliantly humorous. The way they engage with each other is heartwarming. As Hovis moves on to the next chapter of his life, the story presents his tribulations in a simple yet masterful way. With unique language and quirky mannerisms the characters make their way into the reader’s heart.
The character development in this book is top notch. Each character has their own unique traits that would appeal to one reader or other. Hovis, as the main character, is strong enough to drive the story. He is wistful and, while afraid to move on without the comforts Blue Yonder provides, proceeds to do something that appeals to his passions. Although Hovis might have a bit of a problem with bidding on auction items, he is a hoot.
The use of the English language in this book is unique and, at times, borderline peculiar. It is not language one would encounter in most places but it goes with the construct of this book. In this book it seems fitting and at home. Some of the phrases used in the book are quite confusing. However, these phrases enforce the personalities and traits of the characters. One thing is for sure, the use of the English language is expressive of the author’s creativity and ability to manipulate the language into croutons of absolute joy. All in all, it is fun to read through all the peculiarities in speech.
This is a fun and captivating book with interesting characters and a plot that is genuinely wonderful and intriguing. Hovis always seems to have a story under his sleeve that you have to coax out. This book is not recommended for children as it contains some hard language. However, any young adult or adult will certainly enjoy it.
Pages: 304 | ASIN: B07T68W277
Scooter Nation follows two funeral directors trying to hold things together as events spiral out of control. What was the inspiration for the setup to this entertaining novel?
The funeral industry, as it is now often called, is an interesting one in that its policies and practices haven’t really changed since the “modern” funeral home came into being in the 1970s. By that, I mean, larger facilities with multiple visitation suites and staff trained to accommodate not just European traditions, but traditions from around the world.
As a caregiver, the director is tasked with providing services to both the living and the dead; the people left behind need as much care and concern and, yes, expertise as the person who has passed. But approaches are changing in keeping with how society has changed with the arrival of the digital age. Families are now savvy consumers who demand to know what is going on behind closed doors at what cost and why.
All reasonable questions/expectations.
For me, as a funeral director, I was intrigued by the notion of how staff locked down by tradition—the funeral home in Scooter Nation is 70 years old as is a lot of the furniture—would react to change and how far they would go to hang on to the only thing they think they know.
They are a great deal wiser by the end of the novel, I think.
Scooter and Carla were unique and well-developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their development?
Scooter and Carla are career funeral directors, which means they have been doing their work since high school. Unlike the Weibigands who own and operate the funeral home, Scooter and Carla were not born to it. Because of this, they take a peculiar proprietary interest in the place. In other words, they think they care about it more than the family that started it. This may or may not be true depending on who the reader sides with. What is true is that they have been altruist funeral directors for a long time and resent the appearance of a new owner who wants to change everything for the greater good. They challenge this assertion, believing wholeheartedly that the new owner is merely out for revenge and self-aggrandizement. The journey for them and for me as the writer was to wade through the misconceptions, mistakes and moments of enlightenment that take not just them, but all the characters to a rational, thought-provoking conclusion. Very satisfying to get there.
I understand that you’re also a funeral director. Was there anything from your own life that you put into this novel?
I was a hybrid in mortuary school in that I was not a funeral home kid. My family weren’t directors and certainly didn’t like the idea, at first, of me becoming one. I was drawn to it, maybe the way some astronauts dream of going to Mars even if it means never coming back. I love and believe in the work and the intrinsic good it does. But there’s no way to write about death and dying and make it “nice.” I tend to shy away from novels that go there. But I’m influenced by the satirists and gonzo writers and like the idea of shining a light on tough subjects and making them accessible through humor.
We don’t joke a lot at work, but many of us have that dry sense of humor that carries us through after a tough day. Murder victims and children are especially tough—no one gets used to that—so I guess I bring that mix of dread and the promise of a new and different day to the novels.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have three half-finished manuscripts and all three demand my attention. It’s a tough choice. Self-Defense, the first in the Kirsti Brüner Mortuary Mysteries series, follows the ups and downs of a first-year licensed mortician not quite in tune with the practices and traditions of her chosen profession. She has a nose for inconsistencies and knocks foreheads with the formidable chief coroner, who isn’t really a bad guy but claims to know much more than she ever could. Self-Defense is a murder mystery.
Next, there’s The Heuer Effect, which is a prequel to Heuer Lost and Found, my first. Effect goes back forty years to 1979, where protagonists Enid Engler and Jurgen Heuer are alive and well and doing as much damage as possible. It’s a coming of age story set against the reality of growing up first generation Canadian with questionable German relatives. Enid lands a job at Seltenheit and Sons, the enemy funeral home of Weibigand’s referenced in Scooter Nation. It’s fun giving that side of the story.
The last one is Poor Undertaker and this one really calls out. It is the story of Jocasta “The Jocastrator” Binns and Alma Wurtz, her nemesis in Scooter Nation. It begins in 1947 when the Weibigand funeral home is in its prime and staff are venerated for the good work that they do. Poor Undertaker shows Scooter readers why the home declines and why the Weibigand family staff become the way they are in the current novels. There is a murder and a doomed romance as well as a matriarch who is equal parts racist, alcoholic, brutal and very, very sad. This is a three-part novel that treats equally, the matriarch, Jocasta Binns, and Alma Wurtz. It’s very exciting to write.
Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home founder Karl-Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter-bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass is emptying her urine into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta shuts him down. A staff meeting has been called and things are about to change.
The second novel in the UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER NATION takes place two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, funeral directors Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang, and a self-absorbed fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Toronto neighborhood.
Scooter and Carla have to deal with lots of drama and backstabbing behind the scenes. They face off with Jocasta Binns. On the other hand, there is also a scooter bound gang led by a silver haired goon wreaking havoc on the gardens in the most contemptuous way. The Funeral Service is saddled with tension between the ‘siblings’.
The author has weaved quite the hilarious tale set in a funeral service establishment. The story highlights the inner workings of managing such an establishment which, it turns out, is like any other family business. The story is so vividly narrated that the reader cannot help but join the world.
The plot is well developed and fast paced and the characters are multi-dimensional. This makes it easy for the reader to visualize them and get acquainted. It is particularly interesting how Jocasta is introduced to the reader. She is introduced with her crackling fingers and her scandalous origin. She is not fazed by her old age and remains stoic and a force to be reckoned with. The Jocastrator can withstand anything and anyone. She inspires the kind of admiration that is mixed with fear. Then there is Scooter, who seems very sweet and charming. He is like the sunshine that peeks through the curtains in the morning. Then Charlie, the poor old man who has been turned into a mere informant for the brothers. Every character has a backstory and their uniqueness shines through regardless of their role in the story. This is one of the biggest strengths of this book.
Scooter Nation contains all the elements of a great novel. Thoughts and ideas flow seamlessly while moments of laugh out loud humor keep you engaged in a story that is surprising at every page turn.
This is a book I can see myself reading again because the characters, incontinent though some may be, make you want too keep coming back. It has managed to surpass expectations which were already high from the first installment in the series. A perfect book for a good chuckle.
Pages: 196 | ASIN: B07RQ92W83
No Old Souls at Fury Tavern, written by Dave Matthes is a must read for anyone entertained by the trials and tribulations of the general dive-bar-going populace. In the story, we meet a regular guy, working in a regular place, who deals with a series of seemingly mundane problems. The ways in which the characters interact with their world, however, is much more interesting than what you would find in your rundown neighborhood dive bar.
Despite a few typos and minor grammatical errors, the writing is excellent. The author’s style is unapologetic and rich, with plenty of depth worked into his narrative to keep you hooked throughout the book. Never too simplified or overly complex, the short, bite-sized chapters keep the pace moving at a quick beat which is obviously what the intention was.
Characterization and world-building are areas that Dave Matthes excels at. While reading No Old Souls sat Fury Tavern, it is impossible not to relate with either the protagonist, Rocko Pitts, or any of the other inhabitant of his world. Each character is carefully crafted and comes with his or her own set of idiosyncrasies and personality. And, each of the characters seems to be placed very well within the world that Matthes creates.
From the descriptions of the physical attributes of Pitts’ world to the imagery – and empathy – that gets drummed up as the characters interact with their world, it is no difficult task to forget that you are reading a work of fiction. The world surrounding Pitts seems as real as the one we all inhabit and that makes identifying with and relating to him a satisfying experience, indeed.
The author is able to transport you into his world and the ride couldn’t be more believable. Add that to the fact that the story is entertaining, and you have yourself a highly-rated book that should be on your must-read list.
Pages: 220 | ASIN: B07R881T6Y
The Land of Ick and Eck follows Harlot’s strange encounters as she travels through a strange land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
I’m fascinated by children’s stories that are strange and make you think, “Wait, What? Haha, did that just happen?!” Victorian literature for children, as well as older versions of fairy tales, are where I found inspiration for the setup up of this book; they so often make you take a step back, laugh, think, and then continue on with curiosity. These stories can sometimes be whimsically mature, exploring violence, sexuality, and/or morality in creative, imaginative ways. Not treating children like delicate sugar-flakes and allowing for such content adds so much depth to the meanings and understanding of the stories, something I have found difficult to come across in modern children’s literature.
So when I started writing, I wanted it to be something that that gave me similar feelings to when I read older, bizarre fairy tales. I wanted it to take place in a strange world, where things were non-sense, but also made sense if you had the knowledge to understand what was happening, especially when the reader becomes aware of the innuendos. Like many episodic folkloric tales, there is much more than what lies on the service, multiple understandings; that is what I really enjoy about such types of stories. This is one of them.
The world that you’ve built is enthralling and curious to say the least. What were some sources of inspiration for when creating this world?
Reading literature about/from the faerie, medieval, Georgian, and Victorian world was where some of my inspirations came from. I would often find myself reading, for example, faerie lore and tales, medieval fabliaux and chivalric romances, and strange episodic stories that involve children, such as Jerzy Kosiński’s The Painted Bird (a modern tale). I wanted to create something like Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Lewis Carol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but darker and with more macabre and questionable situations.
The realm of Ick and Eck needed to somewhere that made sense not necessarily for the human world but in the faerie world. It was to be a place that the mind of an imaginative child could easily follow and bring to life, but for adults, things might seem a little off (unless they still have the child within them). It needed to be absurd, but penetrable if you put yourself in a different sort of mind-set. To get this inspiration, I often found myself delving into the artworks of Brian Froud and other artists who have continued to add to the world of faeries and fantasy, also mixing them with some of my other interests.
One of those curiosities was religion. There are many religious characters in the book, ranging from the fat-Friar, empty moon creatures, Crowned-Alter-Fops, gluttonous monks, to name a few; I enjoy studying Abrahamic religious texts, traditions, as well as medieval stories of how clergy use power to control others. Several scenes in the book comment on these injustices, but they are mixed in with the faerie world to create a more folkloric feeling. Truth be told, no hesitation of satire was taken.
Another source of inspiration was the study of medieval and Victorian prostitution. As a reader would observe, the protagonist’s name is Harlot; yes, the story does indeed explore the ideas of a dark side of history, as well as a subject very much alive today. From the exploration of courtly love and the desperate knights in need of a doctor’s (i.e. a beautiful woman) cure to save them from love sickness, to the poetic grocery-list like booklets of women found in Harris’s List of the Covent Garden Ladies, these studies were an essential backbone and driving force of inspiration. The story is a critique of this behaviour. It is meant to bring light to a subject so many people want to hide.
The introduction of the book lays this out:
- Into a land of fantasy
- With haste we cast them all aside
- No tearing if you cannot see
- That is what we all make-believe
My list of inspiration could keep going on, so I will stop before I get carried away even more.
Harlot is a curious and innocent character that I found endearing. What were some driving ideals behind the character?
I wanted to create a character that constantly found interest in novel things, while at the same time never really learns much from their experiences. Even after Harlot is assaulted at the beginning of the book (i.e. her blue flower), deceived, used, and treated as inferior, she continues on. Some say this might be a weakness, others a strength, that is for the reader to decide.
I have found it quite funny though, how some people really like Harlot, while others really do not. Some like her curious and innocent perspective, while others think she is rude and inconsiderate, and do not want their children to read about her because she is a negative role model.
In any event, what drives Harlot is her curiosity, her unwavering innocence, and her ability to navigate such a strange place, the land of Ick and Eck. She is such a strong character, a feature I have seen in people who have been abused. I can never understand their strength. They are stronger than I could ever be.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a couple projects, but I am a very slow writer. It took me eight years to be contempt enough to pursue publishing The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot’s Encounters. But in any event, I am working on a continuation to The Land of Ick and Eck, per say, following a girl named Perfume, as well in another section about Harlot. Each are separate and different stories, written in different styles, but in a way they meet together through common characters, situations, and absurdities.
I am quite excited about it, though I do not know how long it will take to complete.
A much too trusting Harlot finds herself in the preyful Land of Ick and Eck, a place where she encounters peculiar creatures that have the most awful intensions of the carnal sort. By happenstance, she finds the company of a Ground Faerie, a Wood and Water Nymph, and a Butter-Maiden to assist her (sort of) along the way.
But Alas! How the outlandish figures are quite the handful, ranging from the likes of Spriggans, the-man-with-a-can-for-a-head, Jaw Skins, to Alter-Fops, a knight of courtly love, and a Nigwig (to name a few). Thankfully, there are moments of repose, such as those with the band of eunuchs with sacs on their heads, the beautiful Milk-Maidens, and the adventures within the Faerie Ring.
Though the bombardments continue to pursue her, Harlot’s innocent temperament, irrational faith, and devotion to feeding her curiosity provokes her forward, and thus her true strengths are revealed within the Land of Ick and Eck.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: Abrahamic, adventure, alibris, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, childrens stories, Covent Garden Ladies, ebook, faerie, faerie ring, fairy tale, fantasy, fiction, folk lore, Frank Baum, Georgian, goodreads, Harlot's Encounters, horror, Ick and Eck, ilovebooks, indiebooks, Jerzy Kosiński, john bauer, kindle, kobo, Lewis Carol, literature, magic, medieval, micah genest, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, religion, satire, shelfari, smashwords, Sorcery, story, strange, The Land of Ick and Eck, The Painted Bird, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, victorian, writer, writer community, writing
Plum Rains on Happy House follows an American who is trying to turn an Inn into a school but is thwarted by the house’s strange creatures. What was the inspiration behind this unique story?
I live in Japan, and it’s a place I know well. The book’s dedication probably says it all:
This book is for Japan. It’s the place I call home—though it may not want me to. For over 25 years I have grappled with the dos and don’t’s of my host country, destroying the language in conversation, giving up, resuming more study, eventually resigning myself to the boundless plateaus of almost-speech.
And Japan abides. Like a patient steward, it absorbs the frolics and the ribbing, while providing a solacing habitat in which to write and teach and parent and grow.
I came over to Japan in the 80’s and I’ve lived in some pretty seedy guesthouses—what we call gaijin houses. In creating the residents of Happy House, I just mingled the characteristics of a few of the unique people I’ve met over the decades in Tokyo and in Los Angeles. In some cases, I didn’t need to exaggerate at all.
On one level Plum Rains on Happy House is a detective story. A fellow named Harry Ballse invites the protagonist, nicknamed the Ichiban, to Japan. But the residents of Happy House all deny any knowledge of this mysterious Harry Ballse.
Some readers may pick up on the references to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, about a policeman who is lured to a Scottish island to investigate the report of a missing child. It’s a game of deception. The islanders are playing with him. The paganism and the sexual activity the sanctimonious policeman finds so objectionable are simply part of the selection process—to see if he possesses the characteristics to burn in their wicker effigy so that the village will have subsequent successful harvests.
In Plum Rains on Happy House, the Ichiban must undergo his own horrific sacrifice to appease the house. My novel is in many ways a tribute to that remarkable film, and it has the same foundational plot lines, but I’ve laid down a hearty layer of satire and lots of cross-cultural lunacy.
There are some weird and fascinating things happening in this story. Was this an easy outlet for your creativity or was there some effort put into creating these things?
Nothing is easy. If women will forgive me the metaphor, creating Plum Rains on Happy House was like giving birth—it hurt a lot. There were points when I considered giving up because it was just too hard. I’m not a funny person, but I have little trouble dreaming up wacky stories and characters. The residents of Happy House had to be distinctively quirky. I didn’t know how bawdy things were going to become, or how much depravity would creep its way into the story. But once I had the characters they took charge, and I relegated myself to being, more or less, their stenographer.
Dialog was also something I paid close attention to. Of course, sharp dialog is vital in any story, but for this kind of back-and-forth humor to succeed, I felt it really had to have zip. Just like a comedian practices his delivery line, the dialog exchanges had to have real punch. As with most writing, dialog should say a lot , with very little. The communication isn’t in the words being said but in the subtext. Good dialog says it without saying it. One quick example from Chapter One has the resident of Room 3 (nicknamed The Goat) explaining to the new resident about his missing foot:
“I saw you looking at the bottom of my leg.”
The Goat scowled. “Obviously, you can see that no longer exists.”
“It’s in Cambodia.”
The Goat went into a cross-eyed fluster. “What is?”
Sometimes readers need to work a bit to understand the exchange, and I think they appreciate that. Dialog is an organic process. It’s the way characters talk in my head, and I think I know how to write them because they are all a part of me. It all works toward satisfying the element of what a good scene often comes down to: one person trying to get something from another.
Mix that in with the baffling idiosyncrasies of Japan and its language, and the vexing stages of culture shock, which frame the Ichiban’s adventure in Happy House, and readers have a lot to juggle, especially those uninitiated to living in other countries. I’m hoping this confusion is a part of the magnetism of the story. On top of that, one should remember the old guesthouse is haunted:
“Happy House is an amoeba everlasting, a floating world—capturing and sealing the self-indulgence of the red-light districts, the bordellos and the fleeting, delightful vulgarity of ancient Japan, an eternal time capsule of the flamboyant and the boorish.”
What do you find is a surprising reaction people have when they read your book?
The book has received mixed reviews. Of the five books I have up on Amazon, Plum Rains on Happy House was the first to receive a customer review of one star—perhaps rightfully so: the reader was “disgusted” by some of the more explicit scenes, and I think that was my fault; the earlier cover gave no indication of the sexual content within, and this poor woman was clearly ambushed. With the one star, I know I’m finally an author, and wear it as a badge of honor.
There are, however, cultural elements in the story that some will not understand: the usage of the various slipper customs inside a house, the daily beating of the futon, the laundry poles, the shockingly steep stairwells, the neighborhood garbage trucks that play cute tunes to let you know they’re coming, the confusion between the colors of blue and green.
The dichotomy of substance versus form also plays an important part in underscoring the tension—in the way one swings a tennis racket, or walks in a swimming pool, or plays baseball, or eats particular dishes: What should predominate—what you are doing or how you are doing it?
On another level, the story examines language acquisition and the role of structure within the learning process. The residents all have their various opinions: As teachers, should English be taught through some kind of lock-step formula, or would one be better off approaching it in a more hands off manner, rather like painting? Everyone seems to have an opinion.
The idea of structure comes to the forefront again when discussing what one character, Sensei, calls the hidden structure of the house, which, like the neighborhood (or any cityscape in Japan) appears as an amorphous sprawl. But look underneath this sprawl and one sees the organism. Sensei says that the randomness, or chaos, embraces a flexible, orderly structure, and he likens the house to an amoeba that has the ability to alter its shape. Similarly, this amoeba can be seen as a microcosm of Japan as a whole.
What are you currently working on and when will it be available?
I’ve finished the first few drafts of a story about Special Needs teens who discover time travel. But the adult teachers at the school find out what’s going on and abuse this ability to travel back into time for their own selfish needs. It turns out the ones with the Special Needs are not the teenagers—who are all somewhere on the Autism spectrum—but the supposed grownups, and it’s up to the teens to save the day. It should be out in autumn.
Thanks for having me!
The American in Room 1, however, is dead-set on turning the derelict Happy House into a burgeoning English school.
The house has other plans, and Room 1’s attempts are thwarted by a freakish creature that lives under the floorboards called “the Crat”.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: alibris, asian, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, culture, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, humor, ilovebooks, indiebooks, japan, kindle, kobo, literature, los angeles, michael greco, nook, novel, Plum Rains on Happy House, publishing, read, reader, reading, satire, shelfari, smashwords, story, tokyo, writer, writer community, writing