Sunday, 8 August 2010

When Sa Toya Met Jo: Author's Interview

Here's what happened when I 'met' Jo. Well it's not a play by play of our actual first getting to know you sesh but an interview which came a while after...

1. How important are Book titles to you and did your title come to you or you go searching for it?

A good book title can trigger enough interest in a potential reader's mind that it prompts them to read the book, so yes, book titles are important to me. Whatever I'm writing, whether it's a blog post or a book, its title is a question that is always lurking in my mind. Sometimes the title comes early in the process and influences the content, but in the case of The Jeremy, it was the content that gave birth to the title.
2. You have a really good sense of humour and that shows in the book. Do you think humour is indicative to a good story/book?

"Thank you," he said, desperately trying to think of some witty remark to show off said sense of humour. Anticipating failure, he decided to redeem himself by embarking on a scholarly discourse on the merits of humour in literary works, until it became clear that he had no idea what he was talking about, at which point he promptly abandoned the idea and massaged his dented ego with the knowledge that he was able to construct a really long sentence in answer to the question, while musing that any author who could make him laugh out loud (that's "LOL" for those who don't understand the previous three words) scored extra brownie points in his opinion, which probably meant that the short answer was, 'yes'.
3. How did you come up with the names for inner workings of The Jeremy's mind? Which is your favourite? I am torn between Mrs Bulging Bosoms and Melchior Da Maven .

The various aspects of the inner workings of his mind, the influences which affect his thinking process, are presented as caricatures of certain ways of thinking. I wanted names which accentuated the nature of the caricatures, so I did some brainstorming, based on how I visualised their appearance and demeanour.

My favourite is probably Mrs Bulging Bosoms because I came up with her first, but Sid and Melchior are a close equal second because they both 'tell it like it is', in their own way.
4. What inspired you to write a book like The Jeremy which focuses on almost every aspect of life?

The Clever Trevor in me wanted to write 'Life' and leave it at that, but I smacked him upside the head and took control of my keyboard. There is a song entitled Fifty-Fifty, sung by Ricky Lancelotti on Over-Nite Sensation, a 1973 album by Frank Zappa (considered a genius by some and a subversive pile of pooh by others*), in which the line I figure the odds be fifty-fifty, I just might have some thing to say features as part of the chorus (you can listen to it here but I should mention that it probably falls into the category of 'an acquired taste'!). Over thirty years later, with a bunch of accumulated observations and ideas in my head, I figured it was about time I tested those odds.

* I got the impression that in Mr Zappa's view, he was just holding up a mirror for those 'others' to look in.
5. Considering the book begins at conception/infancy were you ever worried about the 'page turnability' of you book?
If I'd begun writing the book with the object of it becoming a best seller (which would make me rich and famous) at the top of my agenda, then I suspect it would have worried me much more than it did, and I'd probably have written it using some off-the-shelf formula. But the truth is I didn't have a plan or a blue-print in my head. I just wrote what I wanted to write, the way it came out of my head. I know it's a bit of a cliché but I let the book write itself. That's not to say I didn't edit, re-write and shuffle it all around. I did. A lot! (And I still managed to miss a couple of typos - grrrr!)
 6. I particularly enjoyed the baby Jeremy section of the book; I can't remember what life was like as a baby I can only assume but what you wrote sounded exactly as it is, I guess what I'm asking is how did you come up with the details there? Very good I might add.
While we don't consciously remember what it was like to be a baby, or anything much of our early life, I tried to put myself in a baby's/toddler's 'shoes' and imagined how he would feel in the circumstances I was describing. But I also did a fair amount of research regarding the age at which the various milestone events usually occur, and what normally happens at those times, to make sure that what I was writing was at least plausible. I've since read, just the other day, that it's likely that a new-born's sensitivity to temperature does not develop until at least a few days after birth, so maybe I need to re-write the birth scene!
7. I lurve the cover of the book. Back and front. I saw it as someone wearing a mask at the front and then at the back you saw the back of their head and other funny stuff. Did I interpret it right or was I just reading too much into it? How did you come up with it? (I realise this is a 2 in 1)
You are officially my hero. You got it spot on! In question one, you asked about the importance of book titles. I think that the title and cover are things that should work together to say as much about the book as possible, to show off its 'flavour', without giving too much away. But most of all, the cover has to attract the eye of a potential reader.

I know that when I'm browsing for a book, the title, and how it's presented on the cover, is the bait which hooks me, or not. If the front cover has 'it', then I'll check the back cover, and if that adds something of interest then I might invest some time on the inside.

That was my goal, of course: to get people to invest some time on the inside!

I also find the blurb on the back of some books a bit distasteful. You know, the ones which have excerpts from 'rave reviews' and suchlike. It's just a personal pet hate which accounts for some of the 'other funny stuff' on the back cover of The Jeremy ;)
8. Are you an avid reader? What are you reading now?
Yep. I read a lot. But these days it's usually via my PC or smartphone, and quite a lot of it is blog articles and info I get through RSS feeds. I've just finished reading A Child's Wound by Dwayne Kavanagh and I've started on It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville, both on my smartphone.
9. Any litty recommends?
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. But only because it made me laugh AND presented a perspective that made me think.

But as a general thing, I'd recommend reading something you wouldn't normally read. Try a different genre from those you usually go for. It's easy to do now and it costs nothing but your time. The world wide web is your oyster.
10. Do you listen to music while writing/reading or are you the silence type?
I rarely listen while reading books because I find it distracting, but if I'm reading blog posts or articles then I don't turn off music if I'm already listening. It varies when I'm writing, but I sometimes use music to help me focus. Although music itself can be a distraction at times, in the right circumstances it absorbs all the other distractions which could snag my attention, so I can concentrate on writing. I have a playlist which contains strictly instrumental tracks which usually works well. There are times though, when only silence will do, but that's usually when the 'writing' is happening in my head rather than on my PC.
11. Random Question: if you were a desert what would you be?
Looking for a rain cloud. Ooooh, what a card I am! The thing is, I had to check the dictionary before I wrote that because I always get desert and dessert mixed up. But if I was a dessert, then I'd be a bit of a Gypsy Tart ;)
12. What are you working on now?
Secret! Well, not exactly, but I tend not to announce what I'm working on until the very late stages, or at least not until the point where I feel sure that I know what it is going to be and that it IS 'going to be'. Some people thrive on the pressure of deadlines and status updates, but I'm not one of them. I'll just say that I've got four live writing projects, three of which may come to nought and the other is my blog, which I post to if I feel I've got something to post about. It's called Irregularly Verbal for a reason!
13. Describe your book in 10 words or less.
Ten words or less? Nah...can't do it! Best I can do, with apologies to Bob Dylan, is nineteen (or twenty if you insist on counting "it's" as two words):

Get born, forlorn, nothing but an acorn. Grow up, wazzup? It's a struggle, need some luck. Unfurled, hello world..
14. Random Question 2: So the World Cup's on [well it's over now] are you a patriotic fan or do you support several teams or do you not even care for some football? I have a few teams I've always enjoyed cheering for.
Ah... the sport of kings.

Yeah, I know, wrong sport. But I didn't want to start off on the wrong foot by calling it the sport of prima donnas. Don't get me wrong, I like to watch a good game of football. The problem is that good games of football are a rarity, it seems. It's the cheating which spoils it for me, and I'm not talking about the diving or the blind-side-of-the-ref fouls. It's the take-the-throw-in-ten-yards-nearer-the-opponents'-end-than-where-the-ball-went-out-of-play sort of cheating. 

"It's just part of the game," the fans tell me, while giving each other "we've got a right one 'ere" looks. Strange that in a game of snooker against an ardent football fan, he didn't take kindly to my assertion that "it's just part of the game" when I moved the cue ball to get a better angle. And I only moved it a couple of inches, absolute tops!

World cup? I've heard about the vuvuzelas but I haven't heard them :D
15. Do you have any advice for the unpublished writers, wannabe authors and so on?
Yes: Stop what you're doing right now. Give it up. I've got enough competition out there already without you adding to it!

But seriously, although I don't have any credentials which I can offer in support of my advice, there are some things which I'd suggest are worth giving some thought to. For example, should you worry about ending sentences with prepositions? And assuming you've been paying attention, you'll have figured my answer is no.

But rather than answer the question in full here, where it might not be of interest to everyone, I've put up a page on my blog which goes into it in a bit of depth.
16. Lastly any questions for moi?
Well, I think Lewd Rude Dude must have escaped from the pages of The Jeremy because he keeps suggesting I ask you if you fancy a bit of Gypsy Tart. But it seems Mrs Bulging Bosoms and the Colonel have escaped too because I can hear her tutting loudly and the Colonel's muttering something about Lewd Rude Dude marking his words.

On a serious note, you've taken what for me would be the unthinkable step of displaying Booky's Progress in the sidebar of your blog. How does that affect your attitude towards writing How To Survive A Bitch? Does it spur you on? Assuming you sometimes have to deal with that thing called writer's block, just as I sometimes do, is having it there on your blog a help or a hindrance?

I think of writer's block as being like a block of concrete which sometimes falls on my head, leaving me completely stunned, temporarily unsure of who I am or what I'm trying to do. How do you deal with it when (if) it happens to you? Got any tips?

Lastly, not a question but a thank you. I've enjoyed answering your questions and I'm grateful that you chose me to be your first interviewee. Thank you, Sa.
Well it's both! Sometimes it really pisses me off when I come online, see it and I have't written anything for weeks. Other times it spurs me on. I get a buzz and get scribbling or typing depending on my mood. Admittedly Booky's Progress does need updating- I just forget to from time to time. As for writer's block...we've become good friends since I've started this manuscript. Sometimes I hate it when it crops up on me- it's timing can be really off at times and there are even times I welcome it. Times where my brain and fingers need the rest and I can focus on other things I enjoy like music, reading, catching up on my fave shows even spending time with the fam. Though I don't need writer's block for that. I can easily stop writing and live. I just thought why not risk putting a bit of me out there.

Also you're very welcomed. I enjoyed it too...though I really wanted to know what kind of desert you'd be officially...I mean I know, I know now but well, you know what I mean.

Anyways guys, thanks for reading, want to find out more about Jo well Here are some quick links:

Twitter - @joswun

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Mr Lonely said...

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Spellboundbybooks Melissa said...

Great Interview! Going to check The Jeremy - Snaps of the Dragon now!

Sa Toya said...

Cheers for stopping by Mr. Lonely

Sa Toya said...

Cheers Melissa, it was fun!!