Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Interrogation of Phillip Donnelly

Kia ora,                                                                                      
Please welcome our latest victim guest and fellow Rebel,  Phillip Donnelly. On the metal plate suspended above that puddle by wires is a bag of pineapple lumps. Behave and the delicious chewy pineapple and chocolate lumps won’t end up a goopy mess on the floor. Everyone knows they’re best frozen hence the chill in the air and the ice forming on the puddle.
In the event of an earthquake/zombie plague/or random occupation - you’ll find emergency procedures taped to the bottom of your seat and a handcuff key to those cuffs I’ve secured you to the chair with. How you get them is entirely up to you or more accurately depends on how well you answer my questions.
You’ll also find a Glock 17 under the chair … behave and in the advent of disaster I’ll give you a full magazine. Mess me around and you become zombie chow.

 We good?
Don’t feed me to the zombies, please. I’m a vegetarian.    

What’s your favorite type of takeaway? (Yes, that means take-out in NZ speak)
Pasta in a box.

Describe your current mental status.
Four point five over ten. A weak pass… but that’s better than a strong fail.

I know how I do what I do … but how do you do what you do?
I sit at a computer and type words. I set a target of a thousand words, or two to three thousand on a weekend day. In a few months I have a first draft, and in a few years I have a novel. The writing part is easy for me, the redrafting less so.

Could you tell us a little bit about your latest work?
Kev the Vampire is more of a satire on vampire novels than a true vampire novel.
The story is told by the vampire’s  Freudian psychiatrist, in his 'Notes on a Case of Obsessional Neurosis'. The deeper the psychiatrist digs, the more obsessed he becomes. The novel turns on whether the plot will consume the narrator, as the skeletons from Kev’s life threaten the doctor’s own world.
We learn about Kev’s gruesome school days at the Holy Bleeding Pelican in Dublin’s gritty northside and his drug-induced vision, in which he is sent on a quest to find Dracula’s Immortal Beloved. We read about his attempts to find her through speed dating and through dishwashing in a Bavarian castle’s kitchen. We also follow Kev the Vampire’s difficult relationship with the Department of Social Welfare and how he tries to rent a castle with his housing allowance. The psychiatrist interviews everyone who knew Kev, including his office supervisor in Elsinore Meats and his boss at the Language Academy of Babel, where he taught foreigners English using only vampire novels.
Life is comically difficult for the would-be vampire in the 21st century. The narrator uses many different sources, so the style varies from literary to guttural. There are elements of magic realism too, but I suppose it’s primarily a psychological novel.

What’s your favourite avoidance technique?
Work. The real world interferes terribly with my fantasy worlds.

Do you have a favorite coffee or tea?

 Walk us through a typical day. (Do you make sure you’re wearing your lucky underpants before you sit down to write, perhaps you prefer commando?)
The alarm enters my dream, destroys it and I have no alternative but to wake up, get up and start my day. Things go downhill from there. I crunch cereal and slurp instant coffee while listening to the BBC World Service. Then I write until it’s time to shower my bodily particles and depart for work. I get home at about eleven, and drink until I stop noticing how bad TV is.

Where do you do most of your writing? (Office? Outside under a tree? On a train? On a plane?)
At home. My home changes a lot though. I’ve lived and worked in twelve countries over the last twenty years, but wherever I write I try to ignore the outside world. I write best without any distractions, so I try to place the flashing cursor in front of a blank wall and behind a closed door. When we write we create imaginary worlds, but they have all the strength and consistency of a bubble blown by a child. Beautiful but fragile, the slightest thing will prick these bubbles and the world you’ve created – the world you inhabit on a good day – this world will vanish in an instant. And then you have to start creating it again, typing it into existence once more. This isn’t such a problem with travel writing but with fiction, interruptions have blasted countless psychic worlds.

What’s on your desk right now? (If indeed you work at a desk and not under a tree.)
I’m not having a good day in my war against clutter. There’s an i-pad and a phone to my right. Both of them are skiving off and calling it charging. There’s a blinking modem too, and beside that, a pair of gloves that I have no recollection of placing there.

Who would you turn gay/straight for?
No comment.

Who are your favorite writers?
Orwell, by a mile. I also love Douglas Adams and Bill Bryson. I admire Joyce and Shakespeare too.

Do you ever put pants on your dog, cat, or budgie?
No, it’s one of my pet peeves. Animals have fur and feathers, they don’t need clothes. I live in Korea now and it’s rare to see a dog that isn’t clothed. Mind you, it’s rare to see owners walking their dogs here either. They carry them about or wheel them around in pushchairs. T’aint natural, I tell thee!

Describe your perfect day.
Any day in the first fortnight of arriving in a new country. The Honeymoon Period, they call it. Everything’s new, everything’s wonderful and everything is yours for the taking.

Who is your favorite fictitious villain? Or are you all about the hero? Who do you love to hate?
Richard III perhaps. He’s so cunning, so manipulative, and so very good at hiding it. Classical heroes bore me, to be honest. Any character that isn’t flawed isn’t real. I really like delusional heroes who are their own worst enemy, like Don Quixote or Ignatius Reilly. Kev the Vampire is cast in the same mould.

Do you have any quirks? (Let’s face it writers are not normal we all have quirks … )
If you took away all the quirks there would be little left of me. I can’t bear eating white food, for example, and I’d rather go to the dentist than go to the hairdresser.

All-time favorite movie and why?
Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian’. No-one should be allowed leave school until they’ve learned every line of it by heart. There would be a lot less hypocracy in the world.

Red or white wine?
Red. It lasts longer. Actually I prefer rose. ‘Torres de Casta’, when I can find it.

Do you enjoy the editing process? (Feel free to rave about Jayne here … she’s pretty awesome.)
Yes, let’s rave about Jayne! Rave, rave, rave.
If you want to see the importance of a good editor, just compare the books I’ve published by myself with the ones that have been published by Rebel ePublishers. They are in a different league. It’s not just the absence of typos or the pruning of self-indulgent waffle. There is an internal coherence in a properly edited novel or story that very few writers can achieve on their own. It’s like having a third eye or a second brain.
I found something similar with Donald Webb and the team at Bewildering Stories. Jayne has a far more gentle touch, thankfully. They can be brutes at Bewildering Stories but their stories are all the better for it. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that suffering makes us stronger but it’s true about our writing. If it’s going to be strong the steel has got to be tempered.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
My job as an English language teacher means I’ve already lived in many countries: Spain, China, Russia, Thailand, France, Hong Kong, Korea, and shorter periods in Sri Lanka, the UAE, Vietnam, Oman and the Lebanon. In many ways it’s the best job in the world. I get to travel and meet people from all over the world and they speak to me in my language about their life and their culture. And they pay me or it!

What is one thing you know about New Zealand?  (Please do not mention LOTR or The Hobbit. Am well over them! One mention of anything Tolkien related I’ll let in whatever is bashing on the door …)
Alan Duff’s ‘Once Were Warriors’ impressed me. It depressed me too--it must be one of the bleakest novels ever written. I was relieved to see Jake “the Muss” Heke turn over a newish leaf in the sequal, ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?’

Favorite Pizza topping?
Margherita. As a vegetarian who often lives in lands where the concept of vegitarianism often isn’t even understood, let alone practised, I eat a lot of pizza. Once when travelling in Spain, my wife and I had to eat pizza for twenty one days in a row. My wife got a massive two-day migraine, so we had to switch to biscuits for the rest of the holiday. We’re back on the pizza now though.

What were you before you became a writer?
What I still am, a teacher of English as a foreign language. There’s no money in this writing lark--not so far anyway. I’ve been writing steadily for about eight years now; and nine books later, I guess I’ve made about 200 bucks out of it. That must be less than a cent an hour. But I live in Hope. On that rate of pay it’s the only place I can afford. Travel writing sells better but fiction is much more enjoyable to write. The real world will never be able to compete with worlds I invent for my own amusement.
I’ve also worked in educational management, and in the dim and distant past, I was a security guard and a dishwasher.

What is the most random thing you have ever done?
Random thing… I don’t really believe in randomness. There’s a reason for everything we do. Actions that appear to be random have an unconscious motivation. Usually an illogical one that embarasses us.

 If you’re not writing, what are you most likely doing?
Working! Or getting to and from work on my bike.

Who is your ultimate character?
Hamlet. A man called to action who cannot act. It doesn’t sound like much but it created the greatest ever piece of fiction in the English language.

Inspiration – where do you get yours?
Inspiration is nonsense. More often than not people use it as an excuse for not writing. If you’re looking for inspiration then make sure you’re sitting at a laptop writing something while you search for it.

Whiskey or Bourbon?
Neither. Why drink anything that makes your face wince and your stomach burn?

I can hear something trying pretty hard to get through the fire door … any clue what it is?
It’s Kev the Vampire. He’s looking for his Immoral Beloved.

Have you ever been to New Zealand? And if not, why not?
No, not yet. But it’s on my round-the-world ticket. Or it will be when I have enough money to buy the round-the-world ticket. Buy my book and help me get to New Zealand.

What’s in your pockets? (Or handbag, whatever you carry your stuff in.)
Only my wallet. In Korea, no-one has keys anymore. All the doors have codes instead. Even my wallet doesn’t have any money in it—just a debit card. Korea is a cashless keyless society.

Are you apocalypse prepared?
Apart from my debit card, you mean?
Actually I’d like to be taken out in the first wave, if not beforehand. Life is dull enough with civilisation. Imagine how boring it would be if the only thing to break the monotony was hiding from marauders or avoiding zombies. War is 1% terror and 99% boredom. After the initial collapse of civilisation, a post-apocalyptic world would be much the same. It’s not for me… Mind you, I would have plenty of time to write, but how would Rebel ePublishers bring my stuff to market? Zombies don’t read much, but they could help the book go viral through word-of-mouth marketing, perhaps.

Laptop, PC, tablet?
Laptop. I’ve got a tablet but they’re difficult to write more than a sentence on for some reason. I need the keys to bounce back. It’s like having an audience.

Ebook or tree book?
Ebook. I don’t feel any nostalgia for the dead tree format. The medium is not the message and a book is just a lump of slowly rotting paper.

Tequila or vodka?
Tequila, I suppose. It gives me an excuse to lick salt off my hand in public.

Favorite apocalyptic scenario?
Zombie apocalypse, but most of the books in this genre read like they were written by the typing dead. He-men heroes wade through impossible odds in one gore fest after another. The only exceptions I’ve found are Colin Wilson’s ‘Zone One’ and Alden Bell’s ‘The Reapers are the Angels’.
The book I’m writing now is set at the very end of civilisation. It’s a comedy called ‘The Conscript, the Girl and the Virus.’ The first part’s free on Amazon, if anyone wants to download it, but before you do that, make sure you buy a copy of Kev the Vampire.

Do you write in silence or work best with background noise or music happening?
Silence, silence, silence. The rest is silence.

You made it. Good job. Now hold still. I need to undo those cuffs because whatever’s outside that door is coming in and I think it might be a herd of walkers.
Grab the pineapple lumps and the Glock and let’s get out of here.
Follow me, there’s a secret passage.

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