First a bit of background on our author:
The first part of my life was lived in Ireland, where I spent a lot of time falling off barstools, and my existence since 1986 has been principally in The UK in London. Recently I moved to the delightful town of Gillingham in the county of Kent. Nowadays I only manage to fall of park benches, as the global recession has made bars too expensive, besides I like a smoke with my drinks, and the “Health Fascists” have outlawed smoking in bars.
I live with my cat, who is all the company I usually need. Her conversation is limited to purrs and meows. That suits me, as so many people only talk rubbish. My politics could be described as a mixture of extreme conservatism, but leavened with a devotion to fairness, and with a particular devotion to “Gay Rights” I find the politics and personalities of all republican forms of government to be anathema. If there were twenty presidents of The United States on one side of a room and the younger son of a minor German prince on the other, I would spend my time talking to the German. Much more interesting to me. If I got a chance to slap someone in history, it would have to be Woodrow Wilson. He destroyed the Europe that I loved in 1918, and opened it to fascist dictators and communists. So that is me, a curious and sometimes contradictory individual. My main redeeming feature is a deep imagination, and a rather twisted sense of humour. I hope you find all of that in my writings.
Thank you for joining us today at Scribbler’s Christopher!
What genre do you feel The Zombie, The Car and Barak Obama falled into; horror, satire, comedy, a combination of all?
I feel it’s got elements of all of those but the comic element predominates, as even the most graphically horrific passages are presented in a predominantly comedic manner.
Do you use a pen name? If so, why? If not, why did you decide to write under your own name?
I don’t use a pen name. My actual name is Christopher Antony Meade and I decided, since garnering publicity is an essential part of independent online writing, it might be more useful to use my own name as people I know might recognise it and talk about me.
Tell us Scribbler’s what The Zombie, The Cat and Barack Obama is about and what inspired these stories?
That’s a slightly complicated answer to give as the book was compiled mainly from knitting together a selection of previously written, but related, short stories. I’ve always had a rather dismissive attitude towards the many ridiculous conspiracy theories that are circulating, from the idea of reptilian illuminati to some of the more absurd stories floating around about the origins and ancestry of Barack Obama. Consequently, I decided it might be a fun idea to satirise them and that’s what I set out to do in this book. The early part, about the Wimbledon zombie, was written independently as a comic horror. It suited my purposes very well to revive the zombie and engineer a meeting with the American presidential couple and, after a few linking chapters, that is exactly what I did.
Why the short story venue vs a full-length novel?
As I said earlier, some of the stories already existed. I’m a lazy writer so, when the idea occurred to me to put them together in a book, it seemed more sensible to simply knit them together, rather than waste typing energy and brainpower on creating a completely new story. After all, if it works, does it is really matter how it was put together?
I notice you write in the first person POV throughout the book which struck me a bit unusual, any thoughts on the process in choosing the POV to write from?
In the early chapters of the book it was very necessary to tell the story from the point of view of the different characters. There were things about the zombie that Christopher Anton didn’t know, but that the reader had to be told about. I chose to tell the zombie’s story through a diary which he was keeping, unknown to his host. This helps with the comic element as it leaves the reader sharing some rather nasty secrets. The same idea works well in some of the later chapters also.
What’s the first thing you know for certain about a new story concept? Plot? Character? Setting? Something else?
This really varies from story to story. Some of my most successful tales have grown out of first sentences, which just develop into full-blown stories. There are other times when I might decide to put a particular spin on an historic event, by telling it from an unusual angle, or by giving the point of view of a different participant. This would require a bit more planning, but generally I just like to start telling a story and see where it goes.
Do your character’s talk to you, direct the story path they take?
No my characters definitely do not talk to me and they certainly never direct the path any story might take. As a writer, I am their creator and absolute slave master.
What is your process for coming up with character names?
A pretty lazy one I guess. In “The Zombie, the Cat, and Barack Obama” most of the characters are real people and I didn’t need to invent names for them. There are a few wholly fictitious characters though and their names were sometimes invented. The landlord was called “Gutterskunk” as I wanted to convey the impression of miserly nastiness through his name. The policeman was called “P.Lod” as “plod” is a derisive slang term for policeman in England.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself to be a writer when I published articles and stories online and people started commenting on them. As soon as I had readers, I was a writer.
Are you a believer in the detailed outline or do you write more the seat of your pants?
I’m definitely more of a seat of the pants writer. I like the mood to take me over and the story to grow. Afterwards I might worry about editing. I rarely plan a story more than a page or two in advance.
What’s your favorite type of scent to write; Action? Dialogue? Setting? Sex?
I enjoy them all, although I’ve never really written a sex scene. Dialogue is probably my least favourite, as writing it slows down the narrative process.
Can we have an excerpt from the Zombie, The Cat and Barack Obama?
This is short excerpt from the chapter about the founding of the Illuminati.
“Not long after the three houses were completed, a stranger came to Atlantis. This was a wolf, a most ferocious one at that. He had been receiving treatment at a clinic for pork addiction but had absconded halfway through his course. He was, as a consequence, absolutely the last individual needed on the island at the time. On his first morning on the island he was woken from his sleep on the beach by the unmistakable sound of some beautiful violin music, suspiciously similar to the opening bars of the second movement of the Brahms Concerto. Music did not soothe that savage breast, however. When he asked some people nearby what the infernal racket was, he was told that it was the famous pig virtuoso practising for his forthcoming concert. The over-friendly people on the beach further volunteered the information that the musical genius had two other equally brilliant porcine brothers living in the same street. This really got the wolf very excited. The addiction, that he had never properly overcome, totally took him over. He positively slavered at the mouth as he turned his steps towards the house from whence the music was emanating. When he arrived outside the straw house, he whispered through a crack in the wall, “Little pig, little pig, won’t you come out?”
How do you balance the need for self-promotion vs writing time?
Actually at the moment that’s quite a problem. All my time seems to be taken up with promotion and chasing elusive sales. Sadly, it leaves me with little time for developing additional writing projects. Hopefully, as the new year progresses, I will need to spend less time promoting and have more of an opportunity for writing.
Any thoughts on the benefits of self-publishing vs traditional.
Everything I’ve written so far has been self- published. I feel it would be very nice to have the burden of promotional work removed from my shoulders by a publisher or a good agent. I have heard of publishers however, who actually do very little for their smaller clients, so perhaps I am better off to stay as I am. My percentage of sales revenue is a lot better this way also.
Is there a genre you won’t read?
I don’t think there is a genre that I wouldn’t read but there is a style of writing which I can’t abide. That’s “stream of consciousness”, as exemplified in some of the works of James Joyce or Samuel Beckett. I ploughed through 50 pages of “Ullysses” once and then shut it, never to be opened again. It might be brilliant literature but I found it to be totally unreadable.
I like a book that can tell a story in a gossipy engaging manner. That kind of book just doesn’t really do that.
What are you most proud of about your writing?
The fact that people have told me that it is unlike anything they have ever read before and I always love it also when somebody says that they have laughed a lot over something I’ve written.
What writer has most influenced your own writing?
It’s very hard to pick one here, as there are so many writers who I admire and would like to emulate. If I must choose one, it would have to be Jonathan Swift. The breadth of the imagination, the keenness of the satire and the sheer readability of the prose in “Gullivers Travels” has never been equalled.
How do you respond to negative reviews?
I once made the mistake on Amazon of disagreeing vehemently with a very nasty reviewer. The result was that I attracted a multitude of vicious comments from trolls. After that experience, I decided to totally ignore negative reviews. Fortunately the good ones outnumber the bad by around 10 to 1.
If you could sit down to dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
The Caterpillar out of “Alice in Wonderland”. He was quite opinionated and would make a good opponent for a heated debate. The fact, that he would be eating only cabbage leaves, would mean that he would be a very inexpensive guest to entertain. In the current economic climate, that has to be an important consideration.
Do you have a particular writing schedule or process you stick to?
I like to write for a few hours and then take a break, maybe walk up to the shops, do a little bit of gardening or housework, or just stare out the window for a while. I don’t like my writing to become too much of a chore. It’s important but it’s still only some of what I do in my life.
If you were to give only one tip to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Do it because you enjoy it.
Do you have a favorite word?
Bedtime. It’s my favourite part of the day as well. There is nothing so delightful in life, as switching the light off after a busy day, knowing that in five or 10 min all care and stress is abandoned until the following morning.
What is your least favorite word?
Alarm clock. Because it wakes me up. The whole grind has to be started again then.
What is your favorite curse word?
I was much too well brought up to even think of a curse word, let alone utter one. Still one occasionally slips into my vocabulary. The most frequent would have to be the F word.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just started “The Beginning after the End” by the talented young Pakistani authoress Hafsa Idrees. So far I’ve just read a few pages but it promises to be a very good book and I look forward to finishing it.
What one place do you want to visit before you die?
I would like to visit Lhasa, but only if it becomes the capital of a free and independent Tibet.
What books or other projects do you have coming up in the future?
I want to write a sequel to “The Zombie, the Cat, and Barack Obama”. I also have a biblically based semi-comedy, which I would like to extend and publish as a full book. At some stage also it would be nice to put some of my short stories into a book and write some more to go with them. It might also be fun, and possibly lucrative, to write some plays or film scripts. That’s not a fixed intention however, just a possible direction for me to go in.
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