NF READS INTERVIEW

It was my great pleasure to be interviewed by Tony Eames of NF Reads, a general interest site that explores the creative process and stories behind the lives of the people who pursue it.

Past interviewees have included scientists, business leaders, health professionals, politicians, and www influencers. Learn more about NF Reads here: https://www.nfreads.com/about-contact/

The interview is reproduced below.

 

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)! 

 

I’m A. B. Funkhauser and I’m delighted to be profiled here on NF Reads. My on-line biographies variously describe me as an outdoor enthusiast, classic car nut, mother, mortician, monkey and purveyor of gonzo mortuary revenge fiction. What that actually means is that I write blended genre fiction based on what I see and hear and then I warp and bend everything to the peril and salvation of my morally flexible characters.

 

I’m currently working on a series of books, some with interrelated plots, others not, each with large casts and a vaguely menacing omniscient voice to taunt and trick along the way. The common thread they all share are characters that are unapologetic and very often chaotic in their life choices. They are not wholly villains or angels but somewhere in between, and the results of their actions can only be guessed at until the last page is read. The thing I get most from readers is that while they may not like all the characters, they inexplicably find themselves rooting for them. I think that’s cool. The other draw is the setting: a funeral home over many decades with a revolving door of staff cycling through, each coping with life and death and their own well-being. A reader needn’t tackle the books in order—they stand alone. In fact, I’d recommend going at them out of order. The character that dies in book two is back alive and well (and doing a great deal of damage) in book four. That’s fun to write, let me tell you!

 

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

 

A combination of work life, family folklore and an overall love of world history collided to produce work that is equal parts dark and light. I drew a lot of inspiration from Jerry Seinfeld and Kurt Vonnegut in early days; the former writing voluminously about nothing, the latter about things both profound and irreverent. Both made anything possible in the sense that nothing was off limits and everything could be grand or ridiculous. Likewise, QuentinTarantino. His non-linear storytelling that enabled a dead character to walk away alive and well in the final act opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities.

 

How do you deal with creative block?

 

I stop and push away from the keyboard. I can’t force it to happen. It has to appear, and it always does.

 

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

 

Rushing—Not taking the time to read it through one more time before hitting the send button and not taking the time to read it again after it’s printed. Spelling and grammar matter and it amazes me how many errors actually sneak past the spell checker, beta readers and Grammarly-type programs.

Editing while in a terrible mood—You will do more damage to a work with a fractured lens than you will after a short break. Take a week off to clear your head. The manuscript will still be there waiting for you.

Rambling on—It’s one thing if a character is fatuous in speech and manner; it’s another if the writing is. Trim those sentences. You don’t need to go on and on.

Beware the expository paragraph—There are underpinnings to every tale (the backstory) but unless it’s an essential “tell” (sometimes you just need to say it in order to get on with things) leave it to the characters to show it through action and dialogue.

 

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

 

If the writer has something specific in mind, something from the gut, they probably have 50% of it right. The cover and title are not for the author but for the reader. Whether designing it yourself or choosing to go with a pro, take the time to shop the concept. Run it by the betas, your writer’s group, family, friends and CRITICS to get a temperature. And be prepared to change the cover a couple of years post pub. I’m doing that right now. What I believed to be grand and clever five years ago really doesn’t work now.

 

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

 

Criticism is essential to becoming a better writer. Trolls notwithstanding, a tough review almost always has merit. Do not rush to make changes after a heavy critique. If time allows, let it sit, let it percolate. I’ve gone back to a manuscript after a month-long break and have found that the feedback was usually correct. It’s tough to learn this, but it will save the writing.

 

How has your creative process improved over time?

 

I’m faster. The first book took five years, the second and third a year each. This is because I managed to figure out how to do it. But fast isn’t necessarily good. My next book will take longer because I’ve learned the importance behind taking the time. (See above)

 

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

 

One thing I’ve learned from reading Hunter Thompson’s gonzo journalism is that the best way to tackle serious issues without being preachy is by shining a light on them with humor. By creating morally flexible characters in absurd/exaggerated circumstances, I was able to get my points across without scaring the reader away. That was and continues to be the best thing.

 

The worst thing might have been formatting, but that gets better with practice. I’ve taught myself to like formatting by chalking it up to another opportunity to reread the text and catch those hideous spelling mistakes that spellcheck misses. Pore and pour. OMG!

 

The most surprising thing has been the way the work has been received to date. Make no mistake, a book is NEVER completed. It’s published, promoted, critiqued, and, if the writer chooses, improved with new cover designs, back jacket blurbs and layouts. I released my first book believing I had written a paranormal romance. It went on to win horror prizes. My second book, a sequel, won multiple humor prizes. This led me to a very valuable lesson learned: my books aren’t what I say they are but what the reader believes them to be. That journey continues to be amazing.

 

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

 

I’m currently working on book four in my series and I still aim for personal satisfaction before getting to the business of making it accessible for readers. It’s important to me to love the book first. How else can I expect a reader to feel something similar? However, after the first, second and third draft “love-in,” I step back, wait, and read through it again to see if any of it makes sense. I clear up the vague spots, kill some darlings, and trim the back story. Then I let the betas have at it. That’s how I balance.

 

What role do emotions play in creativity?

 

A great deal, but these are tempered by structure, pacing, arc and characters. Emotions can blind and if they’re not in their place, you can wind up with a mess.

 

Do you have any creativity tricks?

 

Be honest and tell the truth in the first drafts; then decide if your truth will serve readers in a meaningful way. There’s a fine line between truth and rant. I don’t rant in my fiction, but my characters often do.

 

What are your plans for future books?

 

I have four lengthy unfinished manuscripts screaming for attention. These compete with the new work generated during NaNoWriMo. I’m currently sprucing up the back catalog with new covers and layouts and find that one in particular has inspired a return to a trunk book. It’s been collecting dust for about four years. Its time has come, I think.

 

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

 

I write fiction but read mostly non-fiction these days.

I enjoy binge watching series from multiple genres. Netflix is my university.

I go south to the hot ocean in summer but gladly hole up with the snow in winter.

I love vintaging. I can’t remember the last time I bought something new.

 

 

When will your books be available on-line?

 

The first three books should be available on Amazon by mid-summer 2019. Paperback versions will follow thereafter. The best way to find out what’s going on is to visit my website https://abfunkhauser.com/

 

 

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SAY WHAT? BEST SELLING AUTHOR CRYSSA BAZOS GRILLS FUNKHAUSER ON SHELL GAME

I’ve known A.B. Funkhauser for many years, and to say that she’s as gonzo as her characters is to get it wrong. Sure, she gravitates to larger than life characters on the page and in the public eye, but she appreciates the contemplative too. Claiming to be an “introverted extrovert” she relies on her characters to do all the heavy lifting, to do the things she’d never dream of doing in real life. Her latest work, SHELL GAME, is no exception. Here, characters stay behind closed doors, preferring to spy on one another through windows under cover of night. Interaction appears limited, but is it really? When they aren’t questioning themselves and the motivations of others, they take cues from a black cat that may or may not have real supernatural abilities. Everything is subjective, including what the omniscient narrator chooses to share when and where.

A.B., let’s talk about SHELL GAME, shall we?

 

 

Cryssa Bazos:

Since your publishing date was announced, you’ve been all over social media. Do you love it, or hate it?

 

A. B. Funkhauser:

I hear writers talking about promotions a lot; how it sparks their creative juices, how it saps their energy, how it calls them out and maybe forces them to be more “in your face” than they would normally like to be. And I agree. But promotion goes hand in glove with writing ‘The Book,’ and so it’s a must. There’s a great deal of competition in the writing world. There’s a lot of competition in anything that’s worthwhile. For me, chatting up SHELL GAME is equal parts excitement and self-interest; exciting for me because I’ve completed another project successfully and delivered it to market; self-interest because who else will know about it if I don’t say so?

 

C.B.:

I also notice you tagging yourself as a multi-genre author. What’s up with that? You turning in your gonzo badge?

 

A.B.:

No! Never. But the characters ultimately set the tone, and the people of SHELL GAME are conniving, dastardly, sympathetic and very often contrite. They can’t help it, really. That’s why they need the cats. My hero Carlos is renowned for his quiet, stolid ability to be where he needs to be, affecting certain outcomes because of it. He’s quite brilliant.

Poonam 2 w Cover for Twitter

At the same time, this piece tilts more in the direction of satire and social commentary in the sense that while the humans are behaving outside of the usual boundaries assigned western society, there is still a moral conscience at play that makes them question their actions. This makes them a little less mendacious than the characters in SCOOTER NATION, for example. They are still capable of doing harm, but this time they feel really bad about it.

 

C.B.:

Where did that come from?

 

A.B.:

An event in real time, actually. I hadn’t intended to write a cat book and I’ve gone on about that on this blog and others. I wanted to tuck into the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND, which currently sits at a tantalizing 89,000 words with no end in sight. (I did figure out the ending half way through SHELL GAME, and if I can pull it off it will be quite diabolical.) But like the opening paragraphs of SHELL GAME, I did receive a snarky letter from Animal Control that specifically mentioned the street I live on. I wasn’t the only person on the street to get it—it was a blind drop—but I did take it very personally. The cat I share with a neighbor had brought so much joy into my life and the lives of my family that the faceless person(s) behind the letter threatening his freedom and my pocketbook just infuriated me. The $5,000 fine for not keeping the kitty inside was either a deterrent or tax grab—popular where I live—and the intrusion could only be answered through a ragin’ fiction that sees the cats win for a change. Of course, I can see both sides to the argument for keeping cats indoors in urban areas, and I’m happy to report that my shared kitty spends far more time indoors. But that’s owing to his age and the natural order of things, not from some crummy letter from a human in an office.

 

C.B.:

And SHELL GAME, like SCOOTER NATION, features characters from many different ethnicities. Is this your response to the current debate on cultural appropriation?

 

A.B.:

Ha! That’s a minefield and I’m not stepping into it until I have all the information. From the gonzo side of the street, my read of the issue is that writers should keep to their own pasture so as to be authentic. If that’s true, then all I can really write about are past middle-aged straight white human females and that would be a shame. It would be boring for me to write, and boring for anyone else to read.

Bronagh Character Reveal

But, research, foreknowledge, personal history and cumulative story-telling must play a big part in any writing project if the characters are to ring true and shine. To know what we’re on about—that’s our job—and that’s pretty much all I can say about this topic until I learn more.

 

C.B.:

So, what’s SHELL GAME about?

 

A.B.:

Oh, that. Lol. Well, I always say that I don’t really know for sure until some reviews come in and I get a few interviews under my belt. The best I can say right now is that it’s about a cat, a community, unwanted change, and the mechanisms employed to cope with this change that result in positive and negative resolutions. Change, I believe, cannot be stopped, but it can be messed with, and with these characters you will see activities that are silly AND life threatening. That’s the gonzo element. But there’s a love element to it as well. And of course, the cats are at the center of things, calling the plays, controlling things, just like they’ve done for millennia.

Mr know it all

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

 

 

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

SHELL GAME COVER 1As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever  believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤

A. B.

GET IT HERE

IMG_20160411_121457About the Author

Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.

Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.

A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”

Funkhauser is currently working on THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND.

 

About the Interviewer

fullsizeoutput_d9Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).

 

Traitors Knot Cover“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of theamazon best seller new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

GET IT HERE

 

Cryssa’s Links

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Website

 

UP NEXT:

 

FUNKHAUSER AND THE OMNISCIENT VOICE

 

FREE DAYS! SHELL GAME AVAILABLE NOW

 

FREEDOM IN SHELL GAME AND THE STRANGE THINGS THAT RESULT FROM IT

Freedom has always been a big one for me, for what am I as a gonzo if I cannot judge, poke fun, get it wrong and then slide in a rueful subtext among the laughs and guffaws?

That’s my mission, anyway, and as SHELL GAME’s release date draws near, the notion of freedom as it relates to the plot and characters who seek to keep it has grown more dear.

Imagine a world peopled with ungoverned free-spirits culturally sanctioned to say whatever they like. You wouldn’t have to go too far. Ricky Gervais showcased the concept brilliantly in the film THE INVENTION OF LYING (2009). In it, characters managed to convey whole truths without the sturm und drang of hand-wringing, hair-pulling and copious tear-filled apologies. Chaos did not ensue, at least not until the protagonist started lying through his teeth.

The same happens in SHELL GAME. There, in the humble burg of Pictontown on the Downs, gentle folk go about the business of doing a great deal of damage at little or no cost to the neighbors they try so hard to ignore. It is only when a mysterious and very beautiful black cat enters the picture that untidied things like lies, invasion of privacy, group sex and a missing spouse become important; important because with each new revelation, the freedom to do as one pleases becomes very difficult.

Misunderstandings as a vehicle to catapult the plot forward figure prominently in SHELL GAME as one’s presumed murder victim becomes another’s bratwurst sausage. Likewise, the Beautiful Boy Politician. With all his wealth, intelligence, glamor and promise, it becomes very easy to mix him up with his lackluster opponents because they all wind up saying the same blah, blah, blah to the effect that nothing and everything changes.

A Shell Game is defined as “a deceptive and evasive action or ploy, especially a political one”[1] Readers might want to let that percolate when deciding if the surviving characters are free by book’s end, for as we all know, freedom is subjective and absolutely always illusory.

SHELL GAME releases September 21 on Amazon through Solstice Publishing. As a thank you to readers and supporters, it will be offered as a FREE DOWNLOAD September 21, 22 and 23. Get it here.

Adult, unapologetic, and wholly cognizant, I am

A.B. Funkhauser

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Twitter https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound

And this website

 

UP NEXT:

THE ULTIMATE SHELL GAME Q & A

 

BUY LINK AND FREE DAYS:

As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever  believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤

A. B.

[1] Google dictionary, of course.