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/