Please share a little about yourself, your genres, any other pen names you use.
Well, first off, I was born shy, but through sheer force of will have grown into an accomplished ham! Maybe that’s where my character’s strange intro/extrovertedness comes from? The other night, I appeared before a live audience with my fellow Durham County authors to do some open mic. It was the first time EVER that I didn’t have a racing heart. I was so comfortable in my skin that I really enjoyed myself!
The other thing is that I’m a wildlife/portrait artist, which really helps with my writing in the sense that if I need time to mull, I can do it over pen, paint or charcoal.
As far as genres go, I’m currently enmeshed in paranormal-gonzo with a hint of old Aesop. There’s a lot going on in front of the reader and behind the scenes. What the reader perceives is what they get, which is why HEUER means different things to different people. I like that a lot.
Tell us a little about your latest or upcoming release.
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is a metaphysical journey of two people: one living, the other dead. But
its handled in what I hope is a light but sensitive way. A man is dead in his home, and rather than being found right away, he is left to moulder with his mortal coil while speculating on where his friends have got to. At the funeral home where his body will ultimately wind up, his paranormal residue ‘haunts’ the living, breathing Enid Engler Krause. She is not only his mortician, but she is also an old girlfriend who has not seen him in twenty years…until now. In the body of Heuer rests her greatest fear: having to deal with the remains of someone she used to love. How can she take care of him sensitively and professionally without losing her mind? And how can he help her do this?
Are you a mom (or parent)?
Yes! I have two teenagers who keep me on my toes and on the road. I can’t wait for them to get their driver’s licenses. Lol.
If yes do you find it hard to juggle writing and parenting?
No. The timing just worked out. Just as I began to grow on paper, they began to grow as people. Jobs, friends, opinions, fashion; it’s all there to be explored and lived. I have ample time during the day to focus on what I call The Job. Whether I’m blogging, tweeting, promoting or —joy of joys—creating new material, there is time for both. Of course it helps that I was able to take time off from full time work to devote to writing by day and family by night. I’ve been working since I was sixteen so you might say I earned my place at my writing desk!
Have you ever based your book or characters on actual events or people from your own life?
I think every writer does, but in varying degrees. My characters are composites—at least the human ones are! I also make liberal use of buildings, classic cars and Rattus norvegicus (the common rat) as characters. I like to have fun with the writing and basing characters too closely on actual people would impede that. Imagination for me is everything.
Is there a theme or message in your work that you would like readers to connect to?
There are several and they strike readers differently, which is very exciting to me. A reviewer said that my message was a poignant one: that beauty and elegance is present though not always noticed even when they are right in front of us. By this, I think he means that I want the reader to keep searching because there will always be something powerful to be found.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
I would choose a cross country road trip in a convertible over a cruise ship on an aquamarine sea. There’s something about the wind across the windshield that keeps me stoked.
When you’re not writing what do you do? Do you have any hobbies or guilty pleasures?
I grew up with brothers, so ‘boy’ things are kind of ingrained in me. I like the north. I like being outside. Bonfires at any time of year are welcome. And I love a slow march through the woods. Outside is everything.
My guilty pleasure is Netflix. I get so much more out of a series when I can binge watch it. Nothing gets lost, especially with detailed series like GAME OF THRONES or BORGIA. Both offer huge international casts and a lot of back story which keeps me on my toes. I also get some valuable insights into plotting epics with multiple POVs. Luv that!
Which romance book or series (or other genre, if you don’t write romance) do you wish you had written?
I loved Poldark. Adored anything written by Thomas Hardy. I did the Austen thing when I was 16 – 20. But Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander Series with good ol’ Captain Jack Aubrey takes first place. While this is not romance, the character truly is as demonstrated by Russell Crowe in the film. 😀 *sigh*
Is there a genre(s) that you’d like to write that you haven’t tackled yet?
THE HEUER EFFECT is third in the series and takes a radical departure from the first two. In it, the characters are alive and vital in the 1980s and, at times, do terrible things to each other. So far, it’s coming off rather romantically and it’s nice. But knowing the muse, this won’t last for long. There’s an imp at work that insists things go sideways, whether it be a flat tire or a less than satisfying physical encounter: “She’d never seen one up close and for real before and could not help but think of the hagfish parasite she’d seen hanging off the backs of sharks on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
One day…one day…I might play it straight…but not now.
Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why?
My vote goes to Jocasta Binns, who started out as a two dimensional cardboard villain and grew into her own book (POOR UNDERTAKER). My writing group—the esteemed BROOKLIN 7—kept on me about why she was the way she was. What was her story? So in book 4, I had to go back farther, beginning with her birth in 1947. Such a sweet girl. So much promise. Naturally, it cannot last. 😉
If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share?
The Series is called Unapologetic Lives for the reason that I wanted to see grown-ups careening out of control with little or no concern toward limited liability, torts, class action lawsuits or political correctness. They’re of age, and they have one crack at this life. The second novel is called SCOOTER NATION and its tone is completely different. Set two years after HEUER in the same funeral parlor, it focuses on Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue. Both are funeral directors, and both have critical walk ons in the first novel.
Here’s my elevator pitch:
When a scooter bound gang of septuagenarians terrorize a neighborhood, local businesses align in self defense.
It’s a story about identity, finding your place in society, and treating your fellow man with dignity…and GONZO!
What is next for you? Do you have any scheduled upcoming releases or works in progress?
I’m promoting HEUER through to the end of the month. Then I’ll leave him to percolate through the ether through June and July (2015). That’s when I’ll refine SCOOTER. Come November and NaNoWriMo, I will complete part II of POOR UNDERTAKER. I’m very excited.
What book are you reading now?
A swash buckling pirate adventure penned by fellow Solstice author and friend David K. Bryant. It’s awesome!
What is in your to read pile?
An unpublished gem called Stone Cottage by Margaret MacKay Hefferman; Kalki Evian: The Ring of Khaoriphea by Malay Upadhyay and The Uniform Fetish Anthology featuring a short story by Wren Michaels.
Eclipse Reviews – Author Interview Questions
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Writing never crossed my mind even though the bulk of my early work years focused on correspondence, press releases and even speech writing. I guess I was prepping for this and didn’t know it. When I was young, I wanted to marry Prince Andrew, command armies or become the Prime Minister of Canada. After graduating school, I took my place behind a reception desk—the first of many.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
When I gave my first reading at an open mic nite. It was in a bar and the audience was full of
authors, many already published. When they laughed at the right moments and for the right reasons, that told me that I was on to something. That’s when I felt ‘real.’
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Not long. Fate kinda intervened. I had four manuscripts under my belt and that’s when a friend put me on to #pitmad on Twitter. I got hits right away, and through these initial contacts I was compelled to hone my synopsis, elevator pitch and query letter. By the third pitch party, I had over thirty tags and log lines. Solstice Publishing found me soon after.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
I’m a licensed funeral director which means I arrange and take out funerals. I’m an embalmer as well. Two years ago, with the support of my family, I took a break from full-time work to concentrate on my writing. That really paid off. I maintain my license and am on call.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is my debut and is the first in a six volume series. The elevator pitch is as follows: Dead cooze hound lawyer trapped in a funeral parlor relies on boozy undertaker and wise cracking spirit guide to set him free.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
The first book took thirty years. That is to say it’s the sum total of life experience and a ton of observations. The writing, learning, editing, honing took five years and is on going. For the subsequent three manuscripts, it took about a year for each of them to get to a cogent first draft. I really have my groove on, you might say.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
My tastes range from campy to philosophical to romantic to paranormal. I also have a taste for classic cars so it’s not unusual to find a car character or two in my work, and it’s amazing how technical jargon can be adapted to comedy. My next three years will be devoted to readying the following three manuscripts in the series: SCOOTER NATION, THE HEUER EFFECT, and POOR UNDERTAKER. Each on its own is meritoriously direct in conveying a number of my favorite themes all within the framework of the funeral parlor, which changes hands as the decades pass and in one instance, actually becomes a Euro style resto bar and grille. The cool thing for me as the writer is that there’s some overlapping which I really love. A character that dies at the end of book three is born on page two of book four. For that, I have Quentin Tarantino to thank: PULP FICTION taught me that I don’t have to stay linear.
What genre would you place your books into?
I describe them as adult, paranormal, contemporary fiction with a hint of gonzo. Amazon has placed HEUER under Occult, Horror and Humorous Fiction which also works.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I like to blame it on the characters, but in truth, I think the comedic elements were a response to a need to give the reader a break from some of the tougher scenes. The protagonists coming to grips with their life situations, I’m told, could be quite visceral and I must have felt that while I was writing it. Death and mourning are serious subjects, but I didn’t want the story to weigh the reader down with every chapter. There had to be a lightness to it to let the reader know that something was going to give.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
I love them all, but my villains seem to demand the bulk of my attention. One, for example, got her own book because the beta readers insisted on it. Why is she this way? What happened to her to make her such? It was amazing the through this exploration, she went from a cartoon to a flesh and blood human being capable of commanding sympathy and understanding.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing fiction for a little over five years now and I have to give the credit for inspiration to trial and error and having the courage to put a foot out the door every day. I’ve failed at many things, but I’ve had a few successes too. The best way to make sense of it was to put it into words and have those words spoken through the mouths of fictional characters. I’m grateful to them for that!
Is there a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I can work practically anywhere, but what I do is dictated by the time of year. Since breaking from full time work, I treat writing like a day job. I have two teenagers, so once they’re out the door in the morning, I’m at my desk. A work day runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breaks (dentist appointments, cutting the grass) Monday to Friday. Whether I’m blogging, tweeting, editing, promoting myself or others, I’m always writing. Summer months and NaNoWriMo are dedicated to NEW projects.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Title comes first. It usually appears during edits on the previous work. Next come pop scenes and a lot of mulling before I lay down the first draft during NaNo.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I apply the theory of good band names: take two unrelated things and put them together; or I’ll grab from a character trait. For example, a character who reads classical literature is bound to wind up with a name from that historical era – Jocasta, Socrates, Hephaestion are good ones.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
After. They name themselves.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
As I go along. They evolve, just as we do as flesh and blood human beings.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of “The moral of this story is..”)
Absolutely. There’s a point to everything. There are a number of themes in play. My favorites: identity, diversity, understanding and resolution. Quite recently, I rediscovered a pop form of writing we’re all familiar with—picaresque, which is basically, raw, rude, fun-loving offensive misunderstood characters and plot lines that somehow endear. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR? comes to mind. A real conundrum, no? I think HEUER is picaresque and coming to terms with that is another theme/issue for the character.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
No preference. A book’s a book.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
Your favorite food is?
Your favorite singer/group is?
Your favorite color is?
Your favorite Author is?
What inspired you to become an author?
I was a diarist first, which basically means that I was writing for an audience of one. But then I shared it with a writer friend, whose response was along the lines of “keep going, keep going”. I laughed and said “But I’m making stuff up. Most of this isn’t even real.” And she said, “Fantastic. It’s fiction.” Then my kids got in on the act: “You’re just doing this because auntie is writing a book.” And I said: “Well, yeah.” So I really have to blame all of this on auntie and the kids.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Third party readers/reviewers say I do. It’s all very organic for me. You see, I spent about thirty years observing and then mulling on things going on around me, but I never had a platform from which to hang it all on…until now. I guess my style is character-oriented. Whether they’re talking or doing, they are very distinct to me. I’ve flirted with the idea that what I’m really doing is taking dictation and that the characters are, in fact, doing the writing.
Do you write in different genres?
Not consciously, but yes. The second novel, SCOOTER NATION, is very gonzo, which means it’s irreverent and at times careens out of control. But there is a rhythm to it that made gonzo style the logical choice. The third novel, THE HEUER EFFECT, on the other hand is very romantic because the characters are young and alive and prone to adorable self delusion and this demanded that care be taken to explore all the sturm und drang of the subtexts. My current one POOR UNDERTAKER is a biggie—100k+—and is looking more and more like historical fiction. What can I say? It’s the characters again.
If yes which is your favorite genre to write?
It’s driven by mood. Right now, I’m having a lot of fun researching the details and watching a lot of Turner Classic Movies. POOR UNDERTAKER begins in the late 1940s so while I’m aware of early embalming techniques, the nuts and bolts of grocery shopping and placing a long distance call eighty years ago took some time to get a feel for. I’m feeling more introspective these days, so delving into the minds of people long dead is perfect for me. I guess historical fiction is my thing right now.
How did you come up with the title for your latest book?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND began as a much larger work, and once it reached 120K I knew I had to do something, so I hived it off into two parts: the past and the present. Because the main character is dead, and his funeral director obsesses over how he came to wind up on her table, she undertakes a black ops investigation into his past. Because she is searching for a part of their shared past, I hooked into the notion of the double loss: the man and the proof of their relationship. It muddles the mind to think that she lost him, then found him, but has really lost him because he’s dead and she can’t tell him what she needs to tell him…at least, that’s what she thinks. *wink, wink*
Do you title the book first or wait until after it’s complete?
The title for the next book comes mid to two thirds of the way through the work in progress. I always have a clear indication of where I’m headed.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes! But it’s up to the reader to find it, and I’m thrilled to say that the readers thus far have found all kinds of DIFFERENT things, which is what I aim for.
Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sure. James Bond creator Ian Fleming said that every fiction he wrote was predicated on fact and I guess I’m the same. There’s some of me in Heuer, which is weird because he’s a dude and not a very nice one. Paging Dr. Freud. (laughs) And of course, the description of the funeral home and that epic back door on the front cover: Weibigand’s is a composite of four real life establishments that no longer exist. I was really driven to get the details down: This was my way of preserving a small bit of mortuary history.
What books/authors have influenced your life?
It’s been a steady progression. When I was little—Dr. Seuss; Green Eggs and Ham, The Sneetches, The Green Pants. Wow. The sounds of the words and how they made me laugh. Seuss gave me permission not only to make up things, but words too. That was huge. Then I went through an Austen period as a teen and there was plenty of Sidney Sheldon and Jacqueline Susanne to go with it. Ha ha. But it was the movie version of the book The Witches of Eastwick that turned me on to Updike, Bellow and especially Kurt Vonnegut. There was an ease and freedom to the words that seemed incredibly authentic; they just screamed “go!” And I liked that. Just go, go, go and don’t stop until you’re done.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Vonnegut with cut ins from Hunter S. Thompson. You see, amid all the fun and frivolity in their writing, there’s a lot of important stuff going on beneath, but it slides past you into your subconscious before you know what’s being done to you. By the time you figure it out, it’s too late. The idea is there, and it keeps you thinking for years. Aspiring to such a skill is mighty lofty and I don’t want to get fat-headed about it, but it would be grand if I could do what they did.
Where are you from?
I was born in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto, but now live in Pickering, another suburb, albeit further east.
Tell us your latest news?
I went out for my first run last week after a chilly winter of enforced physical idleness. It practically killed me…the running, not the winter. 😉 Oh, and I have a book that just released on Amazon. All the Amazon’s really .com .ca .co.uk I have to learn how to get that global short link so that people can find me.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began shortly after the death of a close friend. We were students and work colleagues together and had grown codependent. His death was unexpected and a complete shock, so I began a grief journal as a means of trying to make sense of everything. My friend and I both shared an off the wall kind of sense of humor that got us into trouble at school occasionally, so it didn’t take long for my journal to lapse into utter nonsense. It became a work of pure fiction. A writer friend told me it looked like a book and that I ought to keep going, so I did.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Thirty years of living and watching and waiting for a platform from which to launch my tropes; my ‘bones of contention.’ In no particular order they are as follows 1) nostalgia hurts more than it helps 2) kindness can be found in the oddest places 3)prying is a lousy thing 4) some questions don’t need answers 5)insular people will, sooner or later, give in to others because we are social 6)we must find and then let go of that thing we need so that we can keep it forever.
Do you have a specific writing style?
It’s not conscious; it just grew out of my interests and the music of words. I’m fond of old tymy classical Greek literature so omniscient narrators and a chorus made a lot of sense to me. Combined with modern vernacular and some gonzoid absurdities and you get pretty close to me…like an Aesop fable as told through eccentrics.
How did you come up with the title?
Heuer Lost and Found began as a much larger work—The Heuer Effect—which forms the majority portion of the third novel. In its original form, Heuer kept getting lost; the manuscript kept getting bigger and bigger and I fought constantly with side characters to hang on to him and keep him in the forefront. The idea to hive the manuscript into two separate works came from a third party who saw very clearly that this was a story of two lives lived in real time and then in memories. Once separated, the title for the new manuscript was clear. I’d lost him, then I found him.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The past is a great place to visit, but don’t stay there too long.
How much of the book is realistic?
About seventy per cent.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Every fiction is loosely based on a fact or observation. The funeral home, for example, is an amalgam of four separate businesses that no longer exist. The rooms I describe have been demolished and live on in memory alone. I love that I was able to preserve them in my own small way. Likewise, people. Some of my men friends believe that they are “Heuer” but they aren’t. There’s actually some of me in there… and a little Dean Martin.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Satire, poetry, biography and the bible.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
What book are you reading now?
The Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire by Rachael Stapleton
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Claire Fullerton, Nina Schluntz, Rachael Stapleton and David K. Bryant. Memoirs by Young Vol. 1,2,and 3, were eye popping as well.
What are your current projects?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is the first in a six volume series titled “Unapologetic Lives.” I’m currently working on the fourth: POOR UNDERTAKER, but will break over the summer to ready the second: SCOOTER NATION.
What would you like my readers to know?
That I’m still having a ball. This is not work for me, but a love story between my heart and my imagination. Come along if you like, but don’t forget to laugh.
Books Direct – Interview with the Author A.B. Funkhauser
For what age group do you recommend your book?
The book features characters at the crossroads: the main character, Heuer, drops dead at the age of fifty. He is a single, urban professional with a ton of baggage, including daddy issues. His funeral director, Enid, is an old girlfriend from the Eighties who battles life-altering afflictions like peri menopause and the scotch bottle. While the work is catagorized as #adult #contemporary #paranormal #fiction, I have a NA following that digs on the Eighties references and the #paranormal hooks. From what I’ve seen so far, it has a rather broad appeal, but if I have to weigh in, I’d go for readers who like character-based stories with a lot of miles behind them.
What sparked the idea for this book?
It’s called a memento mori — an object signifying death — that acts like a hammer to the head. A friend of mine committed suicide and I needed to open a pressure valve, so I recorded some thoughts in pencil, in cursive, in a loose leaf binder. Both my friend and I had an appreciation for humor, and so it didn’t take long before my musings were hijacked by just that. Very soon, I was making stuff up. This became the fiction.
Which came first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
It began with a single scene involving a fantastic modified ’68 Chevy Chevelle with an epic 454 ci engine dropped into it some time in the early ‘80s. The car had a name (Shelley) and a gender (female) and she was placed above everyone else in the man’s affections, including the young woman who loved him but couldn’t keep him. This scene became the lynchpin for the third novel. Funny how that happens.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Deciding on structure was the biggest delay. The original manuscript was enormous, and I didn’t want to “kill my darlings”. When it was suggested that I hive the work in two: one book dedicated to memories and the other dedicated to how it actually was (real time) everything fell into place.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I don’t have any control over that, which is great. The story resonates very differently depending on who reads it. A person who has suffered loss, for example, gets Enid immediately. Those fortunate enough to have been spared the loss of a loved one thus far want to lock her in a closet until she comes to her senses. Likewise with Heuer: this man is a child of the Fifties raised by parents born in the Twenties. His views are colored and when his guard is down, he speaks without filters. One reader compared him to Breaking Bad’s Walter White: didn’t like him, but kept rooting for him. I thought that was pretty cool.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Thirty years. In addition to my memento mori, I had thirty years of observations, pet peeves and what I call “ax grinders” looking for a platform from which to launch. My beauties—my all time special tropes—found a home with HEUER; namely that: 1) nostalgia hurts more than it helps 2) kindness can be found in the oddest places 3)prying is a lousy thing 4) some questions don’t need answers 5)insular people will, sooner or later, give in to others because we are social 6)we must find and then let go of that thing we need so that we can keep it forever. Enid, you see, looks for answers she doesn’t need, but she has to go through the motions before she realizes it.
In real time, it took five years, five drafts, and a couple of mulling breaks lasting about 4 and 6 weeks respectively to complete the first novel.
What is your writing routine?
Two and a half years ago, I was lucky enough to take a break from full time work to really make a go of this writing thing, and I’m glad I did. My routine is dictated by the seasons—a happy accident that has worked really well. During the school year when I have kids coming and going, I treat the writing like any day job; once the kids are out the door I’m at my desk. Whether I’m writing new stuff or blogging, tweeting, reviewing or promoting myself or others, I am always writing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. June and July are lovely months, because that’s when I break from the blog to script polish for fall submission. After that, is NaNoWriMo and that’s where I lay down the first draft for the next novel in the sequence. My family and friends are on alert at that time. November is my month. DO NOT DISTURB.
How did you get your book published?
In a word: #Pitmad. I had three manuscripts down and was etching out a fourth when a writer from my critiquing group—The Brooklin 7—told me about Twitter pitch parties. Pitmad, I think, happens about four times a year, so my first runs at it were great for honing elevator pitches, synopsis, tags, log lines and the all important query. By the fourth round, I had my deal.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Keep writing and do not stop until you have something YOU love. That way, you can pitch it with conviction. Along the way, SHARE. Find a critiquing group, put yourself up front and out there for open mic nights, get valuable feedback through contests and courses and write your synopsis as you go. That way, you know what your book is about when some asks: What’s your book about? And never stop reading. Grow, grow, grow.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I get out and about and have adventures…at the grocery store, at the park, on long drives thinking out loud, and I go to classic car shows as soon as the snow melts. I love classic cars, particularly those from the muscle era. Learn and do. Read and write. That’s my method.
What does your family think of your writing?
They approve. And they laugh in all the right places, thank goodness.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, so I grew up without gadgets. I listened to vinyl 45s on a plug in record player, vividly recall the first lunar landing, and I remember the Paul Lynde Show being interrupted by Nixon’s resignation speech, which really annoyed me because I loved the Paul Lynde Show. Summers were spent running through the hydro fields and throwing crab apples at each other’s houses during the great crab apple wars; everybody had a pellet gun that fired real BB’s and we played with cherry bomb firecrackers. It’s a marvel that we didn’t get hurt. I love the age I live in now, but I don’t sweat when the power goes out. I know how to live without gizmos. (smiles)
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes. We didn’t hop on planes and see the world in those days. The world had to come to us through books. That’s how I learned to love history, especially ancient history. Sword and sandal movies were my favorites because I’d read the back stories.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Five years ago, when the muse tapped me on the shoulder and said “do”.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
For sure. My current work in progress takes place in the 1940s. A lot of the stories contained therein come from my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I remember all of them, especially the old people, talking about the wars. I was seven or eight and soaked it all up. This was living, breathing history, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
The risk takers and the jokers. I grew up reading National Lampoon, MAD Magazine and Rolling Stone. Invariably, I tripped into P.J. O’Rourke and Hunter S. Thompson territory. Also Christopher Hitchens.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is my first release, but I’ve been working open mic for about three years and I’ve taken courses and participated in contests so there’s been plenty of feedback. I hear things like “unusual” “strong voice” “plays by its own rules”. One reviewer compared me to Bram Stoker, which I thought was quite gratifying. My Goodreads reviews have been exceptionally positive. I’m stoked. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25232328-heuer-lost-and-found?from_search=true&search_exp_group=group_b&search_version=service
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is part of a six novel series. SCOOTER NATION, THE HEUER EFFECT, and POOR UNDERTAKER are next up. For NaNoWriMo this year, I hope to get started on DIRTY DALE, a crazy tale about a blocked up horror smut writer who goes to mortuary school. Lol.
The Reading Head Interview
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Thank you so much for having me. What shall I reveal today? I was born Saturday, March 13, 1965 under Pisces. I love water, cats, long drives in convertibles (top down) and I look forward to life in a small town after the kids grow up and pursue their destinies. My husband and I are first generation Canadians, so the desire to uproot and live in another country never really grabbed us. But I do love to visit. Hot, hot summers in Florida (guaranteed weather and evacuation route in case of storms); giant prawns cooked over wood fires in Piraeus, Greece; baked goodies fresh out of the oven in Montmartre—these are places I’ve seen and long to get back to.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Writing decided for me. I’m an avid reader, but I’m also a “doer” which means that the experiences I racked up needed a place to hang themselves on. Then a close friend died and I wrote down what I was feeling and this very quickly morphed into a strange fiction. Suddenly I knew where to put all my observations. I was a novelist and didn’t know it.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
My training as a funeral director got things going. When a person wrestles with a loss it is recommended that they start a grief journal as part of an overall coping strategy. Grief journals can be anything: memoir, dialogue with the deceased, or flat out fictions. How it was; how it should have been; how it will be remembered. This became the foundation for the novel: the grieving protagonists wrestle with nostalgia, false memories and “the letting go”. I showed the journal to a friend and sister in writing and she said “keep going” to which I said, “I can’t. None of this is true.” To that she said: “Darling, that is fiction.” And so, here I am.
Who do you feel supported you aside from family members?
That’s easy: fellow writers. I belong to a small circle, The Brooklin 7, which meets once a week with few exceptions, as well as the larger Writers’ Community of Durham Region and Writers’ Community of Simcoe County. There are my fellow Solstice Publishing authors and dozens of social media groups to share info and obtain advice from. I’ve never had so many friends in my life! It’s great.
So, what have you written?
(*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.)
Free range thinking can be accessed at www.abfunkhauser.com. I have written short stories: The Essential Heuer, Mutual of Omaha, Lady Predator, Turd Meets Rock, Hey! Birdy, Birdy and more. I’m also working on my fourth manuscript POOR UNDERTAKER begun during last year’s NaNoWriMo. The second novel, currently undergoing revisions is called SCOOTER NATION; the third: THE HEUER EFFECT. I’ve accomplished this in five and a half years, so you could say I’m pretty stoked.
What are you working on at the minute?
SCOOTER NATION takes place two years after HEUER and in the same funeral home. I’m having a blast with it because the characters Carla Moretto Salinger Blue and Scooter Creighton have major roles to play this time out. Enid Krause from HEUER LOST AND FOUND appears briefly and only as a comedic device. Everyone’s getting their due and in good time too!
Where do your ideas come from?
The muse is strong and as long as it keeps whispering into my ear, I will get things down as quickly as I can. I stay alert; keep my eyes open. Ideas make themselves known usually in the form of the ridiculous. I have a bit of a bent sense of humor, so it’s not surprising to anyone who knows me that I can take something very serious and put it out on its ear.
What genre are your books?
HEUER LOST AND FOUND is classed on Amazon as Occult, Horror, Humor. I like to think of my work as adult, contemporary, mortuary fiction with a hint of gonzo. Somewhere in all of it are tales that need to be told, albeit with a light touch. I didn’t want my characters to be maudlin and so there’s an element of ‘willfull blindness’ that lends itself nicely to the tougher scenes; and there are some difficult ones (high fivers on the emotional side). But it works. One reviewer said that she at one moment cried for the characters and then a few pages later burst into uncontrollable laughter that drew ‘looks’ from her concerned husband. Isn’t that marvellous?
What draws you to this genre?
It’s me. It’s how I’m wired. The third novel, for example, is quite romantic (and requires an ending when I return to it). But something tells me it won’t stay romantic for long. There’s an imp in me that prohibits me from playing it straight. A character in the throes of passion is suddenly reminded of hagfish parasites seen hanging off the backs of sharks on the old Mutual of Omaha’s WILD KINGDOM T.V. show. Why would she think that? Take a look at a hagfish parasite. LOL.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m told I do. I love the eye in the sky power of the omniscient narrator. With omniscient, the narrator and reader can share details unknown to the struggling protagonists. That really drives the humor. I’m also drawn to gonzo style as created by the late great Hunter S. Thompson and the absurdist approach used by Kurt Vonnegut to dress down omnipotent skullduggery. Both writers had a tremendous influence on me growing up and some of it has been passed along…I think. (smiles)
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Leonardo DiCaprio is Jürgen Heuer hands down. For Enid Krause, I can only see Kate Winslet. Both actors are the right age and have appeared together before so I know how well this chemistry works.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
I wonder about the inevitable day when the muse will leave me and how I’ll handle the loss.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Knowing that the second I sit down at the keyboard it will come.
Do you have an interesting writing style or quirk?
I have seven novels in the works. How do I do it? My first writing teacher calls them popcorn scenes. Something comes to mind—almost always when I’m behind the wheel—and I have to pull over and get it down. Once recorded, I wonder what book the scene belongs to. Once I have it figured out, the scene gets filed away in the right folder. I go back and read these scenes and they’re a hoot. I call them my sparkly gems.
Do you ever get writer’s Block? Do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
No. Hasn’t happened yet. I’ll spend a year mulling an idea and when NaNoWriMo rolls around, it’s ready to go. I just hammer it out on the keyboard. At other times, I’m editing, or blogging, or promoting my work or the work of others. I’m always writing.
For writer’s block, I would recommend 1) pushing away from the table and letting thoughts perk while doing something else; 2) close the file and work away at social media. If a work in progress is being sticky, thrash through it by chatting with others; or 3) start a grief journal directed at your muse (if you don’t have one, make one up). Rage, yell, scream at the muse and then use it all as dialogue.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Produce, produce, produce. You get better through doing. And share your work. I got into open mic reading early in. When the audience laughs in the right places for the right reasons, that tells me that I’m getting better. Get as much feedback as you can, but don’t rush to make changes right away. Let it percolate. If I go back and begin revisions a year later and I don’t understand what I’m talking about, it’s a clue that something is wrong.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I certainly do and I’m glad for it:
“Every now and again you come across a treat and this book was as good as chocolate, mostly because of its originality. It takes a serious premise and gives it a light touch. The author is a word technician.” —David K. Bryant, author, TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA
“This beautifully written, quirky, sad, but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid – one living and the other a spirit stuck between this world and the next – gives us a glimpse into the fascinating, closed world of the funeral director… Fresh writing filled with rich vocabulary, this story features a vivid cast of colourful, living-breathing characters.” —Yvonne Hess, Amazon Customer
“Ms. A.B Funkhauser is a brilliant and wacky writer incapable of dumbing things down and amen for that. Her distinctive voice tells an intriguing story that mixes moral conflicts with dark humour, not to mention booze and cigarettes.” —Rachael Stapleton, author, CURSE OF THE PURPLE DELHI SAPPHIRE
“This is a story that to me, felt like it abides by its own set rules and the pace is brilliantly maintained by the ever wordy A.B. Funkhauser.” —Rocky Rochford, author, RISE OF ELOHIM CHRONICLES
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’ve mentioned Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut for their quirkiness and chance taking. I’m also a big fan of Patrick O’Brian, whose sweeping series MASTER AND COMMANDER reawakened my love for English history and the fighting ships of old. All three have one thing in common: character, character, character. Hamlet said “the play’s the thing” but there can be no show without larger than life actors.
For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional printed books?
No preference. A book’s a book.
What books have most influenced your life?
History and biography. Lives lived well; lives lived badly informed the decisions I made well into adulthood.
What book(s) are you reading at present?
An oldy: The fourth volume of LONDON LABOUR AND THE LONDON POOR by Henry Mayhew, first published in 1862.
What do you think makes a good story?
Strong characters and brash misdeeds. I like a yarn that embraces human foibles free of political correctness and legal ramifications. Seeing grown up people careen out of control with comedic results has to be my fave.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m outside whatever the time of year. I love road tripping and hanging out at the beach. A long march through the woods in autumn is also at the top of my list.
Do you have a favourite motivational phrase?
Now and Forward.
Do you have a favourite positive saying/phrase?
Do you have a favourite book, and why would you say it is a favourite?
God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. It is a slim volume that gets its message across in a spare style I liken to staccato. And there’s a laugh on every page although the subject matter is quite serious.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” — George Harrison
Do you have a favourite film, and why do you like it?
I never get tired of The Godfather trilogy. It’s like a Rembrandt painting come to life. The art direction is exquisite and so are the performances.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Living by a lake. That just reminded me of Walden by Thoreau. That’s a great read too. (laughs)
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Do it again.
Which famous person/writer, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Malala Yousafzai for the obvious reason that she is driven by a higher power that eludes the majority of we mere mortals.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The Laws by Cicero. Drafting a CODA for mankind impresses the heck out of me.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Think about what you have to say and then say it bravely and with great joy.