The closed world of a funeral director is rarely glimpsed owing to the strictures of confidentiality scrupulously maintained by industry professionals. In SCOOTER NATION, the second novel in A.B. Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives Series, confidentiality, or more keenly the silence naturalized by a desire to protect the privacy of others, leads to inflated misunderstandings underpinned by a culture of myth and lore. What follows are a chain of events both comic and chilling.
E X C E R P T
Krause looked like she was going to cry: “Don’t you knobs get it? We’ve been sold to the Flexor Group. I just know it.”
Carla stiffened. “What did you see? Who did you see?”
The death business was a small, closed community with few strangers. Everybody knew everyone else and their business too.
“I only saw their feet,” Enid replied. “Black shoes. Square toes.” Her face whitened. “Loafers!”
Scooter Creighton dropped his lighter. “Are you sure? No mistake?”
“No mistake. I was wearing my bifocals. There can only be one person behind this.”
The ancient intercom on the garage wall crackled to life. Jocasta Binns had found them: “Put the damned cigarettes out. Meeting starts NOW.”
Scooter Creighton nodded meaningfully at his companions. The rude bitch was clearly on a roll. Like most funeral homes that hadn’t caught up to the twenty-first century, Weibigand’s had a front door equipped with a tinny doorbell that sounded whenever the door swung open. More modern establishments employed greeters or hostesses that manned large semi-circular hotel-lobby like desks for a more personal touch. But Weibigand’s, experiencing a steady decline in business year over year, lacked funds to pay for such a person. So the bell, on duty since the 1930s, was the only way to know that someone had come in. It had not sounded.
“Jocasta turned the bell off!” Enid shouted. “Why the hell would she turn the bell off?”
There were only two possible explanations: Either some non-staffer had been assigned to stand watch at the door and had shut the bell off, or the doors were being locked and the bell wasn’t needed.
“My god,” Carla gasped, thinking of the square-toed, black leather shoes that, beyond any doubt, now stalked the hall above. Though there were many, only a single pair held any relevance.
Every profession had its own share of false gods and banal superstitions. Those, carried forth on a wave of feverish gossip backed by assertions that everything said was ‘true’, gave rise to fantastic mythologies that made a chosen few more significant than they actually were. Graeham Grissom of B.H. Hoage, for example, was the undisputed embalming god of their age while “Count Floyd” Aiken could ‘will’ new business into being with a stroke of a pen. That old age, arthritis, early-onset dementia and the public’s annoying preference for cremation over medieval embalming procedures decreased the field of competitors, and so guaranteed Graeham’s mantle in the first instance, had nothing to do with the stories spread: he made esoteric concoctions in the old Hoage basement that rendered his people ‘pliable’ ‘natural-like’ ‘soft to the touch’ and even ‘warmer’ without the slightest sign of decay, even after a fifty-four day hold. The same held for Count Floyd. No one could turn a prearranged funeral into an ‘at need’ simply by sending a get better card, yet Floyd’s people did die suddenly whenever he did, whether sick or not. That the deceased had crossed the century mark in every case had little to do with a great tale.
But there were other stories out there: stories not so benign and infinitely more sinister. Some, it was said, enriched themselves through the weak willed. These were the mendacious pocket-liners who evaded the law and curried favor with popular opinion regardless of talk.
These were the ones to watch…
The little group assembled in the Weibigand garage knew that fear and felt it now because it was right on top of their heads. Scooter Creighton, jaws clenched, ground the words out first, like a metal vise in need of oil: “It’s Clayton. He is in the building.”
A story about identity, finding your place in society, and treating your fellow man with dignity…and GONZO!
Begun during NaNoWriMo 2013, SCOOTER NATION is the second in the series UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES…
Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Funeral Home founder Karl-Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass, is emptying her piss bucket into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta cuts him off, reminding him that a staff meeting has been called. Charlie, silenced, is taken aback: he has had no prior input into the meeting and that, on its own, makes it sinister.
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. SCOOTER is completely different in tone from the first novel HEUER LOST AND FOUND. 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. This time, they take centre stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang bent on havoc, and a fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Michigan neighborhood.
Now entering fourth draft, I hope to have SCOOTER READY for publication in 2016.
To learn more, check out #1lineWed on Twitter for weekly Wednesday SCOOTER blasts and THIS PAGE.
Last month, I had the privilege of answering interview questions for Eclipse Reviews, a cool blogspot for paranormal, romance, sci fi and fantasy writers. Still early into the blog tour, I didn’t know what to expect and so it was refreshing to field questions about my background not just in writing but in the workplace. When I put everything side by side — looked at all the things I have done and muse on the things I’ve yet to do — I found myself saying: “Well done” and “No wonder you’re always tired.” Lol. It’s a good kind of tired. Here’s the interview:
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. (laughs) 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?
I’m with Summer Solstice, a division of Solstice Publishing out of Farmington, Missouri.
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!
Do you have 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.
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?
God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut. I never laughed so hard at irony in my whole life.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
It depends on the director, casting, and SCRIPT. I thought The English Patient was an absolute marvel.
There’s that old saying that one must never put the cart before the horse, so what if I just leave the cart at home and carry on? First reviews for HEUER LOST AND FOUND are in and so far, THEY’RE GOOD. So I think I will leave the cart at home and have a once around. As Lord Grantham would say: “Steady On”.
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. The unusual catalyst? We have a man who dies but is still extremely vocal and active. But if his experiences beyond the Grim Reaper are typical, then I advise you, new readers, to stay in this life – or find some parallel universe.The writing style is racy with no words wasted. Early example: “May had given over to June with its outdoor patios and brain blasting surround sound systems—zesty realities that didn’t always mesh with work.” Midway example: “A tall lamp of ancient origin flickered in a large room ahead of him. Piled high with boxes and debris—a compendium of past lives—the space reminded him of a place he’d just come from and was not anxious to see again.” Late example: “Heuer looked at his smooth hands—a musician’s hands—with their perfectly tapered fingers filled with music that went unplayed. Peace? There was no peace to be made with Werner.”
It’s all tidily edited and I didn’t keep tripping over typos.
The characters are painted clearly right from the start, not in laborious detail, but in the little hints and the ways in which they do things.
A lot of care, background knowledge and zest with the pen has gone into this book.
—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. Years after their relationship ended, the past catches up to both of them in the most unlikely place – the funeral home. Fresh writing filled with rich vocabulary, this story features a vivid cast of colourful, living-breathing characters. This one will keep you reading late into the night until the final page.
—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
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 humor, not too mention booze and cigarettes.
The book’s title refers to the lead character, a lawyer who dies in his home. As the body decomposes, the man’s spirit experiences euphoria, rage, disappointment and eventually hope. One of my favourite characters Enid, an employee of the Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home where Heuer now resides just happens to be Heuer the dead lawyer’s former girlfriend, and as we re-live the flawed recollections of their murky past—it really poses the question. How do we deal with death?
—Rachael Stapleton, Author, The Temple of Indra’s Jewel and Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire
The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of book! Her protagonist Heuer dies but his spirit hangs around as he waits for his body to be collected a week later from his dirty, litter strewn flat. In the funeral home, ready to be embalmed, he finds out it’s an ex-girlfriend, now alcoholic, who will do the process. Add to that a talking rat…
You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.
—Diana Harrison, Author, Always and Forever
Heuer Lost and Found is a quirky and irreverent story about a man who dies and finds his spirit trapped in a funeral home with an ex-lover who happens to be the mortician. He has to come to terms with his hoarding, degenerate past before he can escape. I love the character of Heuer, the Lawyer. He’s not a loveable character, but he’s as fascinating as watching a bug under a microscope. I found myself rooting for the guy, which is always the mark of a strong character. The characterization is rich the story well-told.
—Cryssa Bazos, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
Author A. B. Funkhauser strikes a macabre chord with her book “Heuer Lost and Found”. Written from the perspective of an undertaker, she gives her readers a ringside seat at the Weibigand Mortuary where Enid, a middle aged woman with a taste for scotch, arrives on a Monday morning still in a stupor from the night before. Initially, the reader learns a bit about Enid and the history of the mortuary, its original owners and their heirs who continue to operate the family owned business, along with all of its eccentric employees. Early in the day, a call is received and there after a not so typical day in the life of a mortuary begins. Heuer, a well known middle aged attorney has been found dead in his apartment, where he laid for several days. The story now moves between present day and flash backs to a time when Heuer, Enid and others in the story are intertwined in one way or another. Heuer appears as a ghostly spectre to enchant us with his own take on his past, and his current impressions of what is being said and done as his body is prepared for burial. I for one like this book. I found it to have a similar feel to the HBO series “Six Feet Under”.
Ms. Funkhauser is a wizard with words and did a fine job of weaving this story of Greek, German and English speaking families that bounced back and forth throughout the entire book.
—Young, Author, A Harem Boy’s Saga Vol I, II, and III
Heuer’s difficult relationship with women and his mother seems to be a focal here, but so are references to friendship, loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. The irony that it’s an old girlfriend with a ton of problems taking care of him as his funeral director, is startling. The author depicts the flaws and human nature in both characters. This book is an incredible read that does not allow the audience to “fall asleep” at any time. A MUST READ!
—Daisy Kourkoulakos, Mississauga, Ontario
Not really horror or occult, this book mixes soul searching with some pretty off the wall humour. When a lawyer dies in his home with his spirit body for company, he must pass the time reminiscing with the walls while learning to move objects with his mind. Once his body’s found by a sexy coroner he madly wants to date, he finds himself stuck at a funeral home with a bunch of odd strangers including an ex girlfriend who likes to drink. What does a guy have to do to get on with his after life? Scaring the crabby neighbor is a start. I enjoyed this book because it’s extremely witty and the characters do really unexpected things like house breaking and scaring mourners at funerals. Perfect for anyone who likes gallows humour!
—Suzanne Fairbrass Stacey, Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Having received my copy of the work personally from the author, the first thing I have to mention, is that although not my usual cup of tea, but Heuer Lost and Found, is without a doubt a great story to get into and stay captivated by.
The setting may seem a little unorthodox and considered slightly macabre, but that is what made this work. 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. Even with an extensive vocabulary, the variety of words used were more of a pleasure than a pain and reminded me of the works by Bram Stoker, a personal favourite author of mine.
The story is lovingly crafted and is full of noteworthy lines that just stick in the memory, such as the phrase: Was sein wird, wird sein und was hineinschaut, schaut auch wieder raus—What will be, will be, and what looks in, looks out.
And if that’s not enough to entice, maybe the ensemble cast of Enid, Charlie, Clara is. A trio who although feel like a mix-matched bunch that shouldn’t be in each others lives, author Funkhauser bound them together just so.
For a story centered around death, it is full of Life.
—Rocky Rochford, Author, Rise of Elohim Chronicles
I didn’t know what to make of this at first, and then I was half way through it, and then I was at the end…but I didn’t want it to be over. Funkhauser made me learn new words like “aegis” and then I was laughing too hard to notice that I was actually at a sad part. Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Heuer is not a likeable man, but I somehow found myself rooting for him. A strange, complicated character. I have to look at him again. I hope there’ll be more where this came from!
—Kasey Balko, Pickering, Ontario
Multifaceted characters layered into a modern plot with plenty of sub cues based in the past. Heuer and Enid in their own way are similar so it makes sense that they’d come together again even if the circumstances are strange. Though spirit and funeral director never meet face to face, their simpatico is strong and their conversations are heartbreaking and real. The staff at the funeral parlour are good for laughs! Charlie, Dougie and poor old Robert the intern, who has to put up with a lot, break the tension and keep this thing rattling to a poignant conclusion.
Many years ago, I hooked into a public television series that brought to life the detective novels of Dorothy
L. Sayers. WHOSE BODY? CLOUDS OF WITNESS and UNNATURAL DEATH to name a few brought we, the devotees of Masterpiece Theatre and MYSTERY!, face to face with an immaculately dressed, preternaturally wealthy English nit named Lord Peter Wimsey. Fussy, feckless and a bit grating in his dedication to detail, he was the ideal sleuth, rambling freely against a background of country houses, ornate gardens and immaculately tended lawns. Fans couldn’t get enough of him and neither could his creator Sayers, whom aficionados said was actually in love with her creation.
Lord Peter might not be my type, but I certainly get the notion of a writer getting more out of the character than mere words on the page.
A lot of people have asked me where Jürgen Heuer comes from, and my answers vary, depending on my mood. Yes, he’s a work of fiction, but every fiction, to paraphrase Ian Fleming, “is precedent on some kind of fact.”
Heuer, like Sayers’ Wimsey, is incredibly real, although I doubt very much either she or I would make it through a meal with him without an outburst or two. Maybe it’s a condition of what inspires. The bad, the badder, the really, really broken. Good guys—perfect guys—just don’t pack the same punch. Heck, even Rhett Butler hung out at Belle Watling’s house of extraordinary extra circular activities, and NOBODY held that against him.
I did not set out to warp Heuer as much as I did. In fact, he plays rather nicely in the opening chapters of THE HEUER EFFECT which traces his early life. But there was something about the later man, the mature man, that courted the darkness. He’s been through the wars and has been affected by them, such that he screamed “go darker” and so I did.
The idea that the bad side of a character is more compelling than the good follows me to this day: The anit-appeal generated by the real life figure of Capt. John Graves Simcoe on AMC’s excellent TURN: Washington’s Spies, is a case in point. Excellently portrayed by actor Samuel Roukin, Simcoe wreaks havoc among Republican forces in Setauket Long Island, hangs innocents without a blink, and composes creepy love sonnets to a winsome lass who’d shoot him herself if she could. And all the while, the lanky red coat finds time to prep for higher office north of the border as the First Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. (True stuff and crikey, we even named a lake and a civic holiday after him.)
It’s not the rich sets, protagonists and dialogue that brings me back. It’s Simcoe, and it pains me to say so.
Likewise, there’s the affable, ne’er do well Saul Goodman from BETTER CALL SAUL, another AMC offering on hiatus after just ten episodes. Unlike Simcoe and Heuer, Saul is sweet, rubber faced and apologetically dishonest. With every bad deed, Saul struggles to do good and we love him for it. But each time he backslides into the old life—that of Slippin’ Jimmy from Cicero, Illinois—we’re on our feet, cheering. Shame we know how it ends: Saul is a prequel to BREAKING BAD. But the end’s not the point. It’s the “how” of the getting there that does it.
Heuer’s story isn’t over yet. The third book in the series “Unapologetic Lives” offers hope. But given this writer’s penchant for her creation, redemption is highly unlikely.
Who we are and what we are depends on how honest we choose to be. At least that’s how my character Jürgen Heuer (pronounced ‘lawyer’) likes to play it out in life and death. Born in Bremen, Germany with summers spent in the Austrian Tyrol he is literally preprogrammed to be a romantic.
His mother, a dreamer raised on Schumann, palinka shots and weeping Hungarian violins demands it. “Love, my love, and desire—Sensucht—longing: These are the things that make the history, the things upon which great legends are built. Without these, you have dust in your mouth.”
Yet Heuer’s love for things musical “the cicada’s song” or lyrical “… her tangs of violet commixing with scents of must, like the old place back home in Europe” are squelched by history and a profound belief that he is “born bad” and cannot undo it.
“Small, both in mind and body, he had tremendous appetites, all of which skewed towards becoming more than what he actually was.” An apropos description not of the man, but of the father, Werner, whose tastes “… classic in [their] narcissism, embraced the moldy old ethos of ethnicity over geography, and, as such, he was first in line when Anschluss came to Vienna…”
Werner Heuer has no time for art or music: “For him, the rhythmic tapping of jackboots on pavement went beyond forced occupation; it was the end of the road after a long trek.”
Eschewing his parents’ hang-ups, Heuer does his best to build a life in America that is, by all accounts, immensely successful and hardly lonely. But it is contrived. Dodging promotion, cruising the outer banks that frame society, he keeps to himself, except when he toys with the lives of others. When a young colleague joins the firm Heuer takes action, not swiftly, but slowly, the way he likes it: “The decision to ruin a young man half his age was taken lightly and on purpose, as if giving weight to the decision conferred unjust power on the youth. To Heuer, it was personal, but also a test to see if he could actually do it.”
All business, Heuer reminds me of another character, Irmtraut Weibigand, currently under construction in POOR UNDERTAKER, a work in progress. A woman of business, she wrestles with secret doubts about the veracity of her citizenship, place in the community, and the integrity of the people she tries to call friends. A raucous Chamber of Commerce luncheon exacerbates this, when she rises in defense of her frenemy Hartmut Fläche, whose effete manners and pomposity alight the simmering hatred of fellow Chamber member Conrad Hickey. Defending Fläche’s right to exist, Irmtraut loses her cool as she’s reminded that she’s as ‘foreign’ as he is even though she has been a part of the community for nearly thirty years. Well read, she cannot help but think of Shakespeare’s monster Caliban from the Tempest making a subtle but conscious comparison to her own place on the ‘island’ that is Portside, Michigan. Thinking back to her mother, her provenance and her roots, she is cut at the knees, reminding herself that no matter how fine she becomes, she will always wear homespun.
Like Irmtraut, like Werner, Heuer wrestles with his identity which takes centre stage anno domini. His inane Germanity no longer an issue, Heuer wishes only to be cared for and remembered.
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR BEGINNING APRIL 20 THRU MAY 18
I’ve been dancing around for weeks here on the blog and finally, at long last, I can release DAS BOOK TRAILER. Months in the making, I can say, without a hint of irony or fiction, that HEUER LOST AND FOUND, THE TRAILER, is all mine and made with my own two hands. Another milestone on the path to publishing. The learning curve has been incredibly steep and it is only the beginning, but I’m ready…I think. 😉
NOW AND FORWARD
Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good day.
In the spirit of brave self-promotion, I continue today’s post (see Heuer AdvanceReview) with an interview given by yours truly to the ever intrepid Bernard Foong. It’s another first for me, and another reason to do a victory lap around the neighborhood (after I shovel the sidewalk), because self promotion goes against everything I was taught growing up. Careers in politics, the car business and funeral service notwithstanding, I have managed to stay under the wire…until now.
Heuer, Heuer. What have you done?
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
That’s always a bit tough for me. I was raised in another time where shouting out accomplishments was
considered rude. But I’ll try. I’m a Pisces that celebrates the Year of the Snake, but unlike dear vain snake, work extremely hard not to be mendacious. (Laughs) I have a furtive imagination, love art in all its forms, and cannot live without music playing somewhere in the background. If forced to choose between comedy and drama, comedy wins…every time.
What do you do when you are not writing?
That’s easy! I’m outside. Unlike you, dear friend, I live in the four seasons (hint of jealousy here) and have the coats, boots and sunscreen that goes with them. I have a large wild flower garden that I tend in summer, and a very long driveway I shovel in winter. And I love classic cars, particularly those from the muscle era. Summer and autumn are for road tripping to see the shows. I try to get to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit, Michigan every other year.
Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, although I am on hiatus and that has paid off, as you see (big grin). I’m a funeral director, licensed to practice in Ontario, Canada. For me, it ranks as one of the best jobs I’ve ever had next to seeing to my family.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I began writing in 2010 in response to the loss of a dear friend. In funeral service, the families we serve ask how to cope with the pain. One way to manage is to seek out others—groups, counselors—those who have walked in their shoes and really know how it feels. Another approach is to write a grief journal. My friend and I went through school together, and during that time we became sympats where comedy was concerned. We laughed at the same things. It didn’t take long for my journal to take a comedic turn before straying off into outright fiction. I finished Heuer five years later.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
The characters decided it for me. They are bossy, incorrigible and I completely adore them. They were impossible to ignore.
Where do you get your ideas?
I put a foot out the door and live day to day. You wouldn’t believe the kind of trouble you can get into at the grocery store.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Absolutely, but it’s more likely because another story or character is nagging at me. My first teacher called this popcorn writing, where you just push away from the current project and go on a tangent with a wild horse scene. It’s exciting and informs the other projects.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I mull for about a year, and then churn out the first draft during NaNoWriMo in November. I don’t plot per
se, but I do know where I’m going before I begin. This is also where some of those popcorn scenes find a home. After the first draft is complete, I return to the previous project in line to revise and refine. It’s a whole system that works for me. You see why I had to go on hiatus?
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Absolutely everything Kurt Vonnegut ever wrote. From him and Dr. Seuss, I learned the value of having outrageous character names. My current fiction includes a hysteric named Sigrid Bork. I love her.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I worried a lot about having one book followed by writer’s block to shut me down for good. So I decided to
get some manuscripts down—four to be precise—so that I’d have a body of work to play with when pitching to agents and publishers. The last four years were dedicated to pure creation without pressure to produce to a contract. It was sensational. During that time, I plugged into Twitter pitch parties on the recommendation of a writer friend, and that’s when things really started to happen. I queried, synopsized, wrote dozens of tag lines and met hundreds of amazing people who got me to Solstice Publishing. Now I have to learn about and engage in—boots first—marketing, which is very challenging because of the way I was raised (see question one). I’m enjoying Twitter parties and blogging. Frankly, I didn’t know I had it in me. A great surprise.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Nope. It was all organic. I tripped, I fell, I studied, and I applied. I got better.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
It’s early in, so stats aren’t there, but I will direct a lot of applause to the writing groups I belong to—The Booklin 7, Writers Community of Durham Region, and amazing teachers at Writescape—for plugging me in with others dedicated to the same goals. Marketing is a learning curve and a steep one, so look to others engaged in the same activity; ask questions and try things on. Tweet, Tweet, Tweet. Blog, blog, blog, and follow your publisher and agent advice. Support other writers by reading their work, reviewing and attending their promotional events. If you want society to know about you, you must socialize.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I love them all, but can only dedicate my energies to one at a time. The others? Their day will come.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Heuer Lost and Found is adult, unapologetic and cognizant with a hint of dark humor. At 237 pages, it is a
compact study that rocks ’n’ rolls with the help of an erudite Latin speaking rat and a wise-cracking floor lamp with ulterior motives. They’re off beat and badly needed to help my protagonists: a dead, unrepentant cooze hound lawyer, and his very much alive boozy lady undertaker who he used to know back in the Eighties.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I think all fiction is informed by real life experiences, but I have yet to meet sentient rats or floor lamps. (laughs) The funeral home in Heuer is actually a composite of four different establishments, none of which survives today. As to the characters, some guy buddies insist that they are Heuer, but they’re not. There’s actually a little of me in him, but I guess it’s to be expected if I’m the one behind the keyboard.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
SPOILER: The very end, because it’s where the Kleenex box comes out. When that happened, I knew I’d got it right.
How did you come up with the title?
From the short story. Heuer actually made it into three separate shorts before becoming a full-fledged novel character.
What project are you working on now?
Poor Undertaker is next in the series, which tracks the ups and downs of the Weibigand Brothers funeral establishment. Its every bit as much a joy as the first, second and so on, because I see this remarkable building go through all its incantations. At one point, it’s actually bought up and is not a funeral parlor any more.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
We’re at least a year away, I think. Scooter Nation is next, but I’d like to give it another go over before setting it free.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Absolutely. My series is non sequential, so the character that dies in one is born again in the next. They’re
never far away. There are a number of themes I return to, but some of my favorites include: the negative impacts of nostalgia; the problem with prying; insular people coming out into the light; finding kindness in peculiar places; and letting go of that thing you need so that you can keep it forever.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’m an upbeat person, so if I’m criticized, I turn it into a plus by learning something from it. The best compliment I ever had came from a teacher who said my voice was “strong and unusual”. That really made my day.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Get it all down before trying to make sense of it. It’s a journey and often a very long one. Enjoy every leg of it knowing that there’s more just ahead.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Observe, listen, and do not ignore the excellence to be found on HBO, Netflix, Showcase, etc. This is your university.
No stranger to this blog, author Bernard Foong (A Harem Boy’s Saga I, II, and III) had a look, and in advance of Heuer’s debut April 23rd, here’s what he had to say:
5 star review:
Author A. B. Funkhauser strikes a macabre cord with her book “Heuer Lost and Found”.
the perspective of an undertaker, she gives her readers a ringside seat at the Weibigand Mortuary where Enid, a middle aged woman with a taste for scotch, arrives on a Monday morning still in a stupor from the night before. Initially, the reader learns a bit about Enid and the history of the mortuary, its original owners and their heirs who continue to operate the family owned business, along with all of its eccentric employees. Early in the day, a call is received and there after a not so typical day in the life of a mortuary begins. Heuer, a well known middle aged attorney has been found dead in his apartment, where he laid for several days. The story now moves between present day and flash backs to a time when Heuer, Enid and others in the story are intertwined in one way or another. Heuer appears as a ghostly spectre to enchant us with his own take on his past, and his current impressions of what is being said and done as his body is prepared for burial. I for one like this book. I found it to have a similar feel to the HBO series “Six Feet Under”.
Ms. Funkhauser is a wizard with words and did a fine job of weaving this story of Greek, German and English speaking families that bounced back and forth throughout the entire book.
Hooray! And thank you, Bernard Foong.
Drop by #1lineWed for more Heuer and some excellent one liners from incredible authors. 🙂