I’ve known A.B. Funkhauser for many years, and to say that she’s as gonzo as her characters is to get it wrong. Sure, she gravitates to larger than life characters on the page and in the public eye, but she appreciates the contemplative too. Claiming to be an “introverted extrovert” she relies on her characters to do all the heavy lifting, to do the things she’d never dream of doing in real life. Her latest work, SHELL GAME, is no exception. Here, characters stay behind closed doors, preferring to spy on one another through windows under cover of night. Interaction appears limited, but is it really? When they aren’t questioning themselves and the motivations of others, they take cues from a black cat that may or may not have real supernatural abilities. Everything is subjective, including what the omniscient narrator chooses to share when and where.
A.B., let’s talk about SHELL GAME, shall we?
Since your publishing date was announced, you’ve been all over social media. Do you love it, or hate it?
A. B. Funkhauser:
I hear writers talking about promotions a lot; how it sparks their creative juices, how it saps their energy, how it calls them out and maybe forces them to be more “in your face” than they would normally like to be. And I agree. But promotion goes hand in glove with writing ‘The Book,’ and so it’s a must. There’s a great deal of competition in the writing world. There’s a lot of competition in anything that’s worthwhile. For me, chatting up SHELL GAME is equal parts excitement and self-interest; exciting for me because I’ve completed another project successfully and delivered it to market; self-interest because who else will know about it if I don’t say so?
I also notice you tagging yourself as a multi-genre author. What’s up with that? You turning in your gonzo badge?
No! Never. But the characters ultimately set the tone, and the people of SHELL GAME are conniving, dastardly, sympathetic and very often contrite. They can’t help it, really. That’s why they need the cats. My hero Carlos is renowned for his quiet, stolid ability to be where he needs to be, affecting certain outcomes because of it. He’s quite brilliant.
At the same time, this piece tilts more in the direction of satire and social commentary in the sense that while the humans are behaving outside of the usual boundaries assigned western society, there is still a moral conscience at play that makes them question their actions. This makes them a little less mendacious than the characters in SCOOTER NATION, for example. They are still capable of doing harm, but this time they feel really bad about it.
Where did that come from?
An event in real time, actually. I hadn’t intended to write a cat book and I’ve gone on about that on this blog and others. I wanted to tuck into the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND, which currently sits at a tantalizing 89,000 words with no end in sight. (I did figure out the ending half way through SHELL GAME, and if I can pull it off it will be quite diabolical.) But like the opening paragraphs of SHELL GAME, I did receive a snarky letter from Animal Control that specifically mentioned the street I live on. I wasn’t the only person on the street to get it—it was a blind drop—but I did take it very personally. The cat I share with a neighbor had brought so much joy into my life and the lives of my family that the faceless person(s) behind the letter threatening his freedom and my pocketbook just infuriated me. The $5,000 fine for not keeping the kitty inside was either a deterrent or tax grab—popular where I live—and the intrusion could only be answered through a ragin’ fiction that sees the cats win for a change. Of course, I can see both sides to the argument for keeping cats indoors in urban areas, and I’m happy to report that my shared kitty spends far more time indoors. But that’s owing to his age and the natural order of things, not from some crummy letter from a human in an office.
And SHELL GAME, like SCOOTER NATION, features characters from many different ethnicities. Is this your response to the current debate on cultural appropriation?
Ha! That’s a minefield and I’m not stepping into it until I have all the information. From the gonzo side of the street, my read of the issue is that writers should keep to their own pasture so as to be authentic. If that’s true, then all I can really write about are past middle-aged straight white human females and that would be a shame. It would be boring for me to write, and boring for anyone else to read.
But, research, foreknowledge, personal history and cumulative story-telling must play a big part in any writing project if the characters are to ring true and shine. To know what we’re on about—that’s our job—and that’s pretty much all I can say about this topic until I learn more.
So, what’s SHELL GAME about?
Oh, that. Lol. Well, I always say that I don’t really know for sure until some reviews come in and I get a few interviews under my belt. The best I can say right now is that it’s about a cat, a community, unwanted change, and the mechanisms employed to cope with this change that result in positive and negative resolutions. Change, I believe, cannot be stopped, but it can be messed with, and with these characters you will see activities that are silly AND life threatening. That’s the gonzo element. But there’s a love element to it as well. And of course, the cats are at the center of things, calling the plays, controlling things, just like they’ve done for millennia.
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As a ‘thank you’ to everyone who ever believed in my crazy plan to quit work and write full time, I’m offering SHELL GAME for FREE for the first three days of it’s release. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ❤
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About the Author
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.
Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.
A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters, which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic, but, hopefully, instructive.”
Funkhauser is currently working on THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND.
About the Interviewer
Cryssa Bazos is a member of the Romantic Novelist Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Writers’ Community of Durham Region and the Battle of Worcester Society. Her articles and short stories have been featured in various publications, both in Canada and the UK. She is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors site and blogs as the 17th Century Enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, placed 3rd in Romance for the Ages in 2016 (Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance).
“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, bestselling author of The Handfasted Wife
England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.
Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.
Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.
The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.
Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.
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FUNKHAUSER AND THE OMNISCIENT VOICE
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