Please welcome James Walley to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Forty First Wink was published by Ragnarok Publications on June 16th.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing fiction?
James: Thank you for having me. I've always wanted to write, 18 months ago I got to a point where I told myself to stop procrastinating and take the plunge. Since then, I can't stop, it's addictive.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
James: Whilst I consider myself to be very much a pantser, I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive. I love the freedom to let the story play out like a movie in my head, but also like to have a few waypoints marked out in the plot. It's like planning a trip, and highlighting a bunch of places you want to visit along the way, then just getting in your car, closing your eyes and putting your foot down. It's probably not a good idea to literally do that though.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
James: Keeping my preference for certain characters in check. I outright love some of the characters in 'Wink', and it's hard not to focus too much on them. I want to give all my characters an equal amount of limelight, but it's difficult sometimes when you just want to write pages and pages about a crazy, fun character that you've just dreamed up.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
James: I am a huge Douglas Adams fan, anything Hitchhiker related that he wrote has had the print read off it and sits proudly on my bookshelves. In terms of genre, I enjoy how authors like Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin take fantasy, make it even more fantastic, and put a comedic spin upon it. Basically, how fantasy would sound if it were narrated by a demented, talking ostrich.
TQ: Describe The Forty First Wink in 140 characters or less.
James: Epic tale of boy dreams world. Pursued by his nightmares and aided by cheeky, pint sized pirates. And that's only scratching the surface!
TQ: Tell us something about The Forty First Wink that is not in the book description.
James: I love it when a chapter ends on a good cliffhanger, so prepare yourself to think "Just one more chapter" a few times. At least I hope that's what you'll be thinking!
TQ: The Forty First Wink seems to be a genre blending novel. How would you describe the genres in your novel?
James: It's a bit of a melting pot. It's based heavily in fantasy of course, but has a lot of humour too. There are dark, almost horror flavours, as well as a nod to nostalgia, and childhood innocence. There's even a quirky love story thrown in. If you're going to genre blend, why not use everything in the cupboard?
TQ: What sorts of research did you do for The Forty First Wink?
James: I napped a lot, which seemed to help with the dream stuff. Other than that, I researched a lot of nautical, and specifically pirate terminology. Also, there is a mystery character who's dialogue required that I read up on a lot of very specific, and very random information. That sounds very cryptic, and that's exactly what I was going for with the character.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
James: Timbers and Oaf were the easiest to write, simply because there were a joy to create. They embody a carefree and mischievous innocence that most of us lose when we are saddled with adulthood. I could go on and on about them both, simply because they are so much fun.
The hardest was probably Mr Peepers, the main antagonist. I wanted to ensure that he was steeped in mystery, whilst also conveying a malevolence and very real fear factor. That was a bit of a juggling act, but I think that he comes across as suitably creepy.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Forty First Wink.
"The demonic clown was suddenly upon them, close enough to shock Marty into losing his grip on the ladder, retaining some purchase with one hand. Wheeling around, he was now face to face with Mr Peepers, who craned closer, his grin now impossibly wide and his eyes even wider. Marty winced as he caught a face full of hot clown breath.
It smelled like candyfloss, he thought. Candyfloss and terror."
"The short corridor which led to the gift shop now felt impossibly long, and seemed to stretch out still further as they charged headlong away from their pursuers. Surprisingly keeping pace with his much taller companions, Timbers drew alongside Marty. "Hey!" the little pirate chirped, in a voice that carried a flippant tone that in no way fit their current fraught situation. "Wouldn't it be awful if one of us fell over now, like you see in movies?" Marty's already whirling mind started a new spin cycle, and he just barely managed an incredulous double take at the tiny scuttling buccaneer before the distraction nearly caused him to fall over, like you see in movies."
TQ: What's next?
James: Hopefully a lot. I have a short story entitled "Santa Claus Wants You Dead" coming out in an anthology from Fireside Press later in the year, and I am currently working on a sci fi, post apocalyptic novella called "The Late Outdoors". Both are very much in the same crazy, fun vein as 'Wink'. Of course, I am also raring to go on the second 'Wink' novel, which is already partly storyboarded, and will be part of an eventual trilogy.
TQ: Is a nod as good as a wink to a blind bat?
James: Only if it goes with a nudge, nudge. Know what I mean?
The Forty First Wink
Ragnarok Publications, June 16, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 214 pages
Marty is having a bad morning. Roused from slumber by a gang of polo mallet-wielding monkeys and a mysterious voice in his wardrobe, he must quickly come to terms with the fact that the world outside his door is now the world inside his head. Lying in wait amidst bleak, gloomy streets, deserted theme parks, and circus-themed nightclubs, lurks the oppressive shadow of a myriad of giggling, cackling pursuers, hell bent on throwing a custard pie or two into the works.
Assisted by a string of half-cocked schemes, a troupe of tiny unlikely allies, and (literally) the girl of his dreams, Marty sets out on a heroic quest to wake up and get out of bed.
Early reviews have compared it to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Equal parts epic, funny and dark, The Forty First Wink plummets headlong into the realms of askew reality, adding elements of the macabre, and squeezing in an unlikely love story for good measure. It will take you on a journey where not even the sky is the limit, and literally anything could be around the next corner. The question is, do you have the guts (and the sanity) to find out?
Arriving in the rainy isle of Great Britain in the late '70s, James quickly became an enthusiast of all things askew. Whilst growing up in a quaint little one horse town that was one horse short, a steady diet of movies, '50s sci fi and fantasy fiction finally convinced him to up sticks and move to Narnia — also known to the layman as Wales. Since there was no available qualification in talking lion taming or ice sculpture, he settled for a much more humdrum degree in something vague but practical, and set out to find a talking lion to make an ice sculpture of.
Mystifyingly finding himself behind the desk of a nine to five job, he kept himself sane by singing in a rock band, memorizing every John Carpenter movie ever made, and learning the ancient art of voodoo. Finally deciding to put his hyperactive imagination to good use, he ditched the voodoo and picked up a pen. A few months later, his debut novel, The Forty First Wink, was born. With a clutch of short stories in the offing, James is now loving his new life as an author, and still sings when plied with alcohol or compliments.
He also recently developed a penchant for fiercely embellishing his past. He really was a singer, although The Forty First Wink may not have brought about world peace. Yet.