Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
Many thanks to Neil Randall for kindly answering my questions. Read on to discover what he replies, more information about him and his book ‘The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada’ as well as an opportunity to win a copy of this book via a Rafflecopter Giveaway!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
Real life – if there is such a thing! A lot of my ideas come from what I observe, witness, experience on a daily basis. Specifically, in regards to The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada, it started off with a strange incident in a crowded pub and a hulking St Bernard off the leash. Each of the nine chapters/stories that make up the book, are coloured with very personal experiences. For instance, in the opening chapter, The Tranquillity of Solitude, I myself, as a young boy, while messing about on the beach during the summer holidays, hit another boy with a stone (completely accidentally, I might add – if nothing else but to exonerate myself! – retrospective legal action is a very real and terrifying possibility in modern life!) And I remember feeling so guilty about it, having inflicted pain on another human being, it almost made me feel physically sick, and ruined the rest of the holidays for me. In the next chapter, …and Punishment, the scene where some school bullies throw a girl into a ditch – that was something I actually witnessed during my own school days. In the third chapter, Of Christians and Cannibals, the incident with the drunken girl and the passer-by who tries to help her being accused of wrongdoing, a similar story was relayed to me by an old friend who found himself in the same somewhat tragi-comic position. And I could, of course, go on…But yes, my inspiration is very personal to me, and based on the clay that has made up my life thus far…
What is your writing process?
I tend to write off the cuff, without any concrete, scene to scene chapter outline to guide me. I like to have a strong opening line – which often proves to be a painful process, hours (sometimes days, weeks!) of staring at a computer screen, rejigging things, cutting, rewriting, refining – a beginning and end, and let the rest of the plot come naturally. In this somewhat random way, the story can take you to some very interesting and unexpected places. And I really like that process.
But in more physical terms, I like to write first thing each morning, when my mind is fresh and rested.
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
I’ve always used a computer. Many years ago, I had an office job I absolutely detested. But during my time there, I learnt how to touch-type. So even if I look back on those boring empty hours looking at the clock, willing the day to end, I picked up a skill which I utilize on a daily basis now, and will probably go on utilizing until I’ve breathed my last!
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
The protagonist of my current book is probably one of my favourite all-time creations. And this, to many who are familiar with my other work, may be somewhat surprising. Because Jacob Fallada is an eminently likeable, sympathetic character. Whereas the vast majority of my other protagonists are quite the opposite. I’ve never really subscribed to the belief that you have to cheer for a particular character in a novel to make you want to read on. Nasty, wicked, despicable characters, to my mind, are often the most compelling. Whether you want to see them get their comeuppance, or undergo some kind of moral or spiritual regeneration. But in regards to Jacob Fallada, I think people will be drawn to him because of his gentleness, kindness as much as his perseverance, his strength in adversity, how he just soldiers on with his artistic vision intact, no matter how many challenges and disappointments he faces along the way.
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
I think all the characters in a writer’s story – no matter how unwholesome or unappealing – are made up of parts of the writer him- or herself. What’s that old quote: ‘People only disappoint us because they’re mirrors of ourselves’? – Maybe I’m paraphrasing, but I think the point is valid. In many ways a writer can use flaws in their own character to exorcise demons, or maybe just understand something troubling about them as individuals, that they can’t quite grasp or understand on an everyday level. And maybe this is an unconscious process – like certain subject matter – that writers are drawn to, without necessarily being aware of it at the time. Murakami with magical realism, for instance.
So I can’t really say that there’s a character that I’d want to be like in any of my stories, because, one way or another, for good or bad, they’re all representative of me, and the wildly differing facets of a writer’s wildly/mildly schizophrenic character!
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
Some come easily. Some take a little more time. In my early days (especially in my shorter fiction), I used an alter-ego in nearly all my stories. His name was a combination of my nickname and middle name. But the more I developed as a writer, I decided to kill that character off. My creative universe expanded somewhat! But I tend – and this may be through nothing more than basic laziness – to stick to the same name for certain minor characters, especially doctors, policeman, schoolteachers, business types. I don’t know why. Maybe because they represent a certain specific type of individual. But I’ve always liked the names in Dickens’ novels, they sound wonderful when read out loud: Barnaby Rudge, Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer Scrooge, Mrs Havisham, The Artful Dodger.
Thank you, once again, for answering my questions and giving us an insight into you, your writing and your stories.
Read on for more information about ‘The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada’ ….
The whole world against him
The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is the story of an outsider, a lonely, misunderstood young artist who chronicles all the unpleasant things that happen to him in life. Abandoned by his parents, brought up be a tyrannical aunt, bullied at school, ostracized by the local community, nearly everyone Jacob comes into contact with takes an instant, (often) violent dislike towards him. Like Job from the bible, he is beaten and abused, manipulated and taken advantage of. Life, people, fate, circumstance force him deeper into his shell, deeper into the cocoon of his fledgling artistic work, where he records every significant event in sketches, paintings and short-form verse, documenting his own unique, eminently miserable human experience. At heart, he longs for companionship, intimacy, love, but is dealt so many blows he is too scared to reach out to anybody. On the fringes of society, he devotes himself solely to his art.
Author Bio – Neil Randall is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories. His work has been published in the UK, US, Australia and Canada
Giveaway to Win 3 Copies of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (UK Only)
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Many thanks to Neil Randall for kindly answering my questions and to Rachel’s Random Resources for content for this post and organising the Blog tour it is part of.