Before we get to the reviews, however, let's open up the floor to James.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to stop by today, James. For those who haven't yet had a chance to read up on your debut novel, The Forty First Wink, please tell us a little about yourself and what we can expect.
That leads on to what you can expect from The Forty First Wink. The complete and total unexpected. Everyone has had crazy dreams at one time or another, imagine waking up in a place where everything you've ever dreamed about becomes real, along with everything you wish you hadn't dreamed about. So, lots of adventure, a good deal of fun, and a sprinkling of creepiness. And that's just the start.
Q: The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing Marty’s story, and what has the journey to publication been like?
I started writing Wink at the start of 2013. Back then, I just wanted to write a novel, and had given little thought to getting it 'out there'. As the story grew and took on a life of its own however, I started to look more seriously at the publishing side. That's both stressful and fun in equal measure. It is quite a long process, but there's so much to do and prepare for that it flies by, and you're suddenly clutching the book you worked so hard over in your excited grasp.
Q: While genre fiction often uses humour to lighten the mood, writing a genre novel that’s centered around the humour is often a daunting task. What made you decide that’s the kind of story you wanted to tell, and how tough was it to balance the humour and the story?
I think it depends a lot on what your story is about. Given the surreal and mind bending setting of Wink, it makes it that much easier to go a little nuts with the humour in it. That's when it stops being daunting, and starts being fun. I had so much fun writing this story, and that's what spurred me on initially. Things like adventure, suspense and even horror take on a whole new flavour when infused with humour, and I like that take on things.
I think that, as long as you have an idea of where your story is taking you, the balance becomes almost organic. After a while, certain characters demanded to be given one liners, or to be placed in crazy situations. It becomes like an insane blueprint that makes no sense and perfect sense at the same time.
Q: In terms of writing, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?
A: All of the above are tricky, for different reasons. The title has to be just right, and I didn't come up with The Forty First Wink until a good way into the story. Settling on a title is kind of mystical, in a "you'll know when it's right." way.
The first chapter, for obvious reasons is a big task, because you're starting on a journey and you want to make sure to get off on the right foot. Similarly, the last chapter was very hard for me, because I'd grown to love the characters, and didn't want to say goodbye to them.
As for the cover blurb. Wow. Explain everything you've just poured into a couple of hundred pages, in three paragraphs. That's not even slightly fun!
Q: Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated, especially when developing a series that touches on multiple genres. Were there any twists or turns in The Forty First Wink that surprised you, or really challenged your original plans for the story?
Whilst I had an idea of where the story was going (I actually had the very last line in my head from day one), the specifics were relatively fluid. There were several key points along the way that stayed fairly fixed, but as the characters became more defined, they scampered off mischievously in different directions. That's no bad thing, as it opened up some very interesting new avenues and ideas. One character in particular who shows up later in the book, was only a briefly mentioned afterthought to begin with, but became integral as the story went on, and therefore had to be given more page time.
Q: Your work is already being compared to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams? Do you find that sort of legacy daunting, or does it excite you to be mentioned in the same breath as the masters of the genre?
That's so exciting, and a real honour. I'm a big fan of both authors, and it's fair to say that I was inspired to start writing because of their work. In a way, it is daunting, because to stand next to giants, you need a pretty big ladder. Fishing into the Big Book of Cliches, they are massive shoes to fill, so I wanted to write something that was worthy of the company. Hopefully, readers will say that I did just that.
Q: Continuing with the humour theme for a moment, who or what makes you laugh - either chuckle and smile, or laugh-out-loud with tears running down your face? And which kind of humour do you prefer?
Given the theme of The Forty First Wink, it probably won't surprise anyone to learn that I love anything abstract, random or alternative. I grew up in the 80's, on a steady diet of British comedy, so my brain was addled from an early(ish) age by the likes of The Young Ones and Monty Python. Comedians like Eddie Izzard, who can create utter madness from even the most mundane subject, and Dylan Moran, who is the most eloquent ranter I've ever heard. And monkeys, because monkeys are just naturally hilarious. Right?
Q: In terms of early reader reactions, what is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've encountered to -date?
That's a tough question, because the early reviews have been so wonderful. I suppose it's always surprising when someone latches onto something in the story that you didn't expect them to. A fringe character, or understated event that has captured their imagination or made them laugh. It's surprise in the best way, though, because the reader is almost reminding you of the little nuances that you added to the story, that you may have forgotten about whilst busily constructing the main storyline.
A lot of people seem to like the Jamaican, French and German talking canaries, but I won't be any more spoilery than that!
Q: To turn from pen to page for a moment, is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who just refreshes your literary batteries?
Certainly, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett gave me that impetus to start writing, but I also read a lot of Stephen King (who doesn't?), and find that a lot of his work fires my imagination. Particularly the comraderie and character interplay in some of his older books, which can be immensely endearing and satisfying to the reader. Honestly, anything that comes from an original or unusual place is something that will get my mind racing.
It's also fun to stumble upon a new author. It's like unwrapping something surprising and unexpected on Christmas morning.
Q: Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another story yet to be told in Marty’s world, or perhaps something completely different on the horizon?
I have a short story entitled Santa Claus Wants You Dead appearing in an anthology later in the year, but aside from that, all my focus is on the second Wink book. The Forty First Wink is the first of a trilogy of stories, and book two will be getting underway very soon. Without giving too much away, it will be taking place in Marty's world, and the characters who made it through the first book will be coming back for another demented romp through your sanity. There will be plenty of new faces too, and some of them might have big red noses and leering, toothy grins!
Ironically, Santa Claus has wanted me dead for years, but I believe Frosty has first dibs! In all seriousness (LOL), thanks for joining us.
About the Author
His debut novel, The Forty First Wink, released through Ragnarok Publications in 2014 scuttles gleefully into this bracket, with a blend of humour, fantasy and the unusual.
A clutch of follow up work, both short and long (including books two and three in the Wink trilogy) are in the offing, and have a similar demented flavour.
When not writing, James is partial to a spot of singing, the odd horror movie or ten, and is a circus trained juggler.
About the Book
The Forty First Wink by James Walley
Published June 16th 2014 by Ragnarok Publications
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 The Forty First Wink to the works of 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?