Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Author Mary Cunningham is excited to announce the release of the 5th and final book in the award-winning series Cynthia’s Attic, “The Legend of Lupin Woods” (as usual, it’s filled with fun, time travels, colorful characters, unexpected twists and… yours truly is in it!).

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5)

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle’s cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

 

Read an excerpt from Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods

My back pressed against a small tree as I peered over one shoulder, then the other. More blackness. I pulled my knees tight to my chest to create as small a target as possible. If I could keep still until morning, this place might be less formidable.

Those eyes … did they just move? Hair stood straight up on my neck as a low growl inched ever closer. I sucked in one last breath and hid my face waiting for a fatal blow or bite.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” My head jerked skyward. Yellow eyes hovered over me. “Cat got your tongue?”

The creature bent down and poked my upper arm with a furry finger. I wanted so badly to run, but sheer terror kept me plastered to the tree.
The hulking figure straightened and chuckled. “I’m not planning to hurt you. What are you doing in Lupin?”

Lupin? I tried to answer, but dryness gripped my throat as if I’d swallowed an entire sandbox. Plus, an ominous word jumped into my brain. I’d heard something that sounded a lot like lupin once before. It was at the movies! Wolfman. Oh, no. Lupine is another name for wolf! Was I in a wolf forest?

My eyes scanned the treetops. I might be saved if the sun rose soon, but light would have to pass through the dense canopy, and from where I sat, that seemed doubtful. The beast must’ve read my mind.

“If you’re waiting for sunrise, you’ll be disappointed.” It smiled–or made a weak attempt–revealing huge, pointy teeth. “Instead of night and day, around here we have night and black.”
I gulped and finally manufactured enough spit to choke out four words. “Why-am-I-here?”

Visit Cynthia’s Attic Blog for a schedule of The Legend of Lupin Woods Blog Tour!
http://cynthiasattic.blogspot.com/2012/05/cynthias-attic-legend-of-lupin-woods.html

 

Mary Cunningham: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Mary Cunningham Books
http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

Amazon
Smashwords Ebooks
OmniLit

Cynthia’s Attic Series for ‘Tweens on YouTube

Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.

On… Kelly Asbury:

Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!

Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.

Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!

In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother? 🙂
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.


On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:

“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.

Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!

Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.


On Animation and Movie-Making:

You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.

What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.

Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.

I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.


On “Dummy Days”:

You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.

Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.

Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!


My…

Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie:
DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character:
Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto:
There’s always something new to learn.
Dream:
I’m living it
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite City:
Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music:
Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby:
Deep sleep

Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.

Thank you, Kelly!

You can follow Kelly Asbury on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KellyAsbury
…and discover “Gnomeo and Juliet”: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Dr. Stephen M. Thompson answers my questions about lucid dreaming, the Chagos Islands and his novel “Coma Story”. When fiction meets History.

Good morning Stephen, welcome on “Veronika Asks”! Could you please briefly introduce yourself? Then, if you could describe yourself – and Coma Story – with three adjectives…

Thanks for having me. My name is Stephen, I’m a working author who lives in St. Peters, Missouri. I got drifted from Singapore to the U.S. just before the millennium bug.

Me: Creative, Motivated, Kind

My book: Humorous, Shocking, Enlightening

In your novel Coma Story, coma survivor Aldan Foy and Diego Garcia native Tarzan conspire to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence. What sparked the idea for Coma Story? Why did you base your novel on the Diego Garcia depopulation?

Let me give a real brief blurb first. Coma Story is an alternate history fiction based on a recent unfortunate event, i.e. the merciless depopulation of Diego Garcia Island (once part of Mauritius) by the British to help the U.S. build a massive military base. Aldan Foy, when in coma, gets into the habit of lucid dreaming. Along with his native friend Tarzan, he finds a way to get back the islands from the superpowers – without a fight.

However, he wakes up after four years and realizes nothing’s changed. Then he starts recollecting his dreams. Coma “recovery” was the main theme with which I started the book. Lucid dreaming followed as an after thought. Integrating the plight of the Chagossian people was kind of a miracles bold idea, as I stumbled upon their unthinkable history during a non-related research. Though it’s a dark subject, the novel is very inspirational at many levels and fun to read – or at least that’s the feedback I have been receiving.

Why lucid dreaming?

Good question. But tell me, what would one do in coma when trapped in his or her non-responsive body, but then aware of what’s happening around? Hypothetically, all that one could do is dream. To add a clever element, I inserted the scientifically proved concept of lucid dreaming into the story. Believe me, I spent countless hours reading about lucid dreaming, which is indeed a fascinating subject. I just fell down the rabbit hole, I guess.

Your descriptions are very colorful; you seem to know a lot about the life and story of the Chagossians. Could you describe “the making of” Coma Story? Did you make researches? Did you travel to Mauritius?

That’s a question I have been asked a lot and I take it as a compliment. No, I did not had the opportunity to visit Mauritius nor had the privilege to meet a single Chagos islander so far. However, as I started writing I reached out to various organizations, that had been working on many spectrum of the Chagos situation. Though my research progression was not easy, I was lucky to get in touch with some awesome people from various sectors – military, social activists, politicians and service groups. Then again, Internet and local libraries were great assets as well. Since this is a sensitive subject from a military perspective (then again, it’s about real people who are still suffering), I had to go through strange challenges in finding middle ground. No wonder, it took two years to complete Coma Story.

You say Coma Story is “in no way an attempt at a definitive history of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) deportation during the Cold War nor a catalyst for any anti-base”. What is it, in that case? What is the purpose of the novel?

I would like to emphasize that Coma Story is not only about exposing BIOT events. It’s also about coma recovery and lucid dreaming – told in an approachable and balanced style. In terms of BIOT the purpose is simple: help mainstream discover the story of the Chagos Islands and do something for the displaced people.

You seem to share a lot of things with Aldan. Did you base any character of Coma Story on real people?

Yes, to some extent. Many sub-events or small part of a character are in fact based on real inspirational folks I know. For example, I had put in an occurrence about at-risk school programs, which is something I have personally been involved with for a few years now, as I am an advocate for preventing high school dropout situation. Tarzan’s childhood accident recovery account is a real – and moving – event in the life of a good friend of mine, who is now a successful movie star. In many aspects, Coma Story was fun and interesting for me to write. It was sometimes difficult having a life outside the book.

You’re an IT techie; how did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?

I started writing because I had to. I took up technical writing at my first job – documenting software features and compiling training materials. Subsequently, I started writing a lot. Then came dissertations, technical papers, online journals, collaborative blogs, wiki biographies and one fine day – books.

Can you tell us more about your first book “Land of Opportunity Forever”?

Sure. It’s a non-fiction book where I discuss social issues in the U.S. and its links to superpower status sustainability. Land of Opportunity Forever not only fetched me couple of awards but established me a as a social and current affairs author.

What is a typical working day for Stephen Thompson?

When I write, I actually spend most of my time researching with Internet and end up actually writing for a couple of hours. In any case my working day is usually not that organized, so let’s not even go there.

Finally, an off-topic question: you’ve found 100$, how will you use that money?

I would buy a bunch of copies of Land of Opportunity Forever and give them for free to teenagers at my book events and speaking engagements.

What are you working on right now? What about your plans?

Well, there are a couple of inspirational people, whom I am familiar with, I’d love to write biographies of. But it seems to be an extremely daunting task for now. So am sticking to my previous life’s profession and it’s going to be business book series; starting with Customer Service. I am not under any contact though.

Would you like to add something, Stephen?

I would like to thank you for this opportunity. I certainly enjoyed the interview.


“My Favorite…”

Author & Book: So many! It’s really hard for me to pick one.
Movie & TV Show: IRT Deadliest Roads
Food: Thai and ice-creams
City: I am not a big fan of cities in general, but I would have to say my favorite is Amstelveen, Holland.
My Idol: My parents
Music: Abba, 90’s and I love all kinds of Indian music.
Hobby: Golf and car shows
Place to write: Home
Motto: Get your parents dream for you and follow their dream.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of-course, with cream and sugar.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Restaurant or at home.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? None, though I can handle both.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megalopolis? Crazy because we currently live in a kind of sleepy town. Both suit me.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Whatever by daughter gets as I am not allowed to pick.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel and learning new things.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Proud to be a Couch Potato, though I do like to golf.
Leader or Follower? I would follow only if I trust.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Combination of both, but maybe a bit more funny.

Thank you Stephen!
You can learn more about Dr. Stephen M. Thompson and his books at: www.ComaStory.com


“Coma Story” review by Veronika Asks

Have you ever wondered what the Diego Garcia depopulation is? What do you know about the lives of the Chagossians, forced out of their island?

In “Coma Story”, Aldan Foy gets the opportunity to meet the victims of the Diego Garcia depopulation and get a glimpse of the destinies of the Chagossians. With the help of Diego Garcia native Tarzan, Aldan conspires to get back the Chagos Islands – without rioting and violence! And, as surprising as it may sound, the pacific fighters win…until Aldan emerges from coma and realizes his incredible project and victory were a lucid dream.

Stephen Thompson’s “Coma Story” helps shed some light on the Diego Garcia depopulation and introduces the reader to a wide range of colorful and sympathetic characters (my personal favorite is Tarzan). The novel gives us the opportunity to learn more about this historical event and travel to Mauritius and Diego Garcia with Aldan and Tarzan. An interesting read for those who want to know more about lucid dreaming – and fight every day, whatever it takes.

Today, Veronika meets Mrs Stephen Fry. Edna Constance Bathsheba Fry took Twitter – then the Net – by storm with her spicy confessions and hysterically funny diary. How does it feel to be Stephen Fry’s wife? Edna opens up about her marriage and talks about kebab, karaoke and her five, six or possibly seven children. Oh, and her diary, of course.

Good afternoon dear Edna! I’m delighted to meet you for a cup of tea and some friendly chit chat about your diary and Mr. Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry). I imagine there was a before and an after Stephen: can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, before you became “Mrs. Stephen Fry”?
Oh, there’s not much to tell. I was just your average bullfighting, gun-running, Nobel Prize-winning girl, really. Of course meeting Stephen changed all that. Now I’m more your average tea-making, dinner-cooking, wallpaper-hanging, domestic appliance-fixing, carrying-Stephen-home-from-the-pub-on-a-Friday-night kind of girl

How did you and Stephen meet?
It was just your typical ‘Boy Meets Girl’, ‘Boy Meets 12 Pints of Lager’, ‘Boy Meets Policeman’, ‘Girl Talks Policeman Out Of Arresting Boy’, ‘Girl Spends The Next 16 Years Wondering What on Earth She Could Have Been Thinking Of’ story.

You’ve been married for 16 years! What is the secret of such a long-lasting marriage?
Trust, honesty and a very short memory. And trust.

If you could describe Stephen with three words…
I’d love to, dear, but I’m afraid you’d be removed from the internet.

What sparked the idea for your diary?
I’ve always kept a diary ever since I was a mere slip of a thing. I find it oddly comforting, like a cosy blanket. With a bottle of gin in it.

The diary mentions kebabs, window-cleaning and womanizing. Your confessions differ a little from Stephen’s autobiographies. Do you mean that Fry is… a liar?
Good heavens no, dear! He’s as honest as the day is long. Provided that day is in the middle of the Siberian winter . .

That’s reassuring! Stephen wrote the foreword to your diary. How did he react to your revelations?
I don’t think he really noticed, to be honest. He was far too busy with her at number thirty eight.

Could you share a tasty bit that didn’t make it into the diary?
I have to say all my tasty bits are in the diary, dear. And Stephen’s tasteless bits . . .

Life with Stephen: what is your best memory so far? And the worst?
I don’t think there is a worst memory. They’re mostly equally dreadful, to be honest. As for the best? Well, there was that time he said ‘I love you’ in front of an entire restaurant full of people. He said it to his Chicken Madras, but it’s the thought that counts.

Very nice, indeed. Oh, there’s a question from die-hard fan Roxy: what makes your husband happy?
Hello, Roxy, dear. What a delightful name! I imagine you to be a fighter pilot or possibly a pole dancer. As for what makes Stephen happy – need you ask? Me, of course! Well, on a Sunday morning at any rate. The rest of the week I leave it to the kebabs, lager and karaoke.

Let’s talk about your family, now. Do your five, six or possibly seven children want to be like their Dad?
Sadly yes, dear. Apart from Hugh Junior, unfortunately. Even little Brangelina’s growing more like her father every day. I’ve tried the school psychologist and the school exorcist but it seems nothing can be done.

The Web buzzes with rumors. According to those, Mrs. Stephen Fry “is a fake”. Some people suspect Mr. Fry himself to have originated “the hoax”. Your reaction?
Ridiculous, dear! I mean, do I look like a fake to you? The very idea!

Are you planning another diary? What about your plans?
I always keep a diary, dear. I only hope my current one doesn’t fall into the hands of some unscrupulous publisher like the last one did. As for my life plans, I can’t really say, dear. I did have one dream but then I discovered that Stephen wasn’t insured.

And, finally, my favourite question: imagine you found £100 in your purse (or in Stephen’s pocket). How will you use that money?
If I found £100 in Stephen’s pocket, I’d put it straight back in my purse where he got it from, dear! Then, perhaps, I’d splash it all on a pampering day at Widdecombe’s Beauty Parlour. And possibly a nice bottle of Blue Nun.


“My Favurite…”

My Idol: That would have to be Stephen, dear. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you said idle.
Author & Book: I’ve always been terribly fond of that George Eliot. He really seems to understand women. My favourite book is probably The Cat in the Hat – it keeps Stephen amused for hours while I get on with the housework.
Movie & TV show: I’ve always been terribly fond of ‘Brief Encounter’, dear. Two people thrown together by circumstance only to be thwarted by society and their own moral decency. It makes me wonder what might have been . . Food: Well, I am a bit of a domestic goddess as you know, dear, so that would have to be my speciality, Spam Rumpy Pumpy – an intensely satisfying dish, I assure you.
City: It has to be Paris – the city of love. It has that certain je ne sais quoi. And a big tower.
Music: I rarely get time to listen to music, what with six or seven children to look after. As a teenager, I was a big fan of Stephen’s punk band, The Kebabstards. Sadly they disbanded due to musical similarities.
Place to write: My diary, of course. (what a ridiculous question!)
Motto: If life gives you lemons, make Lemon and Bacon Cheesecake.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea of course, although our local café, the Cuppa Cabana, does have a rather nice Colombian. Pablo, I think he’s called.
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Generally at home while Stephen’s at the disco. Unless he’s mislaid his leather trousers again.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Sadly neither. We generally go to Stephen’s favourite theme park, Lagerland.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I’m sorry, dear. I’m afraid I don’t play computer games.
Stephen Fry or John Cleese? Oh, John Cleese, dear! He’s so funny and tall. And terribly dashing. Sorry, who was the other one again?
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? I do love a good three tissue movie, dear. As does Stephen, when he manages to unlock the adult channel.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? I love to travel but Stephen hates to move. He gets nervous if he’s more than a hundred metres from the fridge.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? If you’re talking about Stephen, both.
Leader or Follower? I like to follow. But only when Stephen’s ankle tracking bracelet isn’t working.
Shy or Easy-going? I’m very easy-going. With a husband like Stephen, I don’t have any choice.
Funny or Serious? Most of the time I’m a combination of the two, dear – Furious.


Thank you Edna, dear!

You can follow Mrs Fry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MRSSTEPHENFRY
…and support Fry’s Gig: http://www.frysgig.com

Acclaimed author Anne Fine talks about writing, editing and getting published. The Carnegie Medal winner shares her views on the publishing market, book competitions and movie adaptations.

Dear Anne, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks”! If you could describe yourself – and your books – with three adjectives…
Me: Impatient, curious, restless
My books: Cruel, funny, unsettling

What are you working on right now?
A comedy for children of 8-11 – the third in my Mountfield Family Series (following on from The More the Merrier, and Eating Things on Sticks).

How did you come to writing? Can you remember the first story you’ve ever written?
At Northampton High School for Girls, in the upper thirds, I and my best friend Gillian wrote a book called Agatha the Witch. We took turns to write chapters in a French Vocabulary book, and the English teacher allowed us to read each episode out on Monday mornings at the beginning of our lesson. Alas, the book has been lost, and I can remember nothing of the story.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
I didn’t even know about agents. I sent my first book off to two publishers. The first sent it back saying they did not publish children’s books (clearly, I’d never heard of the Writers’ and Artists’ Year Book, either). The second sent a really positive letter, regretting that my book wasn’t quite right for their list. I thought she was just being polite, and threw the typescript under my bed. Two years later I fished it out to submit it for the Guardian/Puffin Kestrel Award, and was runner up after Jan Mark. Both our careers started with that prize because, at the prize ceremony, the agent Gina Pollinger asked if she could represent me. She sold the book to Methuen Children’s Books a few months later. So I am a huge fan of competitions.

Your views on the evolution of the publishing market: was it easier – or, on the contrary, more difficult – to get published in the 80’s and 90’s? What do you think of ebooks? Are paperbacks meant to die?
I truly have no idea about the first book – though I do believe that a really, really first rate first book will still finally find a publisher. But I do guess that since established novelists are finding it harder and harder to get almost automatic publication of further works, it must be more difficult than ever to find a first publisher. It’s obvious that ebooks are storming away (tellingly, this year I took a flight from Manchester to Los Angeles, on which most readers had printed books; then a further flight up to Seattle on which the majority of readers were reading from screens). I don’t for a moment think paperbacks will die. But I do suspect they will turn much more into Print on Demand, because of the total collapse of the range in bookshops.

Authors often complain about editors “butchering” their manuscripts. What about you? Do you have complaints or did you get used to it?
When I was much younger, I had a copy editor for my third book (The Stone Menagerie) whose plan was clearly to rewrite my book in the way she herself would have written it. Luckily the commissioning editor took my side. I take enormous care to edit myself as well as I can before I submit anything, and so my in-house editors tend to go very easy, and I appreciate their input as it usually airbrushes out mistakes and infelicities and therefore improves the book. Currently I am delighted with the skills of the editors in all of the publishing houses I use (that, I admit, is unusual; but it is true. I don’t know if I’m currently just lucky). I do hear horror stories. On the other hand, I read so many books that seem to me to cry out for stricter editing that I might be on the publisher’s side more often than many of my author friends might imagine….

Do you pay attention to bad reviews? How do you handle criticism?
If it’s dishonest (misquoting, axe-grinding etc), stupid (e.g. “I did not like this book because I did not like anyone in it”) or wrong (“Children don’t want to read about this sort of thing”) then I have learned to ignore it. If it puts a finger on a real weakness in your book that you yourself were trying to pretend wasn’t there, it really hurts. Since they are so much longer and can therefore be more thoughtful, I tend to find the foreign reviews – particularly of my adult novels – well worth reading and often useful.

Did you improve your writing skills (attending classes or reading special books)?
No. But I did have superb English teachers at school. And I do read a lot of excellent novels.

What is a typical working day for Anne Fine?
Wake up. Make tea. Back to bed. Press ahead (pencil and rubber). Drain teapot. Get up. Breakfast. Walk dog. Type up earlier scribblings on computer. Correct, correct, correct. Quick lunch. Walk dog. Do office work. Read in bath. Supper. Walk dog. Go to bed.
A typical ‘event’ day is just alarm clocks, trains, rain, clockwatching, heavy bag carrying, more trains. (Grim.)

Could you describe “the making of a novel”?
Not really. Before I start, I have a sort of vision of what the book will be like. The instant I begin, the work seems to depart entirely from my mental template. I struggle through. Surprisingly, at the end, I can often look back and the book mirrors my original intention far more than I would have thought possible.

Do you have writing secrets or tips for aspiring authors?
Guess the maximum length of the book. Keep a chart of thousands of words written (like a child’s chart of days to the end of term). It takes so long to finish a book that it is encouraging to cross the stages to the end off one by one. It reminds you the task is finite.

You are a fellow of the “Royal Society of Literature”. What was your reaction? Did you use Byron’s pen or Dickens’ quill to inscribe your name on the official roll?
I took it as a tremendous compliment. I used Byron’s pen.

Do you have a favorite book among your own works?
Of the adult novels I love Raking the Ashes best. And for the books for younger  people, it’s a toss up between How To Write Really Badly and Up on Cloud Nine (both for personal, rather than literary reasons).

The famous movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” is based on your satirical novel ‘Madame Doubtfire”. Were you involved in the making of the movie?
Not at all. I don’t really like working with other people much, so I left the whole thing to the film makers. All I asked was that they would not make the children bratty, and they did indulge me in that.

Are you satisfied with the result?
If a book has paid off your mortgage, it’s rude to criticize – especially if you yourself chose to have nothing to do with it. Let’s just say it’s not the film I would have made. The tone and the circumstances of the book are very different. Essentially, the filmmakers paid for the ‘ex-husband dressing up as his own children’s nanny’ idea – and a few of my jokes (And if I’d made the film, probably no one would ever have heard of it).

Finally, my favorite off-topic question: you’ve found £100, how will you use that money?
Half to Sight Savers (I dread, absolutely dread, perhaps one day not being able to read). And half going out for dinner.

What about your plans?
As usual, I plan to take a few weeks off, go on holiday with Richard, lounge on a beach, etc etc. As usual, I have started another comedy for young children.

“My Favorite…”

Author: Tolstoy
Book: Middlemarch
Movie & TV Show: McCabe and Mrs Miller. Have I Got News for You
Food: Avocados
City: Melbourne
Music: Bach
Hobby: Reading
Place to write: Bed
Motto: Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you.
Idol: Andrew Carnegie

“Tea or Coffee?”

Tea or Coffee? Tea (except mid morning, when coffee).
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Disco & Restaurant
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? I say megapolis because I already live in a sleepy little town and really, really fancy a change.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Hate to move.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Well, I’m bossy. So Leader, I suppose (though I’d hate to have to do it).
Shy or Easy-going? Easy-going.
Serious or Funny? Strangely, serious. But I’ll fall in love with anyone who can make me laugh.

Thank you, Anne!
Anne Fine’s official website: http://annefine.co.uk/

Ben H. WintersBestselling author Ben H. Winters talks about mashup novels, Benjamin Franklin, Leo Tolstoy and his new novel “Android Karenina”…

Hi Ben, welcome on Veronika Asks! Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Thanks for having me!

My name is Ben, I’m a writer who lives in Brooklyn. Although I’m about to move to Boston, slightly further up the eastern seaboard of the continental United States.

Then, if you could describe yourself with three words (No, Ben H. Winters won’t make it. I’ve already heard this one :)…
Hard-working, well-meaning writer/father.

“The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman” will be published in September 2010. How about a little pitch?
Sure. It’s a “young adult” novel, about a nerdy, soft-spoken middle-school Band & Chorus teacher who turns out to have been a punk rock singer, a fact that makes her students go crazy.

Can you tell us more about your mashup “Android Karenina” (out in June 2010)? Why rewrite this novel (and not Romeo & Juliet, for example, although they’d both look great on the moon)?
After my last “mash-up novel”, the Jane Austen parody Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, I was itching to do another one. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors (very original, I know) and I figured why not be audacious, be brave, and try to re-imagine the greatest novel ever written?

What would Leo think? 🙂
Well, I think he’d be a little confused, at first. But there’s a lot of material here I think he’d respect, and he’d like how I’ve maintained many of the major themes of his work, including mankind’s complex and often scary relationship with technology.

You also wrote “Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters”. Why did you pick the mashup genre (or did it pick you)? Aren’t you afraid of the Tolstoy and Austen diehard fans?
Indeed, it picked me; the whole thing was the idea of the folks at Quirk Books, I’ve just been lucky enough to get to play in this strange world they invented. And for the most part, the fans of these writers have been delighted by the whole thing. Just like a great movie version, a parody version of a classic work is another way of re-imagining, re-engaging, and re-encountering a beloved piece of writing.

You don’t plan on parodying “War & Peace”, do you? 🙂
One massive Tolstoy parody is enough for me, thanks very much.

Is there a mashup you’d love to read but are unlikely to write yourself?
I think it would be cool to see someone do one of Shakespeare’s plays, but not only write it, actually produce it — A Midsummer Night’s Terrible, Terrible Nightmare, or something.

What about your life before you became a bestselling novelist? Do you remember the very first story you penned?
I remember writing a series of extremely silly, page-and-a-half long stories about a pig who had extraordinary adventures. This was probably in grade four or five, so around nine or ten years old. I believe his name was Piggly-Wiggly.

How did you break into the publishing world? How much time did you spend looking for an agent or publisher?
That’s a long, boring story, that probably has elements in common with the boring stories of lots of other writers: a lot of dashed hopes, a lot of support from good friends and family, a lot of trying and trying again…and then, finally, things start to line up the way you want them to. I try to be as grateful as I can about each success I have, and as realistic as I can about what the future might hold.

What is a typical working day for Ben Winters? Do you have some writing habits?
The thing I try to stick to most of all, is to work for at least three hours before I go on the internet. It is the greatest eater of time ever devised by mankind.

If you could meet any person and ask him/her one question, who and what would you ask?
Of all the figures of history, I am most fascinated by Benjamin Franklin. I’m not sure what I’d ask him — he knew everything. The man invented the rocking chair, discovered electricity, and saved our young country several times over. I might, however, ask him how to get old without losing one’s marbles in the slightest, because he seems to have done that too.

Typical situation: Pixie caught in a bottle. Shrieking. Cursing. Fighting. End of the hysteria: three wishes (yay!). What would you wish for?
* Happiness for my children.
* Enough money to live on, not so much as to screw me up irrecoverably.
* Some sort of unlimited ice cream arrangement.

You write books and work on musicals. Is there something you haven’t tried yet and would love to?There are several people I’d love to write biographies of. But the amount of time and energy required to write a really good, complete biography, is extremely daunting to me.

And here is the famous “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
The right answer: Donate it to a favorite charity — I really like Doctors Without Borders.
The honest answer: Waste it on ice cream and books.

Can you tell us more about your projects? Who’s your next co-writer? Shakespeare? Wilde? Casanova?
I’m working on the sequel to The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman (yes, even though the first one hasn’t come yet!) and preparing to start on an idea I have abut the aforementioned Benjamin Franklin.

“Favorite…”

My Idol: My dad.
Author & Book: John Irving, P.D. James, Charles Dickens (who can pick one!)
Movies & TV shows: The Blues Brothers ; The Sopranos
Food: Grilled cheese sandwiches
City: Chicago, Illinois
Music: When I write I listen to opera (as I write this, The Magic Flute); otherwise, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan
Place to write in: The roof of my apartment building
Quote or Motto: “Time is what we want most, and use worst” — William Penn
“Tea or Coffee?”
 
Tea or Coffee? Coffee
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Cinema and restaurant, if we can get a babysitter!
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Currently live in crazy, would love to end up in sleepy
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Comedy
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Like to travel
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato, though I do like to take long walks
Leader or Follower? Leader
Shy or Easy-going? Not sure these are really opposites, but I’m definitely easy-going
Serious or Funny? Well, I wrote something called Android Karenina, so I suppose I have to go with funny!
Thank you, Ben!
You can learn more about Ben H. Winters and his books at www.BenHWinters.com