Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Paddy Bostock and got him to talk a little about his latest novel Peace on Earth. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of Paddy Bostock like?
Paddy Bostock: Routine. Every day’s the same. I am very boring. I go to bed late, rise late, walk the dog for up to two hours, eat a sandwich, grapple with a crossword, take a bike ride, eat another sandwich, play with stories on the computer, drink some wine, watch telly for a bit, eat my dinner and talk to my wife, listen to the radio, then go to bed late again.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
PB: I was born in Liverpool but moved to the “posh part,” Wallasey, when I was three, went to school, played a lot of rugby, became Head Boy of Wallasey Grammar (not a great move), then went to university in Leeds, where I played soccer, read modern languages and history, and later did a postgraduate diploma in TESL In other words, a lower middle class boy who benefitted from post-war Labour Party economics.
KP: Anything quirky or odd about your writing process?
PB: Not really. Unless you count “quirky or odd” as a desire to escape the “reality” that surrounds us and a way to confront it.
KP: Just as your books will inspire others, who are the writers that have inspired you?
PB: I’ve been reading since I was knee high to a gnat, which means there are bits of all the writers I’ve ever read in there in the mix somewhere. But if I had to choose, they would be Charles Baudelaire (Les Fleurs du Mal), Goethe (Faust), Albert Camus (L’Etranger), Kurt Vonnegut Jnr. (Breakfast of Champions), B.S.Johnson, Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot) and the works of a little known Texan writer called Kinky Friedman. And, yes, Shakespeare. How are you going to understand irony if you don’t read Shakespeare?
KP: What do you think, do people’s beliefs shape their reality or is it vice-versa?
PB: I have real problems with belief systems, particularly given the current state of world affairs. Ultimately I am suspicious of the “realities” to which they attempt to seduce us. I cannot speak for the ways in which other people behave, but I remain an existentialist. In my view, you alone are responsible for making your life, whatever the conditions of your birth or your circumstances. We have choices, and we should learn how to make them. And learning never ends.
KP: One word to describe our world. And explain.
PB: Sorry about the language, but “fucked up.” Too many people chasing shadows. Too many people concerned only with themselves. But look back to history. When was it ever different? The word that truly gets my goat is “progress.”
KP: What was your inspiration behind ‘Peace on Earth’?
PB: Hoping someone might look at the ironies such a concept entails. We hope for it, but embedded are always its contradictions.
KP: All your novels have a large and expansive cast and most of them are oddball characters. Any particular reason why?
PB: I reckon we’re all oddballs one way or the other, but we hate to admit it. So the more nutters I can wrap up in any story, the better. The sooner we can stand outside ourselves and look in with some degree of laughter the more we will all benefit.
KP: Another common feature found in your books is the important roles animals play in them. A big fan of cats & dogs, I reckon?
PB: Yes. I respect animals of all kinds because they don’t spend too much time wondering about themselves. They just get on with life. It’s a shame that we humans (also animals) have forgotten how to do that despite our bigger brains. Je pense donc je suis should mean we make intelligent decisions, but the evidence points to the contrary.
KP: What the process behind naming your characters? Especially the bad guys in this novel have such fresh and exotic names!
PB: Really? When I look in the newspapers or listen to the radio, I read and hear all sorts of names I wouldn’t normally associate with “normal.” All I then do is twist them around a little and make them funnier perhaps. Mind you, comic strips (Batman, Spiderman, Superman etc) have always helped in the process. Not everybody can be called Mister Jones.
KP: The satire in your writing is quite powerful. Are you naturally good at it or is it because you are a good observer?
PB: If you are brought up on Merseyside, you learn from an early age to “take the piss.” Whether that’s “satire” or not, I don’t know. Just let’s say certain scepticism is bred in the bone. I guess most New Yorkers would say the same. But the important thing about taking the piss is that the person who’s having the piss taken out of him or her understands that the only reason you’re doing it is you like them. And, yes, observation helps.
KP: You like to hide subtle references and humor in your narrative. Do you think the readers catch all this and how do you feel when they recognize these little treasures?
PB: I really don’t know what readers catch or recognize, and cannot therefore have any feelings about the process. My idea is that a writer should add as much to a text as possible–humour, pain, the whole shebang. What a reader then makes of it is his or her business. There’s no way of knowing which buttons you might be pressing when you write. If you did you would have written the perfect book.
KP: Dissimilar cultures clashing was a theme that was explored in your previous book as well, is this something that you like to explore in your writing?
PB: Yes. Most of us live in multi-cultural societies and, again given current world affairs, it would be foolish to pretend there are no clashes between those of different religious, cultural and racial origins. My hope, however, in pitting some of these people against each other, is to demonstrate how ultimately destructive and unnecessary such conflicts are.
KP: What are your future plans? What more can the world expect from Paddy Bostock?
PB: To keep on living my routine days and hoping there’s enough left in the tank for more books. There are a couple of unpublished ones still on the hard drive, and I’m currently working on a new fantasy piece which hasn’t even got a title yet. So on we go…
KP: Quick advice, how can writers get better at their craft?
PB: By keeping at it as any craftsman would. Honing, checking new possibilities, and never thinking that just because certain genres appear to be the mainstream, they should be copied. How can any art develop if it s never renewed?
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
PB: Harlan Coben’s Missing You. Before that I read Stephen King’s Revival. And before that Richard Ford’s Let me Be Frank With You.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Paddy Bostock and all the very best for your book.
PB: Thanks for the questions, Kevin. As always perceptive and challenging.