Sunday, 21 April 2013

Katarina Fropond Talks Satire, Novels And Her Brother Horror Author Gerard Gray.

Today I'm delighted to have my cousin satirical writer  Katarina Frogpond, or known by her other pen name Edie Gray.

Katarina it's lovely to have you here today thanks so much for being my guest. Lets get straight to it.

When did you first start writing.
I can’t remember.  It was such a long time ago.  But I do remember I was writing my first sci-fi book at the age of 15.  It was about a space satellite that could talk.  I enjoyed writing it, and then I subsequently enjoyed putting it in the bin.
How did writing for The Huffington Post come about?
I started writing my comedy review column for the Huffington Post because I knew a lot of comedy writers who made me laugh and I wanted everyone to know about them too.  At the time I was writing for Spoof News, and I wrote with writers whose stories were regularly read by 10,000 people a day.    They were people like Skoob, and Iain B, and Jaggedone, who were like the graffiti artists of Political satire.  They wrote prolifically, and quite often it wouldn’t be unusual to find myself talking to a Spoof Writer on the Spoof Forum who had as many as 2000 articles in his back catalogue.   I found that impressive.   But whenever I spoke to friends who wrote in the paper journals, they didn’t know who these writers were, even though their articles were at the top of the Google pages every day. 
So I started the column to highlight these Spoof writer’s work, and eventually, they began writing books and I reviewed their books, too.  But shortly after I started writing for the Huffington Post Blog, my computer got hijacked by web pirates and I began to write a bit about web pirates, too.  So my blog became quite diverse for a while, but now it has returned to being mostly about comedy writing again.  If any of my Spoof friends tell me they are writing a book, they let me know and I review it for them.   The last one was Erskine Quint, Intrepid Adventurer, Extraordinaire.  It was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  It’s worth a read. 
Have you always loved comedy?
Yes.  I have.  It was the shining light in our dark childhood.  Our family had a lot of problems but we all had an amazing sense of humour, and we just laughed our way through the dark times.  I remember my first comedy memories were of watching The Young Ones, BlackAdder and Monty Python with my Dad and my brother.   But later I loved Father Ted, The IT Crowd, The Thick of It and Peep show.   My favourite comedy series at the moment is The Big Bang Theory, but it worries me because I think I can see a bit too much of myself in Sheldon.  Not so much the mathematical genius bit, because I can’t count, but the obsession with comic book heroes and sci-fi adventure books.  I’m thinking of getting the box set, actually.  
But, its not just actual comedy that makes me laugh.   I see a lot of humour in politics.  I think Ed Miliband is very funny.   His PMQ retorts make me laugh a lot.  And even though I know his one-liners have been written by a committee of speech-writers, he does deliver them with good comic timing.  I think he should consider a career move to stand up comedy. 

What do you think of your brother's self published recent success with his debut Novel Dead Broken?
I haven’t been able to read past the first 25 pages.   Not because I didn’t want to, but because Gerard wouldn’t let me.   He told me the book gets a bit disturbing after that, but I’m very proud of him for writing this book.  It nearly got to the top of the horror charts, and that is an immense success for a first time author.  He was in the number two position on the Amazon Horror Book Chart on the night James Herbert died, and I think that’s quite a historical place to have been at that moment in time.  He loved James Herbert and I think he was very sad that he didn’t get to meet him.  He also loves Iain M Banks, too and I think it’s sad that Gerard has arrived on the scene just as his heroes are leaving the stage.   I can imagine he would have loved to have gone to book festivals and Horror conventions and hung out with James and Iain to talk about horror, and sci-fi.  But now he won’t be able to do that. 

You have written three Novels of your own. Will you be self-publishing them also. If so, when can we expect to see them on the Amazon shelf?

I’m not sure.  I’ve got one book that could be published at the end of the year on Amazon, if I really work hard with the editing, but the other three are stories that need illustrated.  And I’ll have to wait until my artistic skills catch up with my writing skills before I can even think of publishing those.  It’s an ongoing project that may never end, but that’s the way I like my projects.   My books are a lifelong project.  I’ve always got something on the go.   It’s just what I do. 

My favourite spoof Article from you is “Margaret Thatcher’s Basement Secrets Reavealed” which I think is hilarious.   Where do you get your ideas from?
Ha. Ha.  That was one of my favourites, too.  It was part of the Tory Zombie series that I wrote for Spoof News.   I mostly wrote these stories when I was angry with the Tories, usually after watching Prime Ministers Question time, or Newsnight.  I was worried about the desensitisation of government.  The newly elected Tory party seemed to be picking on the poorest, weakest people in our society.  They seemed to be attacking disabled people and people who, for one reason or another, had found themselves dependent on benefits.   I thought the Tory policies were heartless and cruel, and that’s when I realised that it would be quite sensible and funny to portray them as zombies.  
 It was shortly after that, that I created the Tory Zombie series.   And after I had created my monsters, I realised I needed some heroes too - superheroes - and I decided that if the Tories were the zombies, then the veteran members of the old socialist Labour party would have to be the superheroes.   Then, obviously, they would all fight each other in a secret war. 
I had so much fun with these.  But when I wrote them, I also had a lot of optimism.  I thought that the Tories were so obviously wrong in attacking the poor people in our society that someone would stop them.  But nobody did.  And I think we have entered a very sad time in our political history, and it just made me feel defeated when I watched the terrible things the Tories continued to do on Newsnight, so I stopped watching it.   And that’s why I more or less stopped writing the zombie series.   The superheroes stopped fighting and the Zombies won. 
In a recent telephone conversation between us, I referred to us jokingly as the modern day Bronte's. You said Gerard would be Emily.  What did you mean by that?
I just meant his writing is a bit dark.  He tends to like to look at the dark side of reality and I like to look on the bright side.  But he’s not as miserable as Emily was.  There is a lot of humour in his books.  I think Iain Banks reader’s would understand it and Val McDiarmid talked about this kind of dark Scottish Humour when she wrote in a recent tribute to Iain Banks that I'd grown up with the Scottish sense of humour, so I had no trouble with the notion that something so dark, so disturbing and so bleak could also be laugh-out-loud funny. I'd just never seen it written down before.”    I think this describes Gerard’s humour very well, and if Emily were alive today I think she’d be writing in this style.  
That leaves the question of which one of the Bronte's is you and which one would I be. You known what Kat,  I think we will leave the answer to that question for another day!  We will save it for CafĂ© Spike!
Thanks so much everyone for dropping by.

You can follow Katarina Frogpond on Twitter @DeltaPanda
Or why not read some of Katarina's work over at The Spoof .

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Horror Author Gerard Gray

A question Q&A session with Gerard Gray author of "Dead Broken".


Gerard thanks very much for agreeing to be my guest today. Also let me congratulate you on the amazing success of your debut novel "Dead Broken" currently riding high in the Amazon Horror charts. You must be delighted by your achievement.


Yes, but I just got lucky. I happen to know a lot of very nice people on Facebook and twitter – they helped me loads. It was still nice, though. The book got 10000 downloads over the free promotion, mostly in the UK. In the week that followed I sold close to 700 books, and it is still selling J. If it’s OK, I need to send out a big thank you to every one who posted, tweeted or talked about the book. Oh, and a big thank you to everyone who bought it. I hope it wasn’t too disturbing J


Did you ever envisage the book would be as popular as it is?


No. Getting to number 2 in the horror charts, second only to the great James Herbert, was a fantastic privilege. In saying that it’s just a hobby, and I’d like to keep it that way. I have a couple more books in me, but I like the idea of being able to write them at my own pace. That’s the beauty of going Indie. 


What inspired you to write a dark psychological thriller/horror?


I have always loved horror – I get it from my mum. I can remember being very young and asking her what the book sitting beside her bed was. She said the name of the book was Rats by James Herbert. She said it was frightening. My mum loved a good horror story, and it wasn’t long before she had me following suit. At the age of eight she let me watch all the Hammer House of Horror series. At the age of nine our favourite family movie was Halloween! I think I know where I get my love of horror from.


In the book the main character Peter Murphy battles with his father’s bi polar disorder and his mother’s depression. It's also been said in a review that you give a refreshing honest insight into grief.  Were these difficult subjects to write about?


Yes. I actually did grow up in a household blighted with mental illness – my dad was a manic-depressive, and my mum suffered from depression on occasion. It was a big part of my early life, which is why I find myself writing about it time and time again. In saying that, I had one seriously happy childhood. Both my parents were fantastic. I miss them loads.


Are you writing a sequel? Are we going to hear more from Gerard Gray?


I am, but it’s a difficult one for me. I don’t think writing about the last days of your mum would be easy for anyone. In saying that, Dead Broken isn’t my first book. I have a book prior to this one already written. I have plans to make it a prequel to Dead Broken, but I need to write the sequel first. Then I’ll go back and re-write the prequel and fit it in. It all goes a bit crazy in the prequel!!


In case the reader is not aware, you and I are cousins. Your sister is the Huffington post Blogger, Katarina Frogpond, who is also hoping to publish her own books in the very near future. When the three of us re-connected recently, were you as surprised as I was at how many of us in the family share a love of words?


Yes, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. We have a very creative family. I don’t think it ends at the written word, either. I’ve written songs from about the age of 13, and some of our cousins have actually released albums. We even enjoy painting. But you are right – it’s our love of words that has brought us back together. I suppose it’s all in the genes J

 Thank you Gerard and thank you for dropping by. X

 Below is an excerpt from Dead Broken currently available on Amazon.

Follow Gerard on Twitter  @GerardGray101

I could see myself walking into the past, walking up to my parents’ front door. I had just spent seven hours driving up from London. On entering the house I found my dad sitting in his mechanical chair, his tongue a lapping and a lolling, his hand shaking back and forth. We exchanged a couple of welcoming remarks and then I spotted my mum coming out of the kitchen. On seeing her I felt somewhat unsettled, but my subconscious shook it off.

“The gypsy returns,” I said jokingly.

“Come and give me a hug, London boy.”

I gave my mum a warm hug and then followed her into the kitchen.

“I made you a Chilli. Are you hungry? I put fresh chillies in it.”

“Famished,” I replied, going straight for the fridge. Right enough she had bought me some Thai chillies.

“Ahh, chillies…” I said, picking up the packet, stroking it jokingly against my face.

“Pete, it’s very hot. Try it.”       

I tasted the chilli and right enough it was hot, but no way was it hot enough. I am addicted to chillies; at least I was before my stomach problems began.

I looked at my mum again. She looked weathered and worn, but quite well.

“Are you OK?”

“Huh…” she huffed, expelling a puff of exasperated air. “Him. I don’t know how much more I can take.”

I turned around to look at my dad. He was sitting in his chair, a fat, failing invalid. I looked at my mum. I wasn’t sure how to take this. Recently she had gone from being the angel of my youth to a constantly moaning hypochondriac. My sister blamed her German friend, Helga, and I tended to agree.

I looked back at my dad. The poor man had just been in care for six weeks while my mum had had her knee operation. My sister had told me that she had been moaning about him incessantly: the horns and halo effect. As far as my mum was concerned this little man definitely had horns. And that was why I took no notice of her. On this occasion, I was wrong.

Why were you wrong?

My eyes widened in the dark. Floating in the middle of the room was a cat as clear as day, its tail a swirling and a twirling high into the air like the smoke from a chimneystack. It was Tiddles, but not the Tiddles of my cinema room. This Tiddles had a head.

“Tiddles, you found your head?”

No thanks to you.

“What do you mean?”

You certainly know how to hide a head don’t you.

I winced. Tiddles’ voice was wrong. Why was Tiddles’ voice so wrong? And then it dawned on me. The apparition floating in the dark was that of a cat, but the voice was still my dad’s. I felt sick and disorientated. I placed my head on the bed, closed my eyes and attempted to escape back into my waking dream.

I returned to my parents’ living room, my dad lying half asleep in his chair. It was like lucid dreaming. I found myself wondering which one was the real world: the one with the floating cat, or the one with my dad slumbering in his mechanised chair.

I sat myself down on the sofa with an enormous plate of chilli and a bottle of Leffe. I had asked my mum to tape me the UEFA cup match, and by some fluke of the world she had managed it. My mum was over seventy – technical she was not. I switched on the video. Mum had just gone to bed. My dad was sitting beside me, half asleep. 

I opened my eyes to find the ethereal Tiddles still floating in the dark.

“Do you want to know the score?” my dad mumbled from his armchair. He had been away at dialysis earlier that evening. It always left him drained.

“No. Definitely not. Don’t tell me.”

“All I’ll say is…”

“No! Don’t tell me.”

My dad said nothing for a couple of seconds and then continued.

“I’ll just say…” 


“That Celtic had a better game in the second half.”

“OK, don’t tell me anything else.” No way did I want to know the result. If I knew the result I wouldn’t want to watch the match. 

“And I’ll just say…”


“That Larsson got man of the match.”

The actual implications of this conversation went far beyond the result of a football match. In the back of my mind something was niggling, but I thought nothing else of it. He finally mumbled something incoherent and proceeded to fall asleep in his chair. He was exhausted.

Larsson did get man of the match, but it wasn’t the greatest of games. Celtic drew 1-1 at home. As I left the room to go to bed I looked back at my dad, sleeping in his chair. He looked all but finished. Again I had that niggling feeling, but I brushed it aside. I was tired. It was 1:30 in the morning; time for bed.

No sleep for the wicked, aye?

I threw an angry stare at the floating cat, but the feline didn’t flinch an inch. My glower burned and effervesced like a flare before darkening once more. The cat was right: the wicked had no right to rest. I think I had only been asleep for a couple of hours when it started.

“Mary! Mary! It’s 5.30, Mary. You need to get up.”

“Huh?” I mumbled, stirring from my slumber. 

“Pete, I’m out of the bathroom, now. You can get in, if you like.”

What the fuck? Was it actually five in the morning? I leaned over and looked at my phone. Right enough it was just after five.

“Mary! I’m hungry.”

I tried my best to ignore my dad’s voice. It was 5.00 in the morning, so by my estimations that meant I’d only had about four hours’ sleep. I turned over in exasperation. 

“Do you want some breakfast as well, Pete?”

“No I do not,” I vociferously whispered. “It’s five in the morning. I work hard all week. Let me sleep.”

My dad didn’t seem to care how early it was. All he cared about was the fact that he was wide-awake, so everybody else should be up as well.

My dad babbled on incessantly for the next hour. Every minute, like clockwork, he would say something else, his voice flowing into my room like the frothy waves on a beach. Not quite the tranquil swill of the Bahamas, more the freezing cold wash of a Scottish shoreline.

I eventually managed to fall asleep, but only for about an hour. I opened my eyes to be greeted by my dad’s manic rant once more. God only knew what time it was now, but by the way my dad was talking it sounded like he had convinced my mum to get out of bed.

“Mary, I want my breakfast in my special bowl,” he said rudely. “And I think I’ll have some toast. Are you making toast for Pete? If you are, then I want you to make me one more slice of toast than you make for him.”

What? Did I hear him correctly? Oh bugger. I had forgotten about this. 

I slowly dragged myself out of bed. My dad’s dressing gown was lying in the corner, so I put it on. I staggered into the living room to find him beached in his chair as per usual.

“Morning,” I said. “You were up early. What the hell was all that about this morning?”

My dad looked up at me with a sneer. “It’s my house. I make the rules in this house.”

“It’s not your house,” I replied. “It’s yours and mum’s.”

“If I put it to a court of law, they would rule in my favour. Your mother would get nothing.”

“What’re you talking about?” I shook my head in a bid to dissipate the growing anger. I quickly released the pressure by remembering that he was obviously going ill again. No point listening to a word he said.

I walked through to the kitchen.

“He’s going ill again, isn’t he?”

“Do you see what I have to put up with? He’s an ungrateful, rude little devil.”

“Mary. Bring me my tablets.” 

“Please!” I shouted back at him.

My mum picked up his tablets from the bench and winced. “He’s ugly. I can’t bear to look at him.” She then disappeared into the living room. I followed her in and watched her place the tablets down onto the little table in front of my dad.

“Thank you,” I said, aiming the reproach at my dad for not acknowledging my mum’s kind gesture. He ignored me, his hand shaking back and forth. 

“I need a cup of milk to take my tablets with.”

“Please!” I said again.

“I need a cup of milk to take my tablets with, please, thank you, please, thank you.” My dad said this with a cheeky grin on his face. I reluctantly smiled back at him; it was actually quite funny. My mum’s bitter mask remained stuck fast to her face, though. She didn’t find him funny in the slightest.

I opened my eyes and rolled over in the dark turning my back on the floating cat. I didn’t want to think about this anymore. This was not the way I wanted to remember my dad.