Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview with Michael Diack

The following is an interview with a really cool author, Michael Diack. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing his "Super Spud Trilogy" and he's jovially agreed to answer a few questions. Thanks, Michael, and I look forward to more books from you!

What book are you reading now?

1Q84, I’ve literally just finished reading it.  I’m a big fan of Murakami, although I’ll be honest and say this latest offering just wasn’t for me.  It was too long, in places quite boring and I had to make myself finish it.  I’ll still faithfully buy his next novel when it comes out because even at his best, he is still sublime and brilliant.  Now I’m reading Crossing the Sands by Wilfred Thesiger, the first Westerner to cross Arabia.  It’s a great read and I have the utmost respect for his accomplishments.  I’ll read pretty much any genre, I’m not fussy.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently writing another set of Super Spud adventures.  The first book was a trilogy in the sense it revolved around three adventures: Colin, Cougar and King Martin, but I never intended for the story to end as it did.  I was told by my editor to shorten the story, so I took out the last three chapters, the ending was still the same, though, with G-Boa on the run and the story set up to be concluded. Truthfully, when it came to publishing the book, I didn’t know what to call it: The Super Spuds, The Super Spud Adventures, The Chronicles of the Super Spuds…The Super Spud Trilogy was a neat title and flowed off the tongue better – I didn’t mean to deceive anybody.
So yes, there will be another set of adventures that I’m writing now, bringing back characters who didn’t die (and some you thought did) as well as including a whole host of new flavour types.  This will be the last set of adventures and the Super Spuds will conclude.  After that I’ve got a few short stories and lots more ideas for novels.  I’ll always write quirky fiction, I think, it’s just too enjoyable when writing and creating new things.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Obviously, my book is about magical crisp packets so there has to be a certain amount of disbelief, but I was always worried the reader wouldn’t be drawn in by the concept, or overly scrutinize a certain aspect of the magic rules.  This was the biggest challenge for me, but once I had nailed down the strict rules and stipulations regarding the Super Spuds, the whole book was enjoyable to write.  Another challenge was trying to find the balance between what I personally found funny.   I enjoy the process of writing about Super Spuds so much, sometimes I’ll write something just for my own amusement, then go back, read it, and realise only I would laugh and promptly delete it.  I’m sure now there are bits I wrote I didn’t mean to be funny, and other parts I wrote thinking it was funny but no-one cares.  Feedback from the story would be great though, what readers liked and what they didn’t like, so I could make the next set of adventures even more fun. 

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

JRR Tolkien.  I’ll regularly re-read The Hobbit every year, and for me The Silmarillion is his ultimate masterpiece.  I just love how he manages to describe Middle Earth so realistically but doesn’t waffle on.  I think other authors would take a thousand more pages to do what he did in a few hundred with The Hobbit.   His passion for his work and his world that he has created just flows out of the text, and I’m always immediately drawn into his story.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope you enjoy reading the story and it helps you to de-stress.  I’ve been told it’s a good book to just pick-up and put down at leisure, and I’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions for new flavour personalities.  I always told myself that if I made the reader laugh once then it was all worth doing. 

Is there anything else you'd like the world to know?

Camels love cardboard.  I work in the desert and regularly see camels choosing cardboard over vegetation…they absolutely love it.  So there is a crazy piece of trivia for you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Super Spud Trilogy

Author: Michael Diack.
Bio (from the author):
I’m Michael, 26 and from the UK.  I wrote The Super Spud Trilogy at university and I’m currently working in Oman as a field geophysicist.
I love rock music, films, playing guitar and table tennis.
Description: "Genetic engineering has accomplished many things, one of which has been to create the Super Spud! The humble potato elevated to new heights, creating the most flavoursome crisps ever known to humankind! But that's not all - A magical transformation occurs to all Super Spud crisps not eaten before their use-by date. They take on a life of their own. And so long as they remain undetected by humans, they enjoy life in their own Super Spud cities, take part in major Super Spud sporting events and even start the odd Super Spud war or two. Join Colin, Cougar, Hannibal Vector, Generals Rock, Jock and Strap and all the others in their rollicking adventures. You'll never look at a packet of crisps in the same way again! Fun, quirky and totally original, Michael Diack's debut is strictly for those who are still big kids at heart." (From Amazon)
A Nice Fun, "Crisp" Collection
This was a pleasure to read. The writing is quick, smooth, and well-edited.
We are presented with a trilogy of long stories/novellas about the super spuds, a type of elite, sentient, potato chip (crisp).
If you have an aversion to potatoes, salty snacks, or talking crisps, this book is not for you.  But, if you enjoy a fun, wacky, humorous ride through crisp-dom and all the strange adventures that may ensue, hop on board!
It is nice to have all three books in one volume—you wouldn't feel bad bookmarking the end of one and coming back to it later (or just reading them bang-bang-bang).
The stories are very enjoyable, and of course it is the bizarre humor that keeps you on your toes—just when something solid is being laid out, random strangeness strikes and you're headed down another path lined with machine guns instead of roses. Or perhaps a microwave tank hulks in the bushes.
I think this collection is a great start for someone who wants to get into bizarro. Why? Well, because the stories are right-bloody funny, clever, and silly. But they are not over-the-top-strange-strangle-you-with-a-pair-of-dirty-Hanes-and-a-parrot's-spleen, crazy. Which is fine, good and wonderful.
Just a few things that I noticed, but do not take away from the story. This feels long, but then again I read it all pretty much back-to-back, whereas next go-through I'd bookmark after the end of each story and come back. There are some long-ish descriptions that could be trimmed down, but again, do not take away from the meat and (cliché coming!) potatoes.
And yes, potatoes were harmed in the making of this story!
I'm going with 3.75 (will be 4 stars on Amazon to round up) on this. Great story, kept me going. A few longer explanations could be trimmed (e.g., explaining the microwave tanks), perhaps split this back out into individual volumes... I know, I know, but both could be offered. Say 99 cents (US) per volume, 2.99 (US) for the set? Dunno.
Great book—looking forward to more from Michael!
I was given a copy of this for review.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Review - Death by Zamboni

Author: David David Katzman
Description: "A sweeping American romance spanning five American generations in America.

Oh, wait, that's some other crappy novel. In Death by Zamboni, you'll follow our anti-hero Satan Donut through a world of mimes, TV stars, zombies, blockheads, mad scientists, riot girls, and werewolves. This genre-busting satire shish-kabobs the commercial-entertainment state which degrades our lives and makes everyone stupid. But on a happy note, at least you've got your health."
Review: I love bizarro stories, I love wild and crazy--I mean, so wild and crazy that you completely forget your own name. But I also like a complete story, an adventure, a quest, a mystery to solve.

This book melds both perfectly together.

Throughout we have the mystery of the missing man, and our PI is hot (well, not hot, more like lukewarm, well no, more like cold coffee warm, no, not really. He's really cold, but he still isn't too bad). Anyway... there is a definite storyline here that is structured and established. There is also enough ridiculousness that one is never quite sure what comes next. And what comes next may be a new twist in the investigation, or something so silly you can't stop laughing.

It is very cleverly written, and there are moments where you think your hand holds firmly to sanity, and then it is kicked away violently by a steel-toed boot. The boot, of course, belonging to a mime.

Get this. Read it. If you like the strange and the bizarre, and don't mind having your brain explode right outside of your skull. It feels so good!

And a shout-out to Peter Sellers? Classic!
Format/Typo/Editing Issues: None, in fact I really liked how the chapter headings were arranged, and the little blurbs before each chapter added depth to the story.
Note: I reviewed this unsolicited--saw the book on Goodreads, bought it, reviewed it.