I met a very interesting author recently (He was kind enough to offer his "In Their Shoes" trilogy up in my Birthday Bash giveaway back in May) and as I have gotten to know him a bit better, just knew I had to introduce you!
Some authors are afraid to cross the line. International Best-selling author Andrew Mackay makes it his starting point.
A novelist, screenwriter and former teacher, Mackay is the creator of the best-selling, groundbreaking satire series ‘In Their Shoes’ - the hilarious and outrageous journey of fictional newbie journalist Joy Attwood, who follows a different profession in each volume.
Self-proclaimed "Antisocial Justice Warrior" Mackay is the founder of Chrome Valley Books - “The Home of Dangerous Fiction”. Never knowingly inoffensive, his works often contain a ruthless and shocking commentary on society, delving into the darker and disturbing machinations of modern life, but always with a sense of humanity and wit.
His influences include John Cleese, Tom Sharpe, Kurt Vonnegut, James Patterson, Hunter S Thompson, Douglas Adams, Imogen Edwards-Jones, Michael Frayn, Chris Morris, Jerry Sadowitz, Christopher Hitchins, Bill Maher, George Carlin, Milo Yiannopoulos and Larry Cohen.
One of the UK's most dedicated provocateurs and contrarians, his obsessions include (and are essentially limited to) unhealthy amounts of: smoking, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, sex, arguing, fighting, vandalism, daydreaming and writing about himself in the third person.
See how interesting he is? Let's dig in a bit more. Hello, Andy, welcome to An Angell's Life. How are you?
Tired lol – but upright and alive, better than the average dead guy. Thanks for asking!
Lol, seems to be the life of a writer, doesn't it? What is the current book you are promoting?
My new crime/thriller “Versus”, which will be available to buy at Amazon. Kindle and Paperback – and it’s also in Kindle Unlimited should anyone wish to borrow it.
Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
Oh, man – that’s a tough one for this book. It follows two characters; Daryl Kelly, a teenage loner who decides to shoot up his school. He’s a nasty piece of work, but he’s very intelligent. He gets good grades and, occasionally, shows some compassion. Then there’s Fariq, a Pakistani Muslim, also a student at the school, who’s being radicalized by his older brother and cousin, who have just returned from a Pakistani training camp. He’s going to blow himself up at the school on the same day Daryl is going to shoot it up. Neither of them know of each other’s plans, though. Unlike Daryl, Fariq (or Freddie as he’s known) is a likeable guy. He’s way more likeable than Donna Doubleday, the news reporter who uses the atrocity as a big break for her career. Probably Freddie, if I absolutely had to choose <!>
Wow. Talk about a sucky situation for the students at that school! Who is your least favorite character and why?
It would be easy to say Daryl Kelly. Easier still, Donna Doubleday, the reporter – or Janny Shadow, her news rival. Janny is a horrible piece of work. She interviews the bereaved with absolutely no compassion and almost jeopardizes the armed police’s response at one point. A thoroughly repugnant character. And that’s saying something when you’re up against a school shooter and a terrorist!
I can totally get that, though. I recently read a book about the Sandy Hook shooting, and even though the author didn't delve too much into her experience with the press, it reminded me of the footage and the disgust I felt about how the reporters behaved. What inspired this book?
I was out one day and a sentence/idea popped into my head. What would happen if a school shooter and a terrorist bomber blew up a school in the middle of nowhere at the same time? I just couldn’t get that question out of my head. It must have been a meld of all the news stories we’ve had in the UK lately. All the terrorist activity has been in tourist areas. If I were a terrorist, I would strike in the heart of normality; average, boring, humdrum UK. It’d terrify everyone. All those people who avoid London and famous places think they’re safe. Well, what happened if a terrorist attack occurred on some unnamed road in the middle of nowhere? Where would you run? Of course the main question led to many others, as you’ve seen, and so I had to spend a fair bit of time thinking like a school shooter who wanted to be the UK’s first to do it. How would I do it? How could I maximize the death toll? And then, as the suicide bomber – where best to attack? And then, conflict – both these strands of thought “versus” one another, which gave me the title.
The UK has never had a school shooting? That is mind boggling! They seem quite common place here. And yet, you all seem to handle the bombings as if it were, as you said, humdrum, so I guess we each have our battles.
The book is more than just the event itself, though. It’s a character study, showing how easy it is to fall
into a mental trap. Brainwashing yourself into loathing others. Or, as in Freddie’s case, being brainwashed by others. The signs were there all along, and no-one saw it. In many ways, it’s a vicious satire. But Versus is scarier than any horror you’d ever read because this could happen one day. It will happen one day, I’m sure.
It is sad, isn't it. I have two teen boys and I am constantly trying to re-direct their thoughts from the way the news shapes their Us/ Them mentality. TBH, it's a struggle for me sometimes, too. If you could have your book made into a movie, who would you want to direct it?
I don’t think Versus could be made into a film, purely because of its subject matter. Especially what happens in the last chapter. It’d be impossible to film. It’d be lucky to get an NC-17 rating.
But if I had to choose a director, I’d probably go with Jeremy Saulnier, who wrote and directed Blue Ruin and Green Room. He’s a breakthrough director who has yet to succumb to the devil’s spawn of Hollywood Blockbusterdom. He makes compelling and suspenseful independent thrillers. He’d be perfect for Versus. Jeremy, email me.
Ha, I bet he'll get right on that! It certainly is a compelling concept. If your book were made into a movie, who would you cast?
For Daryl Kelly, certainly an unknown and young character actor. Maybe a young Brad Renfro, or any of the actors from Larry Clark’s Kids, or the 2004 movie Mean Creek. The book has that kind of vibe to it. Haunting, paranoid, dark… brooding, deadly. Courtney Cox played Gail Weathers in Scream. Donna Doubleday was loosely based on that character. I’d like to see Ellie Goulding play that part, actually. I dunno why, maybe it’s because I want to have sex with her.
I loved Brad Renfro back in the day! Mean Creek was hard to watch, so I could only imagine how tough this would be! What is your next project?
My next book is the start of a series; a short horror story collection – ten per volume, called PURE DARK. The ten shorts start off relatively tame; ghosts and stuff, but, as they go on, they get especially gross, sick and disturbing. There’s a short called Majesty about a clown who follows two girls home from school, and then abducts and tortures them. It’s one of the tamer shorts, and has a brutal twist. There’s another story called Fine Dining, about two successful women who have dinner in a high-class exclusive restaurant which turns sick and bizarre. Another story concerns a man releasing an Ebola-like killer virus into the air vents in a shopping mall, and removes teeth and other appendages with pliers.
The tenth and final story is called Baby Champagne. I’m not going to tell you a damn thing about that one. It’ll probably get pulled from Amazon after a few people complain. I’m selling Pure Dark as “the ultimate horror endurance test” – and will be offering t-shirts with “I survived Pure Dark” and so on to select readers. It really will test the reader’s constitution. I think most will give up a quarter of the way through, once they’ve acclimatized themselves to the heinous, black, poisoned, angry and vile minefield that is the darker recesses of my warped and violent imagination.
But it’ll be a lot of fun, too. (lol)
Hmm, sounds like you and my buddy Lee Newman should get together. His short story Eat totally skeeved me out! What is one place you would like to visit and why?
I’ve travelled the world extensively, but I’ve never been to Australia or New Zealand. I’d love to go there so at the very least I’d have covered all the continents. Travelling is so important as a human being. It’s not till you’ve gone everywhere else that you truly learn about your own country and city and town. It made me a much better and more knowledgeable person. Quite handy when you’re writing, I think.
I completely agree! I love to travel and wish I could do more international travel. So far, I've only been to Mexico and Canada. Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
Of all time? Probably Basil Fawlty, as played by John Cleese. A classic comic creation. Pretentions to the higher classes whilst going about it the wrong way. He’s utterly afraid of his wife. He gets himself into so much trouble unnecessarily. It’s wonderful.
We introduced my son's to Fawlty Towers this summer. My husband and I are huge John Cleese fans! What one person from history would you like to meet and why?
Hitler’s mother. I’d put a chainsaw through her face and give her husband a condom, just to make sure.
If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?
Somehow make the 1% of the world’s richest go bankrupt and redistribute the wealth. Force the government to regulate the media properly. One man, like Murdoch, cannot be allowed to own the majority of the news corporations. We get all our ideas, news and facts from the media. Imagine of Hitler was in charge – we’d all be killing certain faith groups by now. It’s insanity. I go into it in Versus – the media have always been morally adrift but, in the age of social media and getting stuff for free, they’re playing an uglier game in trying to stay solvent and relevant.
How do you write your books?
I blast them out project by project. My last book (In Their Shoes: The Dealer) took five days to write. It was 85k words. Then I have two or three weeks off while it’s in editing, or we’re in marketing etc, and daydream about the next book, and then blast that out.
Who inspires your writing?
Honestly, me. I write stuff I want to buy and read. So, my stuff is usually written because I’m first in line to consume it. I figure there must be others like me out there, and so I use that as my basis. Other self-published authors have been a massive inspiration, and I know a few of them. Kim Faulks, Michael Anderle, Craig Martelle, H Claire Taylor, Brian Meeks – I could name hundreds more, but they inspire me as well. We’re all very supportive of each other.
That's one thing I love about the Indie community. And it gives me the chance to meet people like you! Where do you come up with your stories?
They just randomly pop into my head. I would say I have four or five ideas a day, and none of them stick. One day, though, an idea will refuse to leave my brain. It happened with Versus. It happened with Pure Dark – the latter, certainly, just wouldn’t budge. I never write my ideas down in a notepad. They have to stay fresh and relevant for weeks, sometimes months, in my head. That’s my elimination process. If I have to write the bloody idea down so I don’t forget it, then I’m sorry to say that it was likely worth forgetting about.
Oh, I have dozens of notebooks, but you're right. Rarely when I go back to them is a story concept worth building on. On the other hand, sometimes there's a story that just refuses to quit! Who is your favorite author?
The Gibbons brothers, who have been writing with Steve Coogan for the Alan Partridge books are magnificent. I love Douglas Adams, Stephen King, John Steinbeck, Harper Lee… my favourite writer of all time, whether it’s movies, TV shows or books is John Cleese.
What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
Stop talking about how you’re going to write, and just f**king write the damn thing. “Oh, but I’m not ready”. Bulls**t. If you have a beginning, middle and end, you’re ready to write. I don’t care if you write 15 words a day for seventeen years to get the book done, just do it. I’m fed up with people saying “I’m gonna write this, and x will kill y, and it’ll be great, and…” – shut up. I had this a lot at film school. Pretenders and chancers at the bar, getting more and more drunk, each and every night, talking about their projects. I got fed up and stopped going and actually made those films. They were still at the bar.
Telling it like it is, folks! What is one thing you hate about being a writer?
Two things, mainly. Ordering what’s going to be written next in my head and sticking to it. I have sixteen thousand ideas all fighting to jump to the front of the line. Second, marketing. I wish I could hit the sweet spot permanently. It’s annoying. I want loads more readers than I already have.
I can completely relate to that first one! I keep genre hopping and series hopping and it is so much work getting back into the frame of reference when I go back to a series. If you could never write again, what would you do?
I used to be a teacher. Fifteen years. I hated it. I’m not going back. I dunno, maybe I’ll just claim welfare and spend the rest of my life locked in a room and making a messy nuisance of myself.
Tell us something unique about you:
I’m a movie obsessive. I am a walking, talking movie encyclopedia. I write screenplays, and have done for over twenty years. It’s really helped my writing in novel form. When I write, I kind of visualize the movie and just type/describe what I’m seeing. My mind and psychology is very good like that.
You would love Joe Compton from Go Indie Now. He's the same way! What is your favorite word?
Thanks for joining us, Andy! Didn't I tell ya'll he was fun? Want to get more of his blunt honesty with a dash of good humor? Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Want to learn more about his upcoming projects and get news about his releases? Join his Facebook Group. , check out his website and his Amazon author page. Wanna see what awesome books he reads? Check out his Goodreads page.
Andy has a gift for you! Subscribe to Chrome Valley Books and get your free short story ‘One Size Fits All’, the prequel to ‘In Their Shoes’