Ladies and gentlemen, my new novel Skunks Dance will be swaggering into a saloon near you this January! It’s been three and a half years since my last one, but it’s been time well spent slaving over the manuscript on long, lonely nights with nothing but a bottle of honey whiskey and a plush Dalek to keep me company.
Skunks Dance is a comedy about a long-lost treasure buried in the town of Skunks Dance and the two teenagers who are trying to dig it up. Adventure! Murder! Tutus! These are just some words!
You may be wondering what could have possessed me to write something that is part Western when I don’t have any great love for Westerns. That may be true, but I have an undying love for ruining Westerns, and you can’t ruin them any more than by making them in England in the 1960s. I mean just check out this old Doctor Who episode from 1966:
Come on now, that’s just good value, and I can vow that I did every bit as little research into the Old West as Doctor Who did in 1966.
Skunks Dance is currently available for pre-order as a hardcover and an ebook on Amazon.com. You should also check out Kevin Alcantar, the amazing artist who did the cover artwork, and follow him on Instagram.
Why did you choose to start writing YA novels? What about your voice really caters to that audience?
I got into YA novels when I realized you can get away with pretty much anything except being boring. If you write for adults you instantly get shelved as one genre or another, but YA is kind of its own genre. No one bats an eyelid when you write about radium-obsessed teenagers in antique flying machines, or Old West vamps with guns that shoot round corners, or accidentally assaulting people with candy cake-toppers. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is be boring, which suits me fine. When a book spends ten pages telling me how the protagonist cooks dinner and how everyone’s hair smells, I’m halfway ready to drop-kick the thing into the street.
Writing effective humor is often difficult. What do you find to be the most effective way you create humor in your writing?
You’ll never make everyone laugh, and if you do then it won’t be interesting writing. There are never any hard rules for writing jokes, but I love wit and I think it’s important to take the reader by surprise. If the reader can guess the punch-line before it’s delivered, the joke is probably going to fall flat. Look at something like Rick and Morty — it refers heavily to popular science fiction, but even in plots we’ve seen before we never know what the hell’s going to happen next. Or what Rick’s going to say. Or even the correct use of the dinglebop end of a plumbus.
Both Radium Baby and Skunks Dance involve an adventurous search. What is it that you love about the classic adventure search with a twist?
You have to be able to bring together characters who don’t like each other — that’s where you get your drama. There are lots of ways of doing that, but I like a search because it lets you take your characters to the moon and back, as long as you bring it round to the MacGuffin in the end. It also gives the novel a clear goal, even if you never get there or if the goal was illusory all along. Having done two of them now I’ll probably do something different for the next novel. A torrid love story between an ostrich and a potato. Or something.