Word of the week: unscuppered - root word: scupper \ˈskə-pər\ (hear it!) - transitive verb – (British) to defeat or put an end to : do in
Indie Author of the Month: Please Come Meet . . . Andy Whitlock
When indie author Andy Whitlock announced back in November of 2011 the release of his (then-newly) self-published novella, I simply couldn't resist. The title alone drew me in: Finkle and the Fish.
|Finkle and the Fish|
Well, in all honesty, there was a Finkle, and yes, there was a fish—and holy smokes! what a fish, although he only played a bit part—but this story proved to be much more than that. Finkle and the Fish was a tremendously funny treat. When it comes to written entertainment, my old brains love (besides fantasy) anything tall, dark, and quirky, and they had soaked up Whitlock's novella like a thirsty sponge. Indeed, a cleverly priced tale off the beaten path.
“Cleverly priced?” you remark, probably in suspicion.
Yes, and when you read the story, you'll understand.
And so now, here to introduce himself is Mr. Andy Whitlock.
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I am a British human of unremarkable height and non-existent haircut. Writing is currently my ‘night job’. My day job, when crammed into a sentence, is to devise interesting, useful *digital things*. Vague, I know. This year, these two worlds collided during the birth of baddollar.com, a project designed to inspire myself and others to get our writing seen (and deemed worthy of a few pennies). The idea behind Bad Dollar is simple: $1 stories about worse ways to spend a dollar. My tale is a twisted, dark comedy called Finkle and the Fish. Tip: it’s not really about fish. Other tip: Dark means really dark.
I sleep, write and work in East London, quite near the Olympic Park (in a house and studio, in case that made me sound like a vagrant) but have loose plans to head to New York, where my wife is from. I prefer being in large, busy cities — creativity is contagious and I like to have it all around me.
When I was 16, I got As in English language and literature, but I didn’t notice until I got home from school, because the grade pages had stuck together. That moment feels symbolic of my life of writing: the thing I was good at but didn’t pay enough attention to. It’s only in the last two years that I’ve started pursuing writing seriously. I love the process and sometimes feel that it’s only when writing that the true ‘me’ emerges, unscuppered by external forces.
I’m not ready to attempt a novel. I’ve just started my second short story: an ‘amusing science fiction tragedy’ that explores our reliance on technology to mediate relationships. I spend a lot of time working on the structure and narrative arc of my short stories. I want them to have shape in people’s minds; to have a purpose; for the reader to feel they consumed something whole, rather than dipped in and out of someone’s indulgent scribblings. And I want to make people laugh, sometimes uncomfortably. Okay, almost always uncomfortably.
Excerpt from Finkle and the Fish by Andy Whitlock
(copyright: Andy Whitlock)
Water sloshed through the reeds at Mudbridge Reservoir. The June issue of Naughty Naturists swayed in their grasp, its obscene cover bleached by sunlight. Wind turned its pages with gusts of excitement and shame, and as the last page blew shut, the magazine toppled into the water and sailed away in search of a better life.
Most things in Mudbridge longed for a fresh start. The reservoir itself was a reincarnation, built on the site of an old beanbag factory, condemned to closure within months of opening. Despite initial excitement, locals quickly discovered that beanbags were impossible to get up from, not to mention silly to look at, and sales plummeted. The final shareholders’ meeting was an ugly affair, absent of violence only because the boardroom beanbags prevented anyone from rising to their feet.
The vast, round reservoir had followed a similar fate, arriving with promise but deteriorating quickly. Most of the wildlife had left or died - a woodpecker even took its own life. Only an old river willow remained, creaking like a pensioner refusing to get off a bus despite forgetting where he was going. Being a tree – and a fairly stolid one at that – the river willow was unaware that near to its root tips on the damp south bank, a thin hopeless creature called Finkle Knotweed was being hypnotised — by a trout.
Humans aren’t the brightest species and Finkle wasn’t the brightest human. He had dropped out of high school to teach himself survival skills. His first brainwave was to build a raft out of beehives, but hundreds of splinters and stings later he abandoned the project to make honey. That was eight months ago and all he had accomplished was a label for the jars and a name for his honey company: The Honey Company. Finkle’s mother, Amanda, said there must be something wrong with him, that he was useless, but Finkle was determined to prove her wrong. If only he wasn’t frozen to the spot.
The trout convulsed in front of him like a dancer in a silver dress, locked in an epileptic fit. Paralysed and humiliated, Finkle stared into its glassy eyes. He was transported to the previous afternoon, when he was in a similar standoff with Amanda.
‘Where are the fish sticks?’ Finkle snapped, faced with an empty freezer.
‘You want fish?’ Amanda said, ‘There are millions in the reservoir!’
‘There’s loads of jobs out there too, if you ever bothered to look.’
‘You’re no match for a fish anyway. Or a fish stick.’
‘I could catch a SHARK if I wanted!’
‘Hah! Why don’t you get your bees to sting it to death!’
‘Because they never do what they’re told!’
Finkle marched to his room and sank into a beanbag. By morning he had managed to roll out of it, and headed to the reservoir to show his mother once and for all.
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