Please welcome our latest victim guest, Debbie Cowens. On the metal plate suspended above that puddle by wires is a block of lime Kbar chocolate (why lime? because you put the lime in the coconut …) Behave and the chocolate won’t end up a goopy mess on the floor.
In the event of an earthquake/zombie plague/or random occupation – you’ll find emergency procedures taped to the bottom of your seat. Yes, just like a flotation device. You’ll also find a Glock 17 with a full magazine and a KA-BAR, it’s not made of chocolate.
Remember you cannot reason with zombies and it’s a head shot every time.
Yes, thank you, although I expect too preoccupied with the looming presence of chocolate to pay attention to current levels of physical comfort.
1. What’s your favourite type of takeaway? (Yes, that means take-out in NZ speak)
Currently Burger Fuel. I also love pizza but then over the last few years takeaway pizza hasn’t lived up to my hopes. I either remember pizza tasting better than it did, or they don’t make it like they used too.
2. Describe your current mental status.
Exhausted. It’s been a long day, a long week for that matter…
3. I know how I do what I do … but how do you do what you do?
I don’t have a particularly inspired process. I sit down and type out words until I reach ‘the end’. Then I spend a lot of time herding drafts and revisions into a (hopefully) coherent story.
I typically have more stories I’m itching to write than hours in the day to write so the hardest thing is seeing one project through to completion before diving into the next. The ideas tend to spring out at me from nowhere like ghosts of Stories Yet to Write. They jump out when I’m trying to get to sleep or take a shower or avoid burning dinner. Some of the time I’m quite happy to casually think about and play with an idea for a story on-and-off for a while, but more often the stories are stroppy and haunt my mind rather inconveniently until I finish writing them. I suppose writing the story is a like an exorcism, only without spinning head and green vomit.
4. Could you tell us a little bit about your latest work?
I’ve started working on a P.G. Wodehouse-inspired steampunkish comic tale about a rather hopeless inventor, Gertie, who starts to dabble in the detective business.
5. Do you have a favourite coffee or tea?
I do love a flat white but my caffeine addiction is such that I’ll drink any coffee or coffee-like substance. Tea is also good. And chai. And green tea. I’m not fussy.
6. Walk us through a typical day. (Do you make sure you’re wearing your lucky underpants before you sit down to write, perhaps you prefer commando? While we’re discussing your underpants, boxers, briefs, or budgie smugglers. Inquiring minds want to know. Yes, that includes my Admins… we don’t piss off the Admins.)
Workday – Get woken up by alarm. Grudgingly get out of bed and get dressed. Have coffeee. Shuffle through the hectic get-son-ready-and-off-to school routine. Go to work. Teach several lessons, drink coffee in gaps between. Leave work. Pick up child from his school. Coerce child into not leaving school bag and shoes and other sundry items all over hallway and do any homework tasks. Read a book with child. Deal with inevitable mess created by child and sort out dinner. Enjoy eating dinner and family time in evening interspersed with unenjoyable-but-necessary domestic chores. Wake until son is sleeping. Reward self with writing time, shower, reading and sleep. (I did manage for several years to wake up between 5.30 and 6 every day and always get my writing time in before breakfast but I seem to have lost the ability to wake up or function at that hour now.)
Weekend – wake up at same time as alarm despite it not being set and sleep-in being theoretically possible. Get out of bed and make coffee. Start writing as fast as possible before son wakes up…
7. Tell us about your main character. (How did you first meet? Would you like to hang out with him/her? What delights you the most about writing him/her? You get the idea …)
My current character is Gertie Wooster, who I think sort of appeared as a delayed Frankenstein creature, stitched together from various elements of what I read last year, my own foibles, and a conversation I had a few months ago about the relative merits of the Blandings versus the Jeeves novels of Wodehouse. I had been re-reading several of the Dorothy L. Sayers Peter Wimsey mysteries and read Book 4 in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences series as well as Miranda Hart’s autobiography (and Gertie definitely seemed to sound a lot like her when she appeared). I don’t recall the moment of first meeting of Gertie. Actually, I didn’t so much see her at first as hear her as she started narrating and commenting on moments of my life. Pretty soon her own acquaintances and escapades took over the bulk of her chatterings as, frankly, they were infinitely more entertainly than my life.
8. Who are your favourite writers?
Jane Austen is probably my standout favourite as I can re-read her over and over and never tire of her books. I fear it would be hard to stop if I start rattling off others…
9. Who inspires you to do better?
So many New Zealand writers I know are lovely people and fanastic writers. They definitely inspire me to do better, both as a writer and a supportive member of the writing community in NZ. We have a lot of local talent so often when I read what writers I know (or know of) it’s so good that it can be inspiring in the sense of “arrggh, now I feel desperately inadequate and envious” rather than the more relaxed form of inspiration I would prefer.
10. Do you ever put pants on your dog, cat, or budgie?
No, but I did put a doll’s bonnet on my cat when I was kid. Ratbag was not impressed and had very sharp claws. I have not attempted to clothe a pet for my own amusement since.
11. Describe your perfect day.
Coffee, pancakes with maple syrup banana and bacon, a stroll in the sunshine, a chunk of writing where the word flow and leave me with a smug glow of satisfaction that they were all brilliant, meeting up with friends for lunch at a cafe overlooking the beach, reading a good book in the sun, a delicious dinner, a bubble bath with a glass of wine, and an evening watching a fun movie with my family.
Actually, I’d settle for just the pancakes.
12. Who is your favourite fictitious villain? (Sorry to disappoint but I’m not fictitious.)
Jareth the Goblin King from the film Labyrinth has been my favourite villain since childhood. He’s just a perfect combination for a compelling villain: dangerous, charismatic, clever, cruel yet sympathetic.
I also have always found the idea of Professor Moriarty a particularly effective and interesting villain in the Sherlock Holmes stories but he rarely appears on the page. He’s more a source of lurking presence manipulating things underneath the surface.
13. Do you have any quirks?
I do have an odd tendency to mistake the fridge for the dishwasher and vice versa when distracted (which is a lot of the time). I like to think it adds a sense of spontaneous wonder to everyday life when one finds the tomato sauce in the dishwasher or spot a used coffee mug chilling beside the condiments in the refrigerator.
14. All-time favourite movie and why?
That’s a tough one. It’s hard to pin down a favourite. The Princess Bride was my favourite film as a kid and I still love it, but now I’m more drawn to suspenseful thrillers or SF film with a noir aesthetic. My favourites would probably be Blade Runner or The Usual Suspects but I really like Vertigo as well.
15. Do you enjoy the editing process?
Generally, yes. I like the feeling of satisfaction when I think I’ve tinkered something into shape. Often the editing itself can be fun, playing around with things to see how they work but it can be terribly frustrating at times too.
16. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
Inside a gothic mansion that contained all the modern luxuries and comforts whilst maintaining a suitably creepy decor. Preferably it’d be in easy distance of a theme park and a beach.
I often find myself wanting to live in the places described in the book I’m reading at the moment. Unless it’s a dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmarish place. Actually, I’m reading Death and the Penguin at the moment and it is making me not want to live in Ukraine in the early post-Soviet years.
17. Favourite type of burger?
Cheeseburger. I’d like to try different, more exotic looking burger but I always come back to the classic cheeseburger in the end.
18. What were you before you became a writer?
I feel like the writing started before I ever got a job so there wasn’t ever a time when I wasn’t writing or wanting to be a writer. However, from a fiscal perspective, I guess I’m still in the ‘before’ stage as it’s my salary from teaching that pays the bills, not my royalties from writing.
19. What is the most random thing you have ever done?
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything random intentionally. I tend to plan and over-think and worry about things and then fall back on doing the same thing I always do. Even ordering at a restaurant can be fraught with anxiety.
20. If you’re not working, what are you most likely doing?
Reading or playing with my son. Fairly reliable that I’ll be avoiding some household chore if possible.
21. Who is your ultimate character?
That’s tough because the characters I admire tend to be the ones that possess qualities I wish I had, they’re self-assured, witty, and determined like Elizabeth Bennet. However, I’m really drawn to funny characters, whether their hapless fools or bawdy hedonists such as Bertie Wooster, Falstaff, and Nanny Ogg.
I think my all-time favourite character is Toad of Toad Hall. I love everything about him. He’s irrepressible, charming, ridiculous, passionately determined and yet utterly fickle. He made self-delusion and conceit oddly endearing.
22. Whiskey or Bourbon? Red or white wine? Tequila? Beer?
(Did you know tequila goes quite well with lime Kbar chocolate?)
23. What’s in your pockets? (Or handbag, whatever you carry your stuff in. Are you apocalypse prepared?)
My phone. If I going out with the kid, then I pack everything I can into my bag – cash, cards, keys, snacks, mini-pump bottle of water, chapstick, bandaids, painkillers, travel packs of handwipes.
24. Laptop, PC, Mac, tablet, pen and notebook, slate and slate pencil?
25. Ebook or tree book?
Both. I love my kindle and it’s great for travel or reading in bed. However, I love paper books, their smell, feeling the weight of the pages. I like to have the physical reminder of seeing books on bookshelves at home. It feels like they’re part of your home and life even when you’re not reading them if you can see them sitting close at hand.
26. Favorite apocalyptic scenario?
The classic zombie outbreak from the Romero films I thinkis one of the scariest but there’s something of a deluge of zombie apocalypses now, so it’s hard to choose a favourite. I thought the depictions of the pandemic apocalypse in Station Eleven by Emily St. John and vampiric virus in The Passage by Justin Cronin were both brilliant.
27. Where do you do most of your writing?
In our office although on many winter mornings, I’ll use the dining room instead as it’s warmer.
28. What’s the hardest thing for you when it comes to being an author?
Sticking at it when things are difficult and you feel discouraged. Probably true of everything in life for me, not just writing. I’m a quitter by nature and would like to avoid everything tough or daunting and just curl up inside my duvet like a human hedgehog.
Color me slightly impressed that you reached the end, intact. See if you can rescue that block of Kbar chocolate. Mind the puddles … but get a move on. Power surges are common in the dungeon; you don’t want to have one hand on the metal plate containing that green foil wrapped delicacy and a foot in a puddle …
That laughter you hear is coming from The Knight, he probably won’t flip that switch he has his hand on. Probably …
You can find out more about Debbie Cowens in the following places …
And of course Debbie’s book ‘Murder and Matchmaking’ is available in store at Writers Plot Readers Read or you can order online.