We're bringing something a bit different to Writing in the Modern Age today. Awhile back, I had an idea for a new feature so I reached out to some author colleagues to see if they'd like to participate. I thought it might be nice to show readers a few books that have inspired authors. You might find it enlightening, and at least be able to answer the age old question, "What the heck do authors read?"
Writers are readers too! Most authors love to collect books for their vast personal libraries. The written word is fascinating to us, and many newer authors as well as those in the past have helped to shape who we are today.
Without further ado, our guest today is A.B. Funkhauser, a humorous horror author and aficionado of satire. Won't it be interesting to hear about a few books that have inspired A.B. on her writing and publishing journey?
Sounds pretty awesome to me. So, take it away, A.B.!
you, Marie Lavender, for inviting me in on this unique feature. The books we read say as much about who we
are as the words we utter. Perhaps even more so: favorite books and the ideas
they contain call to us, delivering raw truths that we, as citizens in an
ordered society, aren’t always capable of expressing ourselves. Ricky Gervais proved
this point brilliantly in THE INVENTION OF LYING (2009, Warner Bros/Universal).
So, in the spirit of vainglorious raw truth, I start
my list with Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece of wit and irony, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.
Released in 1965 at the height of the MAD MEN era, Vonnegut’s novel
skewers greed, insincerity and punk stupidity. Eliot Rosewater, a World War II veteran
born to tremendous wealth decides on the spur to do some good. Rather than
reward distant relatives and hangers on with generous stipends from the
Rosewater Foundation, Eliot decides to hand it out to strangers he meets on a
booze-fed tour of the United States. Naturally, he is locked up for his
efforts. With the help of daddy, an honest lawyer and a sci-fi writer named
Kilgour Trout, Eliot might attain freedom both in body and mind.
Vonnegut’s whimsy, the absurdity of the plot pieces,
and the wild names assigned to some of the characters hooked me into the idea
that we can write comically but with a serious subtext at the same time. A huge
Before Vonnegut kindled my love for satire, there
was Pauline Gedge and CHILD OF THE MORNING (1977). A thick, hard cover epic,
this tome kept my twelve year old mind captivated through long, hazy summer
days in Scarborough, Ontario. With a hydro field for a backyard neighbor, and,
what seemed to me, a huge four foot deep above ground swimming pool to get lost
in, it was easy to cross the line into Gedge’s pages and become one with the
Described by many as one of the finest examples of historical fiction ever written, CHILD OF THE MORNING traces the rise and fall of King Hatshepsut I, Egypt’s first and only female pharaoh. Rich, three dimensional and wholly buyable, this book rattled with realism without sinking into a history lesson. A touch of romance, yes, but the author’s attention to the King’s public policy, trade advances and building projects captivated alongside military imbroglios.
A book for all ages, this one I credit for awakening
my love not just for ancient history, but all history. How can we know where
we’re going, if we don’t know where we’ve been?
officer Thomas Edward Lawrence wrestled with similar questions in his memoir,
SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM (1935). Popular culture remembers him as Lawrence
of Arabia made famous for the ages by actor Peter O’Toole in David Lean’s
sweeping 1962 Hollywood epic. I read a first edition copy while at
university and again back in the 90s. This brilliantly packaged do over (1991)
is as excellent as I remember it.
For history lovers and historical fiction
fans alike, this reflection, written in the man's own words, is part action
adventure, part philosophical introspective. Historians have criticized
Lawrence’s reminiscences citing creative license and a deliberate attempt to
obscure truths as major offenses. It’s true that Lawrence, as a homosexual, had
a great deal to hide back in 1935 and I forgive him for leaving things out. For
a more up-to-date assessment of the man and his achievements (most notably
aligning disparate ‘Arab’ tribes if only briefly during the Revolt of 1915), I
recommend Scott Anderson’s gorgeous LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL
FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST (2013). Detailed and exhaustive,
it is also beautifully written. How could it not be? It fires my imagination
just as the desert did for many explorers like Lawrence back in the day.
By now you’ve figured out that I’m mad for history, especially those aspects featuring strong characters and a byzantine plot.
Three more recommends are pictured here for reference. For one stop shoppers keen on unraveling the mysteries of modern China and Afghanistan, look no further than EMPRESS DOWAGER CIXI (2013), THE LAST EMPRESS (2009) and THE WARS OF AFGHANISTAN (2011). They’re big, heavy, meaty books that read like fiction. So fantastic are they! But they are non-fiction. Prepared to be amazed and frightened.
Do I read fiction now? Glad you asked. The sweeping MASTER AND COMMANDER SERIES written by the late Patrick O’Brian (1914-2000) and made famous by the film starring Russell Crowe is action and adventure at its best on the high seas during the Napoleonic war.
Gutsy, boozy and brave, Captain Jack Aubrey is an amazing in your face foil for the cerebral Dr. Stephen Maturin, surgeon, naturalist and spy. So much to love here for this time traveling, sea-loving Pisces. There are twenty books in all!
Thank you, A.B.!
And here is a little about A.B.'s upcoming book, Scooter Nation, which releases on March 13th.
Here is a sneak peek.
The old humpback with the cloudy eyes
and Orwellian proletarian attitude pushed past the young embalmer with a curt “Entschuldigen Sie bitte!—Excuse me!” That
Charles E. Forsythe, bespectacled and too tall for his own good, didn’t speak a
word of German was incidental. The man grunting at him, or, more accurately, through him was Weibigand senior
embalmer Heino Schade, who’d been gossiped about often enough at Charlie’s
previous place of employ: “Weibigand’s,”
the hairdresser winked knowingly, “is
like a Stalag. God only knows where the lampshades come from.”
Whether she was referring
to Schade specifically or the Weibigand’s generally didn’t matter. What he
gleaned from the talk and what he took with him when he left to go work for
them was that he was not expected to understand, only to follow orders.
Schade, muttering over a
cosmetic pot that wouldn’t open, suddenly tossed it; the airborne projectile
missing Charlie’s black curls by inches. Jumping out of the way, he wondered
what to do next.
Newly arrived from
Seltenheit and Sons, his new master’s most capricious competitor, expectations
that he perform beyond the norm were high. Trading tit for tat, his old boss
Hartmut Fläche had fought and lost battles with Karl Heinz Senior since 1937,
and wasn’t about to abandon the bad feeling, even as he approached his
ninetieth year. That his star apprentice had left under a tenacious cloud to go
work for the enemy would no doubt hasten old Harty’s resolve to plot every last
Weibigand into the ground before he got there first.
It was incumbent upon
Charlie, therefore, to dish some dirt hopefully juicy enough to shutter
Seltenheit and Son’s for good.
Stories of the two funeral
directors’ acrimony were legend: late night calls to G-men during the war
asserting that Weibigand was a Nazi; anonymous reports to the Board of Mortuary
Science that Fläche reused caskets; hints at felonious gambling; price-fixing;
liquor-making; tax evading; wife swapping; cross dressing; pet embalming;
covert sausage making; smokehouses; whore houses; Commie-loving; Semite-hating;
and drug using sexual merry-making of an unwholesomeness so heinous as to not
be spoken of, but merely communicated through raised eyebrows, was just a
Ducking under the low rise
water pipes that bisected Weibigand’s ceiling in the lower service hall,
Charlie shuddered with the thought of retributive action, if only because old
men were scary and he was still young. At twenty, he had finished his requisite
course requirements, albeit at an advanced age. A lot of the guys were
finishing at seventeen, only to be packed off to Vietnam. But Charlie had been
delayed by way of the family pig farm which in many ways, could save his hide
in a pinch. As the eldest male in a houseful of women, running the farm made
him essential if the Draft ever became an issue. It hadn’t so far—he was too
old, the 1950 and up birthdates pulled by lot would never include his. Yet he
was haunted by the prospect of a violent end.
His mother—a gentle soul
who knew the Old Testament chapter and verse—never missed an opportunity to
discourage his dreams for a life in the city. This only aggravated matters. He
was different, and he knew it. For that reason he had to leave.
“You’ll wind up in hell if
you try,” she said fondly, every time he negotiated the subject. In the end, it
was a kick in the ass from the toothless old neighbor that sent him running far
and fast off the front porch: “Yer not
like the others, are ya, sweetie?”
“Don’t expect an easy time from the Missus,”
Heino Schade said offhandedly from his vantage over a pasty deceased.
“Mrs. Weibigand?” Charlie
asked, noting that the old man used Madame Dubarry commercial cosmetic in place
of the heavy pancake Seltenheit’s favored.
“You assisted her out of a
particularly difficult situation. She will expect more as a show of your
constant devotion.” He knocked his glass eye back into place with a long spring
Charlie understood. He
hadn’t expected a call from the Lodge that infamous night, but then, it wasn’t
everyday that a good friend of the Potentate was found dead in a hotel room
under a hooker.
“In flagrante delicto,”
Schade continued ominously in what appeared to be Latin.
“Indeed,” Charlie said,
faking a working knowledge of the dead language; the unfamiliar term, he
guessed, having more to do with what Karl Heinz Weibigand was doing with a
woman in a seedy hotel room, than his desire to ask Schade how he made his dead
look so dewy.
What people are saying about A.B.'s books:
"Funny, quirky, and sooooo
—Jo Michaels, Jo Michaels' Blog
“Eccentric and Funny. You have
never read anything like this book. It demands respect for the outrageous
capacity of its author to describe in detail human behavior around death."
—Charlene Jones, author THE STAIN
“The macabre black comedy Heuer Lost And
Found, written by A.B. Funkhauser, is definitely a different sort of
book! You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour.”
—Diana Harrison, Author ALWAYS AND FOREVER
“This beautifully written, quirky, sad,
but also often humorous story of Heuer and Enid gives us a glimpse into the
fascinating, closed world of the funeral director.”
—Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
“The book runs the gamut of emotions.
One minute you want to cry for the characters, the next you are uncontrollably
laughing out loud, and your husband is looking at you like you lost your mind,
at least mine did.”
“The writing style is racy with no words
—David K. Bryant, Author TREAD CAREFULLY ON THE SEA
“For a story centered around death, it
is full of life.”
—Rocky Rochford, Author RISE OF ELOHIM CHRONICLES
“Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Heuer
is not a likeable man, but I somehow found myself rooting for him. A strange,
—Kasey Balko, Pickering, Ontario
"Raw, clever, organic, intriguing and
morbid at the same time … breathing life and laughter into a world of death."
—Josie Montano, Author VEILED SECRETS
About the Author:
A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral
director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada.
Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism
fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. Her debut novel HEUER
LOST AND FOUND, released in April 2015 after five years of studious effort, has
inspired four other full length works and over a dozen short stories. SCOOTER
NATION, her sophomore effort, is part of her UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series.
Funkhauser is currently working on POOR UNDERTAKER, begun during NaNoWriMo 2014.
Amazon Author Central: www.amazon.com/author/abfunkhauserGoodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13726412.A_B_Funkhauser