Hello there everyone.
Stay tuned later tonight for Day Three of NanoPoblano, where I write more poetry (it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it).
For now though, here is your latest installment in the Author Interview Series.
My guest is author Tom Hocknell, a very talented writer who has written for many prominent magazines. He is going to give us the low down on his thrilling debut novel and his writerly influences.
Thanks for reading friends and enjoy the show.
Hi there Tom, thank you for being our guest here today, we’re really looking forward to what you have to say.
Let’s start with your debut novel “The Life Assistance Agency.“ Your tagline for the book is ”Do you want to live forever?” Ask me at different times of the day and the answer to this question will differ depending on whether there is tea, coffee, wine, biscuits and/or donuts available to help me through the bad/boring patches. So what is this mysterious agency that your protagonist Ben Ferguson-Cripps is keen to join? What are their goals and motives? Please tell us more about your intriguing novel and give us some background information to consider, while we ponder if we really would like to live as an immortal forever.
The proprietor of the Life Assistance Agency, Scott Wildblood, is the sort of man who sets up life assistance agencies before researching into the need for one. Of course on paper it’s perfect. An organisation that has no modus operandi, so therefore avoids painting itself into a corner, (although will do so if a client pays enough) but on the other hand it sounds more like a business plan half-heard during a pub lock-in, which it was. Much that it pains me to say, it’s a slightly farcical take on the road trip template; as I redefine ‘slightly’. If you like Springsteen, like Scott does, you’ll like this book.
It was also influenced by Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He only wrote 2 and a half of these novels, which I always wanted more of. Of course I’m cautious when aligning myself with a Great like Adams. The Life Assistance Agency is basically a bit like Douglas Adams, but not as good. This would be a cover quote had someone else said it, but it was me.
Ben Ferguson-Cripps’ enthusiasm for joining the agency has more to do with the absence of any other options than a real commitment to assisting. As Scott is only too aware of, Ben is himself in need of urgent assistance, and it’s this, which steers the narrative arc of the story.
The Agency find themselves with a missing professor obsessed with Dr. Dee, and his distraught wife who wishes him found. Dr. Dee was an Elizabethan alchemist Dr. Dee, which history records as having pursued immortal life through the scrying of angels. I was fascinated by the idea of someone having achieved this, and how a person might feel about immortality 400 years in; particularly when the first 360 involved there being nothing on television.
You also have a website over at “Idle blogs of an idle fellow”. What sort of posts and vignettes can we expect to find in your neck of the woods if we travel into the realm of the idle fellow?
I blog at Blogs of an Idle Fellow – in the manner in which Jerome K Jerome might have, were he writing in 2016, and not 1886. He wrote the Idle thoughts of an idle fellow, which was kind of blogging before the phrase had been invented. He famously said (at least in my world) that ‘What readers ask nowadays in a book is that it should improve, instruct, and elevate. This book wouldn’t elevate a cow. I cannot conscientiously recommend it for any useful purposes whatever’. His short, hilariously observational essays are a rather uncelebrated precursor to the blog. Not that I read blogs. I know this isn’t the sort of thing a blogger should admit, but they rarely interest me. Other than mine of course. And yours. The Idle blogs were always intended to cover the most random of subjects, but has settled into a blog about music and writing. With an ongoing Life Lessons series, which is basically the most useless skills that life teaches you, such as learning that there’s big distinction between having a healthy hedge, and a healthy hedge fund.
For more info it can be found here – Idle blogs of an idle fellow
If your novel was to be made into a film, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Ha. What a great question. R2D2 is an obvious shoe-in for absolutely no role in it at all, which is a shame. I’ve always seen Scott Wildblood as a variation on PG Wodehouse’s Freddie Threepwood, the sort of rakish dandy on whom life invariably shines its light, so I guess it would have to be someone like Ethan Hawke, who I greatly admire in terms of his writing, choice of scripts and hair. Although I’d rather this not to be the case, enough people have said that Ben reminds them of me, so I guess Ben would be played by me, or Bernard Sumner from New Order, so I can meet him.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
I’ve always said that the easiest place to be inspired is when you are furthest from a pen. So a raft adrift in the Pacific is probably the best place to be writing an unforgettable novel – at least it had better be, or you’ll never get the chance to write it down
The easiest thing is drinking tea while doing it, so long as it’s not stewed.
In all seriousness, I’m a terrible planner. I tend to make it up as I go along, which I guess IS what writer’s do, but some authors have post-it notes and huge pin boards of plot and character arcs. I don’t. But wish I did.
Who are some of the authors in general that inspire you?
Easy. PG Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Neville Shute, all the writers who make your heart glow with anticipation as you pick up their book. I like escapism. The Life Assistance Agency is not the sort of book involving vast Irish families with dubious secrets and a silhouetted park bench on the cover. Who else? I love John Williams’ Stoner and Butcher’s Crossing – two genuine classics. Dave Eggers has it nailed these days, as does Jonathan Franzen, although Purity needed an editor. Paul Auster was always a favourite and of course Conan Doyle.
What sort of research did you do to write your book?
It’s the best and worst bit of writing. It’s perfect for procrastination, yet fascinating. These days I tend to make up the bits that need researching, and then go back later to double check the facts to discover that Colgate toothpaste actually wasn’t available in 1607.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
I have answered this question in hindsight, as I don’t really know. I think I just loved reading and liked the idea of sitting down at a lovely desk chewing the end of a pencil.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
To be honest I don’t write regularly enough to get writer’s block. I have two young children, so I tend to write in paragraphs that I hope are leading somewhere and hopefully, at some point reaching a conclusion. Blogging also helps, as it taps into the thrill of not knowing what you’re going to write until you start
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
Free time? What’s that? I guess I buy records I never get to play out because I’m not a DJ. Running after toddlers, going to the pub and studying. Exercise and studying.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
Since getting The Life Assistance Agency published everyone is asking if there’s a sequel. This is before they’ve even read it. So. It’s not even flattering! It’s more ‘don’t think you can rest on the laurels of this one.’ However, there is a sequel, currently called Blind Fury, which involves 80’s wrestling, musical one hit wonders, and wintery English seaside towns. What more could you ask for? Beyond a comprehensibly plot and the final act of course. Actually, I do have some idea of what happens. The end of the The Life Assistance Agency is (annoyingly) perfectly cued up for a sequel. So, regardless of demand I’m half way through a first draft.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
Don’t do it.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for a very entertaining time Tom and we look forward to checking out more of your work.
Thomas Hocknell is a blogger at Idle Blogs of an Idle Fellow – in the manner in which Jerome K. Jerome might have, were he writing in 2016, and not 1886. The Life Assistance Agency is his first novel and is the journey of a blogger, Ben Ferguson-Cripps, who sets aside his literary failures to join the newly established Life Assistance Agency in pursuit of a missing professor obsessed with the Elizabethan alchemist Dr. Dee.
You can connect with Tom on the following Social Media platforms:-
Facebook:- Tom Hocknell – Author (FB)
Twitter:- @TomAngel1 (Twitter)
Website:- Idle blogs of an idle fellow – The Website of Tom Hocknell
You can buy his book here:-
Still want more? Well, there is an urgency in Tom’s protagonist to join the Life Assistance Agency because he lacks options in life and this urgency to do something with his life drives the narrative arc of the story. For more articles relating to the theme of ‘Urgent’ then check out the links below:-
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