Escaping Into a Loop-the-Loop World of Fantasy

When folks read stories by James Walley, they mention things like “fun,” “crazy,” “hilarious,” and “insane.” They compare his writing style to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Is writing a novel like this all fun and games, though? Or does it involve the bleeding onto the page that Hemingway and others suggested? James Walley is our guest this week for Geek Speaks…Fiction!

I see a lot of things written about how tortuous it is, being an author. How you go through angst, pain, and coffee in equal measure, suffering for your art. Personally, I’m not a fan of angst or pain, and am trying to cut down on the black gold, so who says you can’t have a little fun with the worlds you are creating?

I’m not going to lie and paint a picture involving animated birds and beasts, who helpfully arrive in your house and write your chapters for you whilst you relax with a glass of wine. Sure, I am going to put that at the top of my Christmas list, but in truth, writing a novel involves a lot of hard work, dedication, and consideration. How could it not be? It’s a massive undertaking, requiring character depth, plot development, and that special, indescribable something that keeps the pages turning. Where it stops being a chore for me, is in the sheer possibility that this presents.

Image: Ragnarok Publications
Image: Ragnarok Publications

The Forty First Wink, and its soon-to-be-released sequel, The Fathom Flies Again, are exercises in pure, unabashed escapism. I’m not sure I know how to write any other way, because what goes down on the page is everything I love about the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the downright crazy. Chalk that up to a steady diet of ’80s movies and chaotic, British comedy, of the sort that every child of my generation was required to absorb, growing up.

I love the absurdity of Monty Python, the dry, matter of fact nonsense/genius of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the unexpected triumph of the unlikely hero. Composing a story that contained all of these elements was like letting me build my own giant playground, without the tiresome constraints of reality. Sure, I greased the climbing frame, and hid a couple of land mines in the sand pit, but part of the fun lies in not knowing what’s going to happen next. Ask any of my victims, I mean readers.

The Forty First Wink is about having fun. Not just in the reading, but also in the writing of it. It was a blank canvas, onto which I could paint everything I love about pop culture and literature. I’m hesitant to use the word “if” in the following statement, but IF you’ve seen movies like The Goonies, you’ll know what a thrill it is to strap in with a bunch of misfits on a ridiculously over-the-top adventure, with pirates no less! Even then, I wanted to write something where absolutely anything was possible, and the only limits were the edges of my imagination. In this situation, the saying “If you can dream it, you can do it” was literally the case. When you lay that kind of foundation, all bets are off. You can release the parking brake, slam your foot on the gas, and see where the ride takes you. This is where that “fun” business we talked about earlier comes in.

Putting the movie that’s playing out in your head into words is just about the best feeling in the world. There are moments that have to be wrestled with, of course, but think of them as the slow climb up the roller coaster. You have to do that if you want to lift up your arms and ready your best loop-the-loop scream for what is just over that rise. Coming up with new ways to get your characters into and out of trouble isn’t a headache, it’s an opportunity.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned whilst writing stories based on things that I love, it is that it’s every bit as fun and rewarding as it sounds. It’s everywhere you want to go, and everything you want to see (and some things you don’t, depending on how much of a masochist you are). That’s what made The Forty First Wink so exciting for me to write. It’s what made me leap into The Fathom Flies Again with such enthusiasm, and it’s what is spurring me on as I write the, as yet untitled, third part of the trilogy.

Hopefully people will have as much fun riding the roller coaster as I had making it.

Photo: Melanie R. Meadors
Photo: Melanie R. Meadors

About James Walley:

Arriving in the rainy isle of Great Britain in the late ’70s, James quickly became an enthusiast of all things askew. Whilst growing up in a quaint little one horse town that was one horse short, a steady diet of movies, ’50s sci fi, and fantasy fiction finally convinced him to up sticks and move to Narnia–also known to the layman as Wales. Since there was no available qualification in talking lion taming or ice sculpture, he settled for a much more humdrum degree in something vague but practical, and set out to find a talking lion to make an ice sculpture of.

Mystifyingly finding himself behind the desk of a nine-to-five job, he kept himself sane by singing in a rock band, memorizing every John Carpenter movie ever made, and learning the ancient art of voodoo. Finally deciding to put his hyperactive imagination to good use, he ditched the voodoo and picked up a pen. A few months later, his debut novel, The Forty First Wink, was born. With a clutch of short stories in the offing, James is now loving his new life as an author, and still sings when plied with alcohol or compliments.

He also recently developed a penchant for fiercely embellishing his past. He really was a singer, although The Forty First Wink may not have brought about world peace. Yet.

About The Forty First Wink:

Marty is having a bad morning. Roused from slumber by a gang of polo mallet-wielding monkeys and a mysterious voice in his wardrobe, he must quickly come to terms with the fact that the world outside his door is now the world inside his head. Lying in wait amidst bleak, gloomy streets, deserted theme parks, and circus-themed nightclubs, lurks the oppressive shadow of a myriad of giggling, cackling pursuers, hell bent on throwing a custard pie or two into the works.

Assisted by a string of half-cocked schemes, a troupe of tiny unlikely allies, and (literally) the girl of his dreams, Marty sets out on a heroic quest to wake up and get out of bed.

Early reviews have compared it to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Equal parts epic, funny, and dark, The Forty First Wink plummets headlong into the realms of askew reality, adding elements of the macabre, and squeezing in an unlikely love story for good measure. It will take you on a journey where not even the sky is the limit, and literally anything could be around the next corner. The question is, do you have the guts (and the sanity) to find out?

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016.