Monday, July 1, 2013

Interview with Ian Cassidy

Q. The Unsinkable Herr Goering is your first novel. What did you learn from the experience of writing the book that you’ve taken into consideration as you’re working on your second?

Unsinkable is my first published novel, it’s by no means the first one I’ve written. What I’ve learnt from writing all of them is just how time consuming writing is but time consuming in a good way. Aside from the writing itself, there’s the research, the editing and all the thinking and planning, if work expands to fill the time available then writing expands to take even more time than that. It’s fortunate that I love doing it.

Q. You spent time working as a bookmaker. Do you think that contributed to your desire to write, or did your desire to write draw you to that job?

I think here we may have a case of the George Bernard Shaws: “two people separated by a common language” bookmaking in my case involved the racetrack not producing collections of bound pages for others to read. I’m sure there are lots of stories from the track that are crying out to be told, some already have been in great books like Brighton Rock and The Grifters but so far my experiences at York, Aintree and Ascot haven’t inspired me to pick up my pen.

Q. When you aren’t working on your novels, I see that you teach law and contribute pieces of legal commentary to publications. Is there anything you find in your legal writing and in your novels that crosses over into one another – such as any type of tone or nuances unique to your writing?

The most obvious crossover is a liking for things to be correct, I do a lot of research to make sure my facts are straight, I may often take off into a flight of fancy featuring all kinds of outrageous suppositions and exaggerations but the underlying background facts will be historically correct. Aside from that I hope my books display a sense of justice and fairness and of siding with the underdog, I was that kind of lawyer, that’s why I never made any money at it, and I hope that I’m that kind of writer.

Q. Can you tell my readers a bit about The Unsinkable Herr Goering?

The Unsinkable Herr Goering comedy telling the story of Herman Goering’s attempted escape from justice and how a dodgy English house painter and his staff get involved. Through a series of extraordinary scenes that contain a bit of bribery and corruption, oodles of illicit sex, lots of boozing, plenty of punch-ups, just a little painting and decorating, a race in a fast car through occupied Europe and a boat chase along the Spanish coast the story unfolds of how a team of very unlikely heroes from a small town in rural England thwart the escape plans of a notorious war criminal.

Q. Were you concerned writing characters that are in such a well-known group, within Nazi Germany and Hitler’s army?

Of the well-known, even notorious figures only Goering himself appears with any regularity in the book. The other real people such as Goering’s wife and child, Kaltenbrunner or Von Ribbentrop and his wife have very small roles so I felt safe in inventing their personas – I portray Kaltenbrunner as a snivelling little complainer and if that is incorrect no one has yet seen fit to correct me. With the Von Ribbentrop I just thought it was funnier to have Frau Von Ribbentrop wearing the trousers. With Goering himself once again much is pure invention for comedic effect, I played up his well-documented greed and pomposity and his vast size and penchant for overdressing just made him the obvious choice for the fugitive from justice.

Q.  Similarly, were you concerned about pushing buttons by turning such a controversial group into a humor novel? Did that make it more exciting to write?

Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels are really too unpleasant for satirical treatment so I can see why think it was risky but I didn’t really give much thought to ‘pushing buttons’ I certainly was not excited by the prospect of creating controversy. But its not really an issue over here, we’ve a very long tradition of making the leaders of our wartime adversaries the butt of jokes. We certainly did it with all the Nazis even early in the war when they looked like winning, we did it with Napoleon when he looked like winning and I’m sure we did it with George Washington and he did win. In any event I seem to have pushed more buttons with the ‘fictional characters’, some people who seem to think that they may bear a more than passing resemblance to some of the characters are not altogether happy.

Q. What are a few of your favorite books to read – and are there any authors that you draw influence from?

I read fiction and large amounts of it, all the stuff that you’re supposed to read, the so called literary stuff from Hilary Mantel and Zadie Smith or Jonathan Franzen and Anne Tyler. I like books with a legal theme, I’ve read all the Grishams, I think In Cold Blood and To Kill a Mockingbird are both brilliant – I’ve read them both many times and I was so taken by The Executioner’s Song that I read it non-stop – all 1200 pages in one weekend. But more than anything I constantly get drawn back to the classics like The Mill on the Floss, The Mayor of Casterbridge or Last Chronicle of Barset. Eliot and Hardy are probably the authors I’d like to be influenced by although at the moment I’m trying to construct my latest novel in an unconventional way so I’m rereading Ulysses and Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End for inspiration.

Q. Lastly, if someone wants to learn more about you and The Unsinkable Herr Goering, where should they go?

My publishers The Cassowary Press. I also have a website Lastly, also Facebook (iancassidy42) and Twitter (@iancassidy1).

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