20 Questions with Andrew Livingston

1. So, what’s your book all about?

It’s hardly relevant since I haven’t even sent “Thief of Shadows” out to publishers yet (there are some relatives who want to read it first, and it’s taking a while), besides which this is one of those stories where the more you know about the plot going in the less special it’s all going to be, but I suppose I can summarize without spoiling too much. There are five people who have known each other’s names for most of their lives—in some cases since birth. For each one of them the other four names just keep echoing in their heads like half-remembered song lyrics from childhood. And none of these people have ever heard of each other otherwise. That’s the basic premise; the mystery is solved halfway through and the rest of the story deals with their reaction to the knowledge, the question of what to do with the abilities afforded by it.

2. What inspired you to write this tale?

As a writer you should know better than to ask something like that. What, don’t people ask *you* those questions too often for your liking?

Well, all right, just this once. I’m not sure exactly what the germ of the idea was but I have wondered at times if it might have emerged from “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”. It *is* my favorite “Twilight Zone” episode, after all.

3. Do you have a favorite quote about creativity/inspiration etc…? What is it?

Not really but if I must choose something then let’s go with this citation from “On Writing” by Stephen King: “There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”

4. What things do you keep in your “writing space”? Do they inspire you? Confound you? Hold wires in place?

I am not the least bit interested in what’s lying around the computer. I do like to keep headphones plugged in, though.

5. What is your perfect “writing space”?

Any place free of distraction. Which can be surprisingly hard to come by.

6. If your car horn could play any song, which would it be? Can’t say Dixie.

Why the hell would I say “Dixie”?!

It should be those magical opening eleven notes of “Moonlight Shadow” by Mike Oldfield. Just imagine it: wouldn’t that sound great coming out of a car horn?

7. What would you name the first permanent settlement on mars?

I wouldn’t. I find the whole Mars exploration thing silly, irresponsible, and without any obvious practical value. There are too many things that need to be done on this planet: to focus so much time and tax money instead on some barren spot a million miles away is sheer folly, and seems to be driven by no other clear motive except pure escapism or wildly overblown environmental alarmism.

8. How tall is the perfect sidekick? Please explain why it even matters.

It doesn’t. If I must say *something* then I would tell you not to deviate too much from average height. Make him too large and he might appear to be hired muscle or the brawns to the hero’s brains; make him too small and people might be offended by some imagined symbolism. But again, that’s an arbitrary answer. For most stories at least it doesn’t matter at all.

9. If you were to mess with the time stream, what would you change? Let’s assume a hundred other people already took care of Hitler so you don’t have to say, “Kill Hitler.”

I would much rather use time travel to take advantage of the opportunity to observe the world in secret and learn about the past. As it is history involves too much guesswork. I highly doubt that it could be possible to mess with the time stream anyway. The logical paradoxes involved would be staggering. I’m not even a hundred percent certain it *should* be done.

10. Let’s say your character has a pet brown bear. What’s the bear’s name?

Depends on the character. This one guy in “Thief of Shadows” named Joey might name his Aloysius Glasscock for sentimental reasons. (It makes sense in context.)

11. If you had to give an antagonist an annoying trait, what would it be?

Right now there may be no greater or more pervasive common nuisance than internet trolls. It seems that most comments sections I come across, as well as a hell of a lot of message boards, seem to be these little deposits on the fringe of society whither all the dross of humanity naturally floats as though drawn by forces of nature. Nobody likes a troll. The antagonist in question would probably talk mainly in Justin Bieber jokes (no I don’t like Bieber, I’m just sick to death of the cliché) and go around constantly calling other people’s beliefs fairy tales and saying “over nine THOOOOUUUUSAAAAAND!!!” about every three minutes. And so forth. A satire of everything despicable about the net.

12. What kind of car would your ultimate protagonist drive?

I don’t think I’ll ever top The Batmobile with anything I create.

13. You’ve got a year to travel anywhere. Where?

I’d try to hit as many different places as I could, but I definitely would aim for jolly old England as a priority.

14. You just bought a boat with your book fortune. What are you going to call it?

Aloysius Glasscock. No, really, I would probably name it “Surge and Thunder” as an allusion to Andrew Lang.

15. What kind of music, if any, gets you typing the fastest?

I’ve never noticed music altering my typing speed. Listening to music can, however, sometimes inspire characters. I think that the aforementioned Joey sprang largely out of “Night Train” by The Bouncing Souls and “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, and another character named Hannah was based on Mike Oldfield’s “Man in the Rain”. There’s a character named Sarah whose personality I think was based partly on the ambience of Holst’s “Somerset Rhapsody”.

16. What’s the punch line to your favorite joke?

We all know this one: “Watson, you royal jackass, someone stole our tent!!”

17. What lyric do you sing poorly, yet loudly?

I don’t do a great deal of singing and have an inconveniently soft voice. I used to sing numbers from Marx Brothers films in the bathtub, however—stuff like “When the Clock on the Wall Strikes Ten” and “Alone”. I probably didn’t exactly excel at that, although “poorly” seems to be pushing it.

18. You find a portal to another world in your sink’s drain. What is this other world called? And what is the best way to clean the portal so it doesn’t smell like old food?

It’s up to them what they call their own world. I wouldn’t care about keeping the portal clean. (Do you polish your front door every day?) I would just get something to magnify my voice, and then talk to the people of the other world through the hole. A lot can be learned from the exotic—the most important lesson usually being how similar it is to the familiar.

19. Where can people learn more about you, your work or any pets you have?

I guess through my Twitter handle @AndrewLivingst2. I no longer use my Tumblr site. I don’t tend to say a lot about myself at Twitter, though. I mostly just think aloud.

20. What’s next?

Although I am planning a sequel to “Thief of Shadows” (should the first one ever come out, God willing), for the time being I probably have a very long time in the doldrums ahead of me as I wait for my chance to send off the book, wait to hear back from the people I send it off to, and then maybe get the chance to wait for the publication. It could be years. For the moment I’m content to engage in my current projects. I’m trying to teach myself to draw worth a damn and I like to take pictures of local scenes and write poems about them. There should also be the occasional short story. You can find it all at http://www.facebook.com/ziggy.zag2. I now put all of my art apart from my novels there. Also all of my blogs.

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