Interview with F. J. McQueen
F. J. Mcqueen’s book. ‘Out Damned Spot!’ is out on the 14th April 2016. I asked her a few questions.
Can you tell me a bit about your soon to be published book please?
‘Out Damned Spot! William Shakespeare, Crime Scene Cleaner’ is the tale of William Shakespeare, a junior doctor with the NHS (how topical) who leaves his job after whistleblowing about his (entirely fictional) hospital using occult methods to diagnose and treat patients. Consultants use the Great Western Pharma tarot as their diagnostic tool of choice (doing a Y section spread — the Y section being the incision of choice for post mortums). There’s also the hospital Oracle, a semi-sedated woman seated on a mini-step-stool and partially suffocated by incense fumes. Matters progress. Everyone’s starting up crime scene cleaning businesses so William joins the throng. Anne Shakespeare, William’s wife, is a free-diving specialist midwife who works for the Simulacrum River Company. The Simulacrum River is used entirely for water births. Anne performs aquatic ballets with other water-birth specialist midwives. Their company is called Titania and the Titanics.
So, William, with the help of the Nine Bulimic Cannibals, sets up a crime scene cleaning business with two assistants, Jaques and Death Nell. Jaques is obsessed with sumo and Death Nell is a goth campanologist who uses only cracked bells. They specialise in ‘high end’ crime cleaning, scouring the bloody matter from the homes and offices of the wealthy. Fairies intervene. William’s belly button enlarges to the extent that he’s diagnosed as acoustic. Anne Shakespeare starts to steal babies. The crime scenes become progressively more sinister and haunted, and Death Nell is found to have a remarkable ability to produce ectoplasm whilst smoking e-cigarettes. There are clues a-plenty, nods to heaps of Shakespearean facts and speculations, and a wild tale that includes the Shrewds, an all girl and woman gang who attack people with linen handkerchiefs soaked in synthetic saliva. It’s a story with more twists than a packed-to-capacity Twister Convention caught up in a hurricane. And the Nine Bulimic Cannibals have lots to do with it, too. And poltergeists, too.
Where did you get the idea to write this book from and what does Shakespeare have to do with it?
Rather conventionally, from a dream. I dreamed about Shakespeare’s head (hugely magnified) rising out of the earth and there were waltzer cars spinning round his Elizabethan collar. People were trapped on the ride as Shakespeare intoned an unabridged recitation of Hamlet. He had a Birmingham accent.
Are you a fan of William Shakespeare’s works?
I am. I particularly like his use of rhetoric and figures of speech, never mind the glorious characters.
Did you have to do any research for your book?
Loads. You should see the mountain of books I bought on everything from Shakespeare’s education, Elizabethan rhetoric and oratory, the Elizabethan occult practices and beliefs, English magic, religion, travel, politics, language, fashion, tombs and funereal rites, and the plays and sonnets. Phew.
How long did it take you to write?
Background research took a very long time: writing the novel was considerably quicker although I can’t actually say how long the whole process took.
Can you relate to any of your characters?
Death Nell. I like the cut of her gib. I want to be a goth campanologist.
How did you discover Urbane Publications?
Serendipity, sheer fluke and good fortune. Bless ye search engines.
What are you going to work on next?
I’ve just completed 3 adaptations of Emile Zola’s Rougon Macquart cycle and am about to undertake 3 more (all for BBC R 4). And I’m writing some of the pamphlets mentioned in Out Damned Spot (From Knock to Nation, about how the human ability to knock underpins the creation of nations; and a pamphlet called War is Poltergeists). I’m also writing a new novel, ‘Mod King James’ (King James 6th Scotland, 1st of England is a mod on a scooter — I adapted Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy for BBC R 4’s classic serial and James Stuart popped up in that on a motorbike; now I’ve made him a mod with a gong). I’ve also begun ‘Izzy Whizzy, William Shakespeare’ about Shakespeare being a magician. Well, why not? And there’s a children’s book.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given regarding writing?
Do you read a lot of books?
Ye gods of dog-eared pages, I do, I do!
What else do you do in your spare time?
Cartoons. Zines. Dance. Librettos. Lyrics. Insect appreciation.
Can you describe a day in your life?
Wake, kettle on, clean out aviaries, feed my pigeons and crow, wash hair after Annie (our 14 year old beloved but incapacitated crow) poos on me, she’s a good shot, another cup of tea. Then, if I’ve not got to be in studio for the recording of plays, it’s write write write. Eat. Write. Walk. Write. Draw. Music on, dance. Eat. Scrawl, doodle. Read and read and try and write and fall asleep holding a pen so that I inadvertently scrawl on my husband’s face or all over his pillow.
About F. J. McQueen
Professional dreamer. I work as a writer but have been a mime, circus performer and Punch and Judy barker.
I have stolen/filched the comma from my book’s title — the original Shakespeare quote is, ‘Out, Damned Spot!’. I am intending to steal (as trophies) something from each of the covers of my published works (whatever sort of publication it is) and hoard them until I have a kind of composite I can create into a new title — like a Frankenstein piecemeal thing.
‘Out Damned Spot!’ is available to pre-order from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/out-damned-spot-2/