Book Spotlight: Shell Game by A.B. Funkhauser
Hello, I had the privilege to sit down with A.B. Funkhauser about writing and life.
Is Carlos based on any cat that you know?
The Foreward to SHELL GAME was written by horror writer Bri Volinz whose family lives six doors up from me. Like the characters in the novel, we are conjoined by common interests (writing) and a cat. Kobe was adopted by Bri four years ago when she was away at college. Cramped up in a windowless basement apartment, it didn’t take long for her to realize that he was very special. It wasn’t just his higher than normal affection for humans that stood out, but the ease with which he could turn his back on the whole domestic situation without a thought. This laissez faire attitude, in Bri’s own words, led her to conclude that she had to “let him go.” Kobe left Bri’s student apartment and took up residence in her parents’ home in the suburbs. There, he became the toast of the town visiting neighbors, insinuating himself into their homes, and eventually earning the ire of an, as yet, unknown complainant who ratted him out to Animal Control. (I doubt we’ll ever learn the identity of the whistle-blower.)
Keeping cats indoors against their will is a hot button issue among those who seek to protect the public from Lyme Disease, Rabies and fecal infections on the one hand, and those who recognize that some cats will not stay indoors no matter how well-intentioned we, the owners, try to be in keeping them there. Today, Kobe spends most hours inside my home owing to his advancing age—he’s going on five! Wanderlust seems to have abandoned him naturally. Bri and I share co-parent responsibilities—food, healthcare. His range, once vast, is now limited to the six doors between her parents’ home and mine. Are we relieved? Yes! Is he? Probably. He not only lives his life on his own terms, but can revel in its celebration with the release of SHELL GAME. Smart kitty.
What was the first award you received from your writing?
I won Best Horror Novel 2015, Preditors & Editors, and it was very gratifying. Winners were selected based on the number of votes cast by readers and supporters on a daily basis, which meant that ballots could potentially be cast by the same people day after day. What this told me was that my first book had a following that believed enough in it and me to keep voting for it continuously over a two-week period. This meant the world to me. I’ve gone on to win juried competitions—also gratifying—but that first win will always hold a special place.
Any words of wisdom for new writers?
There are so many formulas and gurus out there, and every single one of them has a utility when matched to the right need. Before I’d completed the first act of the first novel, I was advised by the shadowy “them” to “decide on my genre,” “write for the market,” “show don’t tell,” and “get an agent,” among other things. I didn’t do these things not because I was smug, but because I had (and still have) a fantastic critiquing group that I trusted and a publisher that allowed me the critical time I needed to grow and “get it right.” SHELL GAME is my third published novel and with it and the fourth and the fifth work etc., I’ll keep riding the learning curve.
ADVICE: Sit down and write and leave all the other “stuff” for later. There will be plenty of time to buff, polish and LEARN. And join a critiquing group. The members will make you a better writer and you will learn to handle criticism with aplomb.
What made you decide to become a funeral director?
I have the greatest respect for so many professions—day care workers come to mind—but I lacked the courage to pursue them. This was a calling.
Carlos the Wonder Cat lives free, traveling from house to house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Known by everyone, his idyllic existence is jeopardized when a snarky letter from animal control threatens to punish kitty owners who fail to keep their pets indoors. The $5,000 fine / loss of kitty to THE MAN is draconian and mean, but before Team Carlos can take steps, he is kidnapped by a feline fetishist sex cult obsessed with the films of eccentric Pilsen Güdderammerüng. Stakes are high. Even if Carlos escapes their clutches, can he ever go home?
The third novel in the UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SHELL GAME follows SCOOTER NATION (2016) and HEUER LOST AND FOUND (2015) this time, with an eye on a seemingly pastoral community with a lot to hide. More than a cat and mouse story, Shell Game is an examination of community—who we are and how we relate to one another in a questioning world. Written with tongue firmly in cheek, it asks us to open our eyes, see better, and have a little more patience.
Escorted with force up creaky wooden stairs into a passageway straight out of Kafka, the cat squirmed as the space opened into a large windowless room. There, light from tall lamps shot white hot from floor to ceiling, their beams reminiscent of Nuremburg on its worst day. These, uniform in design, were placed with deliberate care every six feet or so, like the stations of the cross in a Catholic cathedral. The lack of adornments on the walls and in the cornices, however, made this place anything but holy, the ecclesiastical taking a back seat to amateur theatrical.
Kitty growled a thousand growls, all unheard.
Unlike their hooded counterparts from down below, the humans upstairs concealed their identities not with comic book capes, but with papier mâché masks, obscuring what were probably facial features of little worth. Their bodies, once unshrouded, offered an array of tattoos and piercings. Many were on the heavy side, their adipose jiggling with the multitudes that tried to copulate in interesting ways. Nothing at all like Güdderammerüng’s Blod av Däggdjur, which supported an aesthete both elegant and worshipful, this sexy orgy party tried way too hard to be what it clearly was not.
Large cat statues in the Egyptian fashion added to the absurdity of the occasion. Eight feet tall, the polystyrene golden statues came by way of a prop wrangler and his girlfriend, who had purloined them from a storage locker after a film wrap in Vancouver. Under red-pink lights, the cat sentinels were positioned in equal numbers on either side of a large altar, marked by numerous fetish objects and eschatological symbols. In line with the forced revelry that abounded, their uses gained currency with the rather strange choice of Seventies-era rock music that assaulted the senses.
Working up a large hairball, Carlos barely caught his breath for all the hookah vapors filling the room. Humans of all genders did what they did together, separately and severally. Many appeared older, their sagging midsections reminding him of the old Tom’s that lived out their lives in the Banford barn outside Cavan.
Claiming to want something more, something more in line with Güdderammerüng’s vision, their attempts at consciousness raising from the “darkness to the light” fell flat. These humans, for all their writhing and hookah smoking, fundamentally lacked what the cats had: that state of grace that comes with knowing who you are and what you’re here for.
“…writes with a take-no-prisoners style of prose.”
Steve Cronin, AMERICAN FUNERAL DIRECTOR MAGAZINE
“Funkhauser digs down deep into each character and shatters the lines of morality, showing us the darkness and light within all of them...”
Angela D’Onofrio, Author FROM THE DESK OF BUSTER HEYWOOD
"Funny, quirky, and sooooo different."
—Jo Michaels, JO MICHAELS BLOG
Toronto born author A.B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, classic car nut and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us, not we it.
Her debut novel Heuer Lost and Found, released in April 2015, examines the day to day workings of a funeral home and the people who staff it. Winner of the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll for Best Horror 2015, and the New Apple EBook Award 2016 for Horror, Heuer Lost and Found is the first installment in Funkhauser’s Unapologetic Lives series. Her sophomore effort, Scooter Nation, released March 11, 2016 through Solstice Publishing. Winner of the New Apple Ebook Award 2016 for Humor, and Winner Best Humor Summer Indie Book Awards 2016, Scooter picks up where Heuer left off, this time with the lens on the funeral home as it falls into the hands of a woeful sybarite.
A devotee of the gonzo style pioneered by the late Hunter S. Thompson, Funkhauser attempts to shine a light on difficult subjects by aid of humorous storytelling. “In gonzo, characters operate without filters which means they say and do the kinds of things we cannot in an ordered society. Results are often comic but, hopefully, instructive.”
SHELL GAME, tapped as a psycho-social cat dramedy with death and laughs, is the third book in the series, and takes aim at a pastoral community with a lot to hide. “With so much of the world currently up for debate, I thought it would be useful to question—again—the motives and machinations championed by the morally flexible, and then let the arbiter be a cat.”
Funkhauser is currently working on THE HEUER EFFECT, the prequel to HEUER LOST AND FOUND.
Other Books by A.B. Funkhauser:
HEUER LOST AND FOUND (2015)
Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against God, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.
At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girlfriend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/heuerlostandfound
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llaBBPQIcoc
SCOOTER NATION (2016)
Aging managing director Charlie Forsythe begins his work day with a phone call to Jocasta Binns, the unacknowledged illegitimate daughter of Weibigand Funeral Home founder Karl Heinz Sr. Alma Wurtz, a scooter bound sextenarian, community activist, and neighborhood pain in the ass is emptying her urine into the flower beds, killing the petunias. Jocasta cuts him off, reminding him that a staff meeting has been called. Charlie, silenced, is taken aback: he has had no prior input into the meeting and that, on its own, makes it sinister.
The second novel in the UNAPOLOGETIC LIVES series, SCOOTER NATION takes place two years after HEUER LOST AND FOUND. This time, funeral directors Scooter Creighton and Carla Moretto Salinger Blue take center stage as they battle conflicting values, draconian city by-laws, a mendacious neighborhood gang bent on havoc, and a self-absorbed fitness guru whose presence shines an unwanted light on their quiet Michigan neighborhood.
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/ScooterNation
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/oqmrW_t92jc
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/ScooterNation
Geo Buy Link: http://myBook.to/heuerlostandfound
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/abfunkhauser
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/118051627869017397678
Interview Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2yhaXfh-ns
Interview Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoPthI1Hvmo
New Apple E-Book Award 2016 “Humor” SCOOTER NATION
New Apple E-Book Award 2016 “Horror” HEUER LOST AND FOUND
Winner Summer Indie Book Award (SIBA) 2016 “Humor” SCOOTER NATION
Winner Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll 2015 “Horror” HEUER LOST AND FOUND
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