Saturday, July 18, 2015

Thomas Bartlett, Author

Welcome author Thomas Bartlett! Announcing his first novel, Americans Bombing Paris, Bartlett is also a published ghost writer. He was born in Belfast, grew up in Galway, and lived a year in the US as a child. In his twenties, he lived in Paris for four years, and Spain for two. Now living in Dublin, he is a full-time writer.

Congratulations on your new book! 
What is the premise for Americans Bombing Paris?
Americans Bombing Paris or ABP is a satirical novel set in an imagined 'what if' world leading up to the Iraq War. The French and the Americans are arguing over Iraq and sanctions. Not a million miles away from what was actually happening at that time. Our main character Johnny, an Irish guy, has decided along with his English and American friends to cause some trouble, to protest against what they perceive to be a lack of fraternity, equality and liberty.  All of the above is important but the main event of the book is when Johnny meets Naya, a French girl from the south and they begin a passionate affair. Everything else swirls around them but they hold the centre stage for most of the book.

How much of your storyline is based upon your own life events vs. fiction?
Very little is based on my own life events. I did live in Paris for four years around the time ABP is set and I use my memories of the city to colour in the sites and the emotions Paris evokes. The political stuff I made up, poking fun at those in power. The characters are composites of sorts, although perhaps only in appearance as the personalities are not like people I know.

Who is your favorite character?
I think probably Naya. From the first moment we meet her we are always struggling to see her all at once. Her face and her intentions are hidden, I enjoyed writing her as well as I was able to extemporize ‘til my heart's content. For some reason I felt I had more freedom with her character as she did not really remind me of anyone.

Please share an excerpt...
She gingerly tip toed out of the squat. Or, as I discovered later, the trendy artists’ retreat. She had a camera hanging from her neck. A bit grubby, wearing weary jeans, no shoes and a blue vest, dark hair, I hesitate to say any further south than the Med. I didn’t want my picture taken. She didn’t try to take it. I went over and introduced myself. I was thin back then. Real thin. Thin like a child or a rent boy. I wore a stolen T-shirt nobody else in the whole of Europe had, that was just fine.
She said her name was Naya. I was taken aback briefly by her perfect name, but outwardly I was calm. Inwardly I was at a ninety degree angle. We spoke in English; hers was perfect. I asked her what she did, or something stupid and irrelevant. It wasn’t going to be that type of relationship; no shopping and no owning. She liked me already, had decided. She understood I was learning to throw stones at somebody or something that deserved it. She never asked that day and I never told her.
I asked her “Would you like to come for a drink?
She replied “I’d like a coffee.”
I may have exhaled slightly, she smiled and then said,“OK a drink.”
She had a flip flop in each jean back pocket and put them on. Nothing in my life had really prepared me for how those little things made me feel. Like the protector and the parent, the subject and the slave.

Describe your writing studio...
I write on a desk my brother made for me. Rough and ready, nice and sturdy. It is also the right height. I don't like a low desk. I overlook a cul de sac in a residential area near the centre of Dublin city in Ireland. The houses around were built to house longshoremen or dockers, now though it is a mix of the locals and the regular hodge podge of any city.

People come and people go all day. I have gotten used to it. I listen to jazz or electronic or opera to drown out some of the background. Although I live in the city there are millions of birds constantly flying around. The locals like to put their food leftovers on the road for the pigeons, seagulls, crows etc. This means that we always have plenty of company.

How do you juggle thoughts and ideas?
I like to let them percolate. I try not to impose too many structures or parameters on what I am about to write. I then sit down and empty my brain onto the page. It tends to work, mostly.
I am interested in most everything so anyone I meet I like to find out about them. I practice listening; an extremely useful skill for any writer.

What is the key to being a great writer?
I believe the key to everything is hard work; sorry you are not going to get some magic formula from me. Reading as much as you can is the second most important thing, as a great deal of writing involves reading and rewriting. Then you need to learn that what people say to you about your writing or your career is important but only up to a point. Often friends, family et al are simply projecting their own regrets, frustrations on you. I have been lucky in that I have always had the support of most people in my life. Without them things are more difficult.

Finally on this despite what I have just said it is your life so live it whatever way you can.

Who is your favorite author?
I really like Mark Twain, mostly though because of Huckleberry Finn. I am not sure that the rest of his canon is quite up there. I also thoroughly enjoy Dumas, the adventure stories, Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo being great favorites. I read a lot, or at least I used to. I suppose the one author I always look out for is Michel Houllebecq. I buy his books when they are translated, his recent offerings are somewhat off the pace but he remains in my opinion an interesting writer who causes some trouble, which I like.

What are you currently writing?
I am currently writing All Girl Army. After I finished Americans Bombing Paris I realized that I wanted to write a book with a female as the main protagonist. I am nearly finished the first draft of All Girl Army, a story of four people:  a Hollywood actress, a scummy Paparazzo, teenage blogger and a quantum physicist. So that has two men and two women as the main characters. I need to bring it home at the end, tie up the loose ends, kill who needs to be killed and save who needs to be saved, you know the usual.

List a few things your fans may not know about you...
I am not sure I have any fans quite yet, but things they may not know about me, hmmm. I love sports, cooking, drinking and laughing. I really want to live abroad again, so that is the next stop on the world domination tour.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
Make it all up. Be nice to yourself.

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