Fly: Welcome, Mz. Funkhauser. I zee you are in a different mold today.
AB: You bet, Fly. Rats have a nasty reputation, but there’s more to me than good looks and an above average competency in Latin. We are clean, clever and very friendly, which is why my life and death in the story is celebrated favourably by most of the characters.
Fly: Zo you're the Rat! If it’s any zupport, fliez get a bad rap too. Anyway, here we are in a funeral parlor. What’z new?
Rat: Silent. More than usual. The guys - Enid and her manager, Charlie - are trying to make ends meet because deaths have been few and that has robbed them of their payroll! Heuer’s death, while hard on Enid, was the first death call in weeks. He really saves the day.
Fly: I find a zcary zenze of irony in all this! But let’z talk about the novel. Heuer Lost & Found beginz with the death of Jürgen Heuer. How did your alter ego come by that idea?
Rat: It was in the winter of 2010, and after a long day at the funeral home she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. The back door on the cover is a more than accurate representation of it. It’s from a real funeral home, you know? Anyway, a thought occurred to her at that moment: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains? Freaky, no? But there it is Ad infinitum
Fly: Indeed. Tell uz about Heuer?
Rat: Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer,” Heuer the lawyer is a very conflicted man. Intensely private, he craves recognition, but doesn’t want anyone to get too close. When he finds my shattered body on the floor of the Wisteria Slumber Room, he approaches, commenting on the exceptional beauty of my fur. At that moment, he recognizes beauty in an unlikely thing. I found this particularly charming about him. I must confess, however, to being more than a little put out when he confronts my murderer. I had great hopes for moral redress; instead, he takes pity and tries to help her. What can I say? Ecce homo.
Fly: Unlezz you wizh to leave uz hanging with curiozity, where can the readerz get accezz to all that happened?
Rat: Through Amazon.com and my publisher www.solsticepublishing.com. My alter ego won’t have the URL until presales begin March 26th. I might have to come back here with that intel! Also, information will be posted as it becomes available on her website www.abfunkhauser.com and her author page on Facebook www.facebook.com/heuerlostandfound. I believe she posted a most excellent profile of your alter ego there, Fly. (laughs)
Fly: Err, no. That waz Malay, and I do not underztand why he alwayz takez all the credit! I AM REAL! Anyway, what would you zay haz inzpired A.B. Funkhauser in real life?
Rat: She has an amazing support group—her family, her writer’s group The Brooklin 7, and pretty well everyone she comes into contact with, from friends at the grocery store and local coffee house to the lady who helps her with her printing at Staples. She also maintains close connections to friends and work colleagues in funeral service, a business I must say that can easily be misunderstood with little effort. She believes in the work, and through writing has tried to shine a light on it.
Fly: And any author or artizt can vouch for how important thoze are. Working az a funeral director, what iz Mz. Funkhauser’z take on life?
Rat: Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it. She celebrates it daily, from simple chores to writing new chapters. And she loves the outdoors. It’s been a long winter here in Canada. She needs to get outside and roam.
Fly: In the ztory, we have Enid on one zide, who lozez zomeone important to her - Heuer - without a chance to zay a final goodbye. On the other zide, we have Heuer whose ztory, and in zome way, life itself unfoldz after hiz death. In a zingle ztroke, you introduce uz readerz to both our greatezt fear and our greatezt wizh!
Take uz through thiz experience with regardz to getting zecond chancez in life. Which perzpective would you zay you lean more towards in real life?
Rat: The first thing Funkhauser got rid of after her thirtieth birthday was the idea that all she had in front of her was second chances. She decided instead to roll with the idea that it’s all a continuum... good days, bad days, successes and failures. She refuses to see the end. She sees the next day and all the promise that comes with it. On a micro level, if she suffers less than three disappointments in a day, it’s been a pretty amazing day!
The character Heuer in life goes through the motions of working and acquiring “stuff”. His house is literally packed to the ceiling with ‘treasures’ signifying a life in progress. But there is no real human contact. He avoids his neighbors wherever possible, does not have a spouse or significant other, and lives through what he sees on the television and in old photos. After death, being found is prime to him because his objects can’t call for help, and there is no one out there looking for him.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Enid. She has done everything her society expects of her: she has a career, a spouse, family, friends and hobbies. But her life is changing. Her eyesight is blurred; her step, less sure footed. “There is unfinished business here,” Heuer says, and it’s to that business that the book turns; so not so much a second chance, but a recognition that the drama and comedy are still continuing.
Fly: That anomaly iz a work of art! I have to bring up a literal one at thiz point, though - The Lamp. Very much living, myzteriouz and abzolutely fascinating! Care to introduce uz to it?
Rat: The Lamp embodies the spirit of the funeral home matriarch who died decades before. Anchored to the floor by her griffin’s feet, she can travel in the minds of others, but cannot leave her place in the dusty, cramped funeral home basement. There is a parallel here; that her domicile closely resembles Heuer’s and that their predicaments are similar. It was inevitable that the two should become allies, although their relationship is a strained one.
Fly: And you embody one of them?
Rat: More Heuer, I think. As I said earlier, rats have a bad rap owing to history and human malfeasance. The same is true for Heuer. He carries with him the sins of his father. Just by being born, he is convinced that he is bad, and rather than try to overcome it, he embraces it in his twenties. The tragedy for him is that his life is a lie and all the angst that ruled him in life was completely without merit.
Fly: Alright, don’t zay anymore! I can barely control my urge to flip through the pagez right till the very end. When doez the book come out?
Rat: It hits AMAZON April 23, 2015.
Fly: Time to mark our calendarz then. For now, we make do with the preview. Thank you, dear Rat, for your attendance today.
Rat: You can call me ‘The’. That’s my first name.
Fly: Really?! Mine too! Damn, what are the chances??
Rat: That’s my point, dear friend. You and I share the same hang-ups. Of course we’d align. Amicitiae nostrae memoriam spero sempiternam fore.
Fly: (bluzhing) Oh! That’z zo Latin-aciouz! Amen.
Rat: Relax. Here, keep my picture if it helps.
Fly: (in breaking voice) Nice! Ahem. To all the readerz, enjoy the excerpt below from Heuer’z pozthumouz world!
For more Author Interviewz & Book Reviewz, check out Earth.
An Excerpt Featuring ‘Rat’:
Rat should have seen it coming. He was a rat after all and therefore genetically predisposed to a shorter life. As such, he should have taken better care. But tender concern for his friend obscured his view, and this deprived him of a rodent’s perfunctory need to avoid detection.
Mrs. Emmy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E” late of The Springs by way of Baycon Hill had died quietly in her bed in her ninety-sixth year. Owing to her advanced age, her family decided that a little-more-than-this-side-of-nothing was required to get her on her way as quickly as possible. To that, arrangements were concluded between Teddy Shawson-Cooke-With-An-”E,” her great nephew and heir, and Charles Emerson Forsythe, funeral director extraordinaire.
“I’m very sad to hear of your great aunt’s passing,” Charlie said somberly, for he liked Emmy very much. A wealthy woman, she was a doyen, a neighborhood fixture, raising funds for world wild life, Christian children and Ethiopian famine relief. But she was more than just money. At the heart of her was a genuinely good human being who said what she meant, and acted on her commitments. In the early years, she was a constant fixture at Weibigand’s, resplendent in a magnificent suite of emeralds that Charlie never tired of commenting upon. “I bring in the business, don’t I Charlie?” she would say through cherry lips under a pillbox hat. Indeed she did, and Charlie encouraged her familiarity. Both shared a special bond. Even after her (some said) forced relocation to the nursing home in The Springs, she never failed to fire off emails to her Charlie to make sure he was okay. And Charlie always visited her on her birthday and at Christmas.
Emeralds? Rat was barely two years old and so had never met Emmy Shawson-Cooke. But he knew well enough about gemstones and other things too, and so it was to this that he turned his attention as he repositioned himself inside Charlie’s monk strap Prada slip on. They were in the front office, Rat’s favorite room by far. It faced the street, was pleasantly lit, and with its high coffered ceiling, offered stunning acoustical advantages. Charlie was reminiscing with Teddy about the gemstones: They sparkled blue at their centers, spanning outward only to be confined devilishly in beveled frames of seawater green. Spectacular—like the Bering Strait meeting the Caribbean Sea. Emmy’s late husband Cecil joked that they could shame Tsars and tease laughs from stone.
“I beg your pardon,” Charlie said noticing Rat beneath him. It was Charlie’s habit to remove his shoes in mid-afternoon to promote better circulation, but they were in the way now under the large desk and he took care not to disturb the Weibigand mascot as he moved the shoes off to one side.
Teddy Shawson-Cooke shifted from haunch to haunch, his incredible heft straining the pound for pound capacity of the Faux Toscano Victorian Rococo wing chair he was sitting on. Forsythe, sensing the man’s discomfort, did his best to speed up the meeting. Emmy had prearranged her funeral and Teddy was undoing as much of it as he could because, he said, “there was no one left” and “doing her up for nothing was just plain stupid.” Truth was, Teddy had the power to add the money saved from a cheapo funeral to his aunt’s estate, from which he could pay himself as executor.
Charlie smiled down at Rat who, in an act of implicit trust, dozed off in his shoe.
“Allow me, if you will, to think out loud,” Charlie said, in anticipation of what Teddy wanted to serve up next. If the meeting went on much longer, Emmy’s casket choice would be undone too and no one at Weibigand’s—Charlie most all—could bear to put Emmy into anything less than the mahogany she’d paid for years before. “Your great aunt put her faith in us to carry out her wishes. I understand where you are coming from, but I must insist on the single night of visiting she paid for.”
Shawson-Cooke, in saying nothing, red-flagged Charlie, and he picked up speed. “Now the emerald suite. I trust she will be wearing it, as always?” Teddy replied that it was “long gone” save for the ring which, he hoped, “found its way out of the nursing home before someone else got to it.”
Down on the floor below, Rat dreamed of Carla and, more particularly, her less than utterly no-good spouse Danny Blue—a musician in a band that had, in the space of two years, eroded the family fortune on protracted road trips through northern Canada. Designed to boost the band’s profile and hopefully springboard them into other gigs in Manitoba, the latest tour had bogged down south of Parry Sound and Danny Blue had forgot to come home. The issue at hand was money. Plain and simple. And in dreams, Rat searched for a solution.
Fly: Welcome, dear Young.
Young: Good to be here. How are you?
Fly: Quite enthuziaztic to have a chance at thiz dizcuzzion. How did you come by that alias - Young?
Young: That’d be thanks to my classmates in my UK boarding school. They couldn’t pronounce my Chinese name Yoong. So I became Young.
Fly: That waz several decadez ago. And you ztill carry that name. It zayz zomething about your attachment to thoze yearz, doezn’t it?
Young: Certainly. You don’t write a 7-book series on my unique experiences without such levels of engagement. A Harem Boy’s Saga has waited 40-odd years to come out in the open.
Fly: That iz what makez the ztory zo intriguing. The book zeriez ezzentially dealz with your early yearz. Do offer uz a glimpse.
Young: I was born in 1953 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Malaya at the time of my birth). At the age of 8, I was assisting my aunt and cousin in learning the art of sewing and fabrics/colors matching. My childhood until 13 years of age was spent in Kuala Lumpur. From late 13 to 26, I was educated in the United Kingdom. From 14 years on, I’ve been travelling, studying, teaching all over Europe and Asia. Each book in A Harem Boy’s Saga is approximately 3 months of my life, spent in service at 7 different wealthy and elite Arab Households.
Fly: How did that come about?
Young: At my boarding school in UK, I was summoned into the headmaster’s office to be told that I’m 1 of 5 boys (from a school of approximately 200) that have been specially selected to enter a sexual secret society – The Enlightened Royal Oracle Society (E.R.O.S.) - to be further educated in a more exclusive boarding school in the United Arad Emirates to be groomed to enter several Arab Household harems. I attended the Bahriji School (Oasis) in The U.A.E. in preparation for serving in Harems for the wealthy and elite. And before you ask, of course I’ve changed the actual names of the people and places.
Fly (zmilez): Well, on to the next queztion then. Did you not find it unuzual at that time?
Young: No, In fact I felt privileged to be selected. Since I was one of 5 that were specially selected to enter this “Student Exchange Scholarship” program. My big-brother/mentor/chaperone and headmaster explained to me what was entailed if I decide to take up the offer.
Fly: Waz there any zpecific criteria of zelectionz?
Young: At our unique education, we were specially selected by the secret society because of our looks, intelligence, openness, positive character traits and much more I can’t explain in such a brief passage. Therefore, students and “big-brothers/Valets” had to go through a series of special training, test before being short listed to be the 5 finalised.
Fly: And you didn’t feel a tendency to zhare thiz induction with your family?
Young: No. All the recruits have to pledge an oath of confidentiality and allegiance to the Enlightened Royal Oracle Society not to reveal the nature of the society. My parents knew I was on a “Student Exchange Scholarship” program. I didn’t tell them what I did during my time there. Recruits do get regular studies/schooling while we are in the Arab Households. We were taught/home schooled by highly educated private tutors.
Fly: And then followed 45 yearz of zilence. Did you often recall thoze timez during theze yearz?
Young: Well, definitely. I missed the wealth I was inducted into during my young years. More importantly, I remembered my ex-big-brother/Valet/lover. In my memoirs, I’ve recently reconnected with him. If and when we do meet up and if the circumstances and situations permit, we (my life-partner, Walter, Andy – my ex-lover “big-brother”/Valet and I) may decide to have a triplet relationship.
Fly: But to bring the people and the placez out of the clozet is quite a rizk.
Young: Yes. As I said, in the books I’ve changed the names and places to protect myself and those involved so I will not be sued or have a ‘Fatwah’ put on my life because of my controversial experiences. This is not so much fear but a precaution I took to protect all the people and institutions involved. The experiences and events that happened in the unique harem experiences of my adolescent life are real.
Fly: You zpeak of love, of concern, of controverzy and of lozz - all in a zingle breadth. Which of theze actually reflect your take on your experiencez during adolezcence?
Young: Neither. I’m grateful and truly proud to have been given this enlightened educational opportunity within such an opulently, wealthy and unique setting, and an opportunity to grow into a responsible citizen of the world. When one reads A Harem Boy’s Saga series, one’ll understand the nature of my education and experiences.
Fly: Your pozitivity iz inspiring! Truly. I take it that that’z your approach to life itzelf?
Young: Yes. I love and embrace who I am. I’m a perfect me. I wouldn’t want to change but be myself because I had many positive experiences during my young years in the Middle Eastern Households.
Fly: Thankz, in large part to a perfect guardian. It iz no zurprize that you went on to have zuch an illuztriouz career. Let uz get out of the bookz now. Tell uz about the yearz that followed.
Young: After my 4 years in the E.R.O.S., I went on to complete my Master of Design at the Royal College of Art & Design, London, England. During my college years, I won several international fashion awards and was already retailing bridal and evening dresses to several established department stores in England - Liberty of London, Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols, to name a few. For four years, I worked for Liberty’s bridal department as their in-house designer until a trip to Hong Kong, while working on a freelance project for ‘Bird’s’ (casual wear) company, I was recruited by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as one a Fashion professor for the next 6 years, where I freelanced, designing casual wear, swimwear, lingerie, and fur garments, men’s wear, bridal and evening fashions to accessories (bags, shoes, and head-wear).
Fly: How did you manage to reach the other zide of the Pacific?
Young: I travelled extensively throughout my fashion career. I was recruited as an Associate Fashion Design/Illustration Professor to the University of Wisconsin, Madison and also lectured at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design for a couple of years. I was then appointed as the Fashion Development Manager by an established department store – Parkson Grand (22 stores in Malaysia and one in Shanghai, China).
Fly: And you’ve been in the United States ever zince?
Young (laughs): Actually, no. After a couple of years later, I was invited by Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore to join their design school to establish a Fashion Design department. For two years, I assisted several founding members of the design school - working on the fashion department’s teaching curriculum. After I completed my contract in Singapore, The Fitzgerald Theatre Department, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Oahu, Hawaii awarded me a full scholarship to complete my second Master of Art in Theatre Costuming.
Fly: Wow. Did no one ever tell you about the concept of re-incarnation?
Young (zmilez): So I could divide the experience over multiple lives?
Fly: Yez! To our readerz, may I add that Mr. Bernard Foong’z 2008 & 2009 bridal/evening/bridal lingerie fazhion zhow, “Grace” & “Coming Up Roses” were premiered at Hong Kong Fashion Week in July 2007 and January 2008, rezpectively. Am I right?
Young: Yes. As the Chief Lingerie Designer for Cerie International Limited – Hong Kong, my designs could be found in major department stores in Canada and the United Kingdom. But that was some years ago. I’m now semi-retired from the fashion industry.
Fly: Illuztriouz, az I zaid before. And here you are now az an author, once again tazting zuccezz. When doez the next book come out?
Young: Book IV – Turpitude in A Harem Boy’s Saga series is scheduled be completed in 2016. It takes me approximately 18 months to complete one book.
Fly: Well, dear Young, you have been one of the nicezt acquaintance I have had the pleazure of interviewing. Thank you for your prezence here today. We wizh you all the bezt with your newezt endeavour.
Young: Thank you for interviewing me. Glad to be here. Please feel free to tweet @aharemboysaga or contact me on my page on Facebook if you or readers have questions. You can also write to email@example.com.
Fly: Thankz, Young. Readerz, you can find hiz workz on Amazon:
For more Author Interviewz & Book Reviewz, check out Earth.
Bookz featuring me:
An Enlightened Fly
The Fly That Followed Me
Kalki Evian - The Ring of Khaoriphea
Malay A. Upadhyay
Gilbert Literary Agency