Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview with satire/fantasy writer Jonathan Gould

Today's guest is Australian writer Jonathan Gould. He's just starting a virtual book tour for Flidderbugs and Doodling. With cute titles like that, how can this not be a fun interview, right?

And, along with a few chuckles, Jonathan will be giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter from the tour. Details are after the interview.

Jonathan Gould has lived in Melbourne, Australia all his life, except when he hasn't. He has written comedy sketches for both the theatre and radio, as well as several published children's books for the educational market.

He likes to refer to his stories as dag-lit because they don't easily fit into recognisable genres (dag is Australian slang for a person who is unfashionable and doesn't follow the crowd - but in an amusing and fun way). You might think of them as comic fantasies, or modern fairytales for the young and the young-at-heart.

Over the years, his writing has been compared to Douglas Adams, Monty Python, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, the Goons, Dr Seuss, and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).

Please tell us about your current release.
I’m never quite sure how best to characterise Flidderbugs. Sometimes I call it a political satire. Sometimes I call it a fable. It’s a little bit of each. But mostly it’s just a funny little story about a strange group of insects who spend most of their time arguing about really insignificant things, mainly involving the number of points there are on the leaves of the tree they live on (the Krephiloff Tree). It’s the sort of thing that hopefully can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups. Younger readers will enjoy the antics of the bugs while adults will get a laugh from some of the satirical elements

What inspired you to write this book?
It was actually inspired by another book – actually two books – although these couldn’t have been more different to Flidderbugs on the surface. They’re books about psychology by John Cleese (yes, that John Cleese) and Robyn Skinner called Families and How to Survive Them and Life and How to Survive It. Both books had some really interesting insights into why people choose to believe what they do and how that relates to their identity and the “tribes” they belong to. I thought these ideas could work really well in story form. Mind you, I’m still not quite sure where the insects came from.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m in the closing stages of finishing my first genuine novel (Flidderbugs is more of a novella). It’s called Magnus Opum and I definitely hope it’s exciting. It’s the story of a little person who goes off on an adventure in the big world. He finds danger and drama, but he also makes some really good friends, and in the process has all his ideas about the world turned on their head. I like to describe it as an epic fantasy with a twist – Tolkien meets Dr Seuss.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
What time is it now? Seriously, I think the moment I really felt like a writer is after the first university revue which I’d contributed to (a university revue is a theatre show comprising songs and comedy sketches, often of a satirical or political bent). Sitting in the audience, hearing the crowd laughing at my jokes felt pretty good.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Do I write full-time? I guess the answer would be yes and no. I do have a day job which does involve writing – I actually write material for online university courses. So I could say that I write full-time. And while I quite enjoy this work, ideally it’s not the sort of writing I’d be doing if I could. Writing fiction, especially humorous fiction, is my first love.

And how do I find the time to write it? A large whip applied to my back at regular intervals? Maybe not quite as extreme as that, but I do have to force myself. I can go months without writing a thing, then finally give myself a push to get up and running again. It’s just a question of making the time and having the motivation to do it.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m not sure if you could call it a quirk, but I tend to work in bursts. I’ll sit there for ages, staring at the screen. Then, without warning, I’ll suddenly attack the keyboard in a frenzy of wild typing. Then back to staring at the screen. It seems to work for me.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A paleontologist (someone who digs for dinosaur bones). Now I just dig for story ideas. Funnily enough, I have one about dinosaurs up in my head at the moment.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes. A big block of chocolate. But you’re all a bit far away from me so I suppose I’ll just have to finish it off myself.

Gee, I might be up for a road trip for chocolate! Jonathan, thank you for being here and chatting about Flidderbugs and other things.

Readers, Jonathan will be giving away a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter from the tour. So, comment here and comment at other tour stops to increase the odds of winning.


Jonathan Gould said...

Thanks Lisa for having me here today. It's really exciting embarking on my first tour, and this seems like a great place to start. I'd love to hear any questions people might have about satire, insects, and anything else I may be completely unqualified to answer.

And apologies - my kids ended up eating the last of the chocolate.

Also - note that I am dialing in from Australia so there may be a time lag in my answers to any comments. So please pop back in because I'm definitely going to respond to you all.

Mary Preston said...

I'm in Australia too, so you could have sent the chocolate along.

I love the personality & humour that shone through the post. I have got the books in my sights.

This is going to be a great tour I can tell.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Jonathan today!

MomJane said...

Your story sounds terribly funny and also interesting. What a clever idea. This book is for all ages, and I can see why. I loved reading your answers to the questions. Much fun.

Karen H said...

You are a new-to-me author and I believe I will enjoy following you around on your blog book tour. I really like tours such as this because it allows me to become acquainted with authors I would never find otherwise.

After reading your post today, I'm looking forward to following you on your book tour to get to know more about you and your work.

Does the writer pick the genre or does the genre pick the writer? What do you think?

Lisa Haselton said...

Glad to be a host. Bummer about the chocolate, but my waistline thanks your kids. :)

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi Marybelle,

Thanks for your comment - sorry about the chocolate - maybe when I do my next tour.

Nice to see fellow AUssies along for the ride.

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi MomJane,

Hopefully it will be interesting in a good way.

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi Karen in NC (North Carolina?)

Follow to your hearts content.

In answer to your question - I'm not quite sure. I just write the stories that I want to write.

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi Lisa,

Great to be here.

Next time those chocolates are going on a higher shelf.

Jonathan Gould said...

And one final word.

My novel, Magnus Opum, should be available from April 1st.

If you're interested, release details will be available at

Thanks to all, and especially the Goddess Fish people for organising this tour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jonathan, Nice interview and a great start to your tour. Looking forward to further instalments. :-)
Lynette Aspey

@LAAspey (

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi Lynette,

Thanks for coming along.

Enjoy the cruising

Catherine Lee said...

You write online courses? Do you work at a university? I work at a community college and I teach an occasional hybrid course...Darn that Blackboard 9! If your writing is like Monty Python, Milne, Douglas Adams, and Lewis Carroll...WELL, those are some of my favorite writers.

Jonathan Gould said...

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for your comment - as far as work goes, it's a bit complicated - I work for a company that's part-owned by a university and part-owned by a placement agency. Our first courses go online on Monday so it's quite exciting. I share your feelings about Blackboard - only just started using it. Incidentally, when I lived in the US many years ago, I did some co-teaching at a community college - it was fun. Hopefully my stories will stand up against those other fantastic writers.