I’m interviewing A.C. Birdsong today, author of “Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales”. Welcome to my blog, A.C.!
1) Please tell us about yourself.
Typically people start out here by saying “There’s not much to tell,” but I do have a lot to tell. Not all of it is interesting, though. I was born in Atlanta, raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, and graduated in the lower-third of my class (from the amount of work I did, that I finished that high is astounding). Hitchhiked across the US at 17, back when it was a right of passage. Served a couple of hitches in the Army, then landed in Seattle working as an electronics tech for a couple places until I got into Boeing.
After five years at Boeing, I cashed in my pension, traveled Europe for three months, recorded everything I saw, and decided I needed to write. Came back, finished my Bachelor’s (in English, as it was the quickest path to a degree), and started working as a tech writer. From that point on, I spent much of my free time journalling and writing short stories. Over the text ten years, the work and life demands became greater, and it became harder to write anything. Still I kept at it. At one point, between jobs, I found myself in Europe again, with nothing but time on my hands, and it was then I was able to draft a complete novel. Since then I’ve had more education and landed better jobs, but I’m still in Seattle and writing in my ‘spare’ time.
2) Tell us about your book. What inspired you to write Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales?
I’d been working in Saudi Arabia for nearly eight months, but it didn’t work out. I had a choice: I could come back to the States and pay $8,000 in taxes, or I could stay out of the country and go in debt for about $4,000. I chose the obvious, and decided to spend my time in Greece. I’d never been in Greece before, and felt transported into a completely different dimension. Everything was different, and I loved it, but my experience in Saudi was still a sour taste in my mouth. I remember early on in my ‘exile’ at the Cafe do Brazil in Athens (which used to be right near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). I’m not sure what sequence of images, foreign language words, and music were happening at that moment, but I do remember being at the cafe and wondering, what would make someone trap another person in a magic book? What would it be like inside? How would the original story be affected? I’d spent the better part of the previous ten years wishing for a great block of time to write, and I started using it right then. I went right across the street, bought a thick orange notebook, and spent the rest of my expatriation touring Greece, looking for warm places to write. It was a cold year there, and I think all these things combined to shape the story.
3) How many hours per week do you spend writing?
I figure on a good week I get in about 15 hours, and most of that in the very early morning or very late evenings. I have a pretty full life, with a regular job, a family to take care of, and all kinds of household stuff that never ends. I usually wake up around 4:30 AM (a holdover from my Army days), and there’s a critical moment when I think to myself, “Go back to sleep?” — and then the image of an unfinished book forms itself in my mind, and I groan, and ask myself a second time, “Really?” But I usually get up. Coffee is already made (the timed brewer – mankind’s greatest invention), so I can sit right down. I get maybe 90 minutes in before the world around me starts demanding my attention.
4) If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
This is something I don’t recall ever thinking about before. Assuming I could speak their languages, of course, these three come to mind.
I think I would like to meet Homer, and see him perform. I’ve always had this image of an old blind fellow, balding, a curly beard, with a long staff, standing in the bottom of some Greek valley, local citizens sitting around the edge, rapt on every word, tossing silver onto the stage with each phrase. I’d like to have experienced that. I wonder if he calls his lyrics out in a clear, calm, resonant voice, or if he damatizes everything like a rapping poetry slammer. Was he a prima donna in his day, commanding only the clearest olive oil and the mellowest wine? Was he temperamental, throwing fits if things weren’t exactly to his liking?
There’s John Milton, oddly another blind man, who I’ve always respected for his skill and dedication. His free verse influenced a short story I wrote once, plus there’s the tales of his dictating hundreds of lines of verse without pause, which needed no editing after. His stories must have been completely formed in his head before he uttered the first line. Either that or it was divinely inspired. An amazing guy either way.
Finally, and this is really off the wall, but the third would be William S. Sadler, the physician who in 1911 first came into contact with the business man who dictated the first part of the Urantia Book. Or did he? If you read the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urantia_Book”>Wikipedia article</a>, you can’t but wonder at the scope of the whole thing. Someday I’d like to do a story that involves a grand conspiracy, and I think the U book would provide a good model – if only someone could accurately dissect it.
5) What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got two things going on. One is the online book tour that this interview is part of. I had little idea of the amount of writing I’d have to do for it. That’s going to take quite a bit of my attention for the immediate future. I feel like a cub reporter, banging out copy for the seasoned hard-drinking old timers in the newsroom.
The other thing is my second book, a near-future mystery (code named Derek One – I’ll have a final title in a few months. I don’t want to commit to the baby’s name before it is born. Though the title does sort of suggest the gender. Okay, I’ll fess up. I had a literary sonigram done on the draft, and it’s a boy). Anyway, the book centers on a disgraced rookie cop who’s been ostracized from the work he loves, and is handed a boon – with strings. The book is well beyond the complete draft stage so I’m spending a lot of time polishing and rounding things out. I expect it’ll be ready in the fall.
It’s not a fantasy, but I’m not allowing Jacob and company to languish. I have two sequels queued in the idea bin to start on when Derek One is out of the blocks.
Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales
Author: A.C. Birdsong
On a small farm just outside of a tiny town lives Jacob, the last in a long line of Caretakers of Magic. His mission in life as the world’s only magician (in fact the only person who knows magic is possible) is to preserve magical skill in preparation for the day when magic is needed in the world. Other than what is required to train an apprentice, Caretakers aren’t to be practitioners, a tenet Jacob adheres to religiously.
Jacob has been teaching an apprentice, Palmer, for eight years. As a student, Palmer is a dismal failure, but this does not stop him from experimenting. Feeling that the pace of his instruction is unnecessarily slow, Palmer takes the little magic he knows, twists it, and uses it to trap Jacob and a young neighbor Lucy inside an old book of fairy tales (The Tall, Thick Book of Tales). Palmer refuses to release them unless Jacob imparts all magical knowledge to him in an instantaneous way.
From the moment of Jacob’s entrapment, Birdsong creates three interwoven storylines: Palmer’s dealings with the townspeople, who are searching for Lucy and quickly suspect Palmer for her disappearance; Jacob’s journey to escape, which takes him through scenes written into the book by Palmer, designed to harass Jacob and to speed his compliance along; and Lucy’s interaction with the book’s original characters, all magical themselves, trapped within the margins by Palmer’s spell, and are united in their desire to expel the intruders. Added to this mix are an enchanted bookworm and the fairy tales’ narrator, who have objectives of their own.
Readers will enjoy Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales. Birdsong skillfully mixes the real and the imaginary worlds with a lean and fast-paced style. A well-crafted and fun novel with colorful characters and great dialogue written for any fan of adult fiction, and suitable for young adults and older adolescents as well.
A.C. Birdsong wrote the first draft of Inside the Tall, Thick Book of Tales during an unseasonably cold winter in Athens, Greece. “I spent all my time either writing the story or searching for a reasonably warm and cheap place to write it. Often this left me huddled near tepid steam heaters in dingy hotel rooms, and drinking endless cups of weak Nes to fight the cold. Eventually the weather turned, which was not only fortunate for me, but for Jacob and Palmer as well, because they probably would still be fighting it out inside that book otherwise.”
A.C. lives in Seattle, where people voluntarily allow themselves to be trapped in books on a regular basis. This is his first novel.