If you follow my Facebook page or receive my monthly ‘Cabin Fever’ newsletter then you’ll know already that I’m a huge fan of the outrageously witty and quirky novel, The Unhappy Medium. Well all my gushing somehow got back to the author (who I was going to try to contact) and we got chatting. Tim is a great guy to chat to, currently surviving the rocky BREXIT wave in the UK so my list of questions provided a bit of a distraction *grin*. But first, let’s introduce this fantastic novel, for those of you who haven’t discovered it yet! Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for a great freebie taster of the novel and a chance to WIN!
Dr Newton Barlow has everything a scientist could ask for – a glittering career both in the lab and on television, a beautiful wife, and best of all, the opportunity to promote his rock-solid certainty that supernatural and religious beliefs are nothing but complete and utter hokum. But Barlow is about to take a tumble. Mired in accusations of fraud, incompetence and malpractice, Newton is cast out from the scientific establishment and ejected from the family home. His life in tatters, he descends into a wine-sodden wilderness. Then, after three lost years, Barlow is suddenly approached by his old mentor and fellow sceptic Dr Sixsmith with an extraordinary proposition, an offer that Newton simply cannot refuse. There’s just one small problem:
Dr Sixsmith is dead.
Thrown headlong into a new reality that simply shouldn’t exist, Dr Newton Barlow is about to come up against the best and the worst of human nature: tooled-up vicars, paper-pushing ancient Greeks, sinister property developers, a saucy rubber nun and possibly the most mean-spirited man ever to have walked the earth (twice).
From the dusty plains of Spain to the leafy vicarages of Hampshire, Dr Barlow will have to contradict everything he ever believed in if he wants to save this world – and the next.
My review (directly from my review on Amazon)This book starts slow, it plods along at an easy pace for the first six chapters, but DON’T let that put you off! After those first chapters the speed picks up, whisking you away with it. It’s hilariously clever with so many twists and turns, you just won’t be able to put it down. This is one of those ‘once a year’ treasures that’ll you’ll read and re read constantly
And onto the interview! Introducing Tim J. Brown
- What part of the story occurred to you first? Was it the sceptical medium character? Or a random scene? Or did you start literally at the beginning?
I stumbled on the pun in the title. I pun a lot. So then I thought, who would be the sort of person most unhappy to be a medium? A sceptical scientist… and away we went.
- The back story is insane and feels like reading a humorous history book (or the Horrible Histories show!) which still leaves me wondering, how much was lifted from history? I half expected an appendix I could loot for more details?
It’s real history with bolt-ons. The Anarchy was a real event and was far from amusing at the time. It really, really affected the housing market. Thank goodness something like that can’t happen here again, we are far too sensible for that…. er… hold on! Uh Oh!. Arggghhh make it stop!
The inquisitional stuff is also pretty close to the mark. The real inquisitors were not far off the one I created at all. I enjoy reading history, what can I say? I had hoped to not live in interesting times myself but that looks unlikely at the moment. Ask me in a month.
- Do you genuinely have something against property developers and if so why (I feel like there should be some troubling story here *grin*)
Not really, though they are a constant lament in the UK, probably because it’s so small and cramped already and mostly very cute. Development gets the traditional backs up. Funnily enough I plucked the McCauley name out of thin air, then discovered an estate agent with the same name nearby. (I’m sorry, it was an accident. Please don’t sue me.) I guess they sum up the whole “It’s just business” ethos. History and landscape are so often casualties of progress and in somewhere like the UK, which is jammed solid with history and natural beauty, the collision between modern needs and the environment is a constant source of worry. Mind you, there was no planning permission for Stonehenge and it simply ruins the view from the bypass. For those who don’t know, the triplets are all named after racecourses.
- Who inspired Eric the Greek? Tell us a bit about him
Not sure where he came from, apart from Greece, obviously. He must be a blend of all sorts of types I’ve seen over the years. This will bug me now. It certainly wasn’t Chuck Norris. Visually he would be like a sullen Charles Hawtry from the Carry On films, but less manly.
- Who inspired Dr Newton?
A range of people. Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Cox. A few years ago I went to a paranormal sceptics’ conference and met some psychologists debunking various paranormal phenomena. They gave me heaps of ideas. Prof Chris French, lonely voice of reason on a few ghost hunting shows, also gave me some great background over a below-standard rigatoni. People home in on Cox, and rightly so. Sorry Brian, I think you are wonderful. Actually Newton is far more cynical and embittered than Cox. He’s Blackadder with a PhD.
- What are three books/movies/shows that really influenced you in creating this nutty wee tale?
G K Chesterton, Ealing comedies, M R James. I planned the action like a Bond movie, funnily enough.
- When is the next book due?
Good question. It’s half done… but so am I at the moment! Once I get the space I’ll rip into it. When I write, I write fast. It’s called Tom Fool and is another outing for the same team. Bless ‘em.
- Is this your first novel? Do you have any other works out there? Or a pile of dusty drafts hiding under your bed?
Not proper novels, but bits and bobs and one collaboration, 9 Lovers for Emily Spankhammer written with my American chum Kaleesha Williams. I also wrote A Brief History of Underpants which can still be bought on Amazon for less than it would cost to pulp. Great fun to do. Ah, pre-recession publishing; a golden age, looking back. That was another pun start, Brief History of Time = Timely History of Briefs… The publisher changed the title. Go figure. I generate far more ideas than I have the ability to produce, sadly.
- What made you decide to self-publishing (for all those on the fence about it) and how did you find the process?
Well, I grew up in the post-punk era which was very DIY in its ethos. Factory Records, Rough Trade, I loved all that. I would love The Unhappy Medium to yield a realistic return and then make the jump to a full-time job. But there’s the rub – money. I’d love a deal, in all honesty. It’s a time issue for me; the day job takes out the hobby. I could probably do a book a year easily, two if they were shorter. Try that now and I’d have to eat my shoes in a matter of weeks. If I can carry it off as an indie, I’d be delighted and not so tempted to pimp myself until I die of shame. If I can get a decent indie spike to pay the bills into the near future I may just press on. We shall see.
- Viv and Gabby are fabulous side characters, after the intriguing ending, will they get larger roles in the next book?
Yes, both Viv and Gabby have been hugely popular. A few men have talked Viv up as the ideal woman and have come close to asking me for her phone number. People seem to love her messy informality. Women want to be her and men want to be with her. I can see that. Gabby, likewise, seems to strike a chord. Mostly the mums. “Bloody hell, I’ve got one of those!” Both of them get to see combat in the next adventure and I’m planning to give them a short story or two down the road when I get the space and time to do it.
- The bad guy. Really, it’s all about the bad guy. This was where I felt the story tumbled into a Monty Python style world. It had me cackling on the bus and reading way past my bedtime. Tell us about your inspiration for La Senza and the craziness around him
I wanted a variation on the clichés of action movies and fairy tales. I opted to give him a distinctly modern personality disorder. I got started around the time of the Arab spring, and Ghaddafi just summed up all that banality of evil in a very nutty shell. When they finally caught him he said to his captors, “What have I ever done to you?” That narcissism is very typical of the breed. I watched a lot of YouTube docs on evil and was surprised how much of it was comical. Ivan the Terrible, for instance, had a giant frying pan made so he could see what it looked like to fry people. It’s horrible… terrible, yes, but it’s simply absurd. Idi Amin, Ceausescu; we make these fools into monsters and giants, when actually they are just an extreme version of the craziness we all carry in us but which most of us know to be beyond the pale. It’s power that makes the difference and, sadly, there will always be this weakness in the population for unscrupulous narcissists. It’s a huge design flaw. People just love ‘em. So, La Senza represents banal mean-spiritedness and the weakness of those who see that as a strength worth following. There’s a lot of it about, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
- Purgatory and the afterlife are fascinatingly laid out in the book, where did the idea of this intense bureaucracy come from?
Working in publishing. Just kidding. (I’m so very sorry, please don’t stop giving me work). There is a Talking Heads song that goes, “Heaven, Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.” Purgatory needs to feel like er…. Purgatory. And, for me at least, purgatory is boredom. Boredom is my kryptonite. The slow moving cogs of bureaucracy and paper-pushing sum that up, I guess. For me, room 101 is a touchtone phone and an energy provider. I can go from calm to Edvard Munch in under a minute.
- What is your personal favourite scene in the book?
A few. I do like Baxter in the asylum, nice to visit that M R James territory. I loved writing the car chases, but overall I think it is the Reverend Bennet beating the crap out of Newton’s assassin. I could have written a whole book of that. Viv and Gabby fighting the gunman on the fire escape. Someone recently asked me where Purgatory got their office supplies. I have no idea. I’m guessing Office Depot?
And for those of you who are thoroughly intrigued, you can listen to a chapter of The Unhappy Medium read by a professional voice actor with a rather sexy British accent 😉 (it also has over 119 five star reviews now, and climbing!)
The Unhappy Medium taster chapter
Want more? Leave a comment below to WIN one of THREE ebook copies of the book – please specify if you require Kindle or epub file!