The Harpie / Vodka by Karl Wiggins books can be found;
Interview with Karl Wiggins:
MT: Do all of your novels have a general theme and tone?
Karl Wiggins: No, they go all over the place, I often murder people, that tends to be a constant, but I’m basing this interview on the Harpie books, a standalone series: Goodnight and Thanks for the Vodka; Harpie 2003: Harpie 2004, to date. However she refuses to die—and God knows I’ve tried to kill her off. I have fifteen in the series written and in the editing process. She’s a strong character who talks shite at me in the night. The premise is girl done wrong, trying to do well—and failing miserably. The other premise is, life in a small Northern town, the comings and goings and who did what to whom, it’s a fifteen year, running, warped Soap Opera.
One of the unusual aspects of the Harpies is that each novel is standalone but runs for exactly one year from the 1st January to the 31st December. Harpie is infuriating, funny, determined. She’s as hard as the men I go drinking with and softer than my three year-old daughter. The first question I’m usually asked is: Is Harpie real? That’s a secret that I’ll take to my grave—but to me she is.
Theme: I can’t believe she did that.
Tone: Oh hell, what’s she going to do now?
MT: Why should people buy your novels?
KW: Because every word is true—I think.
Because with Harpie, I don’t need to embellish or exaggerate her, she does it all by herself. The strength of the Harpie books is that everybody, male, female, girl, boy and probably even next door’s dog, can identify with her. She struggles, she triumphs, she fails, she gets up and starts again—we’ve all been there.
One minute you want to strangle the stupid cow, the next you want to hunt the bastard that done her down. Sometimes you want to go for a drink with her, and at others she just needs a hug, but she has thorns so go easy with that one. She brings home the bacon—but probably has a drama involving a pig in the process.
A reason for NOT buying the Harpie books is that they are intended make you late for work. They are structured in such a way that, ’Just one more page,’ doesn’t work like that. You have to turn to find out how she wriggles out of this one, and by the end of that page you’re already headlong in the next dilemma.
The Harpie books may make you cry, they should make you laugh, but mostly, by the last page their aim is to make you think, ’Bloody hell, what was that?’ If I’ve got it right, it’s being run over by a bulldozer in literary form.
MT: How would you describe all of your novels in just two words?
KW: Funny: Gritty.
MT: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
KW: Life’s too short to watch movies on repeat. The truthful answer to that is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (son aged seven, on a loop) Twenty three-thousand nine hundred and sixty two and a half times. If I met Truly Bloody Scrumptious, I’d knock her out. I hate that movie, closely followed by ET for the same reason—It could have been worse, It might have been my daughter and Frozen. For me, I only ever watch movies once—watch and discard, but I enjoy anything twisty turney that makes you think. Time Traveller’s Wife, because it’s clever, the Saws, The Orphan, though that could have been far more subtle. Historically, good old Psycho takes some beating.
MT: Was being a novel writer something you’ve always dreamed of doing, or did it just come to you?
KW: I hated writing. No interest whatsoever. It began with reports, I was hauled over the coals for making reports humorous that should have been lead lined in boredom, that led to a magazine gig and it went from there. The Harpie books are my longest achievement, I will dig a hole and bury her one day—but the bitch will manage to dig her way out. She’d thrive on being buried alive and then grab a shower and go to the pub.
MT: Do you have an all-time favorite novel? Have you read a novel more than once?
KW: No and no. Again I don’t do re-runs, the only novels I’ve read more than once are my own and that’s only because I have to for editing purposes.
I can redeem myself by claiming an all-time favourite author though. I am a lifelong fan of Dean Koontz, but, if I had my honest head on, I’d have to say that he is a product of the Churn Factory and they are very samey. Like King, Koontzie is victim to his own success.
MT: What motivates you to write?
KW: Again basing this on the Harpie books—she does. Weeks can go by without writing her when life gets in the way, but because she has to fill a year, I often find that I’m writing her in retrospect and writing up six weeks in a hit. While I’m up scaffolding in a hard hat, her life is still running, and usually out of control if I’m not there to keep an eye on her. When I’m in a meeting, she’s probably getting run over, and when I’m taking my other half out for dinner, she’ll be having a kid, or punching above her weight in some job interview that she hasn’t got the first clue about, or getting her murds wuddled at a time when she needs clarity.
MT: What artist would you love to have dinner with?
KW: Are we talking artist in the literal sense—that would be Escher, hell of a guy—or in the broader sense?
Hitch would be fun, but I believe he was a lecherous old git, so maybe not. Koontzie maybe, but Harpie would be jealous—she’d have that man’s babies. I think it would have to be Derron Brown, he comes across as an arrogant arse, but I think he’d be fascinating to talk to. I think the man’s illusion and trickery, his recall and mind-training make him a modern day genius.
MT: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
KW: Let me tell you a bit about what Harpie’s passionate about. She rides an old 1978 modified Reliant Trike. She’s had it for ten years and has just put another—and another, another, another— thousand pounds into getting it back on the road. Cruella is her pride and joy and it doesn’t matter how much she has to throw at it—like her—it will go on and on. It has a British Bulldog mural on the tank and a pleated Union Jack. When she blasts down the road on that thing, she’s like a female Easyrider on steroids.
She is passionate about animals and owned the ninth largest zoo in the UK, until it all went horribly wrong, as all things Harpie tend to. Wrestling python, fighting with caiman and chasing lizards was all in a day’s work.
She is passionate about working and will take on any job, regardless of whether it’s within her capabilities, or not.
And she likes sex.
MT: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
KW: Ban the exclamation mark!!!
Burn the lovely adverb.
Don’t begin to do something—do it.
And for God’s sake, cut the waffle.
Mostly, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t. You may never head the Bestsellers list, but so what? If you set out with a career in writing in mind, you’re probably going to get very hungry. Anybody can be a writer, learn, work hard and improve. Write for the love of writing, not to make millions—and if that’s not enough for you, then you probably need to look elsewhere. Bestselling writers need luck. Chances are, no matter how good or poor you are—because let’s face it, that isn’t the issue—you probably need to write for the love of getting those words out before they drive you crazy.
When I’m not writing. I offer a bespoke, highly competitively priced editing service with full novels edited for just £230.00 GPS and can be contacted on email@example.com
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to http://www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.