This lovely July Saturday I’ve got author George Berger with me to answer a few questions about his book, Without A Spark. Luckily for me George and I have a similar sense of humor because a more serious person would have been a bit put off by my questions. Without further ado– George!
1. What was your inspiration for Without A Spark?
Believe it or not, I can actually say with complete sincerity and confidence that the original, most nebulous idea, came to me in late July, 2009. Without going into extensively boring details, I’d been writing and thinking about way that claims of responsibility for criminal actions are usually accepted at face value, and why this is both analytically suspect and exploitable in various ways.
In a nutshell, I thought “there’s an idea for an interesting story there”, and let things germinate and evolve from there. Eventually, Without A Spark… happened. 🙂
2. Are you an ecoterrorist, just joking, but really is the environment an important topic to you or is it more important to stop people from doing these kind of things?
Senator, I am not now nor have I ever been an ecoterrorist. 🙂 I consider environmental matters very important, and I think everyone should, but, not to sound too cynical, I’m deeply suspicious and distrustful of extremist, fanaticism, in any form. I don’t want to get super political, but I’ll just say I’m greatly relieved that the environmental extremist movement is devoid of competent leadership and utterly lacking in direction, and leave it at that.
3. I can tell from this book that you enjoy humor, do your other stories have a lot of humorous elements?
They all do, to greater or lesser extents. I generally don’t try to write deeply serious books that demand extensive contemplation; I mostly try to produce unabashedly populist entertainment, and if I can make people grin or chuckle now and then, I’ve at least accomplished something. For the most part it’s not something I plan; it just… happens.
4. The main character, Kevin, has this problem of sneezing whenever he’s aroused, is this a real condition? If so, do you suffer from it?
Believe it or not, you’re the first person to ask about this. It is, in fact, a real medical condition – Sexually-Induced Sneezing. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexually_induced_sneezing) No, I’m mercifully unencumbered with this particular issue. It’s just something I stumbled across on the internet once, years ago, and remembered, with the thought “Wow, that’s gotta suck”.
There’s a long and strange association between the nose and sex; there’s a trope in Japan about people having nosebleeds when they’re aroused, and – even stranger – it was at one time or another believed that putting a green onion up someone’s nose acted as an aphrodisiac. Let’s not think about the symbolism there too closely, eh? 🙂 Possibly even weirder yet, while looking up the details on sexually-induced sneezing ahead of writing Without A Spark, I discovered there’s a whole, large, internet community of people who are aroused by watching other people sneeze. (And no, I don’t have that issue, either.)
The way I write, I come up with characters first, then write a story around them. Kevin, right from the beginning, was conceived as a character with this condition. It’s quirky and memorable, and I’m sure a lot of people find it amusing, but it’s a big problem for him, and has really kind of helped shape his life, much as Maura being deaf has made her who she is. So, it’s not like it was thrown in as a joke, or an afterthought, or anything. That particular bit of weirdness was there from day one…
5. Will there be or is there already more Kevin, Maura, and Box adventures planned?
I have some nebulous plans for at least one sequel, but it probably won’t happen for a bit, I’m afraid. Though it’s really hard to say; if inspiration suddenly strikes…
While Without A Spark was my conscious effort to (unusually, for me) write a reasonably mainstream book that people would actually want to read, it was still largely written for my own, amusement, I guess, for lack of a better word, and a large part of that was trying new things, tackling new challenges. In this case it’s is a thriller, with some fairly complicated relationships, and a character who doesn’t actually speak. (Which proved far less of a challenge than I thought it’d be, surprisingly.) That done, I moved on to try new things – my next novel, due out late this summer, is a happily-ever-after romance, albeit one about a woman and the androgynous, pangendered person she falls in love with, and after that it’s a will-they-or-won’t-they romantic comedy about an introvert who meets a very strange homeless girl and tries to befriend her against her wishes, while random strangers and an army of militant octogenarians try to kill him. Oh, and there’s a sarcastic housecat, too. So, it could be a bit before I come back to Kevin, Maura, and Box, alas…