Author Interview: Jonathan Gould

Jonathan Gould is a Melbourne-based writer and doodler.

He calls his stories “dag-lit” because they’re the sort of stories that don’t easily fit into the standard genres. Some 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 and even Enid Blyton (in a good way).

Tell us a little bit about your story.

Doodling is an absurd comic fantasy about Neville Lansdowne, a man who has fallen off the world (because it was moving too fast) and found himself lost out in an asteroid field. I like to describe it as Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll, with just a dash of Gulliver’s travels, as Neville explores the asteroid field, meeting a group of decidedly odd people and ultimately needing to complete a most unexpected quest.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now. It was something I’ve always wanted to do but it took me a while to actually get started. I began by writing scripts for comedy sketches, for university revues and independent radio, and got into prose (novels and short stories) about a year after that.

There are a lot of reasons why I write. Partly it’s just so I can get the strange ideas out of my head before they drive me nuts. But also because I love the connections that can be formed when people begin to read your work.

More specifically, what inspired you to write Doodling?

Doodling was actually inspired by a comment my wife made one evening some years ago about how she was finding that the world was moving so fast it was hard to keep up. That got my mind racing and by the next morning I’d come up with the idea of a man who had so much trouble keeping up that he literally fell right off.

I’ve seen reviews that compare your book to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Were you influenced or inspired by that series?

Big time. Douglas Adams is probably more than anybody the one person who inspired me to want to be a writer. I don’t think our writing styles are quite the same but I think we share a sense of humor and a way of looking at the world. I saw him once when he visited Australia many years ago and one of my proudest possessions is an autographed copy of Hitchhiker’s Guide book 1. It’s always a great compliment when people make that comparison.

There were times during your story when I felt it could be easily translated into a nice children’s book with illustrations. Did you have a certain age group in mind while writing?

There are times when I write with a particular age group in mind and other times when I don’t. Doodling is definitely the latter. It’s something I initially wrote purely for my own enjoyment. My natural voice as a writer is very simple and clear, so it makes it seem like a children’s story. But I tried to write it in such a way that it would be quite rich in ideas, so it, it should also appeal broadly to adults. It’s more about a readership who shares a particular way of looking at the world, rather than a specific age group.

Which books or authors have influenced your writing?

Obviously Douglas Adams. I also enjoy other writers who can combine humor with fantastic elements to write stories with broad appeal across ages such as Neil Gaiman and Diana Wynne Jones. And I probably better mention J.K. Rowling as well.

Are you working on any current projects?

I have a number of works in progress. First cab off the ranks is another short fantasy of a similar type and length to Doodling. It’s called Flidderbugs and is about a strange race of insects. I also have a novel, more of a high fantasy story but hopefully still a bit off-skew. I’d like to get both of these out by end of year. There’s a sequel to Doodling in the works but I’ve got quite a way to go with that. Don’t let the fact that these books are short fool you. Getting them right is quite an intensive process.

Is there a part of your writing process you find particularly challenging?

Mainly getting the time. I work full time and have a family so it’s not always easy to steal the time you need. And getting my head in the right space, especially after a busy day or week of work can also be difficult.

Is there anything you need (music, snacks, silence, etc.) when writing?

Not so much. Just the time.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Work on your craft. Keep pushing yourself to be the best writer you can. Get feedback, listen to others and learn. Try to find a voice that’s unique, to differentiate yourself from the pack. And don’t let any discouragement bring you down. Never ever give up.

Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver’s Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters. But getting away from the hustle and bustle of the real world turns out to be easier said than done, and Neville soon discovers that if he doesn’t take urgent action, the whole of the asteroid field and all of its inhabitants will be doomed.

Read my review of Doodling.

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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