Hey Everyone!! :-)
PJ Benney is here with me today to talk about his book Déjà Moo! PJ, can you tell us about yourself and how many books you have written?
PJ: I am a twenty-something creative writing graduate from Essex, England who loves coffee, rollercoasters and singers who write their own songs. My first book Déjà Moo was very recently released on Kindle.
Me: Congratulations! What inspired Déjà Moo?
PJ: Déjà Moo is a comic-fantasy set in present-day London, and it's about a celebrity cattle trader who gets mixed up with a coven of witches when his prize-winning mascot disappears. It started off as a university assignment but I continued to develop it long after graduation out of sheer determination, and it kept growing in depth - and length! - with each successive draft. Here's the blurb:
When a prize-winning Holstein vanishes from Hyde Park, a witch, a celebrity and a detective find themselves at the centre of a conspiracy that threatens to destroy their futures - and rewrite their pasts. With a loose werewolf stalking Camden Market, a coven controlling London's biggest news channel and a reporter desperate to expose a public scandal, it's only a matter of time before the city discovers both the fate of the bovine superstar, and the existence of magic itself...
Me: A celebrity cattle trader? How inventive! :-) What are you working on now?
PJ: Two projects - obviously a sequel, because, how could I not? The sequel is entitled Bovine Intervention and it picks up about three months after Déjà Moo ends. The characters have all gone their separate ways and moved on with their careers, until a single event draws them all back together. But before that I've got to finish my sci-fi novella about parallel universes. Still untitled, but it features some of the characters from Déjà Moo and ties into the ending of that book and the start of the next one quite nicely. It's going to be out within a few months!
Me: Wonderful! What authors, or books, have influenced you?
PJ: One great name I can think of is Jasper Fforde. I don't really know how big he is outside of the UK, but he's hilarious. His Thursday Next series is about a detective who investigates "literary" crimes inside books, such as the kidnapping of Jane Eyre, or Dickens' Miss Havishamdoing illegal drag racing. It starts off utterly absurd, but once you buy into it, and suspend your disbelief, it starts to make a weird sort of sense. That's totally the inspiration for Lawnmowers, Inc., the fictional cattle-trading company at the centre of my book. Daniel hires out cattle to tend public parks because it's cheaper than staff and machinery. It started off as a bit of a joke to me, but as I persevered, it too started to make a sense and I began to take it more seriously.
Me: Ha! Sounds like a hoot! What are you reading now?
PJ: I'm in the middle of two books. The View from the Cheap Seats is a collection of non-fiction by Neil Gaiman. Essays, speeches etc. Each section leaves me feeling inspired - he writes a lot about the importance of literature, books, reading, and libraries. The other is Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye. I'm only about a third of the way in but her writing style is incredibly vivid, much sharper and clearer than most writers I could think of. Just please don't ask me what it's about, because I'm not entirely sure I'm supposed to know the answer to that question yet!
Me: How mysterious. ;-) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?
PJ: Laughter and tears in equal measure? I always say that I like to toe the line between comedy and tragedy. It starts off absurd, and silly and ridiculous and colourful, but it also explores some darker subjects too. That attitude, I lifted from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That show starts off fluffy and weird; a schoolgirl fighting monsters and cracking jokes. But once you get into it, you get the absolutely devastating episodes that catch people off-guard and reduce them to blubbering wrecks. I tried to encapsulate all of that in Déjà Moo.
Me: Sometimes the only way to deal with the hardest subjects is through humor. What is your favorite part of being an author?
PJ: Finishing. I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written. It feels good to have accomplished something; doesn't mean I won't moan and groan and sigh and procrastinate and stare out of the window while I'm writing! (I only have myself to blame, really.)
Me: Ha! Yeah, sometimes focus can be elusive. ;-) Do you have any other hobbies as well?
PJ: My favourite things are all story-focused! I draw a lot of inspiration from books, movies, TV and even video-games. I love examining story-arcs in all sorts of media and learning from them that way. I guess that's the general definition of an armchair critic! But I never like to put-down anybody's hard work, even when the plot twists throw me. I always think, they got paid a lot of money to broadcast/script/publish/programme this, so why did they really do it that way? Outside of that, I love rollercoasters, hedge-mazes and cooking. Not all at once though.
Me: Sounds like you enjoy twists and turns of all kinds. ;-) What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?
PJ: Hardest - perhaps the writing part? Only joking. I guess the scheduling. Going home after work every day, booting up my computer and continuing to work. I think some of my colleagues think I'm a bit crazy, but I honestly don't know what I'd do if I didn't write. Easiest - I actually love naming characters. I pick the names first. All of the magi (magic-wielding) characters in my novel have culinary names because they draw their power from food. Cherry Cinnabon, Coriander Sprigg, Hickory Briskett. They're literally defined by what they eat.
Me: They sound like really interesting characters! What genre do you place your book in?
PJ: Predominantly urban fantasy. It's about magic and it's set in present-day London. There's a big overlap between the worlds of magic and the media, and the papers and reporters play a huge role in the mystery. But because people class time-travel as a staple of science-fiction, it's also listed under science-fiction > timetravel on Amazon. The fact is there's absolutely zero science involved, but no one's objected to it yet!
Me: There's lots of science fantasy out there. I think Amazon should add the category. ;-) Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?
PJ: Yes! Déjà Moo is free to read at www.dejamoo.co.uk! I'm posting the story in bi-weekly installments. As of 24th August, I've just posted Chapter 10 of 20. Another six weeks and you can read it in its entirety, for free. If you're sure you can wait that long to see how it ends... So if you're not sure you want to buy, visit the website and give it a look!
Me: How generous! And so these fine folks can find your work, are there any links you'd like me to post?
PJ: There are three incredibly handy links no sensible reader should be without. The first is obviously my website, where the book is FREE - did I mention this already? - FREE to read. www.dejamoo.co.uk
The second is my twitter page - everything gets shared there. You can't miss it. https://twitter.com/pjbenney
The third and final is obviously a link to the book. You can buy it in the US here, Déjà Moo: A Lawnmowers, Inc. Novel. for $3. If you search your native Amazon page you should find it there too. Thanks for reading!
Me: And thank you, PJ, for joining me here today. Thank you to everyone else to stopped by as well, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for the next edition of Mistral Dawn's Musings!! :-)