Talking 'Bad Actors', with Ira Nayman.
Today it’s my pleasure to host Ira Nayman on Day One of the blog tour for the release of his latest novel, Bad Actors. I’ve always admired those who can inject so much comedy into their work. Personally I have a somewhat dark, military humour; so to come across someone totally different, who can look on the bright side of life and just laugh, is an absolute delight.
It’s unusual to find so much humour in writing. What inspires you to focus on that?
I decided to devote my life to writing humour when I was eight years old. It would be easy, therefore, to chalk it up to youthful naivete. However, over the years, I have tried to understand how I came to that decision, and the best I could come up with is this: as many comedians did, I had a turbulent childhood. I recognizing from an early age that laughing made me feel better, so I started writing to amuse myself. Much later, I would further realize that making other people laugh could help them overcome the difficulties in their lives (I have written about this in an article for Creative Screenwriting called "Laughter is Always Appropriate," which can be found here: http://www.lespagesauxfolles.ca/index.phtml?pg=30&chap=1088).
Can you list for us your books in order, and what you plan to do next?
That would be a long list! (There are 14 books in the Alternate Reality News Service series and this is my 7th
Trans-dimensional Authority/Multiverse novel). I will just focus on the novels. It all started with Welcome to the Multiverse (Sorry for the Inconvenience), wherein Noomi Rapier joins the Trans-dimensional Authority (which monitors and polices travel between universes) and goes on her first case with her partner, Crash Humley. This was followed by You Can't Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With Its Head), in which teams of Trans-dimensional Authority investigators find their seemingly disparate cases converging on a madman whose goal is to, as the title suggests, destroy the multiverse. It's important in life to have ambitious goals.
The third book was called Random Dingoes. It introduced the Time Agency (which monitors and polices time travel): just when Noomi and Crash are about to apprehend the leader of a cartel that sells a drug that gives the user the experience of traveling between universes, somebody travels back in time and crashes the timeline, causing Time Agency agent Radames Trafshanian to appear to help in the investigation. It's Just the Hronosphere Unfolding as it should is a time travel novel focusing on Radames saving Elvis from the end of time and having more adventures. In the fifth novel of the series, The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There (think about it...!), the Alternate Reality News Service (which sends reporters into other universes and has them write articles about what they find there) becomes the site of an investigation into consciousnesses being switched between bodies from different universes. It was great fun bringing my two fictional universes together.
This was followed up by a trilogy of novels: Good Intentions, Bad Actors and The Ugly Truth. Subtitled The Multiverse
Refugees Trilogy, the books are about what would happen if the device created in book two went off and a universe was about to die. The Trans-Dimensional Authority hastily develops a plan to get as many of the sentient aliens from that universe into stable universes before it collapses. Obviously, I am using these books to explore various aspects of the refugee experience.
As for the future? The second book in the trilogy has just been published; the third has been submitted to the publisher, Peter Buck. I look forward to it coming out next year. There is an unpublished book in the series, Fraidy's Amazeballs ARggles Adventure, a young adult humorous SF novel that I am currently shopping to agents. The next novel I work on, Fraidy's Amazbealls Alternaut Academy Adventure, will be a sequel to it. (Before I work on that, though, I'm spending a lot of time developing projects to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my fiction web site, Les Pages aux Folles, which will happen in September, 2022.) I have also written two pilots to TV series based on my novels (before I was a prose geek, I was a script geek).
Does your lifestyle influence your writing; if not, what does?
I would say not. I have done a lot of things in my life (getting a Master’s degree entirely online before online learning became a thing, getting a PhD, being editor of Amazing Stories for a couple of years), but, although other commitments may have slowed me down, writing humour has been a constant in my life. What I would say is: writing, especially writing humour, is very much about the way I see and interact with the world. It's not something that a writer turns on when they sit down to write and turns off when they leave the keyboard; it's always there. So, you could say that writing humour is my lifestyle.
How does your writing process work, from beginning to end?
I absolutely need to know where the story begins, where it ends and all of the important plot points between. I need the confidence of knowing what the story is to allow me the freedom of being silly within it. Of the ten novels I have written, there are only two exceptions: The Ugly Truth and a stand-alone about what would happen if everybody in the world changed sex called Both Sides. NOW! The reason is that they are both kaleidoscopic novels made up of dozens of smaller bits without a single storyline.
Virginia Wolff once said, ‘a good book is never finished - it goes on whispering to you from the wall.’ Do you subscribe to this, and when do you know the WIP is finished?
Long ago, I heard that a story is never finished, it is just let go. I have those feelings once in a while: I sometimes have an idea for a joke or even a scene that would work in a story that has already been published. However, it doesn't happen often since as soon as I have finished one project, I start focusing on the next one. A writer should always be up for a new creative challenge.
The easy answer to the second part of your question is that a work is finished when all of the elements necessary for the reader to make sense of the story are in place. But that just begs the question, doesn't it?
Advice for new writers
Write frequently (it's the only way to develop your own voice), read prodigiously (especially outside the genre you write in) and floss regularly. Your mind (and teeth) will thank you.
In You Can’t Kill the Multiverse (But You Can Mess With its Head), Ira Nayman’s second novel published by Elsewhen Press, a madman develops a machine which he hopes will destroy the multiverse. When he sets it off, nothing seems to happen. Not content with this state of affairs, Doctor Alhambra, the chief scientist for the Trans-Dimensional Authority (which monitors and police traffic between universes) creates an alarm system that will alert him if any of the universes in the known multiverse should start to show signs of collapse.
In Good Intentions: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: First Pie in the Face, the sixth novel in the Trans-Dimensional Authority/Multiverse series, the alarm goes off. The universe that is in imminent danger of collapse contains billions of sentient beings; the Trans-Dimensional Authority develops an ambitious plan to help as many of them immigrate to stable universes as possible before their universe dies. Good Intentions follows the first alien immigrant’s journey to Earth Prime.
Bad Actors: The Multiverse Refugees Trilogy: Second Pi in the Face, takes place two years later. Tens of thousands of aliens have immigrated to Earth Prime, with mixed results. Some have been welcomed and aided by their human hosts. Others have been vilified, exploited and attacked. Just another day in the multiverse...
Reading a book by Ira “is like going head-to-head with an selection of thirty three and a third disconnected Wikipedia entries filtered through seven layers of artesian coffee filters woven from at least three more fibers than permitted by the historic laws of any major religion in a blender made of a strange kind of cotton candy spun from titanium anodized in fairground colours with blades made of live sharks while simultaneously tap-dancing to a Steve Reich composition based on the absolute value of the square root of pi. In other words, simply and elegantly the most entertaining way ever invented to invert your brain over a platter prepared with roasted apples and a variety of field mushrooms for your own delighted consumption.” – Jen Frankel, editor, Trump: Utopia or Dystopia, author, Undead Redhead
“Always look on the bright side of life,” the little blue person wearing an exquisite three-piece suit sang. “Foof. Fwoof. Foo
– oh, look, I can’t whistle. Can you help me out, here?”
“Wadda we look like?” the tough guy who was playing invaders with his personal space exploded. “Yer choreographers’r somethin’?”
“Actually, a choreographer –” the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit started to say. The baby-faced man in the polo shirt and khaki pants standing next to the tough guy swiped at him with a rusty switchblade. (If you assumed that the baby-faced man had borrowed the switchblade from the tough guy, you would be wrong. In fact, the baby-faced man’s great-grandfather had brought it with him when he came to the United States from Ireland. If his great-grandfather
Iewan had any thoughts on the fact that the knife that he had used to defend himself against anti-immigrant roughnecks was now being used to intimidate immigrants, he kept them to himself – having died before the baby-faced man was born may have contributed to his silence, although given the state of modern ghostbusting technology, it needn’t have.) The little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit jumped back, just out of the reach of the blade. “Does…umm…that, I guess…”
“You being a smartass?” the tough guy’s eyes (which were so beady you could start a necklace with them), already very close together, appeared to want to melt into each other. He was two and a half feet taller than the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit; when he leaned in to menace the short man, he looked like a brick house that was about to collapse.
Resisting an urge to ask his butt a series of question to test its intelligence, the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit asked, “If I was to tell you my name, would you: a) be more likely to kill me; b) be less likely to kill me; or, c) be not changed in your desire to kill me?”
“You are being a smartass!” the tough guy insisted. He balled his fists, making them look very sledgehammery.
“Inquiring minds want to know,” the little blue man assured him. “And in gratitude for your participation, your name will be entered into a draw for a set of steak knives and a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco – eep!”
The baby-faced man swiped at the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit once again, this time slashing his exquisite three-piece suit (which made an exquisite hole) and biting into the skin high on his chest. The little blue man looked down at the trickle of pink…ish blood coming from the top of his chest and said, “Your intentions seem honourable, but is your heart really in it?”
“Wha?” The tough guy seemed indignant on his friend’s behalf.
“If you really want to kill me, you need to aim for squishier bits that will do more damage. Here, for instance.” The little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit indicated his stomach. “Insert the knife in there and you’ll be able to see my guts spill onto the alley. I suspect you would find that much more satisfying than ripping an innocent piece of fabric – I mean, what did my exquisite three-piece suit ever do to you?”
“D’ya wanna die?”
The little blue man drew a finger across his neck. “How about the classic? You can’t go wrong slitting somebody’s throat. The blood spurts all over the place – you’ll get it all over you! And if you’re especially vicious, my head will look like it’s about to fall off completely! That’s guaranteed to make you a hit with the ladies!”
“What is wrong with you?” the tough guy complained.
“Just trying to be helpful,” the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit, sniffed. “You don’t have to bite my head o –”
“All done, Jameson,” a third man in the dark alley said. All eyes turned towards him. He was a little shorter than the baby-faced man (Jameson?), with features that could have come from Mount Rushmore, if Mount Rushmore had been a monument to weaselly organized petty criminals. The third man was also wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants. His buzz cut was so short you could have sworn his barber had made it with bees.
The baby-faced man swatted the skeezy artist in the shoulder and hotly said, “Hey! Bertram! We agreed not to use each other’s names!”
“Sorry, Jameson! Fred told me it wouldn’t make any difference!” Bertram responded.
As Jameson swatted Fred (who, by process of elimination, must be the tough guy – all those years of playing Clue have really paid off!), harder than he had swatted Bertram (to the detriment of his hand, not the tough guy’s shoulder), Bertram put the cap on the bottle of spray paint he had been using and got up off his knee. He had been painting a complex image on the wall. The trio had been in the alley for over ten minutes, in large part because the first two times Bertram had tried to spray paint the image, he had gotten a salient detail wrong, and had to paint over it and start all over again on a new section of the wall. Jameson looked over Bertram’s handiwork and nodded in approval.
“Okay,” Jameson said, pocketing the switchblade. “I think we’ve made our point.”
Running a finger along the gash in his chest, the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit muttered: “You definitely made a point. A sharp point one, if I’m any judge.”
Jameson rolled his eyes. Then, he pointed to the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit and made a gesture of turning a key in a lock in front of his own mouth.
“Yeah. Right.” Fred turned to their target. “If you say anything ta anybody about what all happened here, tonight, we will hunt you down and exterminate you. Is that clear?”
The little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit made the locking gesture above his head. Fred and Bertram looked confused. Jameson sighed. He made a bending steel motion at Fred.
Fred reached down and poked a finger in his victim’s chest. “We didn’t ask for you alien freaks to come here. We don’t want you here. Consider this your first and only warning: go back to the freak universe you came from. And if you tell anybody about our little encounter this evening, we will rescind our generous offer of safe passage out of our reality. Capisce?”
“The capisciest!” the alien (aka: the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit) enthusiastically agreed.
Jameson shook his head in sadness. The alien’s unrelenting cheerfulness had made intimidating him much less fun that Jameson had thought it would be. Ah, well. If he called it an early night, he could make it home to catch some of the Steven Seagal film festival on The Nature Network.
Jameson turned and briskly walked out of the alley. Bertram trotted alongside him, Fred lumbering slightly behind.
That was exciting, the alien thought as he watched them leave. Not as much as last night’s pasta adventure, but –
There was a loud *CRACK* and a red hole opened up in the little blue man in the exquisite three-piece suit’s throat. Before he knew what was happening, a wind blew through the alley, causing the hole to whistle seven notes from the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” His last thought in his time on Earth was: The fourth note was off k –
The alien died with a smile on his face.
Ira Nayman is a figment of the imagination of a lawn chair named Francois le Granfalloon. Francois has imagined a rich life
for his character Ira featuring the publication of seven novels by Elsewhen Press, the most recent being called Bad Actors. Francois’ creation has been updating a web site of political and social satire, Les Pages aux Folles, for 19 years. In addition to this, imaginary Ira has a PhD in communications from McGill University and was a regular contributor to Creative Screenwriting magazine. Ira was also the editor of Amazing Stories magazine for two and a half years, but Francois is thinking that that may strain credibility, so he may remove it from his imaginings. All of his friends on the patio have urged Francois to write this down before he forgets it, but, being a lawn chair, he doesn’t have the hands to do it...
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