Q&A with Patrick Canning
Greetings and welcome to my author interview with Patrick Canning, author of Cryptofauna. This novel sounds all kinds of bizarre, funny and intense so I am definitely intrigued to give it a go. Patrick agreed to a Q&A in the meantime to shed a bit more light on what he is trying to achieve with Cryptofauna and give us insights into his writing. Enjoy the Q&A!
05.05.2018 / Self-Published / Adventure-Humour / Paperback / 287pp / 978-1980409557
About Patrick Canning
Patrick spends as much time as possible turning coffee into words that look like books, shorts, and screenplays. Most of his stories attempt to look for the meaning of life in an adventurous way, and often employ humor, important since the search usually doesn’t turn up much.
Could be his job as a janitor at an insane asylum, could be the meaninglessness of existence, could be the unwanted cilantro on his tacos. Whatever the reason, Jim has elected to commit suicide. But before he can do the deed, a mysterious resident at work equips him with a dog and a bag of ash, and throws him into a secret game known as Cryptofauna.
Cryptofauna is played by Operators, persons of special abilities who battle one another to influence important events around the world. To become an Operator, Jim must survive being stranded in the Pacific Ocean, pass a bizarre examination by leprous French monks, and pluck the existential splinter from his troubled soul. If there’s time, he must also stop a rival player from ending all life on the planet.
Underwater Norwegian lairs, obsession with a decent pair of socks, and shapeshifting animals obsessed with AM radio all make up the strange world of Cryptofauna, which might help Jim discover a reason to live, assuming he doesn’t die in the process.
Thank you Patrick for taking some time to answer a few questions about your new novel, Cryptofauna. Could you give us your own personal overview of what we should expect in within your book?
Hmm, I’d say expect the story not to play along. There’s nothing worse than seeing where a story is going before it gets there, or suffering through cliché, so the book goes after tropes at times: Jim’s mentor, Oz, is largely unhelpful and not the best role model, Jim is explicitly told he is not ‘the chosen one’, the mechanics of Cryptofauna (the game within the book) are intentionally vague and shifting. Tone-wise, the book is meant to be playful in the face of whatever it’s discussing, even something traditionally grim like suicide. Ideally it’s a fun read that has some deeper resonance after the fact.
What was your initial inspiration for such an ambitious tale?
This was actually my first novel so it was mostly just trying something new. The original idea was a murder mystery in an insane asylum or halfway house in rural America involving Greek Gods (which still sounds kind of cool to me). Cryptofauna didn’t quite end up being that, but part of the fun with executing an idea is seeing where you actually end up.
Can you give us a few details about what type genres you explore within Crytopfauna?
I usually describe the book as humor/adventure. I wasn’t thinking about genre too much while writing, but that can be a great way to manipulate the reader’s expectations (in a good sense)
Is there a particular character or element in Cryptofauna that you especially enjoyed writing about?
There’s an impish character named Whippet who basically plays the role of troublemaker. He’s chaotic and largely uncaring, so it’s always fun to throw him in to scramble any plans that are getting too formulated.
What sort of challenges did you face when adapting your idea of a global challenge that goes beyond bizarre?
It’s sort of a joke within the story, but Cryptofauna is basically unexplainable, changing its own rules as fast as the players learn them. The trick with that is to not make things too random, where literally anything can happen without precedent. Hopefully, readers never quite get a grasp of Cryptofauna, but at the same time, events and characters make sense within the hyper-loose context of the game.
Can you give us any insights into how Jim will have to adapt to meet this new challenge?
Jim’s forced to make some great strides in a short amount of time. He starts at the low of being suicidal, so there’s plenty of room for growth. He has to do a lot of legwork with regard to improving himself, by himself, but a big part of the story also involves him creating and relying on his Combination: a collection of friends that play the game together. Self-starting is a good skill to have (just ask any job posting), and so is asking for help.
Had you always wanted to become an author/writer?
I was first dead set on being a movie director, which led to screenwriting, which led to prose/novel writing. In keeping with this trend, my next occupation is probably as a book binder, then selling binders and other school supplies, then vice principal, then more likely than not I end my days as a lunch lady.
Are there any authors that you look up to as a writer that has helped shape your work?
When I was starting the book I had just read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and I think some of that overclocked wordage and verbose prose trickled into this book. Probably a terrible style to ape as a new writer as it can wear pretty easily if done wrong (hopefully Cryptofauna isn’t a prime example), but I thought it fit with this particular story.
How long did it take you to plan and write Cryptofauna?
From inception to publication was a couple years, though it wasn’t straight working time because I had other jobs along the way and the time spent writing was massively inconsistent. I suspect patience may be the most valuable skill in writing/creative endeavors, at least initially.
Can you tell us in five words what writing means to you?
Someone else feels that too.
Did you take the time to celebrate the conclusion of writing your book and its release?
Cryptofauna sort of limped out of the gate after quite a few drafts so there wasn’t really a champagne cork moment for me. For future books I think cake may be in order. Possibly pie. Possibly both.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the work and writing?
Anything that doesn’t involve staring at a computer screen is great. I usually opt for walking my dog or eating large quantities of calorie-dense food.
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
Chuck Palahniuk has some dynamite articles on writing. I think they came out one by one but you can find a collected PDF somewhere online. There’s a focus on how to avoid passive writing and keep the narrative visceral. The bit on head/heart authority is great too.
Thank you Patrick Canning for those brilliant insights into your cunning new novel, Cryptofauna. I love the ambitious nature of this novel and I am excited to give it a go in the future. The dynamic of the book sounds intense yet pleasantly bizarre. It was great to have Patrick on my blog as he is clearly passionate about creativity, writing and his work. I enjoy doing Q&As the most when a writer/author throws themselves into the questions. I hope you all enjoyed the Q&A and make sure to stop by again for plenty more author interviews in the future.