Welcome everyone to this week’s blog interivew. Today I have with me the lovely Helen O’Reilly whose book, ‘Spunk, a Fable,’ has incited many a debate about her premise that men are obsolete. Stick around and find out more about Helen and her thought provoking story about some women (survivors of a disaster) attempting to live a life without men according to amazonian principles. Anyy men they encounter in their isolated forest are only to be used for procreation, and then food! (Waste not, want not!)
This book, is most certainly a must read!
Helen’s Genre: Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian Fantasy (An excerpt of this story can be found at the bottom of the page)
Author Bio …
Author Helen O’Reilly is well known to educators and others as the creator of numerous books of fact, fiction, and poetry under her pen name, Helen H. Moore. In her previous “lives” as a Glaswegian and a New Yorker, she spent her formative years as something of a “spy in the house of love,” gathering the authentic information, attitudes, and vernaculars that inform the world she so convincingly and compellingly creates in “Spunk, a Fable.” Living and working in the Greater New York area, she has clearly absorbed the times and places she describes in this, her first novel for adults. “I wrote this book in response to the question, ‘are men still necessary?’ Clearly, I have a strong opinion. I have always considered myself ‘a man’s woman,’ and I’ve married two, buried one, and given birth to three. The idea that men might ever be considered superfluous was clearly something that I couldn’t just reject out of hand. Reading “Spunk” will, I hope, give you food for thought, too, as well as being a damn good read.”
Local Author Rebuts Feminist’s Claim Men Are Doomed Result Is: Spunk, a Fable
(September launch at EMERGENCY ARTS/The Beat slated)
Las Vegas, NV— When it hit bookshelves in the fall of 2012, journalist Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men: And the Rise of Women provoked debate about her premise that men are obsolete, and that women are becoming the dominant sex. “I thought about what a terrible world this would be without men, and the result was my latest book. Spunk, a Fable (available in paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon),” said O’Reilly. Spunk will have its launch party September 15 at EMERGENCY ARTS/The Beat, featuring music by local band, Hoodoo.
Helen is well aware of the perilous health of the modern publishing industry. “I spent about twenty minutes feeling like a victim: ‘Oh, publishing dies just as I finish my first novel.’ Then I decided to take advantage of what was killing traditional publishing—self-publishing—and became my own publisher.” Millions more are doing the same thing every day, making self-publishing a growing trend.
Living and writing in Las Vegas, NV, Helen O’Reilly works as a book editor for a specialized small press. Her previous works include The Secret of Willow Ridge, and The Soul Workout, for Central Recovery Press, and A Poem a Day, for Scholastic, among many others. Her previous works are published under the name Helen H. Moore.
Spunk is a very adult book, and I didn’t want some poor schoolteacher in Indiana to buy it thinking it was another book of my children’s poetry,” said Helen. “It’s a post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy, in which an amazonian society dedicates itself to using men for two things only; sex and food─and while the heroine rebels against the society and fights for freedom, it gets pretty dark there for the men, at least for awhile!” Helen smiles.
“I think I’m a typical Baby Boomer; we keep thinking of new things we want to try, and we don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t. I’m also a classic Las Vegan. This is the land of re-invention. I’ve entered my third act now, as a novelist. I’ve become what I always wanted to be when I grew up.”
Helen will also be signing at the Vegas Valley Book Fest on November 2, at The Historic Fifth Street School, and is a member of the Writers of Southern Nevada.
Now it’s time to get to know a little more about Helen, the writer!
1. What made you start writing?
I was one of those children who seemed to emerge from the womb with a book in her hand; I cracked the code very early. My mother took me to the library for story hour every week, and I don’t remember many childhood toys, but I do remember selecting “Little Golden Books” from a revolving wire rack in the local store. I loved reading, and I believe that gave me a head start on writing. I attended parochial school, and the nuns were very big on diagramming sentences, which I took to instantly, and which has been a great help to me. Also, we were Catholic, in and out of church all the time; prayers were said in Latin, and that helped my vocabulary enormously.
I can still remember the first sentence of the first Bobbsey Twins book I ever read: “Ruined! Wrecked! Spoiled!” Such drama! Reading was my favourite activity throughout my youth.
In college, I was terribly unscholarly (just lazy, really), but my professors would usually write things on my exam booklets like, “this is unfair; I’m supposed to be grading this, but you have me laughing!” So I learned that I could charm and seduce with my writing, and that is a wonderful skill to have.
In short, I write because I can’t not write!
2. What draws you to this genre?
As a young reader, I loved George Orwell’s 1984, as well as HG Wells’s The Time Machine. And of course, the great Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange was a wonder to me. But my favourite post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy is Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker. If I could write like that, I’d call myself a writer! The brilliant Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale inspired me, as did The Hunger Games. And of course, I have to include the 1920s feminist classic, Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
As a writer, I love the post-apocalyptic, dystopian fantasy genre, because of all the world-building that it calls for, which is tremendous fun for an author. The only limitation is not, as one often hears, your imagination, but your skill. You can imagine any situation for your characters, but you must have the skill to make it believable for your readers.
3. How much research did you have to do or was your story a complete work of fiction?
The research I did was mostly to ensure that I was calling things and places by the correct names. And of course, even though my book is a complete work of fiction, what that means is that the situations, the plot, and so forth are created, but the setting and some characters are amalgams of actual places and people. You know, Philip Roth once said, “nothing bad can ever happen to a writer; everything is material.” Everything that has ever happened to me and that I’ve ever learned has been a form of research.
4. Where do your ideas come from?
I have a very fertile imagination, which I do a great deal to encourage. I read, I do freelance journalism, I discuss ideas with people. I don’t watch very much television, other than a few favourite programs. I live in my own head a lot, and I’m fortunate to live alone, which is stimulating to the imagination. I have people in my life, including and especially my partner, who also has a playfulness and a creative appreciation. I’m fond of asking, “what if?” That’s the best idea generator, right there.
5. What was the first piece you ever wrote?
I shudder to tell you; I wrote the requisite amount of bad poetry as a teenager, but I got better fast, thanks mostly to a wonderful teacher, the 20th century American imagist poet, David Ignatow. I was very competitive with the boys in my college poetry classes, we all competed, actually, for professor Ignatow’s approval. To attend poetry workshop without having something new to share was unthinkable to me, and so I improved and, I think, outclassed, most of my classmates quickly.
The first piece of writing I ever had published was an Op-Ed about a close relative who had recently died of AIDS, in Newsday, the Long Island Newspaper. From that point, I was published in pretty much every format, under my maiden name, Helen H. Moore. Articles, essays, poetry, non-fiction, memoir, children’s books . . . everything except the novel. Spunk, a Fable, is my first novel for adults, and I published it under my legal name.
6. How involved do you get with your characters?
What happens is usually that some characters start to grow on me, and usually not the characters that I’d thought would! I generally like my heroes and heroines and I dislike my villains, which makes it easier to write them, and easier to have terrible things happen to them.
Strangely, it’s not only my own characters I tend to fall in love with; I wrote a play about Susan B. Anthony for a collection of classroom plays published by Scholastic, and I became obsessed with her. She was fantastically interesting.
7. What is your ambition for your writing career?
I always say I have a full-time job, a full-time family, and a full-time boyfriend already, so my full-time writing career has to fit into a very full life. I work as a book editor, and (I hope) that is likely to continue; I don’t anticipate quitting my job to write full-time. (The average NY Times bestselling author only makes about $50,000 a year from book sales. So I’m not doing it for the money!)
I have been and always will be a writer, and there have been years when I have made a great deal of money from my writing, and years when I haven’t, ever since I started getting paid for it. However I will continue to write and publish. There will be at least two more novels in the story of Senga and Pink that I began in Spunk, a Fable.
8. Do you think that the cover of a book plays an important part in the buying process?
I absolutely do; the cover of a book is a billboard advertising your book to potential readers.
9. What advice would give a new writer who hasn’t been published yet?
I’d refer a new, unpublished author to the 13th century poet and mystic, Rumi, who said, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.” Write because that’s the desire that has been put in your heart, and for no other reason. Anything else is madness.
Consider the infinitesimal number of writers who are today making a living from their writing, out of the 7 billion people on the planet! Don’t try to be the next JK Rowling—be the original YOU. Don’t write for money, or for fame, or for any other reason than that you are compelled to do so; don’t compare yourself to others who are more or less accomplished. And for God’s sake, don’t Google yourself! You’ll give yourself anxiety attacks that will do your writing no good.
I’d also say don’t waste time or energy (or money) on too many writing courses or gurus. A writer WRITES! Every day. Courses, seminars, and gurus have their place, but they should be used sparingly, like salt. Better to get together with a peer group to critique each other’s work for free. But you must write!
10. For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hardback books?
In my job as a book editor, I read and edit on a computer screen all day long. In my private time, I prefer actual, physical, books.
More information about Helen’s book:
In the middle of a great new forest that covers post-apocalyptic New York City – and its immediate environs – a group of women survivalists establishes a community dedicated to survive through strictly Amazonian principles, laws, and precepts. What surviving males ever enter the forest are hunted and captured solely to perpetuate the all-female community. Once the males’ procreative powers are exhausted the community converts them into (what else?): Lunch and dinner.
Link to the Amazon.co.uk Website:
Link to the Amazon.com Website:
Unique Selling Proposition:
This is the answer to any woman who’s ever wondered, “If they can send a man to the moon, why can’t they send them all?” (Answer hint: After reading “Spunk, a Fable,” you might not really want them to.) Set in an urban jungle (literally) that the author describes with the knowledge of an intimate, in a dystopian world frozen in New York of 1972, “Spunk, a Fable” follows Senga as she tries to save her foster-daughter Pink from the Abbess, Hagar, and their followers, “the Maenads,” an always-hungry group of feral girls who learn early that “It’s catch, before kill,” when it comes to whatever hapless men ever dare enter their wooded world. Along the way Senga and Pink receive unexpected help from a middle-aged female stoner, a wily teenage heroine, and a father-and-son team of unlikely heroes. “Spunk,” is a darkly funny, sexy, taboo-busting, twisted tale that answers the question, “are men still necessary?”
Excerpt From Chapter 27 – Pink and Parry
. . . Young Parry had lost a lot of blood, and Pink pitied him, but she prodded him forward, just the same. His head was beginning to swim, and he put out his good hand to steady himself on the tree trunks that bordered the trail. “Keep an eye out for pits,” Pink told him, “or you could end up getting eaten. And look for a yellow building with a red roof . . . that’s our house, mine and Senga’s. My mother’s.”
Something in what she said tugged at his memory, but all the talk about getting eaten drove it out.
“Pits . . . what do you mean, like peach pits?”
“I don’t know ‘peach pits,’ I guess they’re like the bats. Maybe you have different things in Brooklyn. . . “
“Yeah, I guess we do . . .”
“Pits in the ground, I mean. Like holes . . .”
“Like this?” Young Parry grabbed at a sapling and lifted his foot out of a hole in the ground which had opened up before him, and he swayed against Pink, out-of-balance as he was and already dizzy from blood loss. He grew a little dizzier, and so did she, from that swooning, swaying, gossamer touch of skin against skin. The tips of her ears grew hot and red under her mane of hair, and she cleared her throat and straightened up.
“Like that,” she nodded, gravely.
“Well slow down, willya? What’s the rush?”
“We can’t let them catch us. They’ve never seen me, and I don’t want them to catch me. Senga would be furious. They’d kill her; she’s broken about a thousand rules. And if they catch you, they’ll kill you. . .and . . . . We just need to get home to my mother.”
Pink’s hesitation reflected her knowledge of what would happen if Parry were found. It also reflected her urgent desire to keep him as secret as Senga had tried to keep her. The idea of his capture and death had flickered into and out of her eyes in a trice, but it was there long enough for him to catch it. However, something else in what she said puzzled him, and what he said was, “What do you mean, they’ve never seen you?”
“They’ve never seen me; I’m a secret. I hide; I’ve been hidden; Senga’s been hiding me ever since I was born. She doesn’t want them to get me; she doesn’t want me to become one of them.”
“Is she crazy? You can’t hide a whole person!”
“I think she is a little crazy. But she’s my mother, and I fought with her last night, and I ran away, and that’s how you came across me back there. Now hurry up; I’m sorry your hand hurts, but you have to hurry up, or the Girl Scouts will find us; they come this way sometimes.”
“If she’s your mother, why do you call her Senga?”
Pink lifted her shoulders. “I dunno, that’s what she taught me to call her; it’s her name. Anyway, she’s not my actual mother . . . which I just found out . . . which is one of the things we fought about. Not only did she keep me a secret, she kept THAT a secret from me!” As Pink held her tree branch before her, she indicated with her head the direction she wanted Parry to take. Even though she had her weapon, Parry could have subdued her. But he had finally realized that this was the girl he had come to the forest to find, and he was enjoying her company.
And so he obeyed her silent commands, and they made their way, single-file, through the woods, up the slope to where Pink thought the Relay Station should be. Her commands were silent, but—girl that she was—she was not; as they walked she told him the story Senga had told her the previous night, and they walked and they walked and when she was finished with her story, the Relay Station was in view. And Young Parry was in love.
Thanks Helen for a very fascinating interview and I really look forward to interviewing you when your next book comes out!