Something a little bit different today, as it’s a rather special occasion; I’m hosting my first guest interview! Today, I’m playing host to Craig Meghan, in the last leg of his blog tour! If you’re curious, the last leg can be seen and read here on The Scribe! Craig is here to discuss his new book Far Far Beyond Berlin, a satire/comedy about a man who’s been transported through God’s unfinished attempts at creation, and has to find his way back to Earth.
Even geniuses need practice
Not everything goes to plan at the first attempt… In Da Vinci’s downstairs loo hung his first, borderline insulting, versions of the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo’s back garden was chock-a-block full of ugly lumps of misshapen marble. Even Einstein committed a great ‘blunder’ in his first go at General Relativity. God is no different, this universe may be his masterpiece, but there were many failed versions before it – and they’re still out there.
Far Far Beyond Berlin is a fantasy novel, which tells the story of a lonely, disillusioned government worker’s adventures after being stranded in a faraway universe – Joy World: God’s first, disastrous attempt at creation.
God’s previous universes, a chain of 6 now-abandoned worlds, are linked by a series of portals. Our jaded hero must travel back through them, past the remaining dangers and bizarre stragglers. He’ll join forces with a jolly, eccentric and visually arresting, crew of sailors on a mysteriously flooded world. He’ll battle killer robots and play parlour games against a clingy supercomputer, with his life hanging in the balance. He’ll become a teleportation connoisseur; he will argue with a virtual goose – it sure beats photocopying. Meanwhile, high above in the heavens, an increasingly flustered God tries to manage the situation with His best friend Satan; His less famous son, Jeff; and His ludicrously angry angel of death, a creature named Fate. They know that a human loose in the portal network is a calamity that could have apocalyptic consequences in seven different universes. Fate is dispatched to find and kill the poor man before the whole place goes up in a puff of smoke; if he can just control his temper…
As you can see, it’s very, very different from anything I’ve worked on before, though the theme of hopping between worlds is something that had me intrigued! So I presented 5 fun questions for Craig and I have to admit, I couldn’t keep a straight face while reading his answers!
Also, for your further enjoyment, a specially-chosen excerpt of Craig’s book can be found below.
All my favourite writing projects have begun with a tiny spark of an idea. This can happen anywhere, at any time. When was yours?
At my desk when I worked for the Department for Work and Pensions. I was watching an IT contractor climb halfway into a giant industrial printer/copier and his legs were sticking out the top. He looked like he was being eaten, like it was a technological Venus Flytrap, except that most Venus Flytraps don’t have a built-in fax machine. I found the image of it really funny, but thought nothing more of it for the rest of the day. On the train home I started jotting down a few ideas about a jaded office worker being sucked into his photocopier and transported somewhere more interesting. When your starting point is a drab office building in Glasgow, “somewhere more interesting” leaves you with a pretty hefty number of possibilities, so it went through a lot of versions.
I love the goose already. What significance does he have? Why a goose?
He’s named Graham the Gravity Goose and he’s a holographic character who gives iffy safety information aboard a giant space station. I suppose he only appears during a stressful situation where the character feels they are in mortal danger, so he’s supposed to be a calming, non-threatening presence and something nice to focus on during the emergency. It has since been made clear to me that geese can get a bit wide and lairy with people, but I’ve personally never had any issues! There’s a nice loch quite close to my house which has geese and I’ve always found it quite a soothing environment, so I’m quite fond of geese.
As you probably already know, I’m a massive fan of leaping between different worlds! Mine are always bright, alien and whimsical. Yours seem to be failed attempts at the perfect earth; but what makes them different from ours?
Writer to writer I suppose the way to put it is that they are first drafts. Well-intentioned but flawed. Failing for the right reasons is probably the main theme of the story. There are design flaws in all the worlds that make them nearly good ideas, but they’ve all gone a bit wrong. For example, the first world is supposed to be a paradise, and superficially it is, beautiful, warm, comfortable, but God hasn’t yet invented night time, dreams or sleep and it has a disastrous effect on the sanity of the characters. He learns all his lessons the hard way and the inhabitants of the worlds largely bear the brunt of that.
The characters of your story seem to be incredibly vibrant and fun. But who’s your favourite?
My favourite person in the story is probably a very down-to earth character called Sonia who is just a nice person, a properly good egg. But she is spectacularly unlucky, which makes me like her even more. My favourite to write for is probably the villain, Fate because he is the character who lets me step out of my own personality the most. He is unreasonably angry, short-fused and rash. I’m a big fan of writing dialogue and he gets the odd rant and the odd over-the-top threat and I really enjoyed putting those together.
Just from the synopsis, a fair amount of people I know seem to think that Fate is based on my good friend Chris McArdle, and while they are both funny when they are angry, the character is not based on him. I sort of see where the theory comes from – for example, we used to work together and one Monday morning I asked Chris how he was doing and his hilariously O.T.T response was “I hate everything”. Fate, however is the worst person in seven entire universes, whereas Chris is usually very nice.
The book’s religious theming and tone reminds me slightly of Terry Pratchett and Neill Gaiman’s Good Omens. Have you ever been worried about approaching the often multi-faceted and difficult subject of religion in such a novel way?
It was something that worried several agents and several publishers enough to not take the book on despite liking it. It was my most common rejection when submitting the book. I have a folder in my inbox full of emails saying “it’s very good, but it’s too risky to publish books with religion themes/jokes”. It’s obviously a topic about which people have extremely strong beliefs and opinions. That in itself is a little bit scary, so I can see why there was trepidation, but I don’t think there’s anything particularly controversial in the book.
My dad is a Chaplain in a children’s hospital and my mum was a Sunday School teacher. I’ve been steeped in religious imagery from birth so I suppose it was only natural that it bled into what I was writing. The book isn’t about religion specifically, I think there’s only one vague reference to the name of any organised religion in the whole book. It’s not satirising belief or anyone’s religion either, I should make clear. I’m not trying to offend.
However, it is a comedy and plenty of religious characters appear. God is a main (sympathetic) character, as is the Devil and there are a number of biblical references that are played for laughs. So, I accept that whatever I intend, some people will find the content offensive. I hope they will remember that it will be placed in the ‘humour’ section of the ‘fantasy’ bit of the bookshop – not to be taken seriously in any way. That being said, I’m probably a bit relived it’s launching in a lockdown so I can gauge the response before meeting any readers!
As for Good Omens, it is a work of genius by two genuine deities of fiction writing. It covers different topics to Far Far Beyond Berlin and does it’s work far more intricately. Good Omens is like drinking a £20 whiskey sour mixed by an expert cocktail waiter, in comparison Far Far Beyond Berlin is like having a drunk man throw a lemon at you whilst you’re drinking a Jack Daniels.
So, that does it for our interview! I’ll admit, some of those answers definitely had me giggling! but we’re not quite finished yet! Below I’ve included an exclusive excerpt of Craig’s work. Nice!
This jump had simply left me a little dazed, but otherwise unharmed.
I was slightly confused though. I could not place my location. The green grass I was standing on was really, really green. I mean superbly, extraordinarily green, like think of the greenest thing you’ve ever seen and then double the amount of green – you’re still not even getting close to the greenness. If Dulux had to name it on their colour chart, they’d have to call it something like Super-Mega-Ultra-Lime-Wallop.
The sky was blue, perfect blue and there was not a cloud to be seen. The rolling grassy hills stretched out in front of me to the horizon. The air was warm, fragrant, but not stifling, it was faultless, I had never been anywhere quite like it. It looked like a computer-generated image. It was like being in a photoshopped screensaver landscape from Windows 98, it didn’t seem real. It was an extremely nice place to be, although I was struggling to enjoy it because I appeared to be in the middle of nowhere; possibly in a foreign country, with no money, no passport and no idea of the language or customs.
I began to walk and to my right I saw movement. From behind a hill an adorable little grey rabbit emerged, hopping along the ground with carefree abandon. When it saw me it stopped dead, frozen in fear and tensed as if ready to run. Its white fluffy tail suddenly rigid.
“Don’t worry” I said softly, “I won’t hurt you,” and moved slowly down to a crouch to look at his cute wee face.
The rabbit straightened up on to his hind legs. “Why the fuck should I believe you?” he said, very unexpectedly.
So yes! That will be all, I’d say! if you’re intrigued, you can visit one of the links below to find out more!
Book page on Elsewhen Press website: https://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin
Books to Read: https://books2read.com/FarFarBeyondBerlin
Apple iTunes: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-iTunes
Google Play: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-Google
Kindle UK: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleUK
Kindle US: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleUS
Kindle AU: http://bit.ly/FarFarBeyondBerlin-KindleAU
Twitter – @craigmeighan – https://twitter.com/CraigMeighan
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CraigMeighanAuthor @craigmeighanauthor
Instagram – @craig_meighan https://www.instagram.com/craig_meighan/
Craig Meighan was born in Lanarkshire, in central Scotland. Both a keen drummer and a fan of science fiction, he grew up wanting to be either Animal from The Muppets or Douglas Adams. This has led to an unfortunate habit of smashing up his computer at the end of each writing session.
With the ambition of becoming a screenwriter, he attended film college in Glasgow. He spent a short time making corporate videos and then after attending one chance meeting, he accidentally joined the civil service. Intending to stay for one summer, he ended up staying for 12 years (so think carefully before inviting him round for tea).
He is too polite to say which of the killer robots, demons and other assorted antagonists that appear in his book, are based on his interactions with actual government ministers.
His first novel, Far Far Beyond Berlin, was written in the evenings, after work, every day for a year, at the end of which time his wife Jen convinced him it was time to finally leave the safety of the office job and pursue writing full-time. She cunningly incentivised him by promising that if he managed to get his book published, he could get a big dog.
Craig lives with Jen, just outside Glasgow, where they like to play softball, enter pub quizzes and do escape rooms. He is delighted to announce that they are expecting a greyhound.