Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, is with me today to discuss his writing life. I regard Balloon Animals as one of the funniest books I have read in a long time, and I recommend it highly. His characters, each one incredibly quirky, come to life on the page, in almost a “larger than life” capacity. I am grateful that Mr. Dunne has been willing to share his thoughts with me today. Welcome to my Writer’s Block!
S. M. Nystoriak: Hello Mr. Dunne! Please give us a little background about yourself. Where did you grow up? Did where you grew up influence your becoming a writer?
Jonathan Dunne: I’m originally from Limerick, Ireland, though I have been living in Toledo, Spain for the past decade where I share my house with my family and my Vietnamese pig. I think it helps to be an outsider when it comes to creating a work of fiction. After all, the narrator is looking in on the action. I don’t feel Irish nor do I feel Spanish and am happy being an unclassifiable outsider J I’m not influenced by where I grew up but rather I find inspiration in characters who I meet and hear of along the way, wherever they come from. I find it easy to anchor my character-driven fiction in my original home-town in Limerick where I can envisage the action happening and it also gives the story a hint of authenticity. Ireland is full of characters, some larger-than-life. I’ve always been attracted to oddities and characters.
S. M. Nystoriak: Describe, if you can, the writing process you follow. Do you have a daily writing routine?
Jonathan Dunne: I have a wooden cabin next to my house where I write or sometimes the attic where I have a good view from the top window. I try to write at least an hour every day in the morning.
S. M. Nystoriak: The characters in Balloon Animals are a real trip, if you’ll excuse the pun. Were any of them modeled after people you know?
Jonathan Dunne: No is the answer. I suppose my fictional characters are a collage of people who I’ve met and heard about during my time. Mostly, a real person might provide the seed and they grow in my head and then flourish on paper.
S. M. Nystoriak: Balloon Animals, Jonny goes on somewhat of a pilgrimage to Iowa. I was curious why you chose Iowa as Jonny’s destination. Have you ever been there?
Jonathan Dunne: No, I’ve never been to the USA. I’ve got a friend from Iowa who I give an acknowledgment to in Balloon Animals. There’s a connection between Ireland and the USA and Iowa always seemed a place vast and secluded in Mid-America with lots of farms and lanes. I always thought that the oddest things that happen are at the end of country lanes. I don’t think this story would’ve worked if 45 had been from New York, for example. I needed somewhere less trodden and less well-known and I think the acres of corn-fields have that element of attraction.
S. M. Nystoriak: In my Amazon book review, which can be found here, http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1UIED56P8L6QR/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview , I commented on how the humor in this book was exactly what I needed at the time I was reading it. I was visiting a family member in a hospital ICU, and stress was quite high. There are several scenes in Balloon Animals in which I was laughing so hard, I actually had to put the book aside while I composed myself. I found it to be a great stress relief. Tell me; when writing such humorous scenes, and this book has lots of them, do you realize the humor as it is happening?
Jonathan Dunne: No, really. I have to say from the bottom of my heart that I don’t. I write how I think. It’s just so easy for me to write what I write compared to a thriller for example. I don’t take myself seriously but I take the lives of my characters seriously but there’s always a comic element in the most dire situations.
S. M. Nystoriak: Can we expect similar levels of humor in your upcoming book? What can you tell us about it?
Jonathan Dunne: Living Dead Lovers, out in May, follows the life and times of a famed clairvoyant gypsy who falls in love with one of her own dead clients. But she has a predicament: she has to die if she wants to be with her dead lover (it’s not as if he can come back from the dead, that would be just unbelievable J). However, a life-time of conjuring up ghosts who never wanted to be conjured up in the first place, has left the gypsy with a problem: the Dead don’t want her on their turf.
Living Dead Lovers is a fictional autobiography written by the gypsy lady, beginning with her unconventional bohemian childhood to her unconventional ending.
S. M. Nystoriak: Did I hear somewhere that one of the chracters in Balloon Animals will make an appearance in Living Dead Lovers? Is this true, and are you willing to drop any hints as to which character that might be?
Jonathan Dunne: Yes, the character played a very minor role in Balloon Animals. She came into a scene and left just as fast. Really, she seems out of context and superfluous but this scene where she interacts with Jonny (hint hint) will be repeated in Living Dead Lovers but from my clairvoyant gypsy’s perspective. In Balloon Animals, it’s never made explicit who she is but she does offer her services to Jonny. It’s easy! I’ve always believed that fictional characters exist on some plain and by meeting characters by accident from other books, it somehow gives them lives of their own. Again, the setting is Old Castle in Limerick where the scene in Balloon Animals took place and will take place in Living Dead Lovers.
S. M. Nystoriak: Last question, and it is somewhat unrelated to anything else. But as a musician/writer, I find it to be of great value: If you could create a playlist for Balloon Animals, what songs would you include?
Jonathan Dunne: I listened to Devotchka quite a lot during the writing of Balloon Animals. I think they’ve captured that bitter-sweet quality in Balloon Animals and life itself. I can also listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata over and over again on a loop and it’s a perfect back-drop for the writing process for any novel that I write and will write. Then, on the days when I’m just dragging the pen, I need a kick-start normally provided by Metallica … Guns ‘n Roses etc. With Living Dead Lovers I listen to a lot of gypsy music, especially Hungarian.
S. M. Nystoriak: Well, I look forward to reading Living Dead Lovers when it comes out this Spring. Thank you so much for stopping by my Writer’s Block!