This week’s guest is a very special treat! Spending his youth as an underground musician and occasional club promoter, RJ then moved on to stints as an advertising copywriter, trainer, playwright, music reviewer, amateur historian, TV cameraman, anarchist, contrarian, engineer and fraud investigator.
After a long battle with chronic illness, RJ finally settled on a career in writing. He lives in a crumbling ancient mansion somewhere in Yorkshire and is surrounded by books, music, animals and his family.
RJ is the author of the Mal & Jackie crime series – his debut novel A Numbers Game is published by Wavesback, and more will follow.
He looks suspiciously like award-winning fantasy author, RJ Barker.
Let’s hear it, RJ…
Who would you rather pay golf with? Michael McKintyre, Take That, or The Queen?
I think I would rather cut my hands off than play golf, and that’s only slightly hyperbolic. I have friends who play gold but they are WRONG, it’s an awful boring sport for people with too much money. I think you should commit, either go for a walk or do a sport don’t fence sit. If I REALLY HAD TO because you are some sort of Golf forcing monster, then the Queen is right out, as I’m not really a fan of the idea of hereditary power and I’d feel the need to tell her and she’s an old lady now, she doesn’t need that. I think walking round with a stand up comedian might make me a bit paranoid because you know they are always looking for material and I think I’d be gutted to be material for a middle of the road light entertainer.
So, now we’re left with Take That! Who I generally disagree with. BUT, I reckon Mark and Jason would be a bit of a laugh, Robbie would probably be quite needy but I can cope with that and then there’s Gary. A golf round takes a long time and I’d be stuck with Gary Barlow.
There’s no good options and this is a mean question.
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I’m quite lucky in that I’m blessed with the ability to put things very much to the back of my mind so if something is likely to disturb me, it’s hidden away and hopefully never accessed again – except in my subconscious writer brain bit where it bubbles up later on. So, scariest thing, that’s been put in my mental waste basket and thrown away. However, I suppose the most scared I’ve ever been for myself was when I was really ill, it wasn’t the illness because that becomes normal quite quickly and you accept it as part of your life. The fear was from incredibly realistic nightmares where some terrifying dark thing was coming for me and I couldn’t switch on the lights. But the dream would repeat, I’d think I’d woken up and then try and switch on the lights and not be able to and it would all start again. That’s the closest I’ve felt to the pure terror someone must feel when their life is genuinely in danger.
Well, that went all Debbie Downer, didn’t it? Let’s up the mood a bit. ONWARDS TO THE CRUISER!
How many times have you seen Top Gun?
No one sees Top Gun, we experience it. It’s a transcendental thing, a shared state of mind – we are together riding on the highway dangerzone. And yes, we all think that we’re Maverick, that we’re cool and out there and edgy and riding our motorbike along a runway in contravention of the law cos we’re not wearing a helmet and TOM IF YOU REALLY LOVED KELLY YOU’D INSIST SHE TAKE SENSIBLE SAFETY PRECATIONS. But he doesn’t, because he’s a small man who excels at doing a serious running face in films, and he thinks that makes him immortal. Tom doesn’t, can’t, understand that other humans are not immortal in the same way as him. And we all wish for that sense of invulnerability that only the Cruiser has.
But we know the truth is that we’re Goose and we’re destined to crash and burn just to make our cooler friend look good.
It’s a cruel world.
Who’s your favourite cartoon character?
I thought about this for an INORDINATELY long time. My immediate go to is Hazel from Watership Down as I love him but is he really a cartoon character? Or is he a literary character that was in a cartoon of his adventures and besides I take Watership Down and Hazel way, way too seriously to write a flippant comment about him so I decided not to choose him, though he is very cool, for a rabbit anyway.
But in a pure cartoon character way then I am here for Sylvester the Cat. Eat the bird, Sylvester, in fact, if I was your owner I would feed the bird to you. Sylvester is unfairly maligned, he’s simply an apex predator doing exactly what he evolved to do and being subject to scripts that constantly give the impression a canary would get the better of a cat which is a TRAVESTY and simply anti cat propaganda. It was probably written by a dog. EAT. THE. STUPID. BIRD.
When was the last time you were arrested?
I’ve never been arrested. Despite trying on a number of occasions. I once found myself a long walk from home without enough money to get back and I spent ages doing my best to look suspicious every time a Police Car went past; hiding in drives and all manner of nonsense. They never stopped, I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of being a white male is that it’s actually quite hard to get arrested.
The nearest I’ve ever come to actually being arrested was in my superhero persona, that of The Mighty Cone: friend to the weak, scourge of evil and redirector of Traffic, when some police told me that if I didn’t put The Mighty Cone’s superhero suit back on the roadworks I would be arrested.
Truthfully, my superhero career was very short lived.
Have you ever been punched in the face?
Although I have always been a bit too ready to say something clever to the wrong people, and have never been the sort of person who was any use if there was violence, I’ve been remarkably lucky in my friends who were generally quite handy. I suppose that’s the genesis of Mal and Jackie in A Numbers Game. Useless friend with someone who knows how to look after themselves. I am remarkably good at hiding though.
Which actor do you fancy the most?
I don’t think I do. Cos they’re actors aren’t they? They are professionally not themselves and attraction is all about trust. They’re a bit shifty, if you ask me. I mean, imagine you’re married to someone and then they play Margaret Thatcher on TV and you see a clip. How would you ever find that person attractive again? No, it’s a minefield I’m unwilling to venture into.
Would you rather give up washing, smiling or reading?
How are any of these even possible. I worry about giving up smiling as that probably involves a stroke and you don’t know what else you are going to lose do you? And I KNOW I’m meant to say ‘I must keep reading!’ cos I write books and everything but I don’t care, it’s reading I’d give up. I’ve already read a lot and we live in a world where there are loads of different ways of experiencing story and words.
I am a very social person and where it might be a bit awkward explaining to other writers, ‘I can’t read your book because my friend Susi is some sort of witch stole reading from me,’ but I reckon being able to smile and not smelling would at least give me a head start on winning them over.
What’s your favourite kitchen appliance?
Well, we have a dry fryer and I wasn’t actually allowed to use it because it was my wife’s and I have a history of being a bit too adventurous with kitchen appliances, but I’m trusted with it now and have become slightly obsessed.
Is it the greatest thing ever?
Well, quite possibly.
Frozen chips? Dry Fryer. Chicken? Dry Fryer? Pizza? Oh yes you very much can dry fry it and don’t trust anyone who says you can’t. Salad? I’m frying it. Ice Cream? If my wife isn’t watching too closely, let’s give it a go.
Honestly, get a dry fryer, it will change your life.
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