With a jangle of keys, a door opened. Herbert clanked in, his arms locked to his sides, his ankles shackled, his face a Hannibal Lecter mask. He was overjoyed to see me.
“Marco, I’m jailed day and night with murderous thugs who can’t tell Schiller from Shakespeare. I’m desperate for intellectual stimulus—but you’ll do for now.”
TV personality Marco Ocram is the world’s only self-penned character, writing his life in real time as you read it. Marco’s celebrity mentor, Herbert Quarry, grooms him to be the Jackson Pollock of literature, teaching him to splatter words on a page without thought or revision.
Quarry’s plan backfires when imbecilic Marco begins to type his first thought-free book: it’s a murder mystery—and Herbert’s caught red-handed near the butchered body of his lover.
Now Marco must write himself into a crusade to clear his friend’s name. Typing the first words that come into his head, Marco unleashes a phantasmagorical catalogue of twists in his pursuit of justice, writing the world’s fastest-selling book to reveal the awful truth about the Herbert Quarry affair.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I’ve found that the best place to write is on a long train journey- there’s something about the experience that is extremely conducive to verbal creativity. If ever I become a rich and famous writer, I will spend my huge royalty cheques (or checks for my US fans) on first-class tickets for transcontinental rail-trips, booking all the costs as tax deductible expenses.
I’m a lark, so my mind is at its most creative in the morning, especially on fragrant mornings in spring. I do all my very best work at 6:37am on May 21st.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
Other than praying to the God of Words, not really. I usually settle down with a coffee and start by reading back over the last one or two chapters I’ve written, both to polish them again with fresh eyes and to bring me back in to the world of the story.
– What is your favourite book?
Aside from my own, you mean? It varies over the years, but some books I keep going back to are Right Ho, Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse, the Brigadier Gerard stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Best of Myles, by Brian O’Nolan (aka Flann O’Brien, aka Myles na gCopaleen).
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
That depends upon how much time I can get to devote to writing. I’m pretty committed to creating more instalments of my Awful Truth books, which I love to write, so I can’t imagine sacrificing that experience just to create time to write other types of fiction. That said, the great advantage of writing as Marco Ocram is that I can cover any topic I like. The Awful Truth about the Name of the Rose, which was a spoof of Umberto Eco’s original, was in some ways a medieval murder mystery, even thought it was set in the present day.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not really. Famous people, such as the Pope or Tom Cruise, sometimes have surreal cameos in my books, but my main characters are entirely made-up.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No, I don’t work that way. What I consider special about my books is the degree of original and clever wordplay, and I find I can only create that when I am in front of a keyboard entirely in the zone. I got odd ideas now and again for jokes, scenarios or twists, but I take the view that if I don’t remember them then they can’t have been that special in the first place.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I’ve tended not to read much horror or romance, for different reasons obviously, but I wouldn’t say I have a cast-iron prejudice against the genres. I tend to judge books individually, so a cleverly written horror story or romance would make it to the top of my reading list as quickly as any other well-written book from a different genre.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
That’s a really trick question to answer seriously, as I suspect that the writers whose books I most admire would be so focussed on writing books their way that it would be impossible to get on with them. I get the impression that writing screenplays is more of a team exercise, so perhaps I’d try writing with the guys who produced Airplane and the Naked Gun films, as I would get such a kick out of inventing funny gags and twists with talented people like that.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Probably the United States, because it would be utterly foreign in so many ways, and offer so much scope for travel, but with enough common cultural ground that I wouldn’t feel totally disoriented.
Thank you, Marco Ocram and Damppebbles
About the author
Little is known of Marco Ocram’s earliest years. He was adopted at age nine, having been found abandoned in a Detroit shopping mall—a note taped to his anorak said the boy was threatening the sanity of his parents. Re-abandoned in the same mall a year later, with a similar note from his foster parents, he was homed with his current Bronx mom—a woman with no sanity left to threaten.
Ocram first gained public attention through his bold theories about a new fundamental particle—the Tao Muon—which he popularized in a best-selling book—The Tao Muon. He was introduced to the controversial literary theorist, Herbert Quarry, who coached Ocram in a radical new approach to fiction, in which the author must write without thinking—a technique to which Ocram was naturally suited. His crime memoir, The Awful Truth about the Herbert Quarry Affair, became the fastest selling book of all time, and made him a household name. It was translated into every known language—and at least three unknown ones—and made into an Oscar-winning film, a Pulitzer-winning play, a Tony-winning musical, and a Golden Joystick-winning computer game.
Ocram excelled at countless sports until a middle-ear problem permanently impaired his balance. He has yet to win a Nobel Prize, but his agent, Barney, has been placing strategic back-handers—announcements from Stockholm are expected soon. Unmarried, in spite of his Bronx mom’s tireless efforts, he still lives near his foster parents in New York.