Interview with Ian Cassidy, author of The Unsinkable Herr Goering

Publisher: Cassowary Press

Publish Date: March 1, 2013

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Contrary to what the so-called history books tell you, Hermann Goering, Hitler's Deputy, Head of the Luftwaffe and second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, did not leave this world courtesy of a cyanide tablet secreted in the heel of his jackboot minutes before his appointment with the hangman. The truth is far more bizarre. THE UNSINKABLE HERR GOERING is a monumental debut novel by Ian Cassidy. It follows Goering, a man blindsided by hubris, on his attempted escape - from both Germany as well as from the Allies - and the inept men of mettle who put a stop to it. It is a hilariously depraved story of of villainous villains, slightly less villainous heroes, bad behavior (and even worse beer), and uncomfortable underwear. Not since A Confederacy of Dunces has a book brought to life such audaciously flawed characters. It gets so much wrong, yet so much right.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

The Unsinkable Herr Goering is my first published novel. It’s a historical comedy set in WW2, dealing with the events surrounding Herman Goering’s attempt to escape from the Allies. It’s a raucous story of a notorious war criminal and his encounters with a gang of loveable rogues, much lesser criminals who thwart his plans to evade justice.

I began the book several years ago and submitted a version to a host of publishers and agents. There wasn’t much interest in it back then so I moved on to my next project. Then, out of the blue, Cassowary Press contacted me and offered me a publishing deal. They had seen extracts on the web and were impressed. They had to track me down via an advertisement on a private tutor’s website and asked was Ian Cassidy the private tutor also Ian Cassidy the author of The Unsinkable Herr Goering and if he was, did he want a publishing deal? I said yes to the above and we worked hard to edit the novel and finally managed to produce this great fun romp through recent history.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

The Unsinkable Herr Goering was the first novel I completed; I had attempted novels before, but always seemed to run out of steam before the end. So it will always have a special place if only for the sense of achievement. Of course it holds a special place for many other reasons. Many of the characters are based on real life people who had an impact on me and basing the characters on them was a moving experience, giving me a feeling of nostalgia to immortalise them in my own small way. I laughed a lot as I wrote the book thinking about how they would react to situations. The identity of the person upon whom the main character is loosely based is not difficult to discover. It is my father, and at the time of writing our relationship was, for reasons I won’t go into, a little strained to say the least, so writing about him, fictionalising him, had something of a cathartic effect. I may have started out going for the jugular, emphasising all his less savoury characteristics. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make him totally irredeemable and so we got around to speaking again, which I guess, in the greater scheme of things is worth more than a place on the New York Times best seller list.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?

I’ve always written stories and occasionally poetry. My first foray into writing a novel was when I was about twelve. I attempted to write a sequel to The Wild Geese. I was into reading war stories at the time and I just thought the book cried out for a sequel – the mercenaries had been double crossed and I felt sure that the survivors would seek revenge. I managed about fifty pages of really bad writing before I gave up. Next when I was about sixteen, I attempted to fill in the gap in The Mayor of Casterbridge – the decade and a half between Henchard taking his oath to stop drinking and the return of Susan and Elizabeth-Jane. I managed about one hundred pages that time. (I’ve subsequently returned to it and turned it into a completed novel). The list goes on as I continued writing as a hobby. I had the odd short story published and many more rejected. Publishers kept on returning my manuscripts but I never gave up.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Turning my notes into a finished article. The notes I scribble on scraps of paper seem to be fantastic in that raw form, they are spontaneous, vital and weighty (to me at least), a stream of consciousness to match On The Road or Ulysses, but when I come to type them up I find that I lose all that spontaneity. I edit out all the vitality and then I have to agonise over putting it back in.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to whilst writing? If so, what kind of music?

I have several very distinct playlists. Firstly, I walk my dogs for an hour every morning and spend that time going over stories and plots, trying things out and writing things in my head. So you could say that my first playlist is birdsong and you can’t get better than that.

When I get back I write everything down before I forget it and for that I like silence, which at that time in the morning I usually get. Later when I sit down to do some proper work I would prefer silence, but at that time in the day/evening there’s no chance of getting it. So I drown out the background noise with music from the early 80s. I was too young for punk. When Blondie was cutting her first disc and the Sex Pistols were taking London by storm, I wasn’t quite a teenager, so all I could do was listen to the music. I couldn’t have the haircut, the clothes or the attitude, my parents wouldn’t have allowed it and I didn’t have any money of my own to defy them. I did make a pair of bondage trousers by cutting holes in a pair of jogging trousers and adding a multitude of zips and chains. They were pretty good but I never had the courage to wear them out of the house. So I’m a thwarted punk at heart and I listen to the likes of Blondie, The Jam, The Clash etc. as I write.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I have changing writing quirks. When my back is acting up I try writing standing up, it’s more comfortable than crouching over a desk. But one quirk that will never change is that everything has to be written out longhand and in pencil first.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I not only plan subsequent books, I’ve written them.

There’s Coffee House Tricks which is a coming of age novel that begins with the Birmingham Pub Bombings of 1974, takes in 1977 and the Sex Pistols before concluding in the 1980s and Margaret Thatcher. There’s the tribute to Thomas Hardy called The Skilled Countryman which deals with the period of Michael Henchard’s life that Hardy doesn’t.

I’ve written a couple of detective novels which need re-writing and finally there will be the successors to The Unsinkable Herr Goering.

I call them The True Deaths series where I’ve imagined alternative versions of the events leading up to the deaths of notable people from history including Judas Iscariot, Joan of Arc, Jean-Paul Marat, Christopher Marlowe, Gus Grissom, John Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, etc.

Q. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Among older writers I’m torn between Thomas Hardy and George Eliot. I’ve got soft spot for Hardy but Eliot’s radicalism also appeals. In a straight fight between Tess and Maggie Tulliver I think Tess would win on a split decision. Among modern writers I’m always impressed by Hilary Mantel (perversely I think Beyond Black is better than the Thomas Cromwell books) and recently I’ve got into Will Self’s work. I like the different approach he takes to writing. I like the way he tries to do things differently although I would like to ask him: Do you think it’s possible to get a publisher to take on something challenging and radical like Umbrella if you haven’t already established a reputation by writing more traditional books?

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book related or not).

Book related news is a little thin on the ground. I’m still writing away. I’ve got plenty of ideas and projects on the go.

Non-related book news: I’m looking forward to starting a new job lecturing in law at the University of Derby. The interviewers were very impressed that I was a published novelist. Hopefully they were impressed with my ability to teach law students as well.

Q. Please tell us a fun fact about yourself!

I’ve been learning the saxophone for over thirty years and I still can’t play a recognisable tune.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Keep reading.

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