Interview with Ray Sullivan
Author of The Last Simple
Ray Sullivan is a British author born and raised in north Wales. He completed a 24 year military career in the Royal Air Force before returning to north Wales to work in the public and private sector. He is currently a lecturer in aeronautical engineering when not writing. Ray's writing is impossible to pidgeon-hole - his novels range from sci-fi, to military adventure to comedic. His latest book is Hotel California, a dark comedy thriller.
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How would you describe The Last Simple to a new reader?
- It's a deliberately corny comedy, based loosely on the Dan Brown novels. It started life as a serialised blog book and was known as 'Da Dan Brown Code' for almost a year. It was inspired by the type of book Dan Brown writes - I'd read his entire canon prior to writing this and was becoming increasingly frustrated by the trend to write not only very short chapters, but to divide already short chapters in two.
I get it - the need to complete a chapter in a subway stop or two but the trend seemed to be taking the micky. I'm not against short chapters, per se, I have quite a few in some of my own books, but you won't find me dividing chapters arbitrarily.
So you were irritated by short chapters, and wrote a book parodying that?
- The whole Dan Brown storyline approach is parodied - he's written so unbelievable scenes in his books such as getting a personal jet to turn around in a hangar using its engines. I've worked around aircraft for a long time, it just wouldn't happen. But to be fair to Dan, he's made a success out of his stories. All I've done is hijack some of his ideas and littered them with puns and silly word jokes.
Is it all about Dan Brown books?
- Not at all - despite my observations above I actually enjoyed his books once I suspended belief. Many of the references are to other literary memes that crop up time and again, and in a way I poke fun at the whole writing genre thing. I had a ball thinking up gags and totally wasted watching 'The Da Vinci Code' in the cinema because I kept filing gags away.
The characters - they're self aware aren't they?
- That was the original concept - the characters are just doing a job. Bradford has played this part before but his ambition is to feature in a Dan Brown novel. There's a lot of talking to the fourth wall and characters use the space in-between chapters to do stuff that shouldn't be seen in a book. They are all irritated by the chapters finishing before they've done all the stuff they expect to do, apart from the chapter when Lady Bartholomew is waiting to go the toilet and the chapter is drawn out making her cross her legs.
I was also intending to have an intermission, with the characters making a bolt for the bar before the reader got there, but that was too surreal even for me.
This book is different from your usual style. Will you revisit the genre in the future?
- Probably not. I had a lot of fun writing this story and loved watching the numbers as people all around the world logged on for instalments. But I got a lot off my chest and still find myself chortling when I re-read the jokes. I tend to confine my abstract comedic writing to a satirical website called Newsbiscuit these days. My advice - read the book, log onto Newsbiscuit. If you've got comedic ambitions, write for Newsbiscuit - you won't get paid but you'll be made welcome.
It's a very slim book, is that intentional?
- There's a gag in virtually every other sentence - there would have been one in every sentence if it wasn't for the need to maintain a narrative and provide the lead in for gags. Maintaining that pace is hard, but worth it. I may attempt another overtly comedic novel - in fact I have a work in progress in my cloud storage - but it won't be such a fast firing gag a second affair. Make the most of this as it is unique.
Why did you change the title? And why is a fake Eifel Tower on the cover?
- The answer to the first question is that I can't afford the legal fees, plus it really isn't all about Dan Brown's writing style. Having said that, just before I launched the book Dan launched 'The Lost Symbol'. I read it, made a few changes to the story and the the title wrote itself. The Eifel Tower link is due to a major prt of my story taking place in Blackpool, UK, where a tower similar to the Eifel Tower resides. In fact a major (surreal) scene occurs in the tower. The image is from Las Vegas where a facsimile Eifel Tower also resides. It's a bit of an in-joke, I guess.
Bradford knows he’s the lead in a third rate parody. However, his ambition is to be the lead in a Dan Brown story, but doesn’t know if he has to dumb up or down for the gig.
In ‘The Last Simple’, Bradford, a professor of Simpology from Harvard, follows clues left by the illiterati, ignoranti and even the bingoranti as he tries to track down the kidnapper of Lord Bartholomew. Aided by Lord Bartholomew’s daughter, Lady Bartholomew, and her loathsome manservant Belsen, Bradford has to evade arrest by not one, but two Buffoons of a Copper while bouncing around the renowned cultural centres of Northern England, from Lincoln Cathedral to Blackpool Tower.
Aided by Surly Teabing, the rudest man in England, while dodging Teabing’s servant Snivell, Bradford finds himself in a race against time, logic, bad jokes, ridiculous puns and awful gags as he searches for the Last Simple in an improbable if unbelievable storyline.
This a laugh a minute book, assuming you’re a very fast reader.Includes the Christmas Special and at least one deleted chapter (the one that can still be read – the others were, er, deleted)Warning – contains flash photography (actually it doesn’t, I just wanted to say that as it sounds cool on the news)