Interview with Biff Mitchell
Author of Team Player
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How would you describe 'Team Player' to a new reader?
- Susan DiPlacido in Blue Iris Review
A Great Read!
It's really not going to be a good day for Mal Gray. He works in the world's tallest building, a
replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa; he's just found out he never officially divorced his wife; he's got a hoard of rogue neutrinos steaming a line straight to his brain and all he wants to do is sit in the tree in his office and escape the hundreds of mindless e-mails bombarding him.
This is just the first couple of pages of Biff Mitchell's satire, Team Player. In this book, Biff weaves a bombastic and hilarious parody of corporate life into the possible destruction of the universe. Unfortunately for Mal, instead of being able to stay in his tree he's struck with an odd question on this day. As the jargon- filled e-mails keep hitting his inbox, he suddenly wonders exactly what the hell he's doing. He wonders what everyone at his company is doing. And then he asks the question out loud: Do we actually finish any projects here?
As Mal digs deeper, he uncovers layers of depravity and sinister motivations behind the company and the building where he works. It seems that not only is the company a methodically corrupt business that enslaves its customers but the building is a beacon for an otherworldly, destructive, sentient thing. Believe me, it all gets pulled together, but to divulge too much here would ruin the pleasure of unwrapping the mysteries contained in this book.
Mal is a solid centering character amid the large cast of outlandish ones. Inside these pages you'll
find homicidal marketing "clones;" lemming-like mass suicidal employees; a sultry executive; an
unstoppable, philosophical, evil, adversarial entity as the villain and thirty naked pagan women.
For those who like their reading material literal and rooted in reality with concise, crisp plots, this novel isn't for you. But if you're willing to take the dive into the surreal realm where bats fly out of evil people's eyes and where parody is exploited for laughs of absurdity and is sprinkled with racy humor and outlandish, winding events, you'll probably love this book. The tension builds, the prose sings, and laughs keep coming as the multiple plot ingredients congeal beautifully. Team Player tackles the absurdity of corporate life, specifically the IT industry; but it ends up being more than the sum of just these wacky parts. It's a fresh, vibrant, and engrossing read that'll keep you laughing even while you're on the edge of your seat.
What was the inspiration behind 'Team Player' ?
- It started as an idea for a short story when I learned after several years of separation from my wife that we were still legally married. The short story quickly turned into a novel about the craziness of the IT world.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
- I like the Beat writers, including my favorite (who for some reason is rarely associated with the Beat Movement and more so with the Hippie Movement). That would be Richard Brautigan. Everyone should read “In Watermelon Sugar” once a year for their entire lives. I also read Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, Hemingway, Tim Dorsey, Dashiell Hammet, Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Simmons and any writer who breaks away from the norm in storytelling.
I think most of these writers have given me direction in writing humor that has no interest in political correctness and stories that go beyond anything that can be termed ‘normal.’
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- The story takes place in the tallest building in the world, the Bonanno Tower, which is a modern day replica of the Leaning Tower of Piza. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, it leans a bit as well.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Don’t even think about being published. If you do, you’ll be writing for your audience and not for yourself. It’ll be similar to butt-kissing in the corporate world. Always write for yourself and write every day.
Don’t ever think that anything you’ve written is anywhere near finished until you’ve revised and re-written at least half a dozen times.
Don’t sleep. Ever.
What's your writing process?
- I get an idea. I fill a hard cover notebook (that I carry everywhere along with pens) with everything I can think about the story for a few months (I called this the story dump).
Then I create a story board on my living room wall with cards for every scene.
This gives me a chance to see the whole picture at a glance and identify those areas that need more writing and those that can be dropped or merged with other scenes.
I don’t write the first word of the first paragraph until I’ve completed all the character studies and have a fairly stable story board.
When the first draft is finished, I put it away for a few months before I start the re-writing and editing.
Which character in 'Team Player' has had the greatest impact on readers?
- That would be Mal, a man who's caught up in the IT world in a bad way. First, he spends most of his time in a fake tree in his office and then he learns that he's still married to the woman he thought he was divorced from years ago. Still, he manages to help 30 naked pagan women save the universe.
If 'Team Player' were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
- I think Mal could be played by just about anyone in the 21st Century.
How have readers responded to 'Team Player'?
- Anne K. Edwards in Blether
Satisfy Need for Satire
Malcolm Gray works in the Bonanno building, tallest in the world, for Erectsoft, INC, a software
company that offers solutions to its clients. Problems arise when changes are affected in more
ways than one within and around the company and its employees. And Mal who has never
questioned his place as one of the cogs in this great industrial mass begins to wonder if he should.
Author Biff Mitchell writes with humor and understanding in this satirical social commentary.
You will meet the faceless worker clone who is afraid to use his or her own judgement in doing
their job, the supervisors who have risen above their levels of incompetency, the boss who deludes himself into thinking his employees love him as well as the few bold individuals who dare stand alone, even if it leaves them up a tree. A tale where you will identify with the characters who wonder if anything ever gets completed, where spies watch each other, and everyone plays victim to someone else.
By indulging in sidewise thinking, you may even come to understand why some characters use
strange methods to resolve their problems. Read and find out why Mal is called the last great man, why he is the chosen one to save the world. Guaranteed to make you see industrial complexes with new eyes and as if they make life unnecessarily complicated just to have a market for their goods. A story to satisfy any lover of futuristic or satirical reads.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I have three more novels on the go along with a weekly serialized story called 'The Existential Adventures of Crazy Man and the Dog Sidestepper.' (crazymanadventures.com)
Based on his 25-year roller coaster ride in the Information Technology (IT) industry, Biff Mitchell's latest novel, Team Player, explores the world of work in the 21st Century. The story is set in an uncomfortably close future where the world is run by homicidal marketing managers who kill for love, company, and the almighty promotion.
Aside from the talking brain cells and the rampaging neutrinos, says Mr. Mitchell, the angry Italian ghosts and the Bolshevik computers, and the thirty naked pagan women who save the universe with help from a man who thinks he's a tree aside from all that: this story could actually take place in any global IT company headquartered in the tallest building in the world, which might be built as an amplified replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
In one scene, 32 new hires are laid off before their first day of work. At the mandatory farewell lunch they're told: 'And, yes, you will be missed - all the potential, the energy and enthusiasm, the positive attitudes that were the reason you were hired in the first place will be noticeably absent in the lives of the people who would have been working with you. But, then, that's the software business.' Heads around the table nod in agreement.