Tag Archives: comedy

Author Interview: Stephen Hall

If Matthew Reilly (who writes all those fast-paced adventure novels) and Douglas Adams (who wrote The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy) had a love-child… well, that’d be really weird. Not to mention impossible. But if they DID, that love-child might write a little bit like Stephen Hall. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Hello, I’m Stephen Hall. I’m a writer and actor, a father to one daughter, a husband to one woman, and a meal ticket to one Staffordshire Terrier. I have one sister and no parents. For the past four decades or so, I’ve mostly been trying to make people laugh.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always loved entertaining people, telling stories. I suppose the first professional writing I did was writing my own standup comedy material, which I started performing a week before my 18th birthday.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was first officially employed as a writer in 1996 – with a contract and everything – when I got a gig writing gags and sketches for the Australian TV sketch comedy show Full Frontal.
FUN FACT: That’s where Eric Bana got his start!

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’d love to, Wendy! Symphony Under Siege is a rollicking sci-fi comedy adventure set 512 years in the future. On a Thursday morning. It tells the story of the 5-star luxury space cruise liner the Symphony of the Stars, as it’s raided by desperate space pirates in search of the secret fabulous treasure hidden somewhere on board. This playground for the ultra-rich now becomes a battleground for the two crews, as their two headstrong captains circle ever closer to their fateful showdown.

Did I mention one of the cruise ship’s crew is a serial killer? That’s just one more thing the cruise ship captain (highly-decorated ex-navy Captain Diana Singh) has to contend with.

The story’s fast pace is a product of its serialized beginnings, with chapter after chapter of cliffhangers, daring escapes, twists and turns and there’s-no-way-they-could-have-survived-that! moments…..
Oh, and I’ve tried to put in a lot of gags, too.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d wanted to write a novel for ages. As my 50th birthday approached, I bit the bullet and vowed to finally DO IT before I turned 51. I told my wife and daughter, then I devised a framework to hold me accountable; releasing one chapter online every week, for 52 weeks. Those 52 mini-deadlines were exactly the motivation I needed to stick to it, and get that first draft done. I’m happy to report I met them all, and the original serialised version of the novel is still online, right here: http://www.thestephenhall.com/novel-chapters/

And I always knew that I’d be self-publishing it. I was confident I could do that part of the process, because I’d done it with my previous (non-fiction) book How To Win Game Shows.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

When I started writing it, I didn’t have a title in mind; I just trusted that one would present itself to me… Then, as I neared the end of the writing process (and I knew what the story actually was) I came up with a shortlist of three potential titles, and ran a survey! I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers to vote for one of the three options, and Symphony Under Siege won hands down. So Symphony Under Siege it was.
And is.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t know about a message, as such – this is just a rollicking, escapist adventure. It has virtually nothing to do with life on earth in 2021. There’s nothing in it to remind you
of our global pandemic,
of our seemingly endless lockdowns,
of the continuing harmful – and sadly, successful – spread of misinformation, ignorance, arrogance and fear,
of the continuing global climate emergency or
of all the petty things that divide humanity being exaggerated and incited by The Powers That Be to overwhelm all the beautiful things that unite us.

Not referencing any of that – or even hinting at any of it – in the book is all deliberate on my part… perhaps that’s as much of a message as anything.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I wish! No, this is all just invented adventure… probably born of being such a Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Star Trek fan, and all those old Saturday afternoon matinee serials I’ve watched as well.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuin, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim Winton, and Robert Louis Stevenson are some whose work I really enjoy. I tend to enjoy speculative, imaginative fiction with a sense of humour on the slightly dry side. And Dickens – how could I forget Charles Dickens?! When it comes to serialised novels, Charles Dickens wrote the book.
(In regular monthly instalments, you understand…)

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Oh, I think Douglas Adams was pretty brilliant, wasn’t he? That mix of wacky, brilliant sci-fi concepts and laugh-out-loud (and very British) comedy gets me every time.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover was designed by a Venezuelan studio called The Kicke Studio. I found them on Fiverr, after commissioning concept sketches from 5 or 6 other artists. I knew I wanted the image to feature my luxury space cruise liner at the moment just before the pirate attack. Although I’d described the ships’ appearances in the novel, I’d only done a few rough sketches of what I thought they might look like. I hired a number of artists to design the two ships based on my descriptions and sketches, and I instantly fell in love with what The Kicke Studio submitted. I’m really happy with the cover they painted for me, and I look forward to teaming up with them again for the sequel!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

A writer writes. Don’t wait for the muse to strike – just write something, anything! The worst thing you did write is always better than the best thing you didn’t write. Remind yourself what fun writing can be – what fun writing should be!

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

Yes. Thank you for reading this far.

Stephen Hall
Melbourne, Victoria (Australia)


Symphony Under Siege

Cover Artist: The Kicke Studio


Book Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Book Name: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
First Published: 1979

Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, England in 1952. When his parents divorced in 1957, his mother, sister and himself moved to live with his grandparents in a Brentwood, Essex, RSPCA animal shelter that they ran. It is here that he must have developed his affinity for animals and later inspired him to become an animal activist.

Adams grew to be very tall, he was over 6’ by the time he was twelve. His height made him the butt of jokes. Yet, it was his early ability to write stories that helped him make his mark at Brentwood School, an independent prep school that he attended. His former schoolmaster, Frank Halford, said of him:

“Hundreds of boys have passed through the school but Douglas Adams really stood out from the crowd—literally. He was unnecessarily tall and in his short trousers he looked a trifle self-conscious. “The form-master wouldn’t say ‘Meet under the clock tower,’ or ‘Meet under the war memorial’,” he joked, “but ‘Meet under Adams’.”

The author’s early writings was published at Brentwood, writing that helped him earn enrollment at St. John’s College in Cambridge to read English. During this time, Adams desired to join the prestigious “Footlights”, an invitation only student comedy club where he hoped to hone his comedy writing skills. It took him two years of writing and performing with others to earn his place at the “Footlights”. Adams graduated in 1974 with a BA in English literature.

In the early 1980s, Adams had an affair with a married woman, novelist Sally Emerson, who had been separated from her husband. Later, Adams would dedicate his novel Life, the Universe and Everything to her. When Emerson returned to her husband, Adams was introduced to Jane Belson by friends and they carried on a stormy on again, off again, relationship. The two lived in Los Angeles as Adams worked on a movie deal for the Hitchhiker series and then both moved back to London when the deal fell through. In 1991, they married and had one daughter, Polly Jane Rocket Adams. The Adams family then found a home in Santa Barbara, CA, where they lived until Adams died of a heart attack in 2001. He was only 49 years old.

Adams is best known for the Hitchhiker Guide series, which started as a radio comedy series before being developed into a “trilogy” of five novels that sold more than 15 million copies during his lifetime. The books were then adapted into a television series, many stage plays, a comic book and a computer game. In 2005, Hitchhikers became a feature film. The author is also known for being a story editor on the BBC television series, Dr. Who. He worked on Dr. Who for two seasons, sending actor Tom Baker into a whirlwind of story arcs that are still watched by avid fans. He had a second radio series known as Dirk Gently which was also adapted into a novel, much as his first series was. Adams work in UK radio is commemorated in the Radio Academy’s Hall of Fame.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a story about a book within a book. The Guide is an ebook that is powered by an intelligent computer that contains all the information that a traveler might need when bumping around the Milky Way. Interwoven in the novels, the Guide pops in and gives interesting and hilarious facts about various places, people and the flora and fauna of the planets you might visit. You might say that the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a main character all to itself and is the driving force of the story.

The story begins just before the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for a galactic freeway. Arthur Dent is about to lose his house and is fighting with the demolishing crew that has shown up on his doorstep in order to save his home. Enter his long time friend of 15 years, Ford Prefect, a man that Arthur had known as an out of work actor. Actually, Ford is an alien and a researcher for the revised edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Ford has been informed that the Earth is about to be destroyed and whisks Arthur off world in time to save his life. Thus begins the pair’s journey through space, aided by helpful quotes from the Hitchhiker’s guide. For instance: “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.” More zany and mind bending quotes ensue as the hitchhikers, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent, go about the galaxy trying to learn the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Arthur and Ford are joined in their travels by Zaphod Beeblebrox, a two headed and three armed ex-flower child who also happens to be the president of the galaxy; Trillian, who is Zaphod’s girlfriend and also a girl that Arthur had tried to pick up at a cocktail party in England; Marvin the depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a graduate student who searches for the ball-point pens he has lost down through the years; and Slartibartfast, a planetary coastline designer who was responsible for the fjords of Norway. They travel in Zaphod’s spaceship, called The Heart of Gold, which runs on an improbability drive.

What I find interesting about the development of this book is that it started out as a radio play and from this, the novels were born. Quotes from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appear all over pop culture and it became a large influence in the science fiction community of the last few decades. We still talk about these books, laugh over them, and wonder if we should call them classics. Are they too silly to be considered a classic book or not? I don’t think so. Any book that impacts a culture, that makes you think and re-evaluate the world you live in, is certainly a novel to think of as a classic. I can whole heartedly recommend this series of novels as ones you should add to your reading list.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Book CoverThe Hitchhiker’s Guide Series:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Mostly Harmless
And Another Thing…
(written by Eoin Colfer by request of Adams’ widow Jane Belson)

Author Interview: Kendra L Saunders

It is always a pleasure to highlight an author with a sense of humor who also writes science fiction. I hope you will enjoy this interview with Kendra Saunders here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Kendra L SaundersMy name is Kendra L. Saunders. I’m an author, interviewer, music fanatic and fashionista! I’ve lived all over the United States, pulled many years working in music shops and now interview artistic professionals, especially in the fashion industry, for radio and for print.

When and why did you begin writing?

As a kid I often wondered what other people thought, felt and cared about. That curiosity could only be satisfied through acting and writing, and writing came more naturally to me than acting.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In second grade, for Halloween, we were supposed to dress up as what we wanted to be when we grew up. It really occurred to me then that I would be a writer. For whatever reason, my mental image of writers meant that I borrowed my dad’s suitcase and wore a boxy, over-sized jacket. These days my clothes are a bit better, thankfully, but I knew from a very young age that I was meant to tell stories and to read them aloud to as many people as would listen. Performing was in my blood, and hearing someone laugh from a joke I wrote for the very first time… priceless. A high like no other.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Death and Mr. Right is a screwball sci-fi comedy. Death, a blue haired diva who happens to be the agent of nightmares, finds himself exiled to modern Boston and chased by reapers. It’s really my tribute to Douglas Adams and to Simon Pegg movies like Hot Fuzz. It’s colorful, wacky and full of adventures and snarky ghosts.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d never written an adventure story before, so this was a challenge to write a very plot-driven story with a singular goal throughout the whole book. Death just wants his job back. And a lot of his misadventures were based on actual events in my own life. Death himself was inspired by a friend of mine who had blue hair and diva tendencies and a larger than life personality to contrast his five-foot-two frame. Many of the side characters were inspired by friends and are my gift to the people around me who let me disappear into fake worlds with people who don’t exist.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My signatures are lyrical descriptions, magic in ordinary settings and screwball, unexpected humor. I see everything in life through a filter of humor, so it always ends up in my writing. Sometimes it’s a very dark humor, but there’s always some element you can laugh at, even if with a bit of guilt.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It came from a poem I’d started writing years ago and never finished. The poem was about a grim reaper and Cupid comparing notes, sitting on a bench together in a friendly manner. Plus I think “Death and Mr. Right” just really sounds great when said out loud, and has a good sense of the humor in the book.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Sometimes being loyal to your friends is the most important thing you can be. Sometimes you’re good at something unexpected instead of what you want to be good at, and that’s okay. Reading can pay off! And be careful of going to parties with German art-house film freaks.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Many of them! Death drinking too much tequila, the rave scene and many others are based on things that happened to me. Thankfully I didn’t have a hangover like poor Death had, though…

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Neil Gaiman is my favorite author because he’s hilarious, imaginative and has a strong voice in his writing. Besides that, he’s a rock star in every sense of the world. I love Sophie Kinsella for her sense of humor and her wonderfully flawed female characters. The Time Traveler’s Wife, Interview with the Vampire, The Winter Prince and The Night Circus are all books that made a huge impact on me as a writer, too.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Neil Gaiman, absolutely. He just has the whole thing… he writes, gives stirring speeches, reads aloud with so much color and warmth, wears cool leather jackets and handles all forms of social media. I would love to spend a week just hanging out with him and learning from him.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Kate Kaynak designed it! She’s also made the covers for many of NYT Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books. A lot of people asked me about my cover at BEA when I signed the advanced review copies of it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write until you think you’re a good writer. Then have someone tell you all the ways you’re still terrible. Don’t hit them. Cry in private. Learn. Rewrite. Get better. Write until you think you’re great. Ask someone you respect what they think. Cry in private. Learn. Never stop learning. And talk to as many human beings as you possibly can. They are your muses, even when you can’t see their faces. Be careful about having too much caffeine. Love your friends and family. Never give up… daydream every day.

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

Thank you for reading this! I’m very friendly and awake at ridiculous hours, so feel free to talk to me on twitter, instagram or facebook. I share pics, videos and funny stories from my travels and torturous day job. Frequently I post pictures with famous people. And pretty clothes.

Death and Mr. Right Book CoverKendra L. Saunders
New Hampshire


Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Cover Art: Kate Kaynak