Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Zakarrie Clarke – After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, I finally settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. It was here that my castaway dreams resurfaced, and I began to write.
Thanks so much, Zakarrie, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
Zakarrie Clarke: Hangover from Hell. I don’t think I’d allowed myself to believe it would be published, until it was. Perhaps not even then. I still feel the same—even though Hangover and Out (#2) has just been proofread—being published feels a lot like something that happens to other people. I’m so grateful to MLR for believing in me, when I didn’t. I couldn’t be more bewildered if I’d been told I’d won the lottery, when I’ve never bought a ticket.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
ZC: 1. Those dreams that feel too daft to ever believe into being? Hug them to your heart and keep them safe. Some time, somewhere, over the rainbow…you might just wake to a day so impossible, you’ll suspect you must’ve made it up yourself.
2. You are never going to be the next Enid Blyton. Oddly ’nuff.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
ZC: I have written at least four MC’s who fit this category but doubt if I’ve ever written a story in which one of its characters doesn’t dance to the music in his own head. It is this melody I try and capture with words; to share his window on the world as he happens upon the holy grail that is unconditional love.
I’ve just signed a contract for one these novels, to be released after Hangover #2. Darkness Dawns is the story of one man’s war with himself, brought onto the battlefield of his blindness. Leo is in a very dark place—in every sense—at the start of the book. I’ve done my damnedest to share his story from his perspective; particularly how it feels to be treated as blind, full-stop. Around the time Leo lost his sight, Ben also hit rock bottom; now a recovering heroin addict, he was gifted a role he inexplicably excels at, by a (batshit bonkers) Judge. It’s the tale of two broken men who prove to one another that love is blinder than Leo.
I’ve also written an autistic character and two have been hospitalized with mental disorders; schizoaffective and bipolar. Blimey, that sounds grim…but a dollop of gallows humour is about your best bet of surviving such establishments sane. It was a delight to write—I’ve never allowed my mind quite that much leeway to wander as it wished before—so there’s possibly an impromptu trip to Paris on a scooter, toting a hat stand and tea set.
I was most intent on gifting my autistic character the right to remain entirely himself. It is actually a shapeshifter story set in Cornwall. I plotted his lifestyle with my Gran when I was five; we wanted to potter off on adventures together in a camper van. I adore including elderly characters. Octogenarians can take liberties usually reserved for the certifiable.
JSC: What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books?
ZC: That I don’t have to dilute myself for public consumption. It is okay to be me.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
ZC: I wanted to be my bus conductor when I was four. He had a peaked cap and a machine that made a marvellous racket as it spat out a long tongue of tickets. I longed to be him; rather than the alien I was soon deemed on my first day at school. One look at my eyes and I was done for. They don’t match, but there sadly wasn’t an odd-eye club to join, in hopes of fitting in, nor eye-camp to attend in a bid to get a grip on matters.
There was, however, David Bowie. My mum showed me his picture; a gift that went way beyond proving I had a compatriot on the planet. He became a sort of totem to me— visually, aurally—in terms of identity and sexuality. Now I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up…a Spider from Mars.
At eight, I wished to be George from The Famous Five, and a writer like Enid Blyton. By twelve, I wanted to be Boy George. His relationship with Jon Moss is still the most compelling love story that has ever touched my heart.
Writing has allowed me to take all those dreams, pop them in a melting pot and make them my own. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over the fact that bus conductors had been banished to the mists of time before I grew up.
JSC: What was the first book that made you cry?
ZC: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. It still does.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
ZC: You may indeedy…
Douglas Booth could play Daniel (with darkest brown contact lenses). He was sublime as George in ‘Worried about the Boy’:
Callum? Ian Somerhalder, with corkscrew curls:
Dan specifically wishes to paint Callum wet…heaven knows why:
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
ZC: Kill? Paul. Fuck? Callum. Atop the Pennines, in a thunderstorm. Marry? Daniel. Dan & I could potter about to our heart’s content, we have a…lot in common.
JSC: Would you visit the future or the past, and why?
ZC: The Past. Particularly during the 18thcentury. I seem to have been born in the wrong era, in the wrong body…on the wrong planet. Apparently.
JSC: What are you working on now?
ZC: I am working on Hangover #3 while awaiting my edits for Darkness Dawns. There is also a Christmas novel in the works; a 40,000 word stand-alone story. The concluding part of Darkness Dawns is completed, so I’ll polish it up once Hangover #3 is submission-ready.
And now for Zakarrie’s new book: Hangover From Hell:
A Hangover from Hell is exactly what greets rock star Callum Carter upon being rudely awoken by his partner, artist Daniel Flynn on the last morning of their ‘On the Road’ trip along Route 66. They have been together for five years, after meeting when the infamous ‘enfant terrible’ was commissioned to paint Callum’s portrait.
Theirs is a story of lust, laughter and all-consuming love, although this remains a closely kept secret; until the morning they wake up in Las Vegas. Married. Dan has no memory of this miracle taking place–only one thing seems certain–he has somehow managed to pull off a masterpiece on the mischief front, and inveigled Cal down the aisle…
They were in Las Vegas. Daniel actually remembered as much now. Two clues seemed to suggest this was a mite more than a guess; he couldn’t rustle up another explanation for The Ring…and he now hada vague recollection of arriving in Sin City yesterday afternoon.
“Urrgh. Shhh…I’m asleep,” Cal mumbled from the depths of his pillow.
“I’m married.” Dan informed him—in the interests of full disclosure—it wasrather a corker on the fascinating facts front.
“Oh shurrup, I think I’d have noticed by now. Pleeease, just five more minutes,” Cal groaned.
“I am. Look!” Daniel thrust his hand towards Callum’s pillow.
Cal turned his tousled head to the left and a lizardy eyelid slid open to spear Dan with blue. Daniel hadn’t realized it was possible to glare with one eye, before they met. You could. Very proficiently too; if one were in possession of eyes like lasers and a cantankerous disposition. Callum was supposed to be staring at The Ring, rather than scorching Dan’s retinas, so he waved his hand about a bit, in an effort to redirect Cal’s focus.
“What the fuck?” It seemed to have worked. Callum was awake now; wide-awake, sitting up in bed and grabbing Dan’s wrist to glower at the miscreant in question. Chances were, wisps of smoke would soon start wafting from it when The Ring began to smoulder in surrender.
“Uh-oh…” Dan gawped at the hand wrapped around his wrist. Gleaming on Cal’s golden skin was a very close relative of the squatter residing on his own finger. They might almost be twins.
“Christ.” Callum flopped back onto the pillows and clamped a hand across his face. The guilty one. It did look rather splendid.
A warm glow was unfurling in Dan’s gut. Crikey, he was going to have to stamp it down, before it started putting up the bunting and planning a street party. He knew all too well exactlywho might’ve deemed it a splendid plan to get wed. In Vegas. As y’do. It sure as salty shenanigans would nothave been at the top of Callum Carter: Indie-Rock-God’sto-do list.
“Um, Good Morning, Hubby,” Dan chirped in the cheeriest manner he could muster up, then hid beneath the sheet, sharpish.
“You…” Cal sprang up to straddle Daniel’s cocooned body. Naked. “Come out!” he demanded, yanking at the covers Dan was clutching above his head.
“Nope. Tis cosy in here.”
“I’ll give you cosyin a minute.” Callum snorted, wrenching the duvet away. Daniel smiled up at him, blinking a bit. Cal slammed his eyelids shut. “Stop it,” he muttered.
“Stop what?” Dan’s eyes widened, innocence personified.
“You know what. Pulling the doe-eyed deer in the headlights look. You are a monster, Flynn.”
“Me? Ah! I’m wounded. Cut to the quick.” Daniel sniffed. “I might not be Flynn anymore, by the way. I could be Dan Carter, or Daniel Flynn-Carter. Or—”
“Oh fuck.” Cal let his head fall forwards to land with a thunk on Dan’s chest.
“Are you dead?” Dan asked, stroking the umber tumble of curls spilling across his own pale skin.
“No. Just wishing I was.”
“Charming. Just what every groom longs to hear after waking on his first day as an honest man.”
“It’ll be your last, if you keep this up,” Cal raised his head to deliver another flinty glint, but his lips twitched devilishly, despite his efforts to appear miffed.
“Don’t be grumpy, p’raps we’re not properly married. I bet Elvis did it, with the mic, in the photo booth. Ooh…can you shout at me in a minute? Delightful as it is to have your delectable derrière sat atop me—you’re squishing my bladder—Ireallyneed the loo…”
After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, I finally settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. It was here that my castaway dreams resurfaced, and I began to write. A lot, when I realized that I was somehow able—for the first time—to allow my innermost self a voice. In truth, my books are better at being me than I could ever claim to have been. My only hope now, is that someone, somewhere, will enjoy the misadventures of my miscreants as much as I adore writing them.