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Friday 23 August 2019

ℚ♫ The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada - Neil Randall

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada (, J.New Books, 160 pages), a Literary Fiction.

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada is a dark, bitter-sweet comedy drama. It’s a shady and ghastly story, which is horrifyingly hilarious, captivating and brilliantly written.

The contrast between tone and content is a characteristic talent of only a few authors. Randall pays as much attention to his sentences as he does to his plots, shifting or consolidating meaning with the use of a single word. His writing is impeccably honed, full of juxtapositions and qualifications that help to create a creeping sense of unease while laughing out loud!

This book has shaped up to be a very satisfying if rather harrowing tale of the unexpected.

A well-deserved five stars and highly recommended.
~ Amazon Vine Voice reviewer

|| Synopsis || Teasers || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Neil Randall; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"I’m a big music fan and several tracks spring to mind when I think about The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada.  In no particular order... (with the Smiths I’m very much thinking about Chapter 2 of the novel …and Punishment here.)"
What was the inspiration for The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada?
"Undoubtedly, my childhood, background, where I grew up, and the school I attended.  In relation to the path I’ve taken in life.  By that I mean, dedicating myself to the written word.  As a young boy, I was much more sport-orientated.  If you’d have told me back then that I would become a writer one day, I wouldn’t have believed you.

In terms of The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada, specifically, my school days were a big reference point.  I went to a pretty grim secondary modern during the 1980s.  It was a bleak, hateful time of industrial disputes, the National Union of Teachers going on regular strikes.  More to the point, I found the vast majority of the teachers to be the most uninspiring, soul-destroying non-entities I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Maybe it had something to do with the era – that teachers weren’t, for example, paid for after school activities – that made them so demotivated, often hostile, but if a child displayed a particular talent or aptitude it would be crushed rather than encouraged.  And I think the character of Jacob Fallada – an outcast due to his impoverished background and artistic interests – was very much born from my experiences in school and the town.  A small seaside resort – crumbling, Victorian – it was a very odd place to grow up.  Idyllic, in some respects.  Brutal in others.

The school corridors were rough, unforgiving places.  Perhaps, in a contrary way, they mirrored the classrooms themselves, and the teachers sometimes harsh and dismissive attitudes towards pupils.  Because anything a little different, out of the ordinary, individual, was trodden underfoot.  Pupils who displayed a spark of originality, in whatever way, were either beaten and humiliated, or teased and tormented – often into submission.

On a daily basis, you witnessed some pretty horrible scenes – especially for the younger children just starting out at high school.  And I think it served as a warning – comply or face similar consequences.  As a result, mob rule dictated.  People strove to be the same as everyone else, for fear of being singled out.  And they could only foster a very, very unhealthy environment."
Like the first circle of his own personal hell, Jacob knew exactly what awaited him, he knew he would quickly fall behind the main pack of runners, be lapped time and again, slip over on innumerable occasions, scrape his knees and elbows, get drenched to the bone; he knew he would be bundled into the woods by the older, bigger boys, be pummelled and kicked, maybe even stripped naked. He knew the cruel unpleasantness of each likely humiliation before he had even a chance to contemplate the serial indignity of the showers.

How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?

"In some respects, I personally relate to the character of Jacob Fallada purely in terms of being a working-class writer trying to make his voice heard in an area of the arts - no matter how much the publishing industry protests otherwise - that is very much a closed door.  If you didn’t go to the right school, or do this or that creative writing programme, if you’re not part of the clique, you’re not going to find a place for your stories.

In the same way, Jacob of the book finds no place for his artwork in the world that he lives, some novels, no matter how well-written, insightful, beautiful, relevant, challenging, confrontational, are destined to either remain unpublished or only to reach a very small, limited readership."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"In actual fact, the cover is based on some of my own sketches.

Not since school had I attempted to draw anything, but there was something about the character and the situations he found himself in that compelled me to try and get them down in paper, visually, as opposed to the pure medium of words.  And whilst they’re not the most accomplished, artistically competent of drawings, they have a certain charm of their own.

For that reason, I was delighted that the publisher’s own in-house graphic artist used one of my sketches as the template for the front cover of the book.  It made me feel almost creative!"
Why should we read The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"I think people should read the book, first and foremost, because it’s a very colourful and interesting story, Jacob, as mentioned before, is a character readers can relate to.  Sympathetic is probably a very good way to describe him.

In tone, the book is quite bleak, surreal yet gritty, almost kitchen-sink drama in places.  But as tragic as Jacob’s fate is in the end, there’s an upbeat, hopeful message to the story.  To believe in yourself and your art, no matter how many times you or it are shunned, ignored, criticized or rejected."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada, its story and characters?
"How I decided on the name of the protagonist was quite a random process, actually.

When I was trying to think of something suitable Jacob just popped into my head.  About half a second later, I happened to look to my right, at one of my bookcases, and saw Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin.  And there it was: Jacob Fallada.

It wasn’t until quite recently that I learned that Hans Fallada is actually a pen-name and that Fallada comes from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale – Goose Girl, I think.  Falada [single 'l'] being a talking horse’s head in that particular tale.

Titles are important.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve agonised over names for novels, short stories or poems.  But, perhaps, the best ones are the ones that just fall out of the sky, that suggest themselves."
Who would you recommend The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Lovers of literary fiction will enjoy this book.  The kinds of readers who are drawn to character-based stories.  Readers looking for something different from the usual, standard genre fiction fare that floods the marketplace today."
If you could / wished to turn The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"Well, I just re-watched the Twin Peaks series and, as this book does have some serious surreal elements to it, I’d love to see what David Lynch would do with my story.  Or, alternatively, Shane Meadows.  I’m a big fan of his work.  His new drama, The Virtues, which recently aired on Channel 4 was a truly compelling, uncompromising, emotional rollercoaster. "
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I actually started out writing historical fiction.  I was lucky enough to visit Russia when I was 19 and it made a huge impression on me, it started off a fascination with the big Russian novels.  Over the years, I’ve switched to more contemporary fiction.  But I would never like to pigeonhole myself to one particular genre or style.

I’ve always read incredibly widely.  I have lots of interests.  I like to think that that alone would influence what I feel compelled to write about next."
What is your writing process?
"Firstly, I like to write first thing in the morning, when my mind’s fresh.  But I’m not much of a planner.  I like to have an idea in my head and then run with it.

Sometimes this can cause problems – endless revisions to the plot, the direction of the story itself, endless rewriting.  But other times, it can lead the story to unexpectedly beautiful and unlikely places.  Which, if you take the longer view, is a satisfactory payoff for all the blood, sweat and tears in getting there."
What is in store next?
"I’ve actually got another novel coming out in November.  Working title: Notes on the Animal Farm.  I wrote the book eight years ago, and am incredibly excited that it’s finally found its rightful home, with a talented and passionate new publishing house, as I’ve always considered it to be one of my very best pieces of work."
Thank you so much for sharing. We hope you are having a great tour!

Nine stories
One artist
The whole world against him

The Nine Lives of Jacob Fallada
Available NOW!

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