Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank James Comins for stopping by today.
Title: Fool School
Author: James Comins
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Genre: Gay Fiction, Historical, M/M Romance, Young Adult
In the year of our Lord 1040, fourteen-year-old aspiring jester Tom is en route to Bath to begin his studies in the art of being a Fool, following in the footsteps of his father, and his father before him.
Along the way he meets Malcolm, a fire-haired boy with eyes green as forest glass. A Scotsman who’s escaped from the ravages of the usurper Macbeth, Malcolm elects to join Tom at school. Though the journey to Bath is hazardous, it pales in comparison to what they face at the austere and vicious Fool School, where all is not as it seems. A court jester must aim to be the lowest rung on the ladder of life, and the headmaster will not abide pride.
As they journey through life’s hardships together, Tom and Malcolm find they only have each other to depend upon.
We are here today to talk about Fool School. What can you tell us about it?
Fool School is the story of Tom de la Motley, a French teen who’s being sent off to school for the first time. The school in this case is a school for court jesters, and Tom is following in the footsteps of many generations of them. Along the way, however, he meets Malcolm, a Scottish kid who’s escaped from the ravages of Macbeth. For his own reasons, Malcolm decides to go to the Fool School as well.
The book wound up being the consequence of my falling in love for the first time, and then losing that love. It trends toward the tragic and the bittersweet, and portrays a world far more passionate and unhappy than any of the other books I’ve written. Whereas many of my earlier books were pretty sunny and shiny, this one is dripping with the horrors of a reality filled with uncontrollable and surprising emotions like love.
As someone recovering from schizoaffective disorder, I’ve only had emotions for about five years now, which in some ways is my real age, emotionally speaking. So far I’ve found emotions to be a largely negative piece of my life, and I hope to get rid of the rest of them soon, so I can get back to writing happier stories. You’ll see a lot of my skepticism about love and other bad human things throughout the story.
On that point, I’ve also seen a lot of the bad side of human nature during the writing of the book. I’ve been treated shabbily by a psycho ex, I’ve been (TW) sexually assaulted, and you’ll see a deep dislike of human beings in Tom’s outlook that wasn’t there in characters in earlier books, like my Lenna series or The Stone Shepherd’s Son.
Tell us more about our main characters?
Tom probably has Asperger’s or possibly full autism, and feelings and human interactions are all very frightening and demented to him. He’s very fragile and vulnerable, but he’s got the self-awareness to know it. Tom isn’t me exactly, but a lot of his feelings mirror my own. We’re both pretty Paul Simonish: When something goes wrong, we’re the first to admit it, and when something goes right, it’s apt to confuse us, it’s such an unusual sight. Tom and I always expect the worst, and we’re rarely disappointed.
Tom’s always pulling to be anything other than what’s expected of him. He has a drive toward freedom which is absolutely, utterly futile. This is a world full of authority figures that cannot be questioned. He yearns to choose his own life course in a sort of Elizabeth Bennet way, but that’s so completely closed off from him that he lets go of his dreams and keeps his head down and just muscles helplessly through life. Learned helplessness is a big piece of his identity.
Malcolm’s radically different, and I’m sure that’s what Tom is so attracted to. He’s bold, sure of himself, eager to be the boss and to make the decisions. He plans his own way in the world and is willing to duck and swerve and fight and make drastic life changes in order to get what he wants. He’s wily and wiry and intense.
Nuncle is essentially Brother Cadfael’s evil twin. Brilliantly cunning, he’s got more secrets buried in his chest than a pirate’s treasure. He’s fun to write, because even he isn’t really sure what will set off his temper and his fury.
Liza probably reveals my complete lack of knowledge about English women. I’ve seen a certain number of Guy Ritchie movies, and some productions of Oliver Twist and Sweeney Todd, so obviously I’m completely qualified to write about the English and get their accents exactly right. Obviously.
Edward is a very important man. You should probably guess a bit about him, if you’re clever.
What about Fool School makes you the proudest?
It’s really the first book I’ve written which is not exclusively a kids book. Plenty of adults have read my earlier self-published Smashwords books, and my short story collection isn’t really for kids, but this one is full-length and can be either a YA or a grown-up book, the way Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is. I want people to feel like they can pick up my books without ever getting judged–I know there are still people out there who judge people for reading YA, as if it’s a category lacking in literary talent.
The other thing was, this was the first book since Lenna book two where the characters started making decisions that I didn’t expect or even want. They knew what they were doing, and I was just jotting down what they said and did. In most of my books, I write organically, but the characters trundle down the story in a single sensible direction. In Fool School, characters would run away without my permission, they’d show up in places I didn’t want them to, and I think that’s a way more interesting way to write.
Will we be hearing more from these characters in the future?
I’m not sure. There’ve been some hiccups on that front. I suspect I’ll be directing my energies toward other projects for the time being.
If you could make a love child of any 3 popular culture icons who would they be and why?
I have no idea.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Be aware it’s going to suck. Big, fat suckage of filthy snot-covered phalli for way, way longer than you’d actually expect. My first short story to get professionally published came six years and hundreds of queries and submissions after I first left college and moved across the country and decided I wanted to write stories. Six years of no income, no self-esteem, no sense that I was getting anywhere at all. I’d loaded nine books to Smashwords and sold literally one for actual money. One copy of one book. I made them free and got twelve or thirteen downloads. I went to conferences and met lots of people and none of them liked my books. They laughed out loud at some of them. They said others weren’t even real stories. I got two “send more” emails out of probably two hundred fifty queries, and both wound up rejecting them a day later.
And then you get a short story published, and the exultation you’re expecting doesn’t come at all. The feeling that shows up is, “Oh goody, now I’m finally, six years later, at the starting gate.” It’s like the feeling you get where you’ve spent ages parking at the airport, finding your gate, getting delayed twice, sitting for six hours in those horrible seats reading a Time magazine all about politicians you can’t stand, and then boarding starts, and everyone stands up, and you’re in the second to last group, and you stand around in the giant crowd as the rich people get on first, and finally you’re up and slide your ticket and then you have to wait for years and years standing in the belly of the plane as these horrible snippy codgers wait for the last possible second to put their bags in the overhead bins, and you can fucking see your seat, it’s sixteen D, and you’re standing next to thirteen and this man in a Hugh Hefner hat stands there with his neon green duffel, and the overhead bin is empty just put the bag up and get in your seat you horrible old and finally he does, but the lady in seat sixteen E is talking on her phone and when you try to sidle past to the window seat, because of course you picked window and now you have to use the bathroom, she lifts her finger instead of just leaning back, and you tuck your Pratchett book into the seat back and wait for her to finish her call and finally, finally you get seated, only you now hate this person sitting next to you, and it’s another forty minutes before the doors close, and now she’s humming, and then the pilot comes on and says there’s going to be a delay because of weather, and would anyone like a drink of water? And you haven’t even left the terminal yet. That’s what getting published the first time feels like.
What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
Just finished Old Man’s War, by Scalzi. Solid, highly readable. Zipped through it. Now reading Tell Me How Long the Trains’s Been Gone, by Baldwin. One of America’s best books, period. Passionate, delightful, and an important window into the Black experience. Next up is Down Don’t Bother Me, by Jason Miller, who’s funny as hell on twitter. You’d be surprised how much goodwill you can accrue if you can tell good twitter jokes.
Rapid Fire Time
- Salt or Pepper? I have kidney disease, so no salt, please.
- Jazz or Pop? Hopeless little folk songs.
- Love or Lust? No feelings please. No sex please. Tranquil emptiness only.
- Handcuffs or Rope? I’m actually wearing cuffs (not connected at the moment) as I write this. I’m an out, happy kinkster.
- World of Warcraft or Everquest? I played WoW when Burning Crusade first came out, then put it away before Lich King. It was enjoyable, but you have to set it aside before too long.
- Love Story or Thriller? I assume you’re talking 80s pop songs, so I’ll side with The Cure, for sure.
- Electronica or Jazz? Electroclash. Best of both worlds. I don’t listen to much music since I started getting chronic headaches, but I used to really enjoy Brazilian Girls, Ladytron, and Goldfrapp.
- Pen or pencil ? Pencils are the dusty work of Satan. I don’t write on paper much anymore, prefer my internet-disabled Toshiba netbook with RoughDraft 3.0, but when I use pen I use the Sharpie brand thin-line non-permanent pens.
- NASCAR or Indy Car? Bleagh.
- Disney or Nick? I really, really like children’s stories of all sorts. I watch more cartoons now than I did when I was a kid. I used to watch tons of Silly Symphonies on VHS–“Flowers and Trees” was a favorite–but Fantasia was always number one. Nowadays, the best animation by far is done by Laika.
What are you working on? What is next?
I’ve just finished a story about Northern Ireland and the Plantation of Ulster.
All Romance eBooks
Prizes: $20 WIP Gift Card and 1 ebook copy of Fool School
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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