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Interview with Mortimus Clay, author of The Purloined Boy

September 2, 2009

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Mortimus Clay, author of The Purloined Boy, for an interview as part of his TLC blog tour.

Read my review of The Purloined Boy.

Mortimus’s Website

About the Author

Professor Mortimus Clay is the most prolific author writing posthumously in the world today.

Professor Clay is not given to sweeping generalizations but he has this on the highest authority. When living, Professor Clay was, unfortunately, a dismal failure as an author. Passed over by editors and snubbed by former schoolmates like Charles Dickens, Clay spent his life living like a character in a Dickens novel. When Clay wrote Dickens to this effect in the hope of at least appearing in print as a character in a book even if he could not see his name on the cover of one, Dickens is reported to have said, “Mortimus Clay? Never heard of the fellow.”

To this day Dickens denies saying any such thing. But Professor Mortimus has his sources and Dickens always was so full of himself. It gives one a chuckle to know the old snot has not written anything in over a century and here is his old shoe, Mortimus Clay, as dead as a doornail, still writing after all these years! How absolutely delicious!

While living, Mortimus Clay served as Professor of Arts and Letters at the Her Majesty’s Knitting College for Wayward Girls. After teaching Beowulf and The Faerie Queen to unappreciative knitters for 50 years in the backroom of a Manchester warehouse, Professor Clay died in 1885 a gray and wizened man.

It was the best thing that ever happened to him as his writing took an immediate turn for the better.

The Interview!

Chris: Christopher Wiley here, personal secretary to Professor Mortimus Clay, D.Litt, deceased. As such I am pleased as punch to conduct this interview of the distinguished Doctor Clay for Fyrefly’s Book Blog.

Because the strange circumstances surrounding my introduction to Mortimus are recorded elsewhere I won’t bore readers of this blog with the details. Suffice it to say that I am the friend of a man who has been dead for over 100 years. Instead let’s dive right into the questions provided by our genial host, Nicki, without further ado. What do you say Mortimus?

Mortimus: Let us have at it!

Chris: Ahem, well good. Here goes. First question; it’s a good one: “What is the afterlife like? How does it stack up to what you were expecting?”

Mortimus: Oh my, that is a tad difficult to answer. First of all, I am rather new to being dead, you see, only having died in 1885. With so many people more experienced than I, I don’t believe I am qualified to answer the question.

Chris: But Mortimus you have more experience in this matter than most readers of this blog. Can’t you tell us something?

Mortimus: Well, I’m sorry to say, no. Don’t you see? Not only do I feel unqualified, I lack the words to describe the little I know. It is something like describing blue to someone blind from birth. Being dead is a singular experience. I saw a shirt the other day with a saying that seems apropos, to paraphrase, “It’s a dead guy thing; you wouldn’t understand.”

Chris: Alright. Thanks for nothing. Next question, “What’s the process of publishing posthumously like?”

Mortimus: Very difficult. Being inconveniently disembodied at the present time, I am entirely reliant upon the good will and understanding of others.

Chris: I should inform the reader at this point that all communication between Dr. Clay and I is conducted over the internet. I was startled to discover when I first met Mortimus that the post-mortem online community is quite large.

Mortimus: Yes indeed, and growing daily.

Chris: How is it Mortimus that, as far as I know, you are the only dead author currently producing new work?

Mortimus: *Silence*

Mortimus, are you there?

Mortimus: Pardon, were you addressing me?

Chris: Fine. (He types with gritted teeth.) Next question. “We’ve all heard the aphorism, ‘Write what you know.’ How did your childhood experiences with bogeymen influence the writing of The Purloined Boy?

Mortimus: My dear fellow, the question presumes an experience I cannot attest to. My childhood was idyllic, completely free of bogey influence. No, my experience with bogeys has come more recently, since death. I’ve met a number of the creatures; nasty, dirty things too, and most unpleasant.

Chris: You mean you didn’t just make them up?

Mortimus: Oh my, no, no, no. One of the advantages of being dead is the people you meet. That and the travel.

Chris: Travel?

Mortimus: Certainly – so many places to see, worlds to visit, that sort of thing. You could say my book, The Purloined Boy (available through Amazon and through bookstores after Baker and Taylor gets their catalog out), is a sort of ethnography. Something like cultural anthropology.

Chris: You mean to say (gulp) that it has some basis in reality?

Mortimus: Oh yes, like that contemporary genre that fills your bookstore shelves these days – “historical fiction” – which in my day we simply called, “history.” (Please don’t tell Gibbon I said that – you didn’t type that did you? I’ll never hear the end of it.)

Chris: Next question (he types smiling). Ahh, this is another good one. “Who, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?”

Mortimus: I am afraid, Chris, that you have unwittingly stumbled into a delicate subject in the post-mortem community. Food is something we don’t talk about. Seeing as we have no need for it in our current disembodied state we don’t have dinner parties. The newly dead are often guilty of the faux pas of inviting all the people they wish they had met during life to such, but the famously deceased never attend – they’re inundated with invitations, after all – but more importantly ghostly food is a mockery of the real thing. It’s tasteless and unsubstantial. It only increases one’s longings without providing any satiety.

Chris: Oh, I am sorry. Please forgive me.

Mortimus: Don’t mention it. But to the larger point: I do get together with Chuck Dickens when my schedule permits. He can be a bit cloying, always plying me for tips on getting his new stuff into print. You see I am a bit of a novelty being published posthumously as I am.

Chris: So that’s why you were so vague about getting your work into print.

*Studied silence*

Chris: Okay, next. Here’s an interesting question, “Do you have a favorite scene in the book?”

That is a stumper! It is like asking who one’s favorite child is. But yes, I do have a scene or two or three I’m fond of. I’m going to cheat a little and name a few. On the dark side of things, I do like the opening to the book, where Trevor is abducted by a bogey. I like the interview with The Inspector of Incorrigible Children. And the chapter with Lucian disguised as Santa Clause is very enjoyable in a diabolical way. On the brighter side, I like when Trevor awakens in Trothward; and I like when he meets Zephyr for the first time. Oh, and I like his first sight of the Troth: that is well done, I think. Too bad what happens, you know.

Chris: Yes, but we should probably let readers find out for themselves.

Mortimus: Quite right.

Chris: Here’s one I’d like to hear your answer to. “What book would people be surprised you love?”

Mortimus: Green Eggs and Ham.

Chris: (?)

Mortimus: Delicious. Seuss was a genius. Tons going on beneath the surface there, old man. Oh, and as a close second I would say, The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius.

Chris: Uh, very different books. Your taste is unusually catholic.

Mortimus: Not at all, not at all. They are as alike as two books can be!

Chris: (!) Last question, thankfully. “Who would you take in a fight, pirates or ninjas?”

Mortimus: Hmmm, I would say pirates. At least they have a sense of humor. Ninjas, not so much. I’ve noticed humor comes in very handy in a scuffle.

Thank you Mortimus, and thank you Chris for a very entertaining interview! Thanks also to TLC Book Tours for coordinating!

  1. September 3, 2009 11:11 am

    I loved the interview…One of the coolest ones I’ve read. It would be interesting to meet Mr. Clay in person, ahem, in spirit, I mean. He seems to be great pals with Charles Dickens, maybe he could bring him along.

  2. September 3, 2009 11:44 am

    Very funny interview! I love the posthumous idea. I’ll have to check out The Purloined Boy. (Plus, I really love the word “purloined.”)

  3. September 3, 2009 12:46 pm

    Hazra and Jessica,

    Glad you liked it. If you have any other questions I am happy to oblige if I can. I’ll speak with ol’ Chuck Dickens to see if he has anything to contribute. (He never has been at a loss in my experience.)


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