Sunday, January 20, 2013

An Interview with the Charismatic John Farquhar


Author John Farquhar is a member of the South Jersey Writers Group and one of the very talented writers in our anthology. His stories are so funny that I can see them winding up as a sitcom on T.V.
Story: Bad Day for Santa

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is John Farquhar. I was born in England, of Irish parents, and my surname is Scottish in origin. It took me 10 years to learn how to spell my surname, but it has become much more mainstream since the advent of the great Lord Farquhart in Shrek 1, who is one of my heroes. I was educated at Liverpool University, and St. John’s College, Oxford. I teach languages and literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Temple University in Philadelphia.

What got you interested in writing and when did you start?

My writing career began with stories published in student magazines in Oxford.

What type of stories do you enjoy writing?

Comic writing has always come most naturally to me. I enjoy making fun of myself, and adore making fun of others. The comedy is usually generous, unless I am in a particularly bad mood. I feel that comedy can and should raise issues about life, death, religion, and relationships. My aim is always how to achieve that without getting either stuffy or shallow.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories?

I’m inspired by everyone I listen to. That’s all I do: listen to the conversation of others and make mental notes of their comic potential. This is not as creepy as it sounds- it’s what all writers do. Like many writers, I only join in life if I’m absolutely forced to.

Why did you pick this particular story for the anthology?

Bad Day for Santa: I’d like this to become part of the Christmas tradition. I think the spirit of Christmas has changed since A Christmas Carol, and I just wanted to reflect this.

What advice can you give to our readers who are interested in writing and getting their book published?

I am the last person in the world to give advice on how to get published. My first novel, written when I was a student, was acclaimed as ‘brilliant’, ‘highly original’, and ‘hugely talented’ by some leading publishers. None of them published it, as they felt the market would be too small. It remains unpublished, as do my other novels, though some short stories and a play had a little more joy. Again, like most writers, the pleasure comes from the creativity and, as Samuel Beckett says, leaving a stain on the silence. Sometimes I think my writing is wonderful; sometimes I find it valueless. This probably explains why I am not good at marketing.

Is it important for new writers to join a writer’s group and why?

Writing groups are wonderful, as you have a good chance of being understood there and it’s an ideal way to share your work and ‘market’ it before you take on the bad boys. I am very grateful to the South Jersey Writer’s Group for listening to me, and most of all, letting me listen to them. You wouldn’t believe the thousands of mental notes, I have taken, and stored away, for future use.


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