Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jonathan Dunne and Balloon Animals

Welcome, Jonathan, to Fresh Pot of Tea. Have a scone.

Thank you, Alison! There's nothing like a hot scone with butter and strawberry jam with a mug of tea. It reminds me of back home in Ireland.

Let's start with your book - tell us what Balloon Animals is about and how you came to write it.

 In short, Balloon Animals is a belated coming-of-age tale for an Irish man, Jonny Rowe, whose American grandfather nicknamed 45, dies at Jonny's 30th birthday party while blowing a red birthday balloon for Jonny. Jonny's birthday quickly becomes his deathday but he realizes that 45 lives on in his red birthday balloon - his soul-bubble. Jonny, who is suffering from identity-crisis due to a life-time of family lies and secrets, takes it upon himself to return 45 to his roots in Iowa in a quest of self-discovery. He travels from Limerick in South West Ireland to Mid-America, Iowa. Naturally, the book is anchored in humour but it does have its tragic moments also. It's a tragi-comedy I suppose: 7-part comedy 3-part tragedy. I always find this question difficult to answer, Alison. I've done a few podcasts in NYC and Toronto and I explain what the novel is about. I'm always left cold by what I've just explained - it's the atmosphere that's missing, which can only be captured when the book is being read.

The seed for the book happened when my daughter let go a helium red balloon she'd picked up somewhere along the way. The balloon sailed high over Toledo, Spain (where I now live). My 6 year-old was in tears but I explained to her - after some soul-searching - that her granny was up there somewhere and would catch her balloon and keep it as a present. My mother passed away in 2009.

Were there any scenes that made you laugh as you wrote? 

I might've had a smile on my face during the exhuming scene and Brillo's imitation of the Buckingham guard with a wild tom-cat stuck to her scalp ... and when Jonny gets his balloon caught up in the revolving doors of the local bank. Every chapter has a, what I consider, funny scene. It's a be-there moment - it won't make any sense now to readers on your blog but will when they read it. Everybody who has read Balloon Animals has found something to like. I'm not just saying that... check the reviews.

Now, how about you? What led you to writing, and what is your background?

I first discovered that I had a penchant for scribbling when, as a child, I would connect the items on mom's shopping list with a narrative plot. The carrots were soon blaming the cabbage for everything. 

I'm from Limerick in Ireland. I've been publishing short stories since my early twenties (37 now). I currently live in Toledo Spain as a bearded hermit with my two little girls. I'm married to Ruth, a great Spanish woman who gives me time to hide in my cabin (to write only, nothing devious). When cabin-fever sets in, I work as a TEFL teacher. 

Who is your favorite character in the book, and why?

I really couldn't say. Each character is as valid as the next and has their role to play. I love them dearly. Balloon Animals is a character-driven novel so they are everything to me.

Are you working on anything else - what can we look forward to? 

I'm working on a new novel 'Living Dead Lovers (My Sick Romance) ' It's about a hard-drinking, speed-loving clairvoyant gypsy nicknamed Cabbage who speaks with the dead and falls in love with one of her clients' dead husband - a killed racing-car driver. Without giving too much away: Cabbage has got a big predicament. The book follows Cabbage's life, from her bohemian childhood on the roads of Europe to the heady heights of stardom and exhaustion at Betty Ford's. 

What are some of your favorite books and movies, to give us a sense of what you enjoy?

I've yet to find a book that holds an atmosphere like a Dickens novel. I like to read Confederacy of Dunces once a year. Harold and Maude is one of my favourite films ... I tend to like tragi-comedies in any form. Life is a tragi-comedy.
Any last words?Yes, I'd like to thank you, Alison! It's been a sincere pleasure and I hope you and all your readers have a great 2013!

You can find Jonathan on Goodreads and his lovely blog. 

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