Please welcome author Rayme Michaels to my blog. His book, Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, a dark, urban comedy/psychological drama, came out last year.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, despite all the rockiness, through thick and thin, I always managed to persevere and remain someone who absolutely loves life! It’s way, WAY too short. There’s so much to see and do, and so little damn time. In terms of education, I did a major in philosophy with a minor in psychology and then did a Master’s Degree in comparative (mainly continental) philosophy. My favourite writer and philosopher of all time is Friedrich Nietzsche, whom I did my Master’s Major Research Project on. I love both his thoughts, his revelations, and the way he penned them. His words are so lyrical and poetic, and I guess as a born iconoclast myself, I couldn’t help but be drawn to him and his unabashed scorn for the moral majority. He dug so deep into the human psyche and human motives, and I don’t think anything interests me more than the human mind. And it was reading On the Genealogy of Morals back in October of 2006 that hastened me on my path of academic study. As for my writing, I’m a novelist and have published three books: Incorrigibility, Red Love, and Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri. Red Love won Honourable Mention at the top of the list for General Fiction at the 2014 London Book Festival in December, so that made me happy. It was a great way to end off the year.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born and raised in Toronto. But Tokyo is home to me now. I felt right at home here ever since I got off the plane, even though I don’t speak the language.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
Movies inspired me more than anything, and I love all genres, which is why I write in so many of them instead of just sticking to one. I remember seeing The Breakfast Club on TV when I was 7 and realizing that being a writer was what I wanted to be more than anything else, either as a writer of books or of screenplays. I wanted to make people feel the way it made me feel. So I guess it was John Hughes. Then when I watched Clerks by Kevin Smith at the age of 14, it really changed how I thought movies could be written. I loved the dialogue-driven aspect of it. I’m a huge Kevin Smith fan. His influence on me is definitely apparent in my first book, Incorrigibility, which I originally wrote in screenplay form. And I love Woody Allen’s relationship humour and existential surrealism, and Quentin Tarantino too, probably because of the brilliant dialogue-driven-ness of his movies. Except I think nonfiction has inspired me more than fiction, ironically, even though I’m a novelist. I think that’s because something inside me has always demanded that I consummate myself with reality. Even when I use surrealism (as with my first book Incorrigibility, which is way more surrealistic than realistic with its scenes), its purpose, if not humour, is meant to express reality as I see it. As a writer and reader, I love dabbling and dancing in the absurd as much as I love exploring the infinite horizon of real life. Plus, Incorrigibility demanded an outlandishness that only surrealism could provide. And I’m very interested in human relationships (a very real thing), both between friends and lovers; it’s always captivated my interest, so it’s a cornerstone of all my books. In Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, the surreal and the real meet head to head, though.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s hard to say. Maybe it was when I was 8 and started keeping a diary and was really enjoying creative writing at school in grade 3, or maybe it was when I was 9 and wrote my first poem, or perhaps it was when I was 10 and wrote a 27-page short story for school in grade 5, or maybe it was much later on when I was 22 and started delving into screenwriting. I don’t know.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
I think all my characters, even when often antithetical to me, are all different aspects of my psyche. But in terms of a character that represents me 100% – none do, not even John Hazel, the protagonist in Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri, who is the most like me out of all of them, since it’s a semi-autobiographical book. Actually, it’s more like one-tenth autobiographical, but nobody talks that way, so I just say “semi.”
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
Being able to express yourself with nothing more than a pen and paper or any old computer, and then putting yourself out there for all to see. Being able to take all your experiences, thoughts, worries, joys, frustrations, awe and weave them into a story, prose, poem, essay, etc. and into the lives of characters whom you can also create to then experience all that to the deepest of feeling, emotion and vividness, so that a complete stranger reading your work can then feel inspired to take on the world with all the more passion, vigour, excitement and courage with possibly a new and improved worldview and perspective to go with it – all thanks to you, the writer.
For me, the worst is editing! It’s such a pain in the ass and can really drive someone cuckoo! I don’t think a book is ever truly finished, to be honest with you, only abandoned out of necessity to meet a deadline, or for financial reasons, or to just finally be done with it and not go freakin’ nuts! Thank God for editors!! I didn’t have one for my first two books and will NEVER make that mistake again! I don’t know how so many errors and mis-wordings can get through despite reading those exact same parts hundreds of times before! It’s like Twilight-Zone stuff – just frightening! I think it’s one of the main reasons so many writers become alcoholics. I’m not big on alcohol, by the way. I’ve only been drunk five times in my entire life.
What fuels you as an author to continue to write?
Life in general, and my inner need to express myself artistically and always be doing more that can be left behind after I’m dead and gone. I’m obsessed with death, which is why it’s a motif in my writing.
What are your favourite novels?
I really like one called Then Again by a Toronto author named Elyse Friedman. And a classic that really influenced me in the writing of Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. I finished reading it when I was about halfway through writing Red Love. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre influenced both books, actually. It made a notable impression on me back when I was in the first year of my undergraduate degree. And I really, really enjoyed reading Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg, published in 1958. It’s a book I highly recommend. I love books that really push the envelope. And, of course, 1984 by George Orwell is a masterpiece and will always be relevant. Another book that really stuck in my mind for years after reading it was Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice. I loved it; I thought it was amazing. And, of course, being a lover of Nietzsche, I have to say Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a novel for everyone and no one.
Please tell us about your current release.
Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is a dark, urban comedy meets psychological drama – perhaps even a black comedy, for that matter. It deals with the problem of the nihilist. My lead character, John, is a person who has become as cold as he sees and feels life as being. Life seems dead to him, and he doesn’t know how to overcome that awful feeling. He was once a man who believed strongly in self-cultivation and life-affirmation, but now has reached a stage where he can’t for the life of him see how anything can be affirmed, since it all amounts to nothing in the end, hence his nauseating, unrelenting, depressive feeling of everything being nothing more than a plague of mere vanity, redundancy and bland tediousness. Life weighs down on him constantly and so heavily – not any particular stress per say, at least not in the beginning of the book, but just life itself. The only joy he finds in life is having meaningless sex with as many beautiful women as he possibly can. He’s a hedonist, and a narcissistic one at that (not that I have anything against pleasure-seeking or self-love – on the contrary! I think they’re both healthy expressions of a normal, well-adjusted human being. However, I’m also a strong believer in moderation). And I show at the beginning of each of the first five chapters where his realizations of his own tendencies towards hedonism begin, detailing each experience – that self-awareness of his future adult-self raising its ominous head, you might say. You see, John’s psyche has a very fascinating and complicated development and dynamic that I add to the puzzle of bit by bit as the story unfolds. He has a best friend named Alex, who’s even worse – way worse – than John is. Alex is downright sociopath, so John doesn’t get any kind of wholesome, positive influence from him in the least. Except John wants to improve as a human being. He only wants to do the right thing. But then virulently narcissistic, sociopathic influences like his boss and his boss’s mistress, Jackie, who’s completely out of her mind, enter his life, and it’s as if there’s no where to run or hide from the worst aspects of human avarice and deceit. John is a walking contradiction, you see, and there’s a tug of war going on inside him that ends up being mirrored by a constant tug of war in his daily life, which becomes downright insanity and more than the average person can take. And even prior to all this, a very important part of his madness and the book, is that he might even be schizophrenic, which is a whole other layer and aspect to Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri. He sees a psychologist, who doesn’t know what to do with him. He doesn’t even know why he bothers going to see her other than he finds her highly attractive and wants to sleep with her – that and it’s nice having someone like her to talk to. But he’s not getting anywhere with the sessions, and she knows that there is so much he is hiding – and he most certainly is. For starters, he certainly doesn’t want to reveal to her (because he’s too afraid to) that for 13 years, which is as long it’s been since he stopped speaking to his father, he’s been haunted by what appear to be the spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina, whom I put on the cover of the book. And it’s up to the reader to decide whether they actually exist or not. It’s never stated.
What inspired you to write this book?
My life, my inexorable, incessant need to share myself with the world, the pleasure I take in making people both laugh and think – and I knew it would be tons of fun to write too! I had a really good feeling about it while I was still only brainstorming ideas for it. And I also knew a publishing house would believe in it, too, the moment I sat down to write the first page.
When womanizer, and possible schizophrenic, John Hazel, is suddenly offered a serious job promotion by the CEO of his company, David Wall, under the condition that John help him kill his wife, John finds himself between a rock and a hard place when Mr. Wall’s wife, Victoria Wall, asks John to do the same for her.
John, an office temp, photographer and university teaching assistant of philosophy, has more than enough on his post-traumatic, hyperactive mind, without something as absurd as this weighing down on him, not to mention that he is haunted—well, annoyed more than anything—by either the spirits or imaginary spirits of Giovanni Boccaccio, Francois Rabelais and a she-devil named Sabrina. Influences such as these do not help with John’s very prurient but fascinating mind, which his psychologist tries as best as she knows how to get to the bottom of.
His life-long existential crisis, having two hit men on his back, a bad-to-the-bone best friend named Alex, and a manic, sex-crazed, power-hungry, confrontational co-worker named Jackie, who happens to be Mr. Wall’s mistress, certainly do not help matters either. Life does not seem to want to let up on John. Will he make it through this very bizarre time of tribulation, or will he end up behind bars, stone-cold dead, or simply cracking under the weight of it all?
About the Author
After high school, Rayme Michaels studied Theater Arts Performance and Radio Broadcasting in college, and then, in his undergrad, majored in Philosophy with a minor in Psychology. He then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Comparative Philosophy while working as a teaching assistant. Screw the Devil’s Daiquiri is his first full-length novel, but it is his third book, his other two being novellas released in 2012. His first book was a quirky relationship/sex comedy entitled Incorrigibility. His second one is a dark, gory, romantic vampire thriller called Red Love, which won Honourable Mention at the top of the list for General Fiction at the 2014 London Book Festival.
He became a bookworm at the age of eight and has been influenced by, and continues to enjoy, a wide variety of writers that range from the solemn to the satirical, the serious to the jovial, both in fiction and non-fiction, contemporary and old. This invariably comes out in his writing, since his literary interests are very broad.
As an existential thinker, he is fascinated by the human mind and the human predicament, yet, as a Rabelaisian human being, laughter and joy are the reasons he gets up in the morning.