Saturday, July 15, 2023

Author interview with Francis O'Keefe

This month’s author interview is with the brilliant Alan Russell Spade, who writes as Francis O’Keefe, although his Twitter handle is @SnapeyWapey, so he’s always been Snapey to me! I did ask which he’d prefer me to use in this interview, thinking perhaps I shouldn’t use his nickname, but he didn’t mind so Snapey it is! So let’s meet him:

‘I was first published in nineteen ninety-seven for a poetry anthology. After working as a graphic designer and registered nurse, I fell into ill health and retired early. My declining health allowed me to return to writing again.’

I’m saddened to hear about his health, but the NHS’s loss is the writing world’s gain. He’s created a tweetable teaser too (tweet here):

‘A couple’s relationship of desire and insults leads them to implement a plan using his knowledge of hypnosis and remote assassination. Leaving them with status, luxury and money from the deceased husband.’

Who wouldn’t fancy reading that!? Snapey writes dark, gothic and medical stories and has published nine books so far, both traditionally and indie-published. I wondered what inspired him to become a writer?

‘I couldn’t find many books in modern literature that appealed to me when I worked as a bank librarian, so I decided if given a chance, I would change that.’

Okay, I need a moment here – what a career! And bank librarian’s not a term I’ve come across before (I mean, how many books does a bank need to warrant a librarian 🤣?), so I’m guessing that means bank staff, as in relief cover? ‘It does’. Thank goodness, I’m not losing my marbles after all! But he’s also mentioned graphic designer, nurse, writer – which is his favourite?

‘Well, I think a writer, really. Despite the jokes, I do tend to have many personal issues. So, for me, it’s cheaper than therapy!’ (I feel I shouldn’t be laughing, but I do love his humour!) ‘Medicine still fascinates me (I turned down a secondment placement to train to be a doctor), so it features heavily in my books.’

Crikey, there seems no end to his talents! Mind you, isn’t it brilliant when a writer has real-world experience of a complex subject and embeds it in their books? He is also known for penning dark stories with untraditional heroes, so are his plots complex?

‘Some (mainly medical) are very complex, which has caused some readers headaches, but I think the audience should be encouraged to think about ethical subjects as well as enjoy a read. There are many twists and turns in all nine (so far) and a few hidden jokes! I adore dark tales with no hero or villain; everyone is human and fallible.’

Too true! It’s interesting he mentions jokes as he’s very funny on Twitter, so I did wonder whether he uses humour in his novels?

‘That is awfully kind of you to say, thank you. Comedy is one of my favourite hobbies, and if I wasn’t so shy, I might have pursued it.

Shy? Wow, that certainly doesn’t come across on his socials! Does he have a daily writing routine?

‘When working on a manuscript, I like to work daily, and I have specific places I visit with my dog on daily walks. These destinations help to inspire me.’

Aw, I’ve seen photos of his pets online (the cuddling one below is adorable!), but as an animal lover, I need to know more!

‘Well, my cat was adopted from a family friend after he lost his owner. He is a huge Bengal cat called Brandon (or Colonel Brandon when he is at the vet, haha.) 

He sleeps in the window quite often and enjoys laughing at tourists! Eli is my chihuahua and rather new; he is a teacup one, so he is tiny. He enjoys sticking his tongue up my nose and in my eyes, despite how uncomfortable I find it!’

Now that I need to see 🤣🤣 What’s the hardest part of writing and/or getting published?

‘As I am disabled, it is problematic to afford to publicise. I proofread, edit, write, typeset, upload and design the covers. As money is short, they rarely see the light of day though.’

Oh dear, it breaks my heart how writers are perceived as rolling in money. It’s so rarely the case, which is why we need to support them! (Okay, getting off my soapbox now 😁). 

As he’s mentioned it a couple of times, I asked about his health. He was hospitalised when we were pulling this interview together, and it sounded quite serious, so I asked how he was doing?

‘Well, this time it was a bit different. I was overdosed by my doctor on my medication.’ OMG! ‘I had seven syringe drivers, cannulas all over me, and many central lines. I was in an induced coma for four days, developed pneumonia and had four dialysis cycles. So, a bit unusual, even for me haha!’

And he’s back to humour again, which is a great coping mechanism, but I have to be honest, this is worse than I’d imagined. It’s a good job we’re not doing this face-to-face because I want to give him a big hug! Did
he end up in the hospital where he used to work?

‘Yes, I was in the same hospital, but I was on different wards to the ones where I worked. The nurses kept asking me if I still had my PIN as I improved so I could help them!’

So he must be a great nurse too - such talent! But his poor health does make life difficult, as I realised when he reacted to a recent tweet with the following response:

‘Oh, I see; treat all people with disabilities like freaks and keep them as a sideshow. I am epileptic, and it rules my life most of the time due to my fear of seizures and how they are filmed and put on YouTube for entertainment. I could never have done that; well done!’

It was the first angry tweet I’d seen from Snapey and I wondered whether he often uses his platform to challenge the perceptions of others?

‘It was rare for me to lay myself so bare; however, the “gentleman’s” comments were so abhorrent, I simply had to. Unfortunately many encounter ableism daily, especially if they have a visible disability. My collection of them are invisible until there are attacks.’

Jeez, what a situation to have to live with daily. I've seen a lot of love for him on Twitter though, followers who seem to be genuine friends now and I wondered if he’d ever met any in real life?

‘I would never rule it out, but sadly, no, well, apart from entering their windows at night when I’m a bit peckish, haha.’

😄 So, moving on to his new book, Ignorant Assassin, can he give us a synopsis?

‘A couple that could rival Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for fiery desire and insults decide to implement a plan of devilish proportions to liberate her.

They devise a scheme where he promises to use his skills in remote assassination and hypnosis to dispose of the husband yet keep her societal status, her husband’s fortune and emancipate her from the deceased musician.’

And here’s a tweetable version for you (tweet here):

‘A couple’s relationship of desire and insults allows them to implement a plan using his knowledge of hypnosis and remote assassination. Leaving them with status, luxury and money from the deceased husband. But is it that simple?’

He kindly gave an extract, too, so you can see his writing style first-hand:

‘"Get used to wearing black Esme." His choice of words stunned her and made her question them.

"Oh, Simon, don't be such a drama queen. You have no intention of killing yourself any more than I do. Besides, he does everything I ask; you can live the opulent lifestyle with me until he returns."

There was a cruel glint in his callous, cerulean blue eyes that spoke volumes. The part-time life with Esme was not enough.

"Not for me, for him. If you won't divorce him and are frightened of losing your societal position, I know people." Esme spun around from the mirror that she had been wiping the spot of mascara from. She guessed there had been too much Champagne last night, and he was still intoxicated.

"Don't talk such nonsense, now get ready. I'm getting hungry; I eat at eight or nine, as you know. There is live music tonight, and I wish to hear it. Now, put an end to this idle chatter." Simon was discontented with her reply and seized her by her shoulder as she defiantly ignored his comment.

"I mean it; you can have everything you have now, fame, fortune and despite your treatment--me too." He snarled at her, although she showed no outward indication of fear of his increasingly threatening behaviour.

"Don't talk like that, it's foolish, and you have no intention any more than I do." Unimpressed with being dismissed so effortlessly, Simon searched Peter's wardrobe and found an ensemble elegant enough for the surroundings of the jazz restaurant. A dark Saville Row suit and shirt--he flapped them violently to show his distaste for Esme's reaction to his solution.

"And you can stop that now, or I will go alone; your behaviour is that of a child and an imbecile. I thought more of you!"

"But not enough to divorce your cash cow!" He sneered.’

Oohh, what a taster! What research did he need to complete for this story?

‘I studied the use of remote assassination and the cases the federal agencies used. All the stages are correct and thoroughly researched.’

Now that’s impressive, although I bet his internet searches flagged him up to a few agencies! Is research an element of writing he likes or loathes?

‘I’m slightly odd that way; I enjoy it. I like to ensure all the facts are based in reality before tweaking them. I don’t like lying to readers.’

That’s admirable; just my sort of author! I end our chat addressing the elephant in the room - Alan Rickman. Snapey has the most amazing selection of AR gifs and artwork, many not commonly available, so I have to know, is he a mega fan, or is there another reason for the gifs – perhaps they’re twins separated at birth???

‘Haha, it had to be said, yes, a fan for over thirty years now. He has such amazing wisdom and wit and, yet, was terribly humble. I sadly never met him and was devastated to hear of our loss.’

He was certainly taken too young, that’s for sure. His AR artwork is amazing too. Does he use this skill for his book covers too?

‘Ah, that is where my graphic history comes back to haunt me. The ones I have completed aren’t great covers, but to me, they tell an element of the story and often have a hidden meaning.’

And if that’s not a teaser to read a book and spot the hidden meaning, I don’t know what is! So let’s support this lovely author, and do follow him on his socials, as he’ll definitely have you giggling. Please click on his links below to find out more:


Twitter: @snapeywapey

Facebook: Francis Okeefe

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