Well this weekend is set to be momentous.
Tomorrow (Sunday 12th June) I'm going to be 'Mother of the groom'. After 10 years together, my son and his fiancee are finally going to jump the broomstick. Woohoo sooo pleased. AND i've got the 'Cilla hat.'
FINALLY after endless bribes of unmentionable things, I got Mike Church to succumb to an interview. He put up a fight but I got him. Oh yeah baby I got him. (No confusion please with one of the Royal Canadian Mounties)
So then, my understated, funny man, take it away.....
Q. Tell me about your family
A. I have three beautiful sisters and a fantastic brother. I also have “one wife”, as my students would say, a daughter and a son. As you can imagine, I love them all very much, and they keep me insane.
Q. Have you any pets?
A. No, but my sister-in-law has got through quite a few over the years: Graeme the Goldfish (drowned in suspicious circumstances), Henrietta the Hamster (heart attack after heavy wheeling), Terence the Terrapin (jumped off balcony to see what would happen), Brenda the Budgerigar (hanged herself on string attached to perch)
Tee: I'm rolling on the floor laughing.
Q. Your day job
A. I’m an English teacher. I teach English to Basque and Spanish students of all ages and backgrounds, though mainly to adults who need English for their work.
Q. Although you’re English Mike, your family life is in Spain. Is there ANY comparison you want to make?
A. How much space have you got, Tee? Let’s just say that, for better or for worse, when you enter the Basque family, you sign a contract for life (and beyond). None of this British leave-home-at-18-but-do-feel-free-to-drop-in-for-Christmas nonsense. Apart from ‘adult’ kids not being allowed to leave home for more than a week, the main difference I’ve noticed between British and Basque/Spanish life is the sheer volume: everybody and everything is noisier here. You won’t be surprised to learn that one of the things I miss most is “a quiet pint” down the pub.
Q. What do you do for entertainment?
A. Well, for starters, my students keep me entertained all day long; they often tell me that I should be paying them, not the other way round. They’re probably right. Back home, as I stumble through the door, armed with the day’s shopping, the entertainment continues as I am greeted with,
“What time do you call this?” (wife),
“What’s for dinner?” (daughter)
“Can you give me fifty euros to make some photocopies?” (son).
Q. Tell me about the books you have written
A. They’re rather silly, to be honest. Let’s see, this shouldn’t take long, as I’m not exactly a prolific writer... OK, let’s start with my only novel, dayrealing – the trials and tribulations of a stressed-out teacher in a spaced-out world. That was basically the story of my life up until that point and, eight years later, it still is; albeit with a generous dose of fantasy to disguise yours truly among the carnage. Unsurprisingly, dayrealing was a massive flop despite some very kind reviews from people like you, Tee. I followed this up with a collection of short stories, fifty shades of Spain – a teacher’s torrid tale in fifty simple lessons. This was even less successful than my debut novel, but I had fun writing them, and it’s important to have fun occasionally, don’t you think, Tee? Finally, I have written a series of tongue-in-cheek phrasebooks, the most successful of which has always been, Spanglish for Impatient People. I even made a few royalties on that one, though the sales have since dried up. The follow-up, Spanglish for Impatient People 2, hasn’t sold nearly as well, so I’m thinking I’ll call my next books, Spanglish for Impatient People 0, Spanglish for Impatient People -1, and so on, and see if we can revert the trend. The last book I wrote, English for Monosyllabic People, was aimed at the potentially enormous Spanish-speaking readership. To date, it has sold a grand total of, wait for it, one. Yes, that’s right, it’s the copy I bought for myself to check the format on my Kindle. Fortunately, I later received 36 of my 99 cents’ outlay back in royalties at the end of the month.
Tee: You're selling yourself very short Mike. Dayrealing was probably the funniest book I have ever read.
Q. Do your family actually allow you to use ‘their computer’?
A. Ha ha! You’ve been reading my blog, haven’t you? I had to get up at four on two consecutive mornings to write these lines before shooting off for work.
Q. Tell my blog fans who is the ‘other Mike Church’
A. According to Wikipedia, he is a “shock jock” who has often been called, “the most radical man on the radio”. I’d give him a wide berth if I were you.
Tee: I just checked this Mike Church out... Crikey! I think I'll stick with the one I know.
A. I enjoy shopping, cooking and cleaning the kitchen in my spare time. As you can see, Tee, I lead an incredibly exciting life, but I’m hoping things will change after this interview. I used to enjoy swimming, but gave it up after losing my left leg in a shark attack three years ago. I made that last part up, Tee; it was a hippo.
Tee: With those credentials Mike, I know many ladies that would get in line to marry you. I wondered why my victim cave was so clean. You even managed to get the blood and brains off of the back wall. Hippo attack? Really? Wow! :-)
Q. What kicked off your writing career?
A. “Career”?! I think “stuff” would be a more accurate word. Pure desperation with my day-to-day life is the honest answer. More specifically, the actual catalyst was a Guardian supplement entitled “How to Write Fiction” by Robert Harris, Kate Pullinger and Peter Strauss, which I read on the plane back from England on September 9th 2008. I’ve kept a record of everything I’ve read, written, bought or eaten since that day, Tee. The document is called “Mike’s Milestones”, which, as you might expect, is a fascinating read.
Q. Is there a work in progress at the moment?
A. Yes - this interview! If only I had a project in the pipeline but, to be honest, Tee, I’ve given up. If I make it to retirement and am still alive, or even if I’m not, I’ll probably have another bash. Until then, the only work in progress is preparing tomorrow’s classes while, in my spare moments, scribbling a few lines for my monthly blog entry on The Other Mike Church (“readable rubbish at a reasonable price”).
That said, I do have a “work in progress” of sorts, namely the audiobook for fifty shades of Spain, though I’m in no hurry to finish it. I recently finished recording the audiobook for dayrealing – the trials and tribulations of a stressed-out teacher in a spaced-out world... in ten, tortuous, torturous hours (and five minutes), which was a massive job, but immensely challenging and satisfying at the same time. You have no idea how good it felt when I received that automated message from ACX, “Your audiobook has been approved”.
Q. Favourite place to holiday J
A. Until recently it was anywhere in Britain for obvious reasons. I used to dream about buying a holiday apartment in Devon; now I just dream about Devon. Last summer, however, my wife and I started exploring Brittany and Normandy, and we were bowled over by their beautiful beaches, landscapes, and excellent grub to boot. Will definitely be going back there again soon. For a quick suntan while stuffing yourself silly at a reasonable price, any half-board stay at a three- or four-star hotel on the east coast of Spain is nearly always a good bet. Oh dear, Tee, I’ve just realised I gave you a straight answer. I’m supposed to be funny, aren’t I? Let’s see, here’s a funny pic of me trying to look serious in Brittany:
Q. You are given the opportunity to travel to any country world wide, with all expenses paid. Where would you go and what’s the attraction?
A. I ought to say New Zealand, the Maldives or Canada, didn’t I? So, I think I’ll plump for a tour of Scandinavia, just to be different. If possible, I’d like to follow Michael Booth’s route – Denmark-Iceland-Norway-Finland-Sweden – as described in his wonderful The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, which I downloaded from Amazon Spain’s Kindle Store on Tuesday August 25th 2015 for €8,49. I finished it fifty days later, on Wednesday October 14th, and awarded it four and a half stars out of five. Did I tell you I keep a record of everything, Tee?
Tee: Er no I don't think you did Mike. Oh wait...!
Q. What makes you laugh out loud?
A. The things my students say, the questions they ask, the mistakes they make, the sentences they write, the confused looks they give... Plus, just about any Mr. Bean or Monty Python sketch; not that I’ve watched any comedy seriously for years. It’s very rare for a writer, or anybody, to make me laugh out loud – I’m a cool unemotional Brit, remember – but my literary heroes, Jerome K. Jerome and Joseph Heller, come pretty close at times.
Q. If you could have any animal from time immemorial as a pet for long freezing days and nights, what would you choose and why?
A. Yes, I’ve often asked myself the same question... Hmm, probably a self-feeding long-life goldfish. I think you can buy them on Amazon, can’t you? A good bottle of whisky is all I need for those long freezing nights, Tee. You can get good bottles of whisky on Amazon, too, I believe. The last thing I need is a cute little squirrel playing with his nuts on the sofa.
Tee: Oi mister! You casting aspersions on my Cyrils' nuts?
Q. How hard do you find book promotion?
A. Impossibly hard. If I were unemployed or working part-time, I would obviously try harder, though doubtless with the same results. As things stand, I don’t even try. In any case, even if I only sell an average of one book a month, I am the happiest failure in the world. That’s the great thing about being an invisible self-publishing author: you celebrate every single sale as if you had just won the pools. Well, I do, anyway.
Q. Any tips or hints you’ve found that were successful for you in promotion?
A. None whatsoever. You haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying, have you, Tee? I’ve come to the conclusion – 54 years too late, unfortunately – that the only way to sell books that are rubbish is to be born, marry or sleep with somebody who is ridiculously rich and/or fantastically famous.
Tee: Did I hear someone say something? No? Hm! Must be my imagination. Note to self...Get the yachts moved back to Cannes and have the state rooms refurbished :-)
Q. Favourite genres to read and write?
A. I have very eclectic tastes, Tee. Whatever that means. Basically, I’m happy reading anything so long as the topic is interesting and the writer knows how to punctuate and spell correctly. Too many years correcting my poor students, I suppose. When it comes to writing, I feel more comfortable with comedy, but I also enjoy trying my hand at soppy stuff if the subject is close to my heart.
Q. You’ve set up your own fantasy publishing house using FB writer friends to help run it. What would you name it? Who would you choose to run the different departments? As the owner, how would you ensure the FB staff achieved success for you?
A. Wow! I suppose I’d call it, “Books R Us”, “Crooks R Us” or something along those lines. Can I get back to you on this? As for the different departments, there’s no way I can find a position for all seven of my Facebook friends, Tee! Obviously, you would be top of my list (Marketing & Cream Teas), as would dear old Reggie (Networking, Beers & Pizzas). Poppet on Cover Design would be an absolute must, and Sheila would be a great Copy Editor if we could only drag her away from her camera.
Thanks a million for inviting me to your blog, Tee. I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions.
My review of Dayrealing...
***Colin Rapper commonly known as `Crapper' works as an English teacher in the zany world of Looniversal Learning. If you have a sense of humour and can `back chat' you fit in nicely.
It's inhabited by students of at least the forty plus age group, who's main objective in life is to make Colin's life as disruptive as possible. Among the many varied subjects nestles `Cooking the books for crooks'.
Colin is very fond of making lists which he either can't find when needed, or they turn up instead of reports he should be presenting to Miss Snapper commonly known as `Miss Slapper'.
The beign of Colin's life appear to be the dithering, treacherous, tone deaf - when it suits her - Miss Tedley and Jack. Their main aim in life to wind him up on a regular basis. Miss Tedley and her friends also cause mayhem when they attend the geriatrics aerobics class. `determined to get down and with it'
Scott is the brains of the bunch. When he takes to the school roof to hurtle himself into oblivion no one worries too much as he has paid his course fees up front. As he hurtles through the roof onto the unsuspecting Colin totally flooring him, Colin is heard to remark
"Look Scott if it's about that hyphen usage ......."
A typical quote from the book ....
"Why did you send Samantha home?"
"Because your Samantha set fire to the library"
"Nobody ever uses that bloody library. Why is it such a big deal?
"Because Miss Tedley was in there having forty winks at the time"
I never did work out what the mad cap Miss Tedley was doing in any class apart from causing major disruption.
From the first page to the last I never stopped giggling and at time even laughing out loud.
Quite often I felt I had slipped into a parallel universe or the twilight zone.***
The Other Mike Church (Mike’s blog)
“readable rubbish at a reasonable price”:
“a novel audio book in ten tortous, torturous hours (and five minutes)”:
dayrealing, Chapter 47
“Sugar Baby Love” (excerpt)
For a free Audible download code for dayrealing, please contact Mike
Spanglish for Impatient People
“Learn the lingo in less than an hour!”
Spanglish for Rhythmic People
“a dum-di phrasebook”
English for Monosyllabic People
“Speak English without hardly opening your mouth!”
fifty shades of Spain
“a teacher’s torrid tale in fifty simple lessons”
So there you have it my little chickadees. An extremely funny man.