Today I am honoured to be welcoming the novelist and short story writer Tibor Fischer to Planting Words.
Tibor is on blog tour with his new novel, Good to Be God – a very funny book indeed. We follow middle-aged handcuffs salesman Tyndale as he leaves his mediocre life in the UK behind to start afresh in Miami, where he hits upon the idea of becoming a religious leader… I talked to Tibor about Good to Be God, and about being a writer.
Your protagonist, Tyndale, is a bit of a shambles for most of the book. How do you feel about him?
As someone fantastically impractical and unemployable, I have a great deal of sympathy for shambolic individuals. But finally what the author feels about a character doesn’t matter – it’s what the reader thinks that counts.
Good to Be God seems to teeter precariously between extreme pessimism about the human race, and something more hopeful. Did you always know how the book would end?
No. I don’t have a plan when starting a novel. I just liked the idea of the big con. Particularly a con like this, where, finally, you don’t have to prove anything, you just have to insist and convince. I liked the idea of coming in empty-handed and penniless and attempting to conquer a country.
Have you had any personal experiences of spiritual ‘organisations’ that you drew on for the book? What are your spiritual views?
Spiritual and spirituality have become rather debased words. The words, for me at least, conjure up religion without any of the hard bits – helping irritating neighbours; “spirituality” is incense, wind-chimes and bloody awful poetry, as well as a form of latter-day snobbery – I’m more spiritual than you pal (therefore superior) because I have a copy of the I-Ching.
Religion like all of man’s inventions has an up side and a down side. The dark side of religion gets a lot of press, but the small-scale stuff of offering support to those in need usually gets overlooked. God? Designing intelligence? I don’t know.
Have you found your themes changing over the course of your career as a writer so far?
Well, I don’t like to repeat myself, so at one level my novels are all different. On the other hand all novels are about human nature, and also, I’ve discovered after five novels, I’m essentially a comic novelist. My style has changed a little: I’m much plainer than I used to be. I’ve learned that simplicity is the greatest art of all.
How do you feel about your earlier books?
Certainly, I’d do some things differently, but again it doesn’t matter what I feel, it’s what the reader feels.
What’s the nicest thing a reader has ever said about one of your books?
My first novel “Under the Frog” was about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The most pleasing thing for me was that people of that generation found it so accurate they thought I was one of them (until they read my bio properly).
Do you ever make yourself laugh when you write something funny?
Do you still get a thrill from seeing your books in bookshops, or in other people’s hands on the tube?
It’s more relief when you see that your books have made it to the shops. It’s one of the rules of the business that you never see your own books being read on the tube. Fellow writers tell me they’ve spotted people reading my books, and I’ve seen their books being read, but you’re not allowed to see anyone reading your own books.
What is your least favourite bit about being a writer? And your most favourite?
My least favourite part is the part that has nothing to do with the writing. When you’re a professional writer, the writing becomes almost incidental; you end up half-salesman, half stand-up comedian. Staying in bed as long as you like is my favourite part.
If you were God, what would be the first three things on your list?
If I were God, the first thing I’d do would be to find someone else to take on the job. The 24/7 responsibility and buck-stopping must be rather wearing.
Thank you for your time, Tibor. We need to organise a national reading-Tibor-Fischer-on-the-tube day now…
Do check out Good to Be God (here it is on Amazon UK or get free international delivery from The Book Depository), and I can also highly recommend a couple of Tibor’s previous novels – The Thought Gang and Under The Frog.