Interview with Anthony O’Connor, author of 101 People to Kill Before I Die
07 Sep 2017
What can you tell us about your new release, 101 People to Kill Before I Die?
The title is self-explanatory. Brian Samuals finds out he is going to die. Terminal Cancer. He decides that if he is going to die there are a lot of people who are going to die first. I was heavily influenced by ‘Kill Bill’ and re-watched it several times while writing. I realize now that it’s more like ‘Falling Down’ than ‘Kill Bill’ despite all the Tarantino references. Though I didn’t know this until after I’d finished.
Obviously, if you start killing people there are consequences. I wanted the whole thing to rapidly escalate into a fiery chaotic storm. And I think I accomplished this. It’s quite violent and maybe even a bit over the top in places. I was going for that stylized, pop-art, comic book feel. Hard to achieve. Hopefully, when someone makes the movie they’ll get that bit right.
Chapter one was done about a year ago once the basic concept hit me. Thought about it on and off. Finally knuckled down and all of the rest was finished in the last three months. It was an intense three months, almost feverish at times, But a lot of fun.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace comes in an easy first.
NeuroMancer by William Gibson
Marooned in Real Time by Vernor Vinge,
Excession by Ian Banks.
BlindSight and EchoPraxia by Peter Watts.
Who are your literary heroes working today? Why do you admire them?
I’d like to say David Foster Wallace – his dazzlingly brilliant depth and passion. But he’s dead now, by his own hand.
Ian Banks! The culture novels. No, wait. He’s dead too. Pancreatic cancer in his mid-fifties.
Peter Watts has produced some chilling insights into our first encounter with alien super intelligence. Expertly described and very authentic. No spoilers. But chances are it’s not likely to go well. He’s put a lot of thought into the relationship between consciousness and intelligence and come to some surprising and deeply disturbing conclusions.
Vernor Vinge continues to come out with dazzling accounts of super science and high tech. Again I enjoy and appreciate the expertise and authenticity – so often lacking in works of this kind. Unlike Peter Watts, Vernor Vinge is quite the optimist. He is the one who introduced the concept of the singularity in one of his early works – and continued to develop it subsequently. No limits. Exponential growth in knowledge and intelligence. Yeah. I like it.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I do enjoy just letting loose and have a character go on a bit of a rant about something that annoys them. Not think about it too much and just let rip with all due ferocity. Editing it afterwards of course but hopefully not by too much. Brian does this a bit, I do stress however that he is a fictional character and quite a nasty one. His opinions are not necessarily my opinions. Though I think he gets a few things right. And a lot very, very wrong.
So I think it would have to be the practice of creating new worlds and new characters and watching it all play out. Sometimes the characters surprise you, doing and saying things you never thought they would. They take on a life of their own. The plot develops a certain inevitability which all you can do as the writer is describe. As I watched Brian’s fiery arc of self destruction take form I was sorry for him – even though I never liked him much to begin with.
If you had an extra hour each day, how would you spend it?
I hope this doesn’t sound too lame. But I would have to say sleep. Just don’t get enough of it now. Chronically deprived almost.
BAM. You’re a superhero. What’s your superpower?
I would want super-intelligence. There are some math problems relating to quantum computing that I’ve been working on for years that I’d really like to solve. There are significant practical applications. So it would be useful as well as fun. Then use the solutions to solve other bigger problems. Medical cures. Warp drives. Energy sources. No limits. I’m thinking of ‘Flowers For Algernon’ or the movie ‘Limitless’. Burning super brightly. Making a better world. And if there is a time limit as there was in the works mentioned. So be it.
Hopefully one would be savvy enough to avoid being chained in a lab somewhere working out how to make possible some madman’s quest for world domination. Though surely the opportunity to outwit them and destroy them would arise.
What scene in 101 People to Kill Before I Die was your favorite to write?
My favorite scene to write was the massive fire-fight in Maffra. Now, Maffra is a quiet rural town. I grew up there and have hardly been back since. It’s a nice place and I have nothing but fond memories. But I am afraid that in the interests of the developing story line it had to go. With thousands of cops, soldiers and gangsters on the ground and military choppers, fighter jets, and out of control Predator Drones in the air – all shooting it out – there’s not much left of the town. Sorry Maffra.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I don’t really have a motto or philosophy as such. But I will give two quotes that have stuck in my mind over the years.
One from the novel Malrooney’s by TM Merremont: “insanity sparkled like fiery diamonds in her eyes”
The other from the movie ‘Aguirre – The Wrath of God’, A line spoken by the actor Klaus Kinksi: “both of those men are a head taller than I am. This too can change.”
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