INTERVIEW and GIVEAWAY
Heuer Lost and Found
(Unapologetic Lives Book 1)
(Unapologetic Lives Book 1)
by A. B. Funkhauser
Heuer Lost and Found is currently on tour with Bewitching Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my interview with the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Unrepentant cooze hound lawyer Jürgen Heuer dies suddenly and unexpectedly in his litter-strewn home. Undiscovered, he rages against god, Nazis, deep fryers and analogous women who disappoint him.
At last found, he is delivered to Weibigand Brothers Funeral Home, a ramshackle establishment peopled with above average eccentrics, including boozy Enid, a former girl friend with serious denial issues. With her help and the help of a wise cracking spirit guide, Heuer will try to move on to the next plane. But before he can do this, he must endure an inept embalming, feral whispers, and Enid’s flawed recollections of their murky past.
Is it really worth it?
Take your pick or watch them all.
Two Weeks Ago
The house, like the man who lived in it, was remarkable: a 1950s clapboard-brick number with a metal garage door that needed serious painting. Likewise, the windows, which had been replaced once in the Seventies under some home improvement program, then never again. They were wooden and they were cracked, allowing wasps and other insects inside.
This was of little consequence to him.
The neighbors, whom Heuer prodigiously ignored, would stare at the place. Greek, Italian, and house proud, they found the man’s disdain for his own home objectionable. He could see it on their faces when he looked out at them through dirty windows.
To hell with them.
If the neighbors disapproved of the moss green roof with its tar shingles that habitually blew off, then let them replace it. Money didn’t fall from the sky and if it did, he wouldn’t spend it on improvements to please strangers.
They were insects.
And yet there were times when Jürgen Heuer was forced to compromise. Money, he learned, could solve just about anything. But not where the willful and the pernicious were concerned. These, once singled out, required special attention.
Alfons Vermiglia, the Genovese neighbor next door, had taken great offense to his acacia tree, a towering twenty-five foot behemoth that had grown from a cutting given to him by a lodge brother. The acacia was esteemed in Masonic lore appearing often in ritual, rendering it so much more than just mere tree. In practical terms, it provided relief, offering shade on hot days to the little things beneath it. And it bloomed semi-annually, whimsically releasing a preponderance of white petals that carried on the wind mystical scent—the same found in sacred incense and parfums.
It was a dirty son of a bitch of a tree that dropped its leaves continuously from spring to fall, shedding tiny branches from its diffident margins. These were covered in nasty little thorns that damaged vinyl pool liners and soft feet alike. They also did a pretty amazing job of clogging Alfons’ pool filter, turning his twenty-five hundred gallon toy pool green overnight.
This chemistry compromised the neighbor’s pleasure and it heightened his passions, blinding Alfons to the true nature of his enemy. He crossed over onto Heuer’s property and drove copper nails into the root system. It was an old trick, Byzantine in its treachery; the copper would kill the tree slowly over time leading no one to suspect foul play.
But Heuer was cagey and suspicious by nature, so when the tree displayed signs of failure, he knew where to look.
The acacia recovered and Alfons said nothing. Heuer planted aralia—the “Devil’s Walking Stick”—along the fence line and this served as an even thornier reminder that he knew. And if there was any doubt at all, he went further by coating his neighbor’s corkscrew hazel with a generous dose of Wipe Out.
Intrusive neighbors and their misplaced curiosities were, by turns, annoying and amusing and their interest, though unwanted, did not go unappreciated. The Greeks on the other side of him weren’t combative in the least and they offered gardening advice whenever they caught him out of doors. The man, Panos, talked politics and cars, and expressed interest in the vehicle that sat shrouded and silent on Heuer’s driveway. He spoke long and colorfully about the glory days of Detroit muscle cars and how it all got bungled and bargained away.
“They sacrificed an industry to please a bunch of big mouths in Hollywood,” Panos would rant in complete disregard for history: Al Gore and Global Warming didn’t kill the GTO; the OPEC oil crisis did. But there was no point in telling him that.
Panos was an armchair car guy and incurable conspiracy theorist. He also kept to his side of the fence, unlike his wife, Stavroula, who was driven by natural instinct. Not content to leave an unmarried man alone, she routinely crossed Heuer’s weedy lawn, banging on the door with offers of food and a good housecleaning.
Heuer had no trouble accepting her cooking. But he declined her brush and broom. Was it kindness, or was she trying to see inside? He suspected the latter.
No one was ever seen entering Heuer’s house and while this piqued public interest, he never gave in, not even to those who were kind to him. He liked Panos and Stavroula and he regretted poisoning their cat.
But not enough to let them in to his home.
Others on the street had less contact with him. Canvassers at election time would disturb him, in spite of the lawn sign warning the solicitous away. That this didn’t apply to neighbor kids brave enough to pedal cookies and magazine subscriptions in spite of the sign, was a testament, perhaps, to some residual soft spot in his heart that endured.
Even so, he knew that people talked about him and, frankly, he had trouble accounting for their fascination. Short, curt, bespectacled, he courted an ethos that favored enforced detachment. When people got close enough to hear him speak, they detected a trace of an accent. Now faded after years of U.S. residency, his speech still bore the unmistakable patterns of someone undeniably foreign. Elaborate, overwrought and heavy on the adverbs, he spoke very much like his neighbors. Yet the distance between them was incalculable…
Day 1: Post Mortem
Heuer shook his head, finding it especially odd that he would think of such things at this particular moment. The circumstances, after all, were beyond peculiar. Coming out of thick, dense fog, standing upright, looking wildly around, and having difficulty comprehending, the last thing that should trouble him was human relations.
The man on the floor would have agreed, had he not lacked the resources to speak.
Heuer canvassed his surroundings. The room, still dark, the shades drawn, and the plants Stavroula forced on him, wilted and dry, bespoke of an unqualified sadness. His computer, left on and unattended, buzzed pointlessly in the corner, its screen saver, a multi-colored Spirograph montage, interspersed with translucent images of faceless Bond girls, twisting ad infinitum for an audience of none.
What happened here?
The bottle of Johnnie Black lay open and empty on the bedroom floor, along with a pack of Marlboro’s, gifts from an old friend. The desk chair lay on its side, toppled, in keeping with the rest of the room. His bed sheets were twisted, the pillows on the floor, and there were stains on the walls; strange residues deposited over time representing neglect and a desire to tell.
He looked down at his hands. They kept changing; the veins, wavy, rose and fell like pots of worms.
There was no evidence of eating, however, and this was really weird, for it was in this room that Heuer lived. Flat screens, mounted on the ceiling and on the desktop, kept him in line with the world outside in ways that papers could not. Screens blasted twenty-four and seven with their talking heads and CNN, whereas papers were flat and dirty, suitable only for the bottoms of bird cages. He cancelled the dailies first and then the weeklies, seeing no value whatever in printed words.
Pictures were another matter. Several in paint and charcoal and sepia covered the walls and floors. He loved them all, and he stared at them for hours when he pondered. His beer fridge, humidor, and model rocket collection completed him; housing the things he loved, all within perfect reach.
His senses, though dulled, honed in on a scent, distant yet familiar, coming from inside the room. It was bog-like-foul like a place he’d visited long ago, buried under wood ash. He frowned.
What was the last thing he ate? Did he cook or go for takeout? He wanted to go down to the kitchen to check, but found, to his astonishment, that he could not get past the doorframe into the outer hall.
Nein, das kann nicht sein!—Now this is not right!—he fumed, switching to German. He would do this whenever he encountered static. The spit and sharp of it forced people back because they could not understand what he meant.
Unballing his fists he felt his chest, registering the sensation of “feel”—he could feel “touch,” but he could not locate the beating heart. Consciously knitting his brows, he considered other bodily wants, his legal mind checking and balancing the laws of nature against the laws of the impossible. He could not, for example, feel “hunger” and he wasn’t dying for a drink either.
Was this a mark of passage into the nether? The man on the floor had no comment.
He thought about his bowels and if they needed attention, but that, to his great relief, no longer appeared to matter. Regularity, in recent years, wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. When he was young, he reveled in a good clean out after the morning coffee because it reset his clock and established the tone for the rest of the day. Not so latterly. His prostate had kept its promise, letting him down, enlarging, pressing where it ought naught. Awake most nights, he lost sleep and dreams.
With this in mind, he bounced up and down on the soles of his expensive shoes in an effort to confirm if he was awake or not. Perhaps he was sleepwalking, or heading off to the can for another urinary evacuation that wouldn’t come?
The man on the floor ruled out these options.
He tried the door again, and again, to his dismay, he could not leave.
What to do? What to do?
‘I think, therefore I am,’ went the popular saying, but what good was ‘being’ when one was confined to a bedroom like a rat in a cage?
He struggled to remain calm, just as he became aware of that heavy oppressive feeling one gets before receiving bad news. Pacing back and forth across the ancient floorboards in the house he was born into, he checked for the kinds of incriminating evidence the court of public opinion would hold against him once found. Pornography, loaded handguns, too many candy wrappers all had to be dispatched before someone inevitably broke the door down.
As light turned to dark and day gave over into night, Heuer’s thoughts came faster and faster, in different languages, interspersed with corrugated images, accompanied by generous doses of Seventies rock; a fitting sound track for the old life, now ended.
He fell to his knees. Somewhere in this mélange was something to be grateful for and with time, he was sure, he would figure out what that single, great, thing might be. For now, all he could really do was take comfort in the fact that his death had been perfect.
Praise for the Book
"Fresh writing filled with rich vocabulary, this story features a vivid cast of colourful, living-breathing characters. This one will keep you reading late into the night until the final page." ~ Yvonne Hess, Charter Member, The Brooklin 7
"Ms. A. B. Funkhauser is a brilliant and wacky writer … Her distinctive voice tells an intriguing story that mixes moral conflicts with dark humor." ~ Rachael Stapleton, Author, The Temple of Indra’s Jewel and Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire
"The macabre black comedy is definitely a different sort of book! You will enjoy this book with its mixture of horror and humour." ~ Diana Harrison, Author, Always and Forever
"Heuer Lost and Found is a quirky and irreverent story about a man who dies and finds his spirit trapped in a funeral home with an ex-lover who happens to be the mortician. The characterization is rich the story well-told." ~ Cryssa Bazos, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, Ontario, Canada
"Author A. B. Funkhauser strikes a macabre cord with her book Heuer Lost and Found. I found it to have a similar feel to the HBO series Six Feet Under." ~ Young, Author, A Harem Boy’s Saga Vol I, II, and III
Interview With the Author
Hi A. B., thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Heuer Lost and Found.
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
The book features characters at the crossroads: the main character, Heuer, drops dead at the age of fifty. He is a single, urban professional with a ton of baggage, including daddy issues. His funeral director, Enid, is an old girlfriend from the Eighties who battles life-altering afflictions like peri menopause and the scotch bottle. While the work is categorized as #adult #contemporary #paranormal #fiction, I have a NA following that digs on the Eighties references and the #paranormal hooks. From what I’ve seen so far, it has a rather broad appeal, but if I have to weigh in, I’d go for readers who like character-based stories with a lot of miles behind them.
What sparked the idea for this book?
It’s called a memento mori - an object signifying death - that acts like a hammer to the head. A friend of mine committed suicide and I needed to open a pressure valve, so I recorded some thoughts in pencil, in cursive, in a loose leaf binder. Both my friend and I had an appreciation for humor, and so it didn’t take long before my musings were hijacked by just that. Very soon, I was making stuff up. This became the fiction.
So, which came first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
It began with a single scene involving a fantastic modified ‘68 Chevy Chevelle with an epic 454 ci engine dropped into it some time in the early ‘80s. The car had a name (Shelley) and a gender (female) and she was placed above everyone else in the man’s affections, including the young woman who loved him but couldn’t keep him. This scene became the lynchpin for the third novel. Funny how that happens.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Deciding on structure was the biggest delay. The original manuscript was enormous, and I didn’t want to “kill my darlings”. When it was suggested that I hive the work in two, one book dedicated to memories and the other dedicated to how it actually was (real time), everything fell into place.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I don’t have any control over that, which is great. The story resonates very differently depending on who reads it. A person who has suffered loss, for example, gets Enid immediately. Those fortunate enough to have been spared the loss of a loved one thus far want to lock her in a closet until she comes to her senses. Likewise with Heuer: this man is a child of the Fifties raised by parents born in the Twenties. His views are colored and when his guard is down, he speaks without filters. One reader compared him to Breaking Bad’s Walter White: didn’t like him, but kept rooting for him. I thought that was pretty cool.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Thirty years. In addition to my memento mori, I had thirty years of observations, pet peeves and what I call “ax grinders” looking for a platform from which to launch. My beauties - my all time special tropes - found a home with Heuer; namely that: 1) nostalgia hurts more than it helps, 2) kindness can be found in the oddest places, 3) prying is a lousy thing, 4) some questions don’t need answers, 5) insular people will sooner or later give in to others because we are social, 6) we must find and then let go of that thing we need so that we can keep it forever. Enid, you see, looks for answers she doesn’t need, but she has to go through the motions before she realizes it.
In real time, it took five years, five drafts, and a couple of mulling breaks lasting about 4 and 6 weeks, respectively, to complete the first novel.
What is your writing routine?
Two and a half years ago, I was lucky enough to take a break from full-time work to really make a go of this writing thing, and I’m glad I did. My routine is dictated by the seasons - a happy accident that has worked really well. During the school year when I have kids coming and going, I treat the writing like any day job; once the kids are out the door I’m at my desk. Whether I’m writing new stuff or blogging, tweeting, reviewing, or promoting myself or others, I am always writing from 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday. June and July are lovely months, because that’s when I break from the blog to script polish for fall submission. After that is NaNoWriMo, and that’s where I lay down the first draft for the next novel in the sequence. My family and friends are on alert at that time. November is my month. DO NOT DISTURB. (laughs)
How did you get your book published?
In a word: #Pitmad. I had three manuscripts down and was etching out a fourth when a writer from my critiquing group - The Brooklin 7 - told me about Twitter pitch parties. Pitmad, I think, happens about four times a year, so my first runs at it were great for honing elevator pitches, synopses, tags, log lines, and the all important query. By the fourth round, I had my deal.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Keep writing and do not stop until you have something YOU love. That way, you can pitch it with conviction. Along the way, SHARE. Find a critiquing group, put yourself up front and out there for open mic nights, get valuable feedback through contests and courses, and write your synopsis as you go. That way, you know what your book is about when someone asks: What’s your book about? And never stop reading. Grow, grow, grow.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I get out and about and have adventures ... at the grocery store, at the park, on long drives thinking out loud, and I go to classic car shows as soon as the snow melts. I love classic cars, particularly those from the muscle era. Learn and do. Read and write. That’s my method.
What does your family think of your writing?
They approve. And they laugh in all the right places, thank goodness.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, so I grew up without gadgets. I listened to vinyl 45s on a plug in record player, vividly recall the first lunar landing, and I remember the Paul Lynde Show being interrupted by Nixon’s resignation speech, which really annoyed me because I loved the Paul Lynde Show. Summers were spent running through the hydro fields and throwing crab apples at each other’s houses during the great crab apple wars; everybody had a pellet gun that fired real BBs and we played with cherry bomb firecrackers. It’s a marvel that we didn’t get hurt. I love the age I live in now, but I don’t sweat when the power goes out. I know how to live without gizmos. (smiles)
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Yes. We didn’t hop on planes and see the world in those days. The world had to come to us through books. That’s how I learned to love history, especially ancient history. Sword and sandal movies were my favorites because I’d read the back stories.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Five years ago, when the muse tapped me on the shoulder and said “do”.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
For sure. My current work in progress takes place in the 1940s. A lot of the stories contained therein come from my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I remember all of them, especially the old people, talking about the wars. I was seven or eight and soaked it all up. This was living, breathing history, though I didn’t realize it at the time.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
The risk takers and the jokers. I grew up reading National Lampoon, MAD Magazine, and Rolling Stone. Invariably, I tripped into P. J. O’Rourke and Hunter S. Thompson territory. Also Christopher Hitchens.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Heuer Lost and Found is my first release, but I’ve been working open mic for about three years, and I’ve taken courses and participated in contests, so there’s been plenty of feedback. I hear things like “unusual”, “strong voice”, “plays by its own rules”. One reviewer compared me to Bram Stoker, which I thought was quite gratifying. My Goodreads reviews have been exceptionally positive. I’m stoked.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Heuer Lost and Found is part of a six novel series. Scooter Nation, The Heuer Effect, and Poor Undertaker are next up. For NaNoWriMo this year, I hope to get started on Dirty Dale, a crazy tale about a blocked up horror smut writer who goes to mortuary school. Lol.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, A. B. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you for offering this space. I had a great time! You can check out my links [below]. You can also watch the book trailers which I made myself [above] and an interview I did for local radio (Part 1 and Part 2, where I talk funeral parloring, Six Feet Under, and the art of gonzo). Gives you a chance to hear me.
About the Author
A. B. Funkhauser is a funeral director, fiction writer, and wildlife enthusiast living in Ontario, Canada. Like most funeral directors, she is governed by a strong sense of altruism fueled by the belief that life chooses us and we not it.
“Were it not for the calling, I would have just as likely remained an office assistant shuffling files around, and would have been happy doing so.”
Life had another plan. After a long day at the funeral home in the waning months of winter 2010, she looked down the long hall joining the director’s office to the back door leading three steps up and out into the parking lot. At that moment a thought occurred: What if a slightly life-challenged mortician tripped over her man shoes and landed squarely on her posterior, only to learn that someone she once knew and cared about had died, and that she was next on the staff roster to care for his remains?
Like funeral directing, the writing called, and four years and several drafts later, Heuer Lost and Found was born.
What’s a Heuer? Beyond a word rhyming with “lawyer”, Heuer the lawyer is a man conflicted. Complex, layered, and very dead, he counts on the ministrations of the funeral director to set him free. A labor of love and a quintessential muse, Heuer has gone on to inspire four other full-length works and over a dozen short stories.
“To my husband John and my children Adam and Melina, I owe thanks for the encouragement, the support, and the belief that what I was doing was as important as anything I’ve tackled before at work or in art.”
Funkhauser is currently working on a new manuscript begun in November 2014 during NaNoWriMo.
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of five signed paperback copies of Heuer Lost and Found by A. B. Funkhauser (open internationally).