Desk Job – Sarah in Office-land is my salute to Lewis Carroll. it contains my views on working in various offices in Sydney, Australia in the mid-1990s. Lewis Carroll inspired me to whack in some humor which I felt it needed anyway if it was to be both read and enjoyed. Plenty of crazy goings-on here worth a smile or a laugh.
In terms of story, there’s a murder and an investigation. During the investigation we discover just how dysfunctional a dysfunctional office can be.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I wanted to write about what it was like working in various offices in the mid-1990s. I decided on one particular fictional office that is truly weird but in some respects typical of the times. Maybe not that different from offices today. For over a decade I couldn’t get my head around how to proceed in this writing then Lewis Carroll showed me the way with his Alice books.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters of this book?
A lot of myself and my experiences in various offices is in this book.
Tell me a little about your main character. Who was your favorite? Why?
My main character is Sarah Hollingsworth, a psychic detective exploring a dysfunctional office. Gary Whitebridge is the man driven to murder and Kaze Majo is the victim. She is also the wind witch terror of the office. My favorite characters would have to be Ms. Slimbeam, the Cheshire cat like receptionist, and Sir Morris, a talking cat from another universe. Ms. Slimbeam should be a butterfly but instead she is an able worker. Sir Morris is a swashbuckler and I like swashbucklers.
Who is your most unusual/ most likable character?
I suppose it is a toss up between Ms. Slimbeam who is pretty enough to be a butterfly but prefers to work for a living and Julio Piazza who is a mule with wings.
Why will readers relate to your characters?
A lot of people work in offices throughout the world. I do not believe offices and the way they are run today are that much different from the mid-1990s. I have talked with a number of current office workers and they seem to get my creatures. There’s a lot of truth in Desk Job served up on a polished surrealist plate.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
Many of the characters in Desk Job follow the particular pattern of the creature they best represent or best represents them.
An owl guards and protects. This guarding and protecting may simply be about property. It can also be about the mind and the soul.
A hawk is a high flying business creature. They get the contracts and organize the mules.
Now a mule works behind his or her computer in support of their hawk.
Where there are praying mantises, this damaged creature looks for rule breakers she can deal harshly with. Close by she has her faithful and rather foolish dung beetle.
Butterflies and moths play and get hawks on side rather than do an honest day’s work. And the caterpillar rests in his room most of the day, not wishing to be disturbed.
What is your goal for the book?
What I want readers to understand is that rules and regulations need to be tempered with humanity. Also you can’t really make someone more equal than someone else without doing some damage to the idea and ideal of equality.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
I realized straight off that if it was too dry it would just blow away and be forgotten. If I didn’t make the reader smile and occasionally laugh I wouldn’t get the readership I so wanted.
I am a big Terry Pratchett fan because in his discworld novels he gets the reader to laugh at things that happen in our world but viewed in a surrealistic way. He can write about the absurdities of how we conduct our lives and by so doing tickle our funny bones. He touches upon serious subjects such as pollution and political correctness gone mad but in a way where he drives his points home by making us, at the very least, smile at the craziness.
I decided that Terry Pratchett as mentor wasn’t quite right for me at this stage in my growth as a writer but perhaps the author of the Alice books comes closer to the guide I was looking for. Inspired by Lewis Carroll I could write this novel and not have within it that dryness I know doesn’t work.
Yes, I could find humor in a kind of Wonderland I could think of as Office-land.
What was the most difficult part of writing the book?
The most difficult part in writing Desk Job was in finding something simple and straightforward both writer and reader could immediately focus in on. Someone had to come into the office to give the outsider’s and thus, to some extent, the reader’s point of view. At the same time I wanted the inner workings of the minds of the office personnel out there for the reader. Once I decided on an office murder and a psychic investigator it all clicked.
How does your upbringing color your writing?
I believe in a fair go for all and I don’t like the idea of some people being more equal than others because of strange politically correct reasons . I also believe in beaches where bikini clad lika-lika birds are most welcome and always will be.
Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?
No but I do prefer to do my rough writing on the train and polish it up at home.
What writer influenced you the most?
For this book it was Lewis Carroll and his Alice books. In general I would say either Franz Kafka or Terry Pratchett.
What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
Off hand I would say Catch-22.
What is something you never leave home without?
Pens, paper and a book to read.
Thank you for answering my questions, Rod. Where can we learn more about Desk Job?
Click here to read an: Excerpt From “Desk Job” By Rod Marsden
Click here to read an interview with: Sarah Hollingsworth, the main character of “Desk Job” by Rod Marsden