Rod Marsden, Author of “Desk Job”

What is your book about?

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


Sarah Hollingsworth, the main character of “Desk Job” by Rod Marsden

What is your story?

My name is Sarah Hollingsworth and I have psychic abilities. I run a detective agency in Sydney. Of late I have been called upon by a lawyer, Jackie Rose, to look into the murder of Kaze Majo, a Japanese wind witch. There is little doubt that the murderer is Gary Whitebridge, a working mule. My primary mission is to discover why it happened. Even on the first day snooping around the office where it took place I got the impression that where they had worked was full of bad vibes that had to have contributed to Gary’s action against Kaze.

How do your enemies see you?

My enemies see me as a trouble maker. They would like for me to just go away. The office manager, a lazy caterpillar named Mr. Always, is afraid I will make changes in his work environment. He has every right to be afraid.

How do your friends see you?

My friends see me as a real go-getter. They know I’ll fight for justice no matter what. I’m sometimes seen as a hawk and sometimes as an owl.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Yes and no. The author has skipped those times when I was younger when I used to lose my temper. Also those times when I was too judgmental of others.

Do you have money troubles?

No. I can play the stock market any time with my psychic abilities. If I went to Los Vegas I’d come away a millionaire. I am more interested in people than money.

Do you like remembering your childhood?

Yes and no. I was happy being a lika-lika bird frolicking in the surf. My skin condition put a stop to that. When my psychic abilities kicked in I almost went mad with all the voices crowding into my head. Luckily a gentleman was there to help sort that out.

When my favorite beach at Cronulla was attacked by newcomers against pretty lika-lika birds wearing bikinis I was naturally taken aback. I don’t believe anyone has the right to take surf and sun away from anyone. I also believe that females in Australia going to an Australian beach should have the right to dress as they please.. Nature may have cut short my lika-lika life but I’ll be damned if I will allow some group of intolerant males from somewhere else do it to somebody else.

What do you want?

I want the office where Kaze and Gary worked cleaned up. There are vicious praying mantises on the prowl and mules on the point of committing suicide. I’m making out a full report for the lawyer, Jackie Rose, and also for the company’s head office. The local office manager, Mr. Always, is not going to like it one bit.

What are you afraid of?

I am afraid of meeting up with a praying mantis who has superior psychic abilities to my own. A praying mantis with the ability to both read and control minds is to be feared.

Do you have any distinguishing features?

I have jet black hair and very pale skin. I burn easy and have to be careful of the sun’s rays. I look a little like Morticia out of the Addams Family.

What is your favorite music?

I like jazz because I like the hole-in-the-wall cafes in Sydney that play jazz. Great atmosphere. I also like surf music and anything that used to play in the ’60s when we went surfing because I remember my wonderful days as a lika-lika bird. You know, surf and sun and all that. A pity it was cut short when it was discovered I burn too quickly under the sun.

What are the last three books that you have read?

They would be Walk like a Lika-lika Bird by Y. A. Aila, The Praying Mantis by I. M. Belle, and Flight of the Office Hawk by I. W. Alana. I especially enjoyed Walk like a Lika-lika Bird. It brought back wonderful memories. Oh, and recently I re-read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Who is your true love?

I have yet to meet him but he’ll turn up sooner or later. He’ll most likely be an owl or a mule with wings and a big heart.

Have you ever had an adventure?

For a psychic living in Sydney, Australia every day can be an adventure. I suppose a special adventure was traveling to another world that happens to be in another universe. It was a place of some interest with talking cats such as Sir Morris and Lady Penelope for company.

What is your most prized possession?

A full length mirror which is also my most dangerous possession. It is the gateway to another world.

What is your most closely guarded secret?

I can’t read every mind. Some people can either mind block on purpose or by accident. Others have such muddled thinking it’s a real headache to even attempt to read them.

Where can we learn more about you?