(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Mouse was written by A.N. Mouse.)
When Kelly stepped into the coffee shop late this morning, she concluded people must be reporting in for jury duty at the courthouse across the street because the coffee shop was packed with well-dressed individuals who constantly checked their phones rather than the usual crowd of college students. Some people waited outside the courthouse itself while others went to shops around the square during this break in session. Kelly wasn’t sure what the case was this time, but she decided she’d just have to wait about getting herself something to drink.
She held her computer bag close to her as she worked through the crowd and found a table for two off to the side away from the crowd. Sitting there with a view to the door, Kelly pulled out her laptop, opened it, and began writing but kept glancing at the door for A.N. Mouse. At this thought, Kelly wondered what she was supposed to call him—A.N.? Or Mouse? Or what? That was something she’d have to ask him when he arrived.
Finally the door chimed, and a man stepped through looking very confused at the crowd and long line. Kelly rose to her feet. “Hi, are you A.N. Mouse?” When the man nodded, Kelly smiled, extending her hand. “Hi! I’m Kelly. Sorry about this.” She motioned to the long line. “I guess the courthouse is trying to select a jury for one of their cases, and everyone’s one break right now. It should clear up soon, if you’re hoping to get a drink. By the fidgeting of some people, I’m guessing break is almost over because some of them aren’t happy about not getting their fix.” Kelly motioned Mouse over to the table. “I’ve got ourselves a table already. I trust you’re doing well today?”
At first look, Mouse didn’t entirely stand out from the crowd milling about the coffee shop. He wore a similar style of clothes; what stores labeled ‘business casual’ nothing too outlandish or colourful. The biggest difference was in the expressions. The crowd looked bored, impatient or annoyed. Mouse just looked tired and confused. Although both expressions made sense in context, he would be the first to admit it was a pretty familiar look for himself.
Tired and confused became surprised and relieved when Kelly introduced herself. “Hi!” He said, waving a little childishly before shaking her hand. “Oh, is that what’s going on…” He blinked around at the other patrons as she led them to a place to sit. “I wonder what it’s like to serve coffee to people on jury duty…” Did they tip? Were they in a hurry? Were they thankful to see you? He shook his head and turned his attention back to her. “Oh, yes, I’m well, thank you. How are you?”
Kelly smiled. “I’m well, thank you! Sorry about the line though. It’ll be disappearing soon.” As she sat at the table, she took her laptop off the table and slid it into her computer bag, so she could focus on the conversation. “So, Mouse, tell me about yourself! What is it that you do? And how does it tie into your writing?”
Mouse’s grin was quick and he had to swallow a chuckle. “See, there’s the funny part of it. It doesn’t. I have no specific education or employment relevant to writing, unless you count writing a few papers under the table when I’ve been a little short for groceries.” He shrugged. “But my day job is a pizzeria manager. Who knew right? That also explains these.” He pointed to the very prominent bags under his eyes. “The hours are pretty trash, but I knew that going in to the work. I guess it just gives me a sense of perpetual wonder via exhaustion, or something like that.”
Kelly had to smile. “Oh, you’ll be surprised. Your interaction with people on a daily basis can give you some interesting ideas for your writing.” She pointed out as she sat back in her chair with a smile. “So, when did you begin writing? What really inspired you to write?”
Mouse was notoriously bad with chronology, but he was going to do his best to be accurate for the very nice lady. “I made my first character in…grade…four…?” He tilted his head. “And then from then on I was getting detentions for writing in class. The only kid that got in trouble for doing more work. It was apparently unrelated to school, or y’know, something like that.” He grinned. “I was originally inspired because I wanted to be involved in the media that I was interested in. It spoke to me, and I wanted to respond to it. As I grew up, that desire shifted; media spoke to me, but never quite in the way I wanted. So, I decided I’d make my own.”
“I’ve gotta ask. When you got detention for writing, did that give you more time to write? Or were you not allowed to write?” Kelly tilted her head to a side as she considered the different possibilities. It was a bit hard to punish a writer unless you took away all pens and paper.
Mouse shrugged. “Normally I took the chances to do homework. I knew once I got home I’d get online and never touch the stuff because online is where I kept all of my best words.” Computers were just little glowy safes, chalk full of the stuff. Pen and papers technically fulfilled the same function, but when your handwriting looked like ancient code, they were a little less reliable. “I wasn’t a total rebel. I played by the rules when I was convenient to me.” He said sensibly.
That made sense, and Kelly nodded then leaned forward, setting her forearms on the table. “So, what kind of writing do you do? Have you published anything? Or are close to publishing something?”
“One book I played editor for, badly I admit. But then again, I had a three day crunch to edit the lot of it.” He answered her, sounding amused. “That book is going in for an overhaul, though, finally. It was my editor’s first novel and one I’m very fond of. As for my own work, I have a web-novel that recently wrapped up and should be going on sale in October, assuming everything goes to plan. Then a rewrite of an existing draft that will hopefully end up more traditionally published sometime in the next year.” Mouse tended to use his hands when he spoke and was ticking off the ideas as they came off the list. “And a few more pieces planned after that, but no concrete dates for them.”
“So, can you tell me about one of your stories? What it’s about? Who are the characters? And such?” Kelly furrowed her brows, but then she noticed how the coffee shop was suddenly empty and quiet. “Oh, and if you want to get something to drive, the jury pool just left by the way.” She motioned to the counter.
Mouse opened his mouth to answer the first question when her second one came out. He frowned, pausing and then huffed. “I…oh, if I don’t know I’ll forget all about it. Anything for you?” He offered her, hopping to his feet. She had gotten here before him and may have had a chance to snag her own drink, but also it could have very well been empty by now. Anyone who worked with Mouse would be able to back up his idiosyncrasy of trying to feed everyone within arm’s length, so he didn’t think twice before offering.
“I’m fine, thanks—don’t actually drink coffee. I just like hanging out here.” She smiled at him but then nodded to the counter. “I’ll be here when you get your drink, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your story.”
Mouse was quick to slide over to the counter, rattle off an order and slip back to the table with his drink and a handful less change than he had come with. And yes, he left a tip. Anyone working in food, as far as he was concerned, should understand. “Okay, so, I guess I’ll stick mostly to the web-novel since that’s the one that exists the most right now.” He told her, taking a sip with one hand around his cup and the other hand gesturing as he spoke. “Characters and such. The book starts off with a very determined lady who hunts nightmares, named Zig, and sort of radiates to those around her to tell their stories too. So there’s her partner Caius, who’s a little wonked upstairs—“ he tapped his finger against his head, “Zig’s brother, the local regent, a few of the other hunters they interact with, a mad scientist who has a lady without a head in his apartment…It’s just as much about the community as it is about her.”
“Interesting…so what genre is this? I mean, you mentioned regent, and I immediately think of medieval, and such.” She creased her brows.
Mouse immediately froze. Genre. Good question. Actually, a very good question. “Sort of…low-fantasy dystopia adventure…?” He said, sounding unsure. “I think that’s about as accurate as I can get for categories, and it’s not even really a category that makes sense…It’s certainly not medieval, that’s the next book.” He pointed out. “This one is like…let’s say, fifties or so technology and cityscape after an earthquake, in a world that’s built to be very unhappy and full of monsters. With that kind of setting, what actually happens in the story seems almost by the side.” He mused, “Anyways, it’s got a bunch of little things all smushed into it. Some kind of party-mix snack novel.”
“That sound fascinating!” Kelly grinned. “It’s definitely a mix of things, and that’s good. It’s different, but different is good. So..” She sat back in her chair, “Tell me more about the actual storyline.”
Mouse ran a hand through his already messy hair. It matched the bags under his eyes, perfect set. He thought about where to start. “So… the story follows Zig as she tries to make her own life. Some of the trouble she’s responsible for; first she runs away from her brother’s house, so that has repercussions and so on. But the rest of the story is more about how life happens to you. Some crazy lady decides to unleash a plague and since it’s not something she can punch into submission, Zig gets hit and is sidelined while people have to figure out how to stop it. Her partner gets kidnapped by their equivalent of a demi-god and she has to figure out how to get out of the world and get him home. The person running the show decides it’s not worth his time and the place starts to fall apart, and they have to handle it. The actual storyline is mostly Zig and her community just trying to go about their lives while the world conspires against them. Although, less literally, you could probably sum up a lot of books that way.” He realized as he finished speaking.
“I like it!” Kelly grinned with a solid nod. “So what’s this story called? And what inspired the story?”
“The story is called Melankholia.” He said. “And the inspiration is a funny story. The editor of the web-novel, someone very dear to me, came to me one day with an image. He said ‘I’ve already made a character for the blond girl. You have to make that dark-haired boy.’ It was basically a 3,2,1 go! Situation with no warning. Okay, thanks for that, my friend.” Mouse laughed. “But anyways, we made these two and a bit of the world, and then it sort of slid off to the side for a few years. After a while I approached him and told him that we had all this material, why didn’t we have a book already? So since he was taking too long, I just wrote it myself.” He shrugged. “He still gave me the okay, though. That’s why he’s the editor.”
Kelly chuckled and shook her head with a grin as she heard this tale. Then she locked eyes with Mouse. “Isn’t it great when stories are just thrown at you? I sounds like you’ve managed to pull together a good story though, and that’s awesome! Not everyone can do that. It’s like improv a bit.” Then Kelly’s phone, which was face down on the table, chimed, and she looked at it and frowned with a sigh. “Our time’s about up. Phone’s telling me I’ve got another interview to prepare for.” She shook her head but then fixed her gaze on Mouse. “You said there’s not exact release date for Melankholia?” Then she paused as another question came to mind. Even though she had to get going, she still allowed herself a few questions. She wasn’t late, so she wasn’t worried. “And why is it called ‘Melankholia’? That’s a bit odd.”
“It’ll be on all my social media. I’m sure I’ll be all too happy to have it so tidily completed.” He noted. Mouse was in no hurry to keep her, but if she was going to ask more things…Well, he’d be rude not to answer. “It is a bit odd, isn’t it?” He agreed. “But the city literally runs on misery. It’s the very fuel that creates life. That’s getting into the world mechanics, but you can see why the story is so much about people just trying to survive. I mean, if you were built out of suffering itself, I think you’d have a pretty hard life too, wouldn’t you?”
She nodded as she rose to her feet. “Yeah, that makes sense. Well, anyway, unfortunately I need to head out, but it was fantastic meeting you.” She offered her hand to shake his and smiled at him. “I loved hearing about your story, and you’ll keep me posted on the progress?”
With a surprising amount of energy for someone who looked so dozy, Mouse hopped up to shake her hand again with much less reserve than before. Something about talking about books always made him open up a little. “It’s all editing from here on out, hopefully that means smooth sailing.” He said, in reference to the expected progress. “It was wonderful meeting with you. Good luck on your next interview!”
“Thank you so much!” Kelly grinned. “May you have a wonderful day!” And then she grabbed her computer bag and headed out the door with one last encouraging smile to Mouse before stepping out of the coffee shop to go to her Muse Shop for her next interview.
A.N. Mouse’s books, ‘Melankholia’ and ‘Bright Stories for Dark Days’ are available online at the following links. His more recent work ‘The Ashen Path’ is set to be released next fall. Be sure to follow him on social media for more updates!
Bright Stories for Dark Days: https://www.createspace.com/5914079