School of the Ages


indie author interview: Ruby Barnes and the Man in the Undercarriage

Posted by Matt Posner on January 30, 2012 at 9:15 PM

What's your name, where are you from, where do you live?

My name is Ruby Barnes. I’m an Englishman (yes, despit the name, I am a bloke!) living in Kilkenny, Ireland. I spell weird.

What do you write and why do you write it?

I write character-based thrillers with anti-hero main characters. It’s a form of escapism, embarking upon fictional escapades that break laws and social conventions.

Recommend to readers a book you have written.

My first novel, Peril, has been very well received since I released it as an ebook in March 2011. It’s garnered a lot of great reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and other places. Peril has been described as urban noir, a quirky crime thriller, a journey into the darker side of human nature. The story revolves around a despicable rogue, Ger Mayes. It’s a face slapping, hair pulling journey that has the reader rooting for Ger as he makes a series of calamitous decisions that change his lacklustre life forever. There’s a lot of dark humour and the odd sex scene.

I'm going to be reading Peril very soon. Recommend to readers a book by someone else.

When reading I usually go for literary fiction. I’m going to recommend The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It took me several days to recover from the experience of reading it. I think that McCarthy’s style is ideal for The Road. He eschews the punctuation that normal humans require around dialogue, mixes direct and reported speech, and joins everything together with description of setting and action that colours the canvas like a speed painter. There is just enough to set the reader thinking about what has been left unsaid and the subject matter is perfect for that minimalism. Apocalypse, infanticide, slavery, cannibalism, starvation, futility of being. All cheery stuff.

McCarthy was becoming au courant right when I was in graduate school. His top book then was Blood Meridian. Not for the faint-hearted, that one. So, can you tell us an interesting experience from your life as a writer.

I had a bit of fun during the launch of the original Sins anthology in Kilkenny. Of twenty-two authors I was selected for the introductory speech as the person who least cared if they made a fool of themselves. The speech went well, presenting our years in the writing college as a parody of the Harry Potter Hogwarts school journey, but I faltered when it came to reading my excerpt. It was much easier to talk about other people’s writing.

A month later we did a reading in Kilkenny library and I launched into my excerpt with gusto but, for some reason, improvised by using Irish slang for private body parts. One woman from the audience left immediately but the others withstood the onslaught. Our local paper reported that I’d been very witty, which was nice of them.

I'd like to read that! Tell an interesting experience from a non-writing job you've had.

I’ve had a lot of jobs, many no longer than two years. I was an international marketing manager for partial discharge systems and service manager for excitation systems, but neither of those did it for me. Here’s the most interesting thing that happened to me at work, a couple of months ago. I told the story to Mrs B and our two children (aged 7 and 10), asking them to score it out of ten.

Last autumn I was on a business trip to Cork city with a work colleague. We left early and travelled together in her car. She insisted on doing all the driving. That meant a four hour round trip and we sandwiched that around a meeting with hospital consultants, bump-starting and then jump-starting her car, and a national conference on Diabetes. It was a long day. I could tell she was getting worn out towards the end of the driving (no comments on her driving prowess and yes, I had offered). I was chattering away and getting fed up of listening to my own voice. She was probably tired of listening but too polite to say so.

It was early evening when we pulled into the car park back at base. Most folk had gone home. I thanked her for the day and headed into my darkened room for half an hour, supposedly to catch up on work email. Peril had sold a few copies, the blog traffic was good, Ruby_Barnes tweeted some nonsense. Then I went out to my cold car and drove home.

About an hour later my friend left the building. Dark and windy, autumn leaves wafting around the odours of early fall. She walked over to her car, parked in a now dimly lit area beneath some big old chestnut trees, and climbed back in behind the wheel for the drive home to her family.

She turned the key and started the engine. Roaring and screaming came from somewhere outside the car. There was nothing to see through the windows but the noise was too terrible to ignore. She switched off the engine, opened the door and stepped out. There was no-one and nothing around. Just fallen leaves and the prickly husks of horse chestnuts. No attack victims, no tortured animals. But the noise continued and a banging started to come from underneath her car. She bent down to have a look and found a man on the ground under her car, clothes torn and covered in blood. He was trapped under the engine.

Two other colleagues were still at work. They raised the alarm and soon the Guards (police) and an ambulance arrived. The car was lifted and paramedics eased the blood-soaked man from under my friend's car. She was distraught, wondering whether she had run him over somewhere between Cork and Kilkenny and he had clung for his life to the undercarriage, the flesh torn from his back by the rough country roads. Or he'd been the last customer at the golf pitch and putt course next to our offices and we'd run him down when he'd squatted to retie his shoelace or something.

(At this point my kids were spellbound and my wife was looking at me through narrowed eyes.)

The Guards and ambulance crew managed to piece together what had occurred. During the extra hour that my friend had been working in the office, a tramp had been sitting on a stone bench near the car park, drinking from a bottle. He dropped his bottle and it rolled under the car. The guy crawled under the car for his booze and managed to get his head wedged between the ground and the engine. In his drunken thrashing he broke the glass bottle and cut himself on it. There was a lot of blood but his condition wasn't life threatening.

My friend was traumatised by the experience and vowed never to work late again in case someone crawled under her car and injured themselves. The drunk was taken off to the local hospital for stitches and is probably now back on the loose with his new set of battle scars.

The listeners' verdict:

Mrs B scored me zero out of ten and said I had committed a basic story-telling error and failed to suspend disebelief. It couldn't possibly be true, the tale was probably only partially accurate and I had embellished it. She wasn't impressed.

My daughter gave me ten out of ten. She was gripped by the story, horrified at times and slightly relieved by the ending.

Seven out of ten was the score from my seven year-old son. He said he would have given full marks if the tramp had died.

If you had a brush with death, describe it.

One time I tried to walk on water, across a swimming pool covered in bubble wrap. It was a near thing. I was doing so well, then I paused to see if it would take my weight. The plastic wrapped around my legs and pulled me down. Lucky that my friend was there with a helping hand. In my defence I was young and foolish at the time (about thirty-two years old).

What are your views about love? Skip this if it would be boring.

Love with Ruby is never boring. Ruby gonna love ya long time! In honesty, I’m not sure that I really believe in passionate love. Infatuation, obsession, lust yes. Love for me is an unconditional, give my life for them thing. A family and friends thing.

What are your views about work?

I do have a day job and it’s a necessary evil. I believe in working smart and over-delivering on work promises. I’m not a workaholic (but I am a writeaholic) and I give my employer the loyalty that they give me, if you hear what I’m saying.

Write about your favorite teacher.

Mrs O’Connell when I was seven years old. She encouraged my writing and I promised her that I’d join the choir (which was probably one of the first serious promises that I failed to keep). Oh, for the wings, for the wings of a dove. Okay, the neighbours are banging on the wall.

Give me a link to a funny youtube video.

These guys aren’t naked but they’re weird. It was part of the entertainment at my fortieth birthday party in Switzerland and organized by the bluegrass band that I was a member of. Swizz German style humour. See if you can guess which one is the banjo player.

Give me all the links you want to post to promote your work.

My first novel Peril:

Second novel The Baptist:

Ruby’s Blog:

Ruby Barnes on facebook:

Ruby Barnes on Twitter:!/Ruby_Barnes

Categories: None