Callum O\u2019Donnell\u2019s first book, The Sturgeon General Recommends Callum O\u2019Donnell, certainly fits the SG's\u00a0criterion of writing that is \u201ctoo strange, too upsettingly odd, and most of all, too funny to live anywhere else.\u201d Including two stories titled \u2018The Plight of the Barraya Swamp Hen\u2019 and \u2018Plant Life\u2019, O\u2019Donnell\u2019s book offers a unique and cynical view of our present day society and has been called \u201cinsightful, hilarious and clever\u201d.\r\n\r\nWriter's Edit was lucky enough to interview Callum about his debut book and his publishing experience with The Sturgeon General.\r\n\r\nMeet Callum O'Donnell, author of 'The Sturgeon General Recommends Callum O'Donell'.\r\nOn the Characters & Sarcasm\r\n"'Plight of the Barraya Swamp Hen' was intended as both a sort of farcical political thriller and a satire of petty politics, mainly the way that local councils deal with developers.\r\n\r\nWhile the Mayor of Barraya is absurd, he was inspired by a real Mayor (that I suppose I better not name) who ignored overwhelming local opposition to a land development project; it seemed to me so obvious he was lining his own pockets but there was nothing anyone could do. While I sound like a cynic, this Mayor has since been charged with corruption. I think this sort of thing goes on far more often that people like to think. It\u2019s also a pretty silly story, as grim and serious as that sounds.\r\n\r\n'Plant Life' is a story about lots of things. I went a bit mad on metaphors because ultimately I\u2019m trying to talk about how people can make a metaphor from just about anything. I tried to build a character who thinks in corporate lingo and legalese, and who pictures happiness as a goal to be achieved rather than a simple, daily emotion. I also really like him, because he\u2019s essentially just lost."\r\nOn the Concept\r\n"I had 'Plant Life' already written before I became involved with the Sturgeon General, and I wrote 'Swamp Hen' knowing I had a ten thousand word limit, but also that it would be appearing beside the first story, and so I thought about how to follow on.\r\n\r\nBasically I like to think of satire as the most potent weapon in a writers proverbial arsenal when it comes to getting a point across. Satire is a way for those without power to laugh at those with power, or a way to belittle something which scares you. Or launch a scathing attack on something which angers you. I tried to get this across in both stories."\r\nOn the Writing Process\r\n"Well, I either have an idea for a story leap into my head, or I have something to say and I stew on making up a story that carries this truth. The stories I wrote for SG were both projects that I spent a lot of time thinking on, but sometimes things happen in life in front of you that make perfectly good stories. I read a good Bukowski quote once:\r\nWriting is a madness, I couldn\u2019t stop if I tried...\u201d\r\nAt first this quote discouraged me because I go days and sometimes weeks without writing a single word. But then I realised that being a writer is more about how you see things and think about things, and really you can be a writer in your head all day long. I\u2019d say 80% of my writing happens in my head."\r\nOn Publishing with The Sturgeon General\r\nThe Sturgeon General Recommends Callum O'Donnell\u2026 Click here to buy your copy.\r\n\r\n"It was a great experience for me because I was dealing with a high standard of professional people and it taught me a lot about the industry. There were two editing stages, the first was the conceptual edit. In a conceptual edit, you begin with a first completed draft of your story and an editor reads through and picks holes in your plot. Why would this character say that? Would Steven really have sacrificed Chloe\u2019s dog? Did Isaac Newtown really design vacuum cleaners? You\u2019d have to be particularly ignorant to ignore a conceptual editor, because if one person can find a hole in your story then another can.\r\n\r\nAlso, you have to remember no one knows the story as well as you so it\u2019s natural that you won\u2019t have explained everything fully. Then comes the copy edit, where grammar, syntax and punctuation are corrected. This is where you are going to bang heads, because these rules are open to interpretation in fiction (to a certain extent). So you are entitled to argue with a copy editor, but at the end of the day you have to remember that they are offering you a valid professional opinion, and they generally know what they\u2019re talking about."\r\nOn Creative Writing at University\r\n"I would have to say that learning the history of art was possibly the best thing I have ever done with myself.\u00a0People have always represented their vision of the world in story as much as they have in music or visual art, and these stories tell us so much of the lives of their intended audiences. Whether it was the escapism of the romantics which glorified the rich elite or the gritty truths of the realists which gave a voice to the lower classes and their every day struggles, each movement of representation was both influenced by human life and influenced human life. By looking at the context of a work, what influenced and inspired the artist, and how the work was received in its time, we can start to better understand how best to represent the world we live in.\r\n\r\nPersonally, I should have spent much less time in the bar. I think I did everything right in terms of learning the craft, and almost everything wrong in learning the discipline. Now I wish I had spent more time forcing myself to write than waiting for inspiration to hit, studying a subject that requires you to write fiction is a fantastic opportunity to get solid writing habits, one I didn't take full advantage of."\r\nWhat's Next for Callum O'Donnell?\r\n"I have another satirical short story I\u2019m working on, it came to me really suddenly the other day. I suppose I\u2019ll start looking at places to send it when I know how long it\u2019s going to be. I\u2019ve started a few big projects, I\u2019d like to start writing a novel soon. Thinking of dipping my toes into some sci-fi or fantasy. I\u2019ll keep you posted."\r\n***\r\nWriter's Edit would like to congratulate Callum on the publication of his first book, as well as thank him for taking the time to speak with us and share his experiences.\r\nYou can purchase The Sturgeon General Recommends Callum O'Donnell here.