Today I have a special treat for you, mes amis francaises, meine Deutschen Freunde and all multi-linguals: OPERATION CHEESESTORM. Although for now the book is only available in French and German, (but the English website wil be up and running in about aweek’s time!) this is too good to be missed. So standby for my first step into new territory:
“Operation Cheesestorm” by Mani D. Badle is an endearing and magical adventure story written as a labour of love, highly original and playful. If you loved Asterix or Tin Tin then this is a must. Add some references to the Suisse culture and exploding Fondue equipment and you have a hugely entertaining book. Recommended for younger readers and those young at heart. A great mix of original characters, humour and a meaningful message this is such great fun. I hope this will be translated into English soonest.
“Operation Cheesestorm: oder “Das Geheimnis der explodierenden Fonduetöpfe” von Author Mani D Badle ist eine liebevoll erzaehlte und zauberhafte Geschichte.
Wie der Titel schon andeutet, explodierende Fonduetoepfe erschweren das Leben der alternativen Eidgenossenschaft. Ich bin in Deutschland aufgewachsen und mit einigen Schweizer Prominenten vertraut so dass ich der schon von Anfang an dem Buch gegenueber offen war und sehr angetan von den spielhaften und lustigen Anspielungen auf die wahre Schweizer Kultur.
Die Geschichte selbst ist sehr unterhaltsam, verbirgt aber neben dem komischen auch etwas ernsteres und stellt fuer mich auch einen unterschwelligen Aufruf nach Toleranz und Frieden dar.
Die Vertreter der dritten Art sind ausgezeichnete Figuren in diesem Abenteuer, das Jung und Alt gleichermassen in seinen Bann ziehen wird.
Aeusserst unterhaltsam, originell und sehr empfehlenswert.
Interview with the author:
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
Like you, I am a citizen of the world! I was raised in France by a French father and an Italian mother but moved to the UK 25 years or so ago to study and ended up living there permanently (in the Newcastle area first and greater London then after a brief stint in the US). These days, I live in the German part of Switzerland but still continue to travel the world as often as I can. England is still very much a part of me and I am currently studying with Google UK, and I travel to London on occasions. It’s actually not impossible that I move there again soon and I will be coming to Old Blighty late March. As for writing, I got the bug at a very young age but never thought about publishing books. I’m rather slow as I writer and will only write one story a year, also because I’m working normally beside, but I write every day, in English or French, if only a few lines. I write a lot at work though, in English only and I very much enjoy delivering content in the form of stories.
Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?
I started writing short stories, mostly spoofs, at a young age, in my early teens I think but I remember being particularly moved by the passing of a known actor at the time and I collected my thoughts in a diary that day. I found the exercise rather satisfying and repeated the process regularly. I’m not quite sure I could decipher all that again in so far as my handwriting is similar to that of a doctor, but I have kept a few of my stories and you’ll find them gathering dust in the cellar. Fast forward to the 21st century and I am now writing daily, but using computers. It’s a lot more interesting, I’d even say entertaining for me as a geek and a lot easier on the eye for those reading it ;o)…
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
Yes, a 2 year old little boy called Liam, who eventually would get a brother, our godson!
When did you decide to write in your chosen genre(s)
When Liam started talking to the teddybear I gave him that day to make him stop crying. I answered with my best imitation of a teddy bear voice and he laughed again, and a hilarious dialogue (for him at least) started… That was 4 years ago. I’m on my third book in that series by now and they are all dedicated to Liam and his brother Marc. So the chosen genre – see the next question – is indeed magic realism and it was really chosen for me, but I’ve been interested in Fantasy for some 2 decades now, and so, I would probably have chosen that genre.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
Well, the thought process was very much Pinotage-induced to tell you the truth… That day I had already decided to write a story for my godson, involving the teddybear as the main character, a talking plush toy. However his parents were with us and stayed for dinner and I asked myself how I could make that story interesting for them as well. A couple of bottles later, I figured that I could transfer the teddy bear and two more toys into an alternate Switzerland… Believe it or not, I got the idea at exactly the same time as Seth McFarlane had his for a film featuring a plush toy (Ted) though my little universe has more than one, but I write rather slowly, and so he got to the market with a considerable head start ;o)… As for the concept, “Operation Cheesestorm” is essentially a “coming of age” international martial arts-tinged magic realism type story. It is set in a parallel universe indeed, where “creatures” of a third kind are living among humans, threatened by a Bond-like baddy, hellbent on destroying the Confederation, revisited in a Bill Bryson sort of way. The book uses a double narrative, à la “Shrek”, with two story arcs woven in to appeal to both young adults and adults alike.
How did you come to writing?
I started writing short stories, mostly spoofs, at a young age, in my early teens I think but I remember being particularly moved by the passing of a known actor at the time and I collected my thought in a diary that day. I found the exercise rather satisfying and repeated the process regularly. I’m not quite sure I could decipher all that again in so far as my handwriting is similar to that of a doctor, but I have kept a few of my stories and you’ll find them gathering dust in the cellar. Fast forward to the 21st century and I am now writing daily, but using computers. It’s a lot more interesting, I’d even say entertaining for me as a geek and a lot easier on the eye for those reading it ;o)…
How did you come up with your stories?
Generally speaking, reactively, reflecting on events, or being inspired by situations, though I’d like to think that there may be a way to do it proactively, without any stimulus, with some some idea really born out of the blue. Is that really possible? You are a much more experienced writer than I am, what do you think about that?
You have created great characters. Which one is your favourite?
Thanks for that (here’s me blushing)! I do not have one overall, but at least one per book certainly. It’s the bear in book 1 obviously, it’s his adventure, but the zebra in the second one. The dad is growing on me too, but so is the bird thing I call Touk-Touk. And the big baddy. I love writing his dialogues in particular, and plan the most nefarious plots with him to wreak havoc on Switzerland. The evil twins have interesting backstories and personalities also. Mmmh, I guess I have to pick one… The bear then, he’s so complex as a little spoiled brat. I created him to be the one everyone loves to hate.
What are you most proud of in your books?
It’s not the books themselves that I’m really proud of, it’s the reactions I get from the readers. I’m simply happy to make them smile and laugh… Other than that, writing allowed me to survive a couple of difficult years so I’d say I’m proud of having created this little universe which was engrossing enough, at least for me, to immerse myself in it to the point of completely forgetting a form of bullying outside, at work at the time.
Who would you cast to play the characters in a movie?
Balloo has a deep, base-like voice, permanently grumbling, he’s such a grouch. I think Seth McFarlane did such an excellent job with Ted that he would probably do a good job again with my bear, though Balloo is not quite Ted like yet! I met the person who provided the inspiration for the dad a few years ago, a bespectacled, bolding and slim head-hunter with a difference. He wore dark suits but wasn’t the swiss banker type, he had a personality and was even smiling, a likeable type of guy. So, a middle aged thesp maybe. A younger Patrick Steward, when he was cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Kenneth Branagh I think would do nicely. The hypochondriac Zebra is also an easy one, David Schwimmer would be ideal, he could even do Zébri’s funny voice… As for the prepubescent bird, now that’s a bit more challenging. We need the voice of a younger man, such as Chris Rock’s but with sad undertones… The baddy, well, Alan Rickman who else? Actually, John Malkovich possibly…
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
Very much so, but not just one. I was often unhappy, profoundly so even, at work especially, when I wrote Cheesestorm. Though I’m not English by birth, self-denigration was a daily activity then as a result and I kept questioning the meaning of life as does Balloo’s foster father. Like him, I was in search of some spirituality. Part of my somewhat narcissistic nature was a trait that I also used to create the bear. The baddy is quite the influential speaker and oozes evil charisma. Well I certainly do not ooze the latter but I do enjoy the thrill of being in front of an audience. I also did draw inspiration from my daily life as a marketing professional, meeting quite a few of those silver-tongued top shots and I wanted him to be like that too.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
The main plot and the subplots were planned right from the start, all the more since I considered selling a chapter per week, online, but I’m not exactly a full blown plotter. That idea died out pretty quickly when I realised that inspiration would not come to me quite so regularly, all the more since I was busy trying to launch my own startup at the time. Having said that, a couple of chapters came out entirely on their own. The one where the dad ends up being enrolled by activists and crashes at their temporary headquarters where the main banks are located in the real Zurich just materialised out of thin air in a 10 hour long writing session one day. I read and re-read it and thought it added to the personality of the character and provided extra reason for his wife to act upon their relationship (which would be crucial for book 2) and I decided to leave it there. It’s really odd how characters acquire a life of their own sometime!
What is your main reason for writing?
Escapism and addiction (but of a positive kind)…
I‘ve only read one of the books so far. What is the idea behind your series?
That the children are there for a reason, a greater purpose, but it won’t be revealed before book 3, and really only hinted at step by step.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
I’ll start with the bad stuff. It’s horribly time consuming. And that’s really it. Other than that, it really is a pure, unadulterated pleasure. Seeing these words leading to sentences and paragraphs and chapters eventually, with a story unfolding as a process, it really is something magical, and I don’t even mention the fun I get interacting with my characters and just being there in this silly little universe I created! Also, I get to spend a lot of time on my Mac and Scrivener, with both of them oddly turning into digital friends so to speak, I know it’s sad, but it really is so. And yes, it’s really sad indeed…
How do you balance marketing one book and writing the next?
I don’t and for that reason, I recruited someone to help me with that otherwise I would spend way too much time marketing the book, which also is a passion for me by the way, since this is what I studied. I concentrate on getting book 2 out right now, also because both the German and French versions will be available at the same time, and I will need to either update may website for that or create a new one in parallel. And of course, I’m writing book 3… It really is a difficult choice. Marketing book 1 taught me lots of things, but at one point, priority has got to shift back to writing I think because success most likely will not come with book 1, and won’t anyhow before book 9 on average…
What do you do when you don’t write?
I lead quite a normal life I would think, though I know some may disagree… Well I’m certainly busy right now! I started a new job as head of (mostly) digital marketing in a startup that will have an impact in some regions of the world and I travel quite a bit for that. In addition, I am also a part-time student at the moment in a rather revolutionary course, created by google, which actually helps a lot relative to self publishing. Outside of work, I am a martial artist. It’s a life long story, and one has to train hard. You will also find me quite often on a saddle during the warmer months as I turned into a MAMIL a while back ;o))) (i guess you won’t know what that is and I certainly didn’t either until I saw some post on Facebook about a woman complaining about her husband turning into one ;o))). Finally, I’m quite a social animal and we often go out or have friends at home. Grilling is particularly popular in Switzerland…
Tell us one odd thing about you and one really mundane thing.
One odd thing? My bed is shared with my future wife and some 40 plush toys, and they all have a name -where did you think I got my inspiration from ;o)?-… As for the mundane one, my favourite smell is freshly cut grass, and the second one is mint.
Who are your editors and how do you quality control your books?
I mentioned earlier that my original concept was to publish one chapter per week. To that end, I put together a team, including editors, and so most of the chapters in Cheesestorm, and especially the earlier ones got rewritten 4 to 5 times each. Though tedious, I kept the same process even after I decided to first write the book and publish then. Having had to manage teams and projects at work, I knew how to keep track of all that and we followed a routine and debriefings would happen regularly and proactively. In addition, Miriam Pharo, my editor in chief so to speak, but also my German translator, got involved early on, in so far as I had been contacted by these German publishers, and we struggled to find the right translator for quite a few months. I ended up talking to her by chance and realised that she was bilingual, and a published author. Since she did edit books before, I asked her if she would both edit my book professionally, and translate it. We did some tests, and it became quite obvious that “she was the one”. We rewrote or rather edited all 30 chapters one by one again. This really was a match made in heaven and more often than not, our weekly Skype sessions extended to much more than the 3 hours planned, also because we had fun working together and shared many a laugh during the 7 months it took to complete the project. This was also the chance for me to learn much and to actually meet her and her husband in Germany. With such a good experience, it was quite natural to decide that we would extend the partnership and we are working together again on the sequel.
How have you found the experience of self-publishing? What were your highs and lows?
I just published a post about my first ever year as an indie author. I am a life-long learner, and I very much enjoyed acquiring all this know-how along the way. Yet I am absolutely certain that what has been learnt so far is nothing in comparison to what remains to be learnt. I found myself quite at home when it came to marketing the book, all the more since it was also the chance to implement everything that was taught to me during my time with Google. On the minus side, it’s realising that, at least on the continent, and certainly for the 2 languages I chose, no one (I exaggerate of course, but on purpose), no one wants eBooks. This was quite a disappointment as it forced me to consider releasing paperbacks, which was not at all intended. This however, was yet another interesting experience in terms of learning the ropes. Another disappointing fact is that many of my readers are far from being technologically savvy, even some of the younger ones… And I thought I was a digital dinosaur! As a result, some write to me to express that they struggle downloading or purchasing on Amazon, or are afraid of it when they learn that they have to create an account, and possibly give details about their credit cards… Seriously? Seriously. I know that England is quite far ahead in that respect and this in itself is yet another learning. I will now systematically have an English version, early on.
What do you like best about writing? What’s your least favourite thing?
I’ll start with the bad stuff. It’s horribly time consuming. And that’s really it. Other than that, it really is a pure, unadulterated pleasure. Seeing these words leading to sentences and paragraphs and chapters eventually, with a story unfolding as a process. It really is something magical, and I don’t even mention the fun I get interacting with my characters and just being in this little silly universe I created! Also, I get to spend a lot of time on my Mac and Scrivener, with both of them oddly turning into digital friends so to speak, I know it’s sad, but it really is so.
What is your advice to new writers?
Keep writing, no matter what!
Who are your favourite authors?
Aside from the living, the ones I’d like to invite if they were still with us (or existed) and if I had a long enough table (see the question above)! Aside from those, Martin, Feist, Conan Doyle, Fleming…
What is your favourite book?
I really can’t think of one in a particular… More like series… His Dark Materials/Pullman, The Lord Of The Rings, the Riftwar saga, the Rama novels, many Poirot/Christie novels and in particular The Secret Of Chimneys, which does actually not feature Poirot at all!
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton, as an eBook.
What makes you laugh?
Mostly English humour, but I find things to laugh about all around me, every day. In the words of a friend of mine, Switzerland is like Disneyland for adults and is indeed quite entertaining. But so was the UK actually. I do not like French or American humour, the “in your face, canned laughters” type in particular. I much prefer clever, subtle humour. Humour for the brain as opposed to the belly!
What (not who) would you like to take to a lonely island?
My Mac in its current configuration (with Scrivener that is) provided is has a solar battery…
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
I would need a much bigger table to start with, you know, the long ones, monastery-like… Mmmh, the nerds-in-chief: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, and then some wise men: the Dalai Lama, possibly Gandhi, Master Khan and Master Po absolutely (Kung-Fu), some authors too such as JK Rowling, Marquez, Coelho, Tolkien, Pullman… And lots of pretty women, and particularly Diane Kruger if I wasn’t about to get married ;o)!
Hot or cold?
Believe it or not, but I may have some sort of an imbalance whereby I do not feel that it is either that cold, and or that hot. As as result, I like the majesty of the extremes and I spent one Christmas at the Ice Hotel, way above the arctic circle. My other half was screaming her heart out and couldn’t sleep even with I think 5 sleeping bags around her, but I very much enjoyed the experience. I remember also liking the 47 degrees I had in Marrakech a few years ago…
What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?
The fact that I am always there for them, My oddest quality is regarded by many as a weakness in so far as I tend to give way too much, in an over altruistic sort of way.
What would you choose as those qualities?
I quite like the first one actually, so I’d choose that one too, but I find it difficult to not give to friends but also to people I hardly know and whom I find friendly. Is that a quality or a weakness, I wouldn’t know.
Tell us about your other books?
Well, my forthcoming book is the sequel to Cheesestorm. It too has an en English title but it will come out first in German and French this summer unfortunately. It’s almost finished and we are just going through the edits and the translation. Book three is under way with about 80 pages or so already written. I have lots of other texts and little stories, in English, which I will keep to myself and my writing club though but I will publish the one I will start working upon with this US friend of mine, come April, and this one could come out late 2016, with Cheesestorm 3.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
That’s an easy one: Redemption Song! For all the books in the series…
How do you handle criticism of your work?
Quite well actually but the only person who has really voiced some concern is my coach, who is more of an analytical sort of person. I find criticism as absolutely crucial, as it’s part of the learning process…
What else would you like us to know about yourself and your books?
That Cheesestorm is being translated in English as we speak and will be available on this side of the channel for Christmas!
Social Media Links:
– Facebook/French: https://www.facebook.com/mani.d.badle
– Facebook/Cheesestorm French: https://www.facebook.com/operationcheesestorm
– Facebook/German: https://www.facebook.com/mani.d.badle.D
– Facebook/Cheesestorm German: https://www.facebook.com/operationcheesestorm.D
– Twitter French: https://twitter.com/ManiDBaedle
– Twitter German: https://twitter.com/ManiDBaedleD
– G+/Cheesetorm French: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/105556833535914419493/+Operationcheesestorm_FR/posts
– G+/Cheesestorm German: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/118388403962334886913/118388403962334886913/about
– G+ French: https://plus.google.com/+ManiDBädle/posts?hl=en-GB
– G+ German: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105881594920092927302
and Balloo on Instagram: http://instagram.com/balloo_from_cheesestorm/