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Interview with Paul Carroll, author of A Matter of Life and Death

Tell us about A Matter of Life and Death.

The short answer is it’s ‘Six Feet Under meets It’s a Wonderful Life‘.

A Matter of Life and Death is a black comedy about entrepreneur Farren Mortimer who sets up a business selling bereavement services – anything from online memoriams to celebratory films of the deceased’s life, from will planning services to memorial days for ‘ordinary people’. He captures the public’s imagination with his ideas and is made Bereavement Czar by the government where he introduces a new bank holiday date into the calendar, People’s Remembrance Day, when we’re supposed to commemorate loved ones from our past. The message is ‘Everyone should be famous for fifteen minutes. After they die’.

Of course, not everybody is keen on these ideas and as the book progresses we find out who has it in for Farren the most. While the novel deals cynically with some fairly large targets such as the media, politics and the fame-hungry, it’s nevertheless warm-hearted at its core.

What genre is it?

Fiction. Satire.

What kind of readers will it appeal to?

A Matter of Life and Death will appeal to adult fiction readers and fans of satire and black comedy – it picks up where Evelyn Waugh’s ‘The Loved One‘ left off. Twitter account users will also find it of interest as well as anyone with an interest in how marketing and the media shapes our 21st century lives.

How long did it take to write?

Nine months in total, including a major edit. I started with the blurb – 120 words. All I had to do then was stretch it to 80,000 words…

What was the most challenging part of your creative process?

Managing the creative process was the biggest challenge in my view. Writing a book without a clear plotline is a bit like setting off in a car with a full tank of petrol and seeing where you end up. Before I started writing the book I roughly planned what happened to each of the key characters and working from that I gridded up a rough chapter guide. The route was mapped out – I knew pretty much where Z was before I embarked from A; all I had to do then was write it, and from that blueprint the characters and action took on lives of their own. I also stuck at it – 1500- 1800 words a day, Monday to Friday, mornings only. They soon add up, particularly when you don’t have to stop to think ‘where’s this going next?’

You sound extremely organised! Tell us a bit about your background.

I’ve worked in Public Relations most of my life, setting up my own business, Communique PR, in 1986. This went on to become one of the leading PR operations in the UK with offices in Manchester and London, and we worked on lots of well known accounts such as Boddingtons, Aga, Vimto, Thorntons Chocolate, Chicago Town Pizza and many more. However, one of the most interesting accounts I worked on was Co-operative Funeralcare – what I learned there comes to the fore in A Matter of Life and Death. I sold Communique back in 2001 and left to set up my own specialist marketing strategy consultancy, Zuma 011, in 2005. I still do this, balancing this work with my writing ambitions.

Have you got a blog where readers can keep up with your work?

I have a dedicated website for the book,, which is regularly updated with news, coverage and blogs. I’m on Twitter as @paulcarrollink, and there’s also a Facebook page.

Where can we buy A Matter of Life and Death?

Amazon, Troubador, and all of the usual online retailers. It’s available in paperback, and also in e-versions (Kindle, iTunes).

What’s next?

I’m already embarking on my next novel, and well advanced in the planning stage. With any luck it will be out at the end of 2013. This time the background will be the world of brewing. It’s probably going to have a lighter touch than AMOLAD, but then again…

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