Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ras Ashcroft - Supervillain: The Concise Guide

Today we have Ras Ashcroft with us, promoting his book Supervillain: The Concise Guide.

What is your name?
Ras Ashcroft. Once someone successfully conquers the planet and rewards me for my advice, I’d like to change it to Steelfist McGee Esquire.

How old are you?
24. I couldn’t think of a more creative way of expressing that without resorting to anecdotes about the TV series ‘24’, but I’ll spare your readers the agony.

Where do you currently live?
A town called Amersham in the UK, near the outskirts of Greater London.

Tell us a little bit about your life.
I’ve lived in a couple of areas around the UK from Birmingham and Manchester to various areas around the outskirts of London. I’ve even spent a few years living in India. We sure loved moving! Since graduating from University, I’ve been growing a small business and I love trying out new entrepreneurial ideas that take my fancy.

When did you first start writing?
My first attempt at a novel was at the age of 10. I kept the writing flame alive for the next 14 years with short humorous fiction stories that I wrote for fun. I took my first stab at publishing this year with ‘Supervillain: The Concise Guide’. I had a lot of fun writing it and I can’t wait to get started on another book.

What was your very first story about?
When I was 10, I started writing about two young brothers who found themselves trapped in a haunted amusement park. Unfortunately, I never finished it as I was unable to write the main characters out of a deadly situation involving wise-cracking skeletons. One of my teachers seemed to like the gist of the story when I told her about it, but I’m pretty sure she was just being polite.

Have you written anything that you were too afraid to let anyone read?
I didn’t share some of the short stories I wrote over the years, but that was more to do with a ‘letting it rot on an old hard drive’ approach than fear itself.

Did you experience anything you’ve written yourself?
For legal purposes, I have never experienced anything that I’ve written about in my supervillain guide. Yet.

Who are several of your greatest literary inspirations?
I started out with Willard Price and Enid Blyton’s books. They were the authors that really got me into reading and writing, before I was weaned on to the classics by the Steinbecks and the Hemingways of the world. Unfortunately, I can’t think of too many authors I’ve read in my somewhat weird humour/parody genre. That being said, my old man penned a humorous novel that I loved. P.G. Wodehouse is an inspiration for his style and I’ve recently started to enjoy his books too!

What kind of education have you received, and how has that affected your writing?
I’ve completed a University degree and writing essay after essay has hopefully honed my skills. During the first year of my sixth form education, I took an exam in ‘General Studies’, which was a subject that a friend and I were planning to drop. We didn’t really care about the exam, so we just wrote long fictional stories that were completely unrelated to the questions asked. Needless to say, we both failed in spectacular fashion.

How much research time customarily goes into your projects?
I try to write about subjects that interest me, so that research is something to look forward to, rather than being a chore. For example, several months of prior research, constant fact-finding during the writing phase and my existing knowledge all went into the book featured in this interview.

Who is your favorite literary character?
This honour is shared between Hal and Roger Hunt, the protagonist duo from Willard Price’s ‘Adventure’ series.

Who is your favorite character of your own creation?
This will be the slightly misguided character who foolishly decides to act upon the advice in my latest book. That being said, I still hope I’m adequately rewarded when that person is successful.

If you were ever to write an autobiography, what would its title be?
“Armageddon: How I played a crucial role”

Tell us about your featured book.
Supervillain: The Concise Guide does exactly what it says on the packaging. It’s a short humorous guide on how to conquer the planet by any means necessary. People can read it when they feel the urge to start plotting their way to the top.

As the blurb goes, they will learn all the basic tricks of the trade. It starts by easing them into their first seedy business, creating a large organisation with interests in finance, media and politics, and finally building a powerful military force. This will help them launch their crusade to rule the entire planet.

Why did you write that?
A friend of mine recommended a financial self-help book a while ago that everyone seemed to be reading. After reading and finding it…quite bad to say the least, I got the idea to write my own mock parody guide last year. I chose the topic of how to become a Supervillain. In my view, most of us need a quick guide on how to pull ourselves out of the doldrums and become supreme ruler of the planet.

Is there anything special you would like your potential readers to know?
Yes. Following your heart is overrated; the brain is where the good stuff goes down.

What is your favorite season of the year, and what makes it so?
Winter. I love the cold and I loved skiing when I went. Summers on the beach and in the ocean can be fun, but is outmatched by the spectacle of grown adults in snowball fights.

When you think of the word “Writer” what comes to mind?
Being completely honest, the stereotype of the smug bespectacled gentleman in a warm jumper, typing away on a laptop in a coffee shop while sipping on a premium latte was the first thing that came to mind for some reason.

However that’s not really true, since most writers I know are great people who just want to share their work with everyone.

If you could pick one thing about yourself that would be passed onto your (imaginary/actual) child, what would it be?
The child is imaginary for now, but I would like him/her to have the same relaxed attitude towards life in general.

How about one thing about yourself that you absolutely wouldn’t want passed on?
That would be my desire to rule over the North and South poles. Wait maybe you shouldn’t print th…

If you had to live in another time period, which one would you choose?
I would love to experience the distant future. Some say it will be an advanced utopian paradise based on huge technological leaps, while others predict a hellish landscape wrecked by global warming and strife. It would be interesting to see which party wins that bet.

Name one movie that always has a huge effect on you. Why do you think that is?
“In The Loop” which is a political satire film by Armanda Ianucci. If you’re into that genre and British humour, watch this movie NOW. I think it’s because it manages to strike a great balance between hilarity and “oh my god that’s probably quite close to what happened during the political run-up to the Iraq war”. That and Mr Ianucci is responsible for Alan Partridge and The Thick of It, which are two of my favourite TV shows.

What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to try, but never have?
Skydiving. Well, throw most extreme activities onto that list! Once I find the time and the money, the sky is the next stop.

What is your favorite thing to do when you have a day to yourself?
Laze around on the couch with a few episodes of the older Simpsons playing in the background, while I catch up with my browsing, reading, writing and scheming.

When were you most scared in your life, and why?
As a kid, I almost fell into a septic tank after I stepped on the cover and it gave way. Luckily, I somehow managed to grab the edges at the last second and shout for help to a few adults who were nearby. I didn’t stop shaking for the rest of the day. That would’ve been an awful way to go!

What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
I remember watching the Hale-Bopp comet on a clear night with the naked eye, as a kid who went camping with a bunch of friends. That was great. The rest of the night got a bit worse once the mosquitoes started going to town on us.

First thing you’d do if you were handed a million dollars?
I would hide the money and orchestrate a massive scavenger hunt to find it, winner takes all. Participating in the hunt would cost $10. I would then invest all of those earnings in lottery tickets or the stock market.

You’ve been given the opportunity to give a televised speech which will be broadcast on all networks, what do you speak about?
The only sensible answer would be to pull the strings on a shocking hoax story, in the style of Orson Welles and his War of the Worlds broadcast.

What do you most want out of your life? Your ultimate ambition, as it were.
I want to be in a situation where I am comfortable enough to focus entirely on my weirder projects, hobbies and schemes, rather than trying the sensible business projects and keeping a sane smile throughout the process. World domination is a close second ambition.

What inspires you?
Ordinary people who manage to make a significant difference in the world inspire me. I hope that I can live up to that standard one day.

Our thanks to Ras for taking time to be with us. Check out his book today, and spend tomorrow ordering your henchpersons around.

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