Former.lyLet me just say I couldn’t put this down – it was fun, techie, and littered with bodies. The narrator, an ordinary guy called Dan, is looking for a job in the beginning. He lives in London with his girlfriend, and stumbles on a startup that seems like a dream job – coding for a new company that caters to the dead. Well, sort of. It actually made a lot of sense. Imagine keeping a diary especially to be published after your death – a special diary published on a special site, made especially for giving a voice to those who have gone over to the other side. Well, you get the idea. Even I was convinced. So Dan takes the job, and is immediately submerged in the small group of techies working on this social network for the dearly departed. Startups are notorious for being short-staffed, under-funded, and fueled by caffeine (and other drugs) and this one is no different. Oh, and there are the founders – Peter and John – who demand absolute secrecy about everything, and that means keeping even Dan and the other workers in the dark.

Dan is happy just to do his job (he loves coding), keep his head down, his nose clean, and try to appease his high-maintenance girlfriend, Sarah – who is less and less happy with Dan’s work taking over his life. Meanwhile, a co-worker, Flick (Felicity), catches Dan’s attention, but they can’t seem to get past the ‘just friends’ stage.

Bodies start piling up soon after the two founders announce a fantastic investment in the company and decide to move to Palo Alto, in the USA. One of the company’s workers decides to bail – and ends up floating in the Thames. The police are not happy with the idea of an accident. That doesn’t stop the move to the US. But things are rapidly deteriorating. The two founders, not the most stable people in the world, can’t seem to keep it together. They get more and more paranoid, while at the same time, more people seem to be having fatal accidents – not a bad thing for a company that caters to death, right? Well, I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens. It’s a quick, entertaining read, perfect for murder-mystery, techie, nerdy book lovers!

Q & A with Dane Cobain:

Jenn – Have you ever worked in a startup?
Dane –  I haven’t, actually. But there was kind of a startup mentality at one of my old jobs, and I also know a lot about social networking sites and how they operate because I worked as a social media marketer.

Jenn – One of the pleasures about the book was how well it all held together -where did you get the idea for the company?
Dane –  It’s hard to say exactly. I mean, I wanted to write about a social networking site because they say that you should write about what you know. I’m not really sure where the exact idea of how the site works came from, though.

Jenn – John and Peter really came alive in your book, and you did a great job with Dan as well. Are any of the characters based on real life people?
Dane –  Thanks! I think all of the characters are based on real life people to a certain extent, but some are more so than others. I used to work with two web developers called Dan and Abhi, for example…

Jenn – Who are your favorite writers, and can you list a couple books & writers that have had the most influence on your writing?
Dane –  My favourite writers are probably Charles Bukowski, Terry Pratchett and Graham Greene, not necessarily in that order. I’m not sure which books, if any, have influenced me in particular. If anything, I guess it’d be Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, because that’s the book that got me really into reading.

Jenn – How do you promote your work? Is social media a huge part of it (tied into your book is a huge promotions, social media thread – I wondered if you had your own Flick, or (like me) dreamed of one!)
Dane –  I promote it however I can, mostly with a mixture of both online and offline activity. I don’t have my own Flick, but I used to work in social media marketing and so I like to think I mostly know what I’m doing.

Jenn –  Can you tell me more about yourself – how you became a writer, what your goals are & how you plan and execute a novel? 
Dane –  I’ve been into writing for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I used to rewrite the lyrics of the pop songs of the day, and I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was about fourteen. From there, I moved on to keeping a journal, writing poetry and eventually writing novels. No two novels are the same, but I tend to plot it out as much as possible before I get started and to create detailed character sheets for each of the key players. Once that’s done, I just sit there at the keyboard until it’s finished – and then after that, I go through a bunch of rounds of edits and proofreading with my editor and partner in crime Pam Elise Harris, who’s also an author herself.

Jenn – Thank you Dane – I couldn’t resist one more thing – I posted your poem ‘Working from Home’, because it pretty much sums up what every stay-at-home writer and artist is going through – I loved it!

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Working from Home
Published by Dane Cobain on 18th May 2017

So it’s my first full day
where it’s all official,
and I’m writing for Wikipedia,
talking about artists
and the art they make,
and then I’m setting up my website
and smoking a cigarette.

This is the first poem
I ever wrote
standing right outside
my porch;
I’d better get used to it,
it’s better than the alley
behind Regatta House,
and when I’m done,
I can go inside
to stroke the cat,
which isn’t a metaphor.

People say
when you work from home,
you masturbate.

That’s just not true,
I’m far too busy dealing
with kitty litter.

Then when the postman came,
I got distracted again
because my girlfriend
likes to order
from the internet.

But anyhow
it’s almost noon
and the day’s
maybe getting
away from me.

I need to make
more money
if this is to fully be
sustainable.

 

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