Book Review & Interview: ‘Memoirs of a Dilettante’ – H. H. Basquiat ( & more!)

Greetings everyone. I’ve got so much for you this week!

First of all, I want to thank every last one of you because The Path reached 200 followers this week! This is truly humbling and I want to thank you all because without the support and encouragement of this online community I honestly don’t think I would have got to the point I have. I shall continue to provide you with book reviews, fiction (short and long), musings on writing and more for your pleasure and fun.

And on that note, I have some Zero-related news.

In case you don’t know, my debut novel Zero, a science fiction romp with a plot that basically boils down to PIRATES IN SPACE, is due for release August 2014 by Dagda Publishing. You can read the synopsis and access some teaser side-stories on the Zero page here, but keep your eyes turned this way for upcoming excerpts and news.

Also, everyone who has kindly volunteered to read an advance copy of the e-book in exchange for a review, rest assured these are nearly ready for distribution. And it’s not too late to get on the list! If you want an ARC of Zero, hit me up!

I can also now announce that Dagda intend to launch a Crowdfunding Campaign for Zero next week. I am filming a video tonight to introduce the campaign, say a little more about myself and let you know what sort of perks you can expect, should you choose to contribute. There are some hum-dingers, believe me. There will be copies of the book, of course, signed and/or personally inscribed, t-shirts, mouse mats and more!

The money from this campaign will go towards Dagda’s marketing budget which will help them make Zero reache far and wide. This is not only good for my novel but will extend Dagda’s reach and connections, allowing them to carry on the excellent work they do promoting and publishing young and new writers.

For more information on what they do and what sort of submissions they accept, check out their website. They have several titles to their name so far, including two science fiction short story anthologies, Tuned to a Dead Channel and All Hail the New Flesh (links and synopses on my publications page). These collections are stories from not-too-distant and not-too-pleasant futures and, not only feature short fiction by me, but also a story by Jessica B. Bell, the dark and prolific alter-ego of the Helena Hann Basquait: self-professed dilettante, globe-trotter and blogger.

And thus, I segue into the headline slot of this log post:

Helena has recently released a collection of her incredible memoirs, available now on Amazon. Please read on to find out more and for an interview with the writer!


Available now!

Available now!

Book Review: Memoirs of a Dilettante, Volume One by Helena Hann Basquiat

It’s hard to know where to begin when reviewing this collection. Helena’s semi-fictionalised memoirs span fact and fiction, time and memory, love, life as well all sorts of boundaries of body and soul. They are must for anyone who likes to explore life in all its multi-coloured and evocative glory.

I do not use the term ‘emotional rollercoaster’ lightly, but these memoirs are certainly that. The tales of her life are charmingly told, packed with humour and wit but veer between her highs and lows with an ease that can’t help but sweep you along. You travel with her as she encounters death, family, sandwiches, music, teenage strife, coffee, redemption, travelling, bands, sex and everything above, below and in between.

There narrative is rich and, at times, raunchy and features a cast of supporting characters that range from the deliciously quirky to the unfathomably unpleasant. The reader wants for nothing. I highly recommend, particularly to those readers who like creative none-fiction, life stories, glamour, darkness, social commentary and a proper cup of coffee.

Oh, and there’s also Penny: Penny is Helena’s niece, side kick, the yin to her yang and, to some extent, the anchor in the storm of Helena’s wild and wonderful life. She’s funny as well as fun, witty and heart-warmingly hopeful. I’m sorry for all the adjectives, but they all apply and Helena herself is a fan of alliteration of all kinds.

When you finish Volume One you will love Penny just as much as Helena and will be looking forward to Volume Two to get to know them both better.

I was able to track down Helena at her local independant coffee shop and, in exchange for a cafetiere of the most obscure coffee on the list, she kindly agreed to answer some questions. The interview is here for you to learn more amount the voice beyond the memoires.


Interview with H. H. Basquiat, author of Memoirs of a Dilettante Vol. 1 

What first inspired you to tell your tale, and in this evocative, touching and powerful manner?

I tell quite a bit of this tale in Volume Two, so I won’t give away too much, but a lot had happened to me in the three years or so prior to beginning. The death of my sister and brother-in-law and the subsequent inheritance — if that’s the correct word — of the Countess Penelope of Arcadia being the biggest change. I’d spent three years in a cocoon of my own devising — I’d gone on a medication that so completely numbed me that I had no artistic output whatsoever. A couple of months before I began writing again, I’d come off of those medications, and years — absolutely years of lost creativity poured out of me in a span of about three months. I wrote the entirety of Volume One between April and June of 2013 — and that’s not even mentioning the other projects.

How often do you feed Jessica, and what with? It must be something strong.

I feed her a low protein gruel mixed with trace amounts of Iocaine powder, so she builds up a resistance in case she’s ever forced to match wits with a certain lisping Sicilian. If she behaves herself, or proves especially crafty with the tales, I may grant her a morsel of meat. Unfortunately, we’ve come to an impasse, and so this arrangement is in the process of being altered.

You have had some extreme experiences in your travels. Would you ever go back to America or England?

I live close to the border, so going to America is often unavoidable. There are a lot of places I’d still love to visit, there, so yes. I’d love to go back to England, if only for a proper fish and chip curry

Shameless, self-indulgent follow-on question – what’s your favourite thing about the UK?

I was already going to go off on this with the last question, but I’ll save it for here. I adore the architecture in the UK. Like the people who live there, it’s got such character. Everything (mostly) in North America has been built in a modern age with the philosophy being convenience and expedience. Everything’s pre-fab and homogenous, and it lacks soul. And then there’s the music. Rock and roll may have originated in America, but the Brits perfected it.

Being a dilettante sounds appealing: can it be taught, or is just something you’re born with?

I think it’s a born trait of curiosity and wanderlust — not just to wander geographically, but to dip your hand into anything that interests you. It takes courage to try something new, and to have the grace to accept spectacular failure. So in a sense, it’s a bit of a philosophy, so yes, I’d say that if you’re brave enough to adopt it, you, too, could become a dilettante, darling.

We all love Penny. Has she got any plans/aspirations for the future?

Well, Penny’s like most young ladies her age — she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She’s in school for now — to do what, who knows — it changes from week to week. But she’s got character and determination, so I’m sure she’ll figure it out — and if not, well, at least I’ll have someone to care for me in my old age.

And you? It seems you’re concentrating on Jessica at the moment, which is great for us readers. Is there anything you’d like to expand on about this?

Just to let you all know that I won’t be far, and that I plan to drop in from time to time if something seems to be pressing. I’ve been juggling so much for so long, it’s time for me to give Jessica her due, and concentrate on finishing the Bayou story, and then beginning in earnest to work on the trilogy of novels she has on the back burner. I’m excited about Jessica’s print debut — a collection of strange tales from the basement entitled VISCERA, which she’s just wrapping up. It will include stories you may have already read, but then she’s saved back some gems that you can enjoy for the first time as well.

You’re at a dinner party. There’s champagne and pre-appetiser chit-chat. Someone strolls over to you and offers to mix you a Greyhound. What would your ideal cocktail-making, dinner-party acquaintance be like? Or is there a specific person you would enjoy bumping into when the sparkly was flowing?

I am always better one on one when it comes to socializing, and so whoever approached me at a party would have to be able to hold and to keep my attention. I’m not one for small talk, and so this person would have to have some interesting story to tell, or a common interest that we could talk about.

If you had to choose ONE favourite novel, what would it be?

Is this where I say “My advance copy of Zero” (which I still haven’t got, by the way)?

Okay, well, my favourite novel has always been Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and for so many reasons. It has shaped the way I look at the world, my philosophy. It has shaped the way I write, and my love of language. It has shaped my understanding of how to tell a story.

That’s the novel I’d take with me anywhere. On a side note — the best modern novel I’ve read recently is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. They’re making a movie of it (directed by the amazing David Fincher), so read it before everyone jumps on the bandwagon and you lose your hipster credibility.

I can tell you’re a great music lover. What particular band/musician you would love to see the most, if time, money and location were no object?

There are so many bands that I’ve missed the opportunity to see — there’s the obvious ones like The Beatles, The Clash, Jimi Hendrix — and then there’s Radiohead, for whom I’ve had tickets three times for various reasons didn’t end up seeing – and still haven’t. I’ve gotten to see a lot of my absolute bucket-list bands, though, so this is tough.

Okay, I got it — I’m going minimalist rather than big extravaganza. I’d like to see someone like Tom Waits or Ryan Adams or Tori Amos or Ani Difranco — playing in a bar. And nobody knows them. Just them playing to a bar with maybe 20 people in it, playing for the love of it — doing it more for themselves than for anybody else. That would be something special.

And, finally, last but by no means least: what’s happening next?

Well, now I hand over the Memoirs Volume Two to be edited, and finish the Bayou story (really need a title for that). I’m hoping to have VISCERA ready for publication by the end of the summer, and am trying to decide how I’m going to do that.

And… now don’t hold me to this, but… I haven’t closed the door on the idea of a Volume Three for the Memoirs, but first, I really want to finish the Bayou and get firmly entrenched in the first novel of the People of the Manatii trilogy.

Thank you so much to Helena!

Be sure and check out her blog, not only for more information about the memoirs but also fiction from Jessica Bell, who churns out some of the best and most toe-curling horror fiction around. You won’t be sorry.

Until next week, readers!

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Musings on Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Book Review & Interview: ‘Memoirs of a Dilettante’ – H. H. Basquiat ( & more!)

  1. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    Thank you, Jex. Can’t wait to see the crowdfunding campaign. Just tell me where to send my money!

  2. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    Reblogged this on Being the Memoirs of Helena Hann-Basquiat, Dilettante. and commented:

    Follow this over to The Path, where spectacular writer and all around cool kitty J.S. Collyer discusses her upcoming novel, and writes a wonderful review of Memoirs of a Dilettante — and not only that, but interviews your favourite dilettante to boot. And while you’re there, definitely check out Jex’s writing — and be sure to follow her so you can keep up to date with the news of her exciting novel debut.

  3. Hannah says:

    Wonderful interview, Jex! I always enjoy reading Helena’s responses and this had a lot of great questions. If I can shamelessly promote her even more, I’ve had a peek at some of the things going into VISCERA and….oh boy. Read with the light on.

  4. Wow, two of my favorites… on one convenient page!

  5. Good interview. I really like the questions. And of course, I love Helena!

  6. Great interview Jex (looks like I need to pick up Gone Girl). Also glad to hear the Zero ARCs are forthcoming!

  7. D. James Fortescue says:

    Oh Helena, you had me at iocaine =)

    Watch out Graham Norton, Jex Collyer is gunning for your chair buddy! Great interview =)

  8. 1WriteWay says:

    Great interview, Jex! You bested my post with your review too! (It’s wonderful to be in such great company.) I’m looking forward to hearing more about the campaign 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s