by Bishop & Fuller
It\’s a monstrous maze of a mansion, built by a grief-ridden heiress. A tour guide, about to retire, has given his spiel for so many years that he\’s gone blind. On this last tour, he\’s slammed with second sight.
He sees the ghosts he\’s always felt were there: the bedeviled heiress, her servants, and a young carpenter who lands his dream job only to become a lifelong slave to her obsession. The workman\’s wife makes it to shore, but he\’s cast adrift.
And the tour guide comes home to his cat.
The pairing of Bishop and Fuller is a magical one. . . . It’s a brilliant opus, melding the past, present, and future with intimate, individual viewpoints from a tightly arrayed cast of believable characters in as eerie a setting as might be dredged out of everyman’s subconscious searching. . . . Blind Walls offers a weird alternative world, featuring a blind man with second sight and an acerbic wit as its charming, empathic hero.
These characters are so well developed that one has to think of them as live people – laughing with them and crying with them, even getting old with them. This is an amazing story based on the Winchester Mansion and told with such quiet, compelling, raw humanity that the reader simply can’t stop until the entire tale is told. A wonderful, spooky look into others lives and what may or may not happen on any given day.
Bishop and Fuller have constructed a story rich with imagined detail and visionary ideas about life’s possibilities. The cast of ghostly characters, servants, workman, and family light up the story with dramatic effect as their actions and choices are observed. . . . The authors’ prose is effortless and moves easily from humorous to weighted seriousness. The dialogue is perceptive, giving voice to compelling characters and particularly to the tour guide whose second sight he confers on the readers. The latter will not want to look away from the myriad rooms of Weatherlee House.
—US Review of Books
As always, I stood by the Here sign under a fig tree sprinkled scantily with small ripe figs. Behind me, as always, I felt the looming massive labyrinth of Weatherlee House.
Being a short man, I habitually assumed a military stance, stretching myself upward at least a quarter of an inch. My clipped hair, which I’m told is mostly gray, added gravitas to my otherwise bland face, or so I imagined. My tour guide’s uniform—crisp navy blazer, burgundy rep tie—bulged only modestly at the midriff. A brass name plate, over the buttoned pocket where my heart might be, labeled me Raymond Smollet. My round wire-rimmed black glasses were the only discordant feature in my demeanor. The fact is that I am blind.
The figs and my necktie hue I knew only by report. The wire-rims made my nose itch. I had tried wrap-arounds, but my supervisor Mr. Bottoms said they looked creepy. In fact, Management surely discerned that I looked even creepier with wire-rims. I could intuit patrons peering in sideways at my fixed milky orbs, a perfect match for those haunted-house billboards that sucked them in. People would pay top dollar to visit alien worlds where the only true risk was blurring a snapshot.
Today was the final day of my life and now the final hour. Final, at least, for life as I had lived it. I stood cockily under my fig tree on the brink of my retirement—a Friday that marked the completion of thirty years as a tour guide of Weatherlee Ghost House.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH BISHOP & FULLER
-What inspired you to become a writer?
Our work in theatre. CB had written a few attempts at plays in high school and college; EF had written short stories and many fanciful letters to parents as she was bottoming out of college. But the heavy work commenced when we turned from a college teaching career to casting our fortunes with an independent theatre ensemble. Even though we used improvisation to create a lot of material, we found it worked in performance only if written down and honed. We were the “honers,” and before long the principal writers. Since then, that’s resulted in about 40 produced plays and hundreds of short sketches, touring the USA. Turning to fiction? Partly, a desire for a broader palette, not having to worry about the economics of cast size, production, etc. Partly, a perpetual fascination with the multiple techniques of story-telling and how the medium changes the story. We’ve rambled through many forms—straight plays, comedy sketches, experimental collage, audio drama, puppetry, video, haiku—and right now, fiction fits the stories that grab us.
But that doesn’t quite answer the question: what inspired us to start? Wanting to tell stories, obviously, but why? The jury’s still out on that one. See below for question regarding the dwarf.
-If you could visit your book’s world for a day, what one thing would you do?
Two worlds, and easy to visit one of them. The tour of the Winchester “Mystery” House in San Jose CA takes about an hour, another hour for the grounds, and two minutes through the gift shop. That was the starting-point, at least, for our Weatherlee House and the elegant, toxic world of Sophia Weatherlee. The other world—a spare working-class world of struggle & aspiration—we’ve seen first-hand. no desire for a visit, we’ve been there. What would we do? Probably take notes and talk about what we’re doing for supper.
-It’s two in the morning. What does your protagonist reveal in confidence?
Sophia would reveal, for the tenth time, her store of anecdotes as a guilt-ridden little rich girl and would enjoy seeing our responses. Chuck’s too busy to reveal anything at two in the morning, and if it got personal he’d get angry. Raymond would tell his cat his most bizarre sexual misadventures, but only when alone and the cat was asleep. Dee, perhaps, would have a heart-to-heart, probably centering on what she felt to be her failures as a mother and a wife—but she’d do her best to make it amusing.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Sophia never goes out for drinks or anything else. She’s a ghost who has great difficulty holding herself together, even with a bevy of servants. And again, Chuck’s too busy: a capable man perpetually promoted to positions he doesn’t feel qualified for. Raymond much prefers to drink alone: single-malt Scotch for celebrations, though the celebrations are mainly popping open the Scotch. Dee (and her kin) we’ve both spent time drinking with, and while we don’t feel we have much in common with her, it’s always enjoyable, as she has no qualms about being real. Wish she were a happier soul, but it’s refreshing to meet someone who’s stumbled her way through reality without being marred by it.
-You’re in a tavern, and a dwarf challenges you to a duel. What do you do?
This is a question we’ve asked ourselves many times and have yet to formulate an answer. Thus far, we’ve avoided the problem by sticking to lower-class bars, our thought being that only wealthy dwarves would issue a formal challenge: others would simply punch you in the kneecap. But we haven’t read a lot of chivalric fantasy, and there are likely options in there. We’ll email when it’s revealed.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
Probably romance, though frankly we don’t know much about that genre. Our sense, though, is that it carries expectations that don’t really fit our own experience. At least the lovers on most of the covers wouldn’t fit with what we generally see. But we say that mostly from the sure-footedness of ignorance.
The greater problem for us is the concept of “genre” itself. We enjoy reading spy stuff, procedurals, SF, but there are always elements in our writing that never quite fit any genre—often a degree of realism and the humor that emerges. It’s a distinct disadvantage—in terms of sales—not to fit straight into a pigeonhole. But if we get hard-up, we can send our cats out on expeditions to bring back the parts of gophers. Meantime, we’ll just write what we’d enjoy reading and hope we can hoodwink others into trying it.
ABOUT BISHOP & FULLER
Conrad Bishop & Elizabeth Fuller’s 60+ plays have been produced Off-Broadway, in regional theatres, and in thousands of their own performances coast to coast. Their two public radio series Family Snapshots and Hitchhiking off the Map have been heard nationally. Their books include two previous novels (Realists and Galahad’s Fool), a memoir (Co-Creation: Fifty Years in the Making), and two anthologies of their plays (Rash Acts: 35 Snapshots for the Stage and Mythic Plays: from Inanna to Frankenstein.)
They host a weekly blog on writing, theatre, and life at damnedfool.com. Their theatre work is chronicled at independenteye.org. Short videos of their theatre and puppetry work are at Independent Eye on YouTube. Bishop has a Stanford Ph.D., Fuller is a college drop-out, but somehow they see eye to eye. They have been working partners and bedmates for 57 years.
Find them online:
Bishop & Fuller will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway