Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Interview with Paul Collins: Author of Mack Dunstan's Inferno

I met Paul in a writer's group on Facebook. I offered to interview the next writers who posted and he wrote back. Awesome! I absolutely love meeting people in the muse. 

And I especially love meeting funny writers! This interview made me snicker and smile. Paul has a natural way with comedy. I'm excited to read Mack Dunstan's Inferno!

Below are the questions I asked him:

Explain your book in 5 words:

Satirizing society through Divine Comedy!

Why did you write this novel?
When I first saw Bowling for Columbine in spring of 2004, I was stunned at Charlton Heston's response from being challenged by Michael Moore. At that time, I knew nothing about Heston's involvement with the NRA, or gun rights activists. With that in mind, I began, by chance, to read the Divine Comedy. It did not take me long to see an update coming from such a work.

Which character is most like you? Least like you?

Someone once told me to never call my character a bad name. Why? We should like our character that we create. 

I always saw Charlton Heston as an everyman type of character in the movies. In the 1930's and 40's James Cagney, Bogart, Gregory Peck, Carry Grant, and James Stewart were all that everyman type of characters- actors who represented the everyman, or person, in that an era of film.  

That being said, I put myself in Mack Dunstan's character. I gave him obstacles and I used my hunch on how I would feel, or react, in those very circumstances.

Where do you get a great cup of joe or tea in your town?

I love that Starbucks at 675 Yonge Street. It is not a typical Starbucks cafĂ© either.  That very store was there one hundred years ago, as is. There are pictures on the wall to prove it too. As a matter of fact, according to some Internet sources, it used to be meeting place for many thinkers and professionals in the past. And I am talking about professors, judges, eminent counsel, leading ministers, and some politicians. 

At one time, regular customers were Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and Ontario premier Oliver Mowat, including some famous writers.  This is a picture of the place at .  Old books fill the shelves and are free to those who are wise to it! In fact, some customers donate books, leaving them on the shelves.  

Anybody visiting Toronto should come visit this location, see the old pictures on the wall, and feel the vibrations of history.  

In 2007, I worked as a stagehand, helped set up Canadian Idol. During work, I was told pop star Rihanna was going to be a guest mentor on the show. The next day, I went to Starbucks at Britnell Books, spent hours revising a future book called Mystery of Everyman's Way. When I looked up Rihanna walked in, walked the entire stretch of the store, not once, but thrice! She walked it like it was a runway in Milan, or Paris. She then came right up to me, bent over me, stared at her reflection in the window behind me, adjusted her makeup, and then stood up, looking down at the man revising that Mystery of Everyman's Way thingy! LOL! 

She looked like she walked right off a magazine cover. She had a nice outfit, nice legs, and yes, I was star struck but I had revisions to do! At 675 Yonge Street Starbucks, one will still see famous faces come in and you won't even notice unless you are wise!

I also like that Starbucks at Yonge and King in Toronto's financial district too. It is an all night Starbucks too, which has business people in it by day and club goers by night.

Who are you reading right now?

This year I read at least seven books by Sinclair Lewis and am almost finished with Charles Dickens.

Why write?

When I left full time high school, I stumbled into creative writing courses. When I dropped out of York University in 1993, I took non credit courses which would come to me to be therapeutic.

What words of advice do you have for newbie writers?

Read the classics of literature. The Masters of Literature have it, are age old, and will strengthen you as a writer in time.

Do you belong to any writer's associations? If so, which ones and why?

From 2005 to the end of 2008, I belonged to the Writers and Editors Network. It was an older crowd where I had no luck, leaving me to depart that scene.

Where did the name Mack Dunstan's Inferno come from?

At first, I called the book Charlton Heston's Inferno. It was about Charlton Heston dying, descending into hell, and meeting victims of his pro gun policy. While I pitched Charlton Heston's Inferno to Canadian editors, publishers, and agents, they squirmed at the mention of Charlton Heston. Everyone feared a lawsuit. 

When 2009 came, I gave up. In 2011, I approached Iuniverse, they read it, asked me to get permission to use Charton Heston from the Heston Estate in the book. So I went to  and contacted the Heston estate for permission to write about Charlton Heston. You can read the email exchange, all at

Well, the Heston Estate did forbid the use of Heston in the work, but iUniverse has published it because I changed Charlton Heston into Mack Dunstan and the paperback is called Mack Dunstan’s Inferno.  It is about a Charlton Heston type character who succumbed to Alzheimer’s, descended into hell and met victims of his pro-gun policy.  

Yes, as he descended into Hades, he met oodles of Hollywood celebrities, both part of the living and the dead. It is a modern day Divine Comedy! 

Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My parents encourage me to write. It is just very hard to make a living out of being a novel writer. I just do it as a hobby, hoping it will pay me a wage someday.

What is the main plot of your story?

It is about a Charlton Heston type character who succumbed to Alzheimer's, descended into hell and met victims of his pro-gun policy.  

Yes, as he descended into hades, he met oodles of Hollywood celebrities, including Kelsey Grammar, Sally Struthers, JK Rowlings, Hugh Hefner, Joan Rivers, her daughter, Barbara Streisand,  Larry Flynt, and even a comical scene with Woody Allen too.  

In such a circumstance, look out for all the American televangelists, including Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and Jimmy Swaggart. It is a modern day Divine Comedy!

Who did the cover for you book? Did you have a hand in choosing it?

Iuniverse has a database of book covers, where I selected the very artwork that would adorn the book.

What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I get up early like everyone else.

What does your family think about your writing?

They encourage it.

Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does it work? If no, why not?

In the past, I used to take creative writer courses but I never liked listening to those around me. I find some people are too critical about their work. If you are too critical, nothing creative will happen!

What do you think about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing in Canada is a minefield. Everyone with political connections gets grants from the government. You get a grant, you get published. I find traditional publishing is filled with nepotism and cronyism, and I find the online route is less restrictive.

If your book were turned into a movie – what actors would play the roles?

The Canadian market is way too restrictive for me to even entertain such thoughts. If it happens, it happens. I live in the moment.

Who in your past has had a positive influence on your writing?

One teacher got that ball rolling and a former publisher helped too. When I took a creative writing course at Ryerson University, my instructor had a system that I still follow. “For the first assignment, describe a room. . One page.” I did just that. 

That led to this article at . And found my classmates giving me encouragement. 

“For the second assignment,” continued the instructor on another day, “I want you to describe a situation.” That being said, I wrote about my sister who rebelled against the folks, running away to England on a moments notice. 

When I wrote Mystery of Everyman's Way, my then publisher of Etreasures Publishing, Vicky Kennedy, mentored me on how to write a proper paperback. She told me after every ten pages, end each chapter on a mystery, like a knock, or a phone call. Why? So readers will find the book interesting. Crazy stuff they never teach anywhere! 

How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Wow! I don't know. I did enter my latest book Mack Dunstan's Inferno into a contest at . Click like and share and let's see if it has a chance!

What one word best describes you?

I am just a silly daydreamer who stumbled his way into online publishing and into the online media.

Any big news?

I have directed TV commercials in past and wrote about it at

al-production-directing-documentaries/My latest commercial that I directed was a PSA for No More Deportations to Iran which can be found at this link . I even directed a wacky sci fi spec at wacky specs can be found at . So I am looking to get hired as a freelance commercial director...but I did forget to tell you that the Oprah Winfrey Network contacted me about one of my recent articles. Read about it at . Perhaps the Oprah Winfrey Network will connect with me in 2014. I AM SO AVAILABLE FOR THAT! 

Thanks for the interview! All the best!

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