My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny received a 4+ star review, making it an IndieReader Approved title.
Following find an interview with author Robert McBryde.
What is the name of your book and when was it published?
My book is titled My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny and it was published at the end of September 2023.
What’s the book’s first line?
Even before my Slovak father in law reached my age, he would repeat with ritualistic regularity, “In a short time I be dead.” (Za krátky čas budem mŕtvy).
What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.
My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny is a series of sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant autobiographical stories and vignettes spanning two continents and seven decades. I introduce readers to a rollicking cast of characters from everyday life and a compendium of off-kilter incidents, both ludicrous and at times unsettling. Readers are often struck by the snarky autobiographical satire and manic self-deprecation infusing this kaleidoscopic collection of tales that will induce cackling and perhaps a few cathartic tears.
What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event? When did you first decide to become an author? Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)
The introductory vignette of my book and the very first tale address exactly these questions!
I worked as a radio writer/ broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, in Quebec City, Canada, for 10 years, between 1987 and 1997, honing storytelling skills through a weekly recounting of personal and often satirical tales of everyday life, which a number of listeners urged me to publish. My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny is a belated response to those requests and includes an array of freshly-minted humorous and edgy sketches besides.
The book, my first, was prompted by a sense of urgency. I feel like my own shelf life is about to expire!
Over the last three or four years, and particularly since I reached the age of 70 last year, I’ve become acutely aware of how little time I have left before disappearing like an evanescent soap bubble. Pop! Gone! Moreover, for me, the surreal dystopia that suddenly emerged full-blown from the depths of a preternatural realm of nightmare in March 2020 has served to foreground the haunting fragility and fleeting nature of life itself.
These days, each time that I listen to a favorite piece of music, re-watch a beloved film, or re-read a personally meaningful book or article, I’m acutely aware that this may be the last time around. A bizarre and unsettling experience, which is both profound and strangely banal.
Memories are of course consciously prompted by a sort of mental rewind button, or arrive on their own, stimulated by sights, sounds, or smells. Rewinding memories and sharing them with readers – who may discover all sorts of affinities – is part of my ritualized last lap.
I’m a former junior college teacher and I once had a student who declared at the end of term, “My time with you has been short, but very funny.” This statement, made in passing, has come to summarize my earthly existence and was a logical choice for the title of my book. A fitting epitaph as well!
Last but not least, I’ve written this book as a legacy work for friends and family, most of all for my two clever and witty sons, Dan and David, and for Anne, my kind and gentle wife of 43 years.
What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?
Wow…great question! Readers tell me that the book makes them laugh and cry and that it conveys the essence of a quirky and intriguing personality while capturing the spirit of an era. The book appeals to readers of all ages, from adolescents to the elderly. Readers of the book will discover the universal in the particular. The tales address child rearing, aging, bizarre housing issues, travel, family politics, festive occasions, and many more elements of our shared human experience. People will recognize, I think, their own parents, neighbors, and kids in the colorful depictions of my own. And the book features all sorts of funny and touching vignettes about the clashes of culture that typify and underlie relations between immigrant parents and their newly-assimilated North American offspring.
The book is currently being considered for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Canada’s foremost award for humour writing. Readers may want to discover why the book has been put forward for this award.
What do you do for work when you’re not writing?
Well, I’m supposedly retired. Ha! Ha!
In fact, I’m a professional translator with a master’s degree in English literature and I’m currently, if temporarily, living in Dijon France. A product of Toronto, Ontario, educated in both Canada and Switzerland, I taught literature and theatre at the junior college level in Quebec City, Canada, for 35 years.
I translate all sorts of texts from French to English, running the gamut from government documents to creative writing, and I also take care of the business side of my wife’s translation company.
I’ve translated my book My Time with You Has Been Short but Very Funny into French and I’m preparing the French version, titled Le temps passé avec vous fut bref mais tordant, for publication. This translation endeavor was really arduous and demanding. Translating my own book was a labor of love… and a totally whacky thing to do! I’ve written about the process in a blog post:
How much time do you generally spend on your writing?
Quite a bit…I’m an incurable insomniac, so I scribble at all hours of the day and night. I write and revise at least three hours per day.
I’m currently preparing another book of creative non fiction titled It’s All in the Condiments. Below is a link to the title vignette. The title of the sketch – and of the book –serves as a metaphor for life itself!
What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?
Well, the best part is the autonomy that I enjoy. I’m an impatient guy, and as mentioned already, I feel the exigencies of time pressing heavily upon me. I have several friends who are established writers with publishers and agents and they find it increasingly difficult to have their work reach print. Lots of horror stories about being abandoned by publishers and agents no longer returning calls! Before launching my book into the indie sphere, I looked into the process of finding a publisher. There seemed to be so many obstacles for an impatient geezer and first-time author like me that I finally decided to go the indie route…
Which has not been without its own trials and tribulations! I find the self-promotion element of being an indie writer very challenging because tooting my own horn doesn’t come naturally to me; I definitely tilt toward self-deprecation. In fact, self-promotion feels downright embarrassing! And marketing the book is time-consuming, so it eats into the time I want to dedicate to writing. I’m not very social media savvy and I’m a techno-peasant of the first order, so I’m sometimes wretched when trying to master the tools that are needed to market my own work. Mostly I just want to get on with the scribbling and to share my stories with as many folks as humanly possible.
What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?
Develop a low-cost, gather-the-low-hanging-fruit marketing plan; concentrate on a couple of social media platforms, depending on your reader demographic; and make sure you’ve done everything necessary on Amazon Author Central and Goodreads.
If you have a contact list you can market to (emails), I would also suggest sending regular emails out to this list (2x per month?)
Would you “go traditional” if a publisher came calling? If so, why?
Another great question! I would have to look into the publisher’s terms and conditions very carefully before choosing that trajectory. For example, as an experienced language professional, specializing in revision and translation, I’m comfortable with editing my own work in collaboration with my wife, who is also a professional and accredited translator/revisor. I would be anxious and reticent about yielding my editorial autonomy.
But I have to say that I would be delighted to listen to any proposals!
Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?
When I was a college teacher and a CBC radio storyteller, students and listeners would constantly ask, “Who’s your favorite writer? Which author do you most admire and who among all writers has had the greatest impact on your life?”
These days, readers are asking the same questions.
And the answer remains hands down the same: Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer and Nobel Prize laureate.
There was a time, in my 20’s, when my life was in shards, spinning out of control like a badly wound top, a time of infidelity, melodrama, darkness, and pain. A time of earnest posturing and pursuits that now seem cringeworthy in the extreme.
I began reading Alice Munro’s subtle and complex stories in those halcyon days of the late 1970s and her work served as a beacon, framing and illuminating hopelessly opaque personal muddle. And her stories remain an indispensable lodestone to this day.
Many of Munro’s stories focus on seminal moments that explode like long-concealed ordnance in the minefield of a lifetime. Frequently, these key events take the form of accidents that define one’s future and rearrange one’s past, triggering epiphanies whose truth may recede or evanesce in the fullness of time.
I’m a product of southern Ontario, Munro’s home ground, and the universe she describes in her southwestern Ontario stories is chillingly familiar: a world of repressed sexuality, sinister subtext, unacknowledged aggressions, and corrosive bigotry. A fabric of secrets and lies.
Alice Munro’s stories can also be extremely funny. She clearly subscribes to Harold Pinter’s dictum, which I cite at the beginning of my book:
Everything is funny; the greatest earnestness is funny; even tragedy is funny. And I think what I try and do in my [writing] is to get this recognizable reality of the absurdity of what we do and how we behave and how we speak.
Which book do you wish you could have written?
Oh boy…do I have to pick just one? Yikes!
Let me cheat just a bit…
The Anglo Guide to Survival in Québec (Josh Freed).
The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde).
Questions of Travel (Elizabeth Bishop).
The Moons of Jupiter (Alice Munro).
Catch-22 (Joseph Heller).
A quick word about David Sedaris, the American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. A number of readers have told me that my storytelling reminds them of the work of David Sedaris. I have not yet read any of his work, but I’m definitely going to do so asap!