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Interview: G.F. Skipworth, Author of The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society

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G.F. Skipworth is a man with many accomplishments, ranging from music, being a concert pianist, symphony/opera conductor, composer, vocalist and opera coach to speechwriter, in comedy, and an academic author. Mr. Skipworth’s works include the “Fables of the Carpailtin Campfire,” as well as a fantasy based upon the 24 poems of Franz Schubert’s great song-cycle, “Winterreise (Winter Journey) and “Stormfield – Tales from the Hereafter,” based on Mark Twain’s final incomplete work.

G.F. Skipworth often refers to The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society as his personal favorite, although “writing dialogue for a cameo appearance by the razor-sharp Dorothy Parker was maddening, even worse than for Mark Twain (at least he paused to light a cigar now and then.)”

While obtaining knowledge, Mr. Skipworth attended Whitman College, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and UCLA. Currently he resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife Barbara, where he serves on the faculty of Lewis & Clark College. In addition to his newest release, The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society, please be on the lookout for G.F. Skipworth’s future works which include The World-Weary String Quartet of Alliance, Nebraska and The Madonna of Dunkirk.

Please feel free to visit and learn more about G.F. Skipworth and his work at his website: Fables of the Carpailtin Campire

Please tell us a bit about your book: The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society – characters, plot, etc.

Card shark and ex-nun Farika Zingarella wins the town of Simpering, North Dakota in the greatest card game ever played at the Huffy Hussy Billiards & Poker Parlor. Gathering five female geniuses to her side, she establishes a prairie empire that could hold off the world – and does. Set against the suffrage movement, the end of World War I and the rise of fascism in Italy, it is an island of humor amidst the events of a serious year.

If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?

Edilou Zingarella, absolutely. I don’t know where she came from, or how she became so important, but before I had really decided what to do with this town, she grabbed the plot and ran like a deer. I’ve been chasing her ever since, to the point that the prequel on her early years is nearing completion. She is a woman of prolific gifts, and at the same time doesn’t really know who she is. This creates my sense of sympathy for her. The other characters bring eccentricity to the story, but the story brings eccentric circumstances to Edielou Zingarella. Over time, they challenge her rigid views and self-prejudices.

If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?

I grew up in a warm, humorous but linguistically formal family, so if I were to be dropped into the middle of a Jane Austen setting, I’d know exactly what to do. As a child, before becoming a musician, the priorities were Zorro (who turned out to be fictional and taken) or wide receiver for the L.A. Rams (who turned out to be vastly stronger, faster and more coordinated.) However, give me the right hat, tail-coat and British mansion, and I’ll give you the best brooding anti-hero anyone could want.

Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc., that help set your “writing mood”?

I’m on the computer in the afternoon, in bed late at night. The computer hours move the writing along faster, but the late night handwriting deepens it and primes the pump for the next day. Since I live between the coast and the mountains of Oregon, I sometimes visit the haunts that best match the chapter of the day. The second floor of the Mount Hood Lodge was perfect for the Nordic-style sagas, and the coastline brings out a love of travel in the characters, particularly those of Simpering, who cover most of the world.

What are you reading right now?

The journal of Amelia Earhart, written during her first transatlantic crossing, and a book on how to build your own log cabin in the woods by J. Wayne Fears.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?

Dostoyevsky has been a life-long companion. On the lighter side, I am convinced that James Thurber and Mark Twain are long-lost relatives. Shakespeare, of course, and from time to time, the poetry of John Milton, Bobby Burns and Yeats.

If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Probably Mark Twain. The humor with which I was raised was decidedly southern, although I’m a life-long Oregonian. The expanse of the river, and the way it affected Twain has a counterpart in most of us, perhaps for those going into space or, for others, going to sea. I have crossed the United States 134 times on the ground, including five times by motorcycle and once by Iowa corn truck. When I leave the city limits, it’s like striking out on the Mississippi.

Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:

Please share with us a favorite memory.

Seeing my wife Barbara standing in the arrival gate of the airport in Florence, after not seeing her for 27 years.

Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.

Beef Stroganoff and lots of it. Mashed potatoes by the mountain and raspberry or razzleberry pie to end. Thank goodness I have a fast metabolism, because I could easily earn a masters degree in gluttony. Barbara, old friends from graduate school in Baltimore and the crazy Greek opera singers from The Aegean Verdi Festival ought to be there.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax?

Motorcycle rides in an abandoned desert, the fireplace at Mt. Hood, a shack at the coast, walking in the hills of Walla Walla, Washington and playing chamber music in the evening.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’d need at least six locations to cover it – a log cabin on the Deschutes River, a house on the Oregon coast, the golf courses of southern Arizona in March, a house on the Irish coast, a Berghütte in the Austrian Alps (Barbara was born and raised a high alpine Austrian) and the suite of a Manhattan high-rise with season tickets to everything.

If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol

Shakespeare.

Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.

From the beginning, dreams were to do. I have always considered undone dreams to be a complete waste. From a young age, I have had an actual dream list, and have crossed items off through the years – played the Liszt b minor Sonata, sang the roles of Figaro and Marcello, conducted Mahler’s Fifth. Still to come – Mahler’s 8th, the Symphony of a Thousand. There is an endless stream of thoughts to get down on paper before I forget them. I love to talk about serious things by placing them underneath stories that seem frivolous at first glance.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Most entail food, but I behave most of the time.

If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Our ability to destroy is outpacing our efforts to unite. In ancient times, it was just annoying. Now it’s for all the marbles. Better relax. Not everything is a moral issue – a lot of life just is, and we’re all wired differently. Viva la difference! Sit back and read some Thurber or check out the Tumbleweeds comic strips on their web site. You just can’t be mad at anybody after that.

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