Monday, March 11, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Rick Berry

I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Today, we are joined by Rick Berry. Rick is a British author. His debut novel, Kill All The Dogs (SpellBound Books, 2024) is a satire that deals with trauma, loss and political dysfunction. Rick’s short fiction has been published by Cafe Irreal, Bandit Fiction, Dream Catcher, The Letters Page, Planet Raconteur and  elsewhere. In his day job he works for the Mayor of London, and he has also written widely about politics for various publications. Rick is originally from Greater Manchester and now lives in London. Find him at


What made you start writing?

I've been writing books for as long as I can remember. Putting words down on the page has always felt like the most natural form of communication for me. I owe a huge amount to a brilliant English teacher, Miss Huntington at Reddish Vale School, who always encouraged me and made me see that I had a talent for it. Even from a young age I was thinking about the practicalities of writing as a profession. I remember an author visiting our school, and when I was picked to ask him a question, I asked how much he earned. Despite realising later that this wasn’t the most lucrative career path (the visiting author tactfully declined to answer my question), I have never given up on it.

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

A number of years ago I wrote a non-fiction book about independent politicians. I travelled the length and breadth of England, spending a fortune on train fares, interviewing local mayors and councillors. The royalties didn’t come close to reimbursing me, but it was worth it to meet so many interesting people. Like Stuart Drummond, who worked as a mascot for his local football club, wearing a monkey suit and dancing around the stadium, but stood for mayor of the town and won. Or Martin Bell, a war reporter who stood for Parliament to oust a corrupt politician. It was an important lesson for me as a writer, too, which I kept in mind after I decided to focus primarily on fiction. I’ve always had a good turn of phrase, but writing is about telling stories, and lots of other people have fascinating stories to tell. It’s part of my craft as a writer to find them.

Describe your book in three words.

Nasty, brutish and short. One for the Hobbesians.

Describe your book poorly.

Kill All The Dogs is a book about killing dogs. 

If you met your characters in real life, what would you say to them?

The protagonist of Kill All The Dogs is Nathan Hyde, a young man who is unable to move on from a childhood trauma. I would want to speak to him as a child, and get him the help he needs before he lets this one event dictate the course of his life. Of course, then there would be no book. I work in politics, and I often see variations of Nathan Hyde. Good people, but with demons they are trying to battle, sometimes with negative consequences for society. Having said that, if I met Nathan as an adult I would also tell him I admire the audacity of what he is able to pull off, and how he is able to exploit the weaknesses in our political system.

If you could spend the day with another author, who would you choose and why?

I subscribe to Margaret Atwood’s view that wanting to meet an author because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté. But my son is named after Kurt Vonnegut, so it might have been interesting for the three of us to get together, so my Kurt could meet his namesake. I will have to settle for encouraging him to read Vonnegut’s books.

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

An almost impossible question, given the large number of writers that have had a profound impact on my life and writing. As well as Vonnegut and Atwood, Ursula Le Guin, José Saramago, Haruku Murakami, Cixin Liu, Thomas Hardy and Sally Rooney stand out as favorites. In the past few years I’ve also rediscovered a love of children’s literature from reading with my son: Michael Morpugo, Pamela Butchart, Roald Dahl, Francesa Simon, Beverly Cleary and others have been thoroughly enjoyed.

 If you could go back and rewrite one of your books or stories, which would it be and why?

I am constantly re-writing my first novel. It is essentially a fictionalised account of my childhood. I have a twin brother, Craig, and the book tries to explore the strangeness of our relationship with each other, and the relationships we have with the outside world, as a pair and as individuals. Turning something so personal into fiction is not easy. There have been different iterations of the book and I am always coming up with new ones. I will probably never be able to get every nuance of this story onto the page, at least not in a single book. In fact, a small part of our story features in Kill All The Dogs, with the Sophie and Sadie characters.

If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

My partner Lucy asked me this when we were dating and my instinctive, drunken response was to say I'd ask for a bowl of Coco Pops (Coco Krispies in the US). I will stick with that answer. But I would be sad if it didn't also come with a side of Yorkshire puddings and gravy.

What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

I am quite parochial in my music, so my answer is going to be dominated by bands from my home city of Manchester, England. The first would be Flashbax by Oasis, which Noel Gallagher starts with a line about sitting on a fence trying to write a story. Then it has to be Half a Person by The Smiths, about a clumsy and shy teenager moving to London (I was older when I moved there but it resonates). Skipping forward to how I feel now, I would pick Now That I'm A River by Charles Watson, formerly of my favorite non-Mancunian band Slow Club: for me, this is a song about the feeling of freedom that comes with self-realisation.



Are we defined by the things that happen to us, or the things we make happen to others?

 Ten-year-old Nathan Hyde is playing in a tree house, when he witnesses a vicious attack on his best friend’s younger sisters. Life is never the same again.

Many years later, Nathan finds himself in the lower reaches of a government department, when an opportunity to confront his demons and enact revenge presents itself. A mystery illness is taking hold in the population, at the very moment a scheming, attention-seeking politician becomes Nathan’s new boss.

It can’t happen, can it? In the farcical world of politics, anything is possible.
Nathan Hyde is going to kill all the dogs.

Part psychological drama, part political satire, Kill All The Dogs is the story of how of a personal trauma becomes twisted into a national tragedy.


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