Thursday, November 24, 2011

The End of the World by Andrew Biss

 Kindle Price: $2.99

 Available from: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iBook:


 Authors Website:

Accustomed to a life of cosseted seclusion at home with his parents, Valentine is suddenly faced with making his own way in the world. His new life is quickly upended, however, when he's mugged at gunpoint. Finding shelter at a mysterious inn run by the dour Mrs. Anna, he soon encounters a Bosnian woman with a hole where her stomach used to be, an American entrepreneur with a scheme to implant televisions into people's foreheads, and a Catholic priest who attempts to lure him down inside a kitchen sink. Then things start getting strange...

In this story based loosely around the state of Bardo from The Tibetan Book of the Dead - an intermediate state where the dead arrive prior to rebirth - dying is the easy part. Getting out of Bardo and returning to the land of the living is a far more perilous proposition, and unless you know what you're might never leave.

An odd, yet oddly touching tale of life, death, and the space in-between.


The works of award-winning playwright Andrew Biss have been produced in New York, London, Los Angeles, and many other cities across North America and Europe. His plays have won awards on both coasts of the U.S., critical acclaim in the U.K., and are an Off-Off-Broadway mainstay. His plays and monologues are published by Smith & Kraus, Inc., Meriwether Publishing Ltd., and JAC Publishing & Promotions. The End of the World is his first novel, adapted from his play of the same name.

He is a graduate of the University of the Arts London, and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.


I was in one of those perfect mental/physical states of not having anything to do and not wanting to do anything. It was heaven. Eden. As I lounged haphazardly across the sofa, I had somehow managed to bring myself to a state of being so perfect that it felt like nothingness. I was nothing and I was loving every single meaningless minute of it.

There I lay, splayed out on the cushions, ever so vaguely trying to think of something to think about, which in itself was a considerable effort, and even then only made due to a tiny little anxiety I felt prodding away in the back of my head that if I couldn’t actually think of anything to think about, then perhaps there was no credible justification for my existence in the first place…a question, incidentally, that had brought itself to my attention a not inconsequential number of times thus far in my adult life.

And it was then – just then – just at that critical, yet still somehow half-hearted, apathetic flashpoint in my existential crisis, that my mother entered the room…seeming unusually perturbed.

“Mother, you seem unusually perturbed. Has something happened?” I inquired.

“Happened? Yes, of course something has happened,” she snapped. “Something is always happening. Even when life appears to be grinding its gears it is always, regardless of perception, propelling itself forward.” She then aimed her authoritative, all-knowing right index finger directly at me and announced with great conviction, “Stasis is a lie of the mind!”

Her response to my question, though very out of step with her grey, middle-class upbringing, was nonetheless not entirely unexpected due to her nascent interest in the teachings of the prophet Buddha. Still, I had a nagging feeling that all was not as it should be.

“Yes, I know it is – you taught me that only last week. I just meant that you seem a little…preoccupied.”

“Oh, my dear! My poor, sweet dear, dear, Valentine!” she suddenly wailed. “Look at you – a perpetual victim of the adult thought process. Why must people have children? I ask you? Why must this vicious cycle of obligatory reproduction continue? It’s not as if you asked us to be born.” She then clutched her hands to her chest melodramatically, like the women I saw on the evening news at Benazir Bhutto’s funeral. “I’m sorry, my darling. I’m so, so sorry. I wish I’d never had you.”

This last statement, whilst perhaps sounding rather hurtful to some ears, was water off a duck’s back to me, and there were two very good reasons for this. Firstly, my mother’s penchant for histrionics and grand statements – made more for effect rather than any actual attempt to convey an idea or opinion – were an almost daily occurrence. And secondly, and perhaps more significantly, I myself had been harbouring very real doubts for some time now as to whether she actually had had me. The thought of my mother actually giving birth, let alone conceiving, seemed almost inconceivable. Had they adopted me? Purchased me? Stolen me? If they had stolen me that would certainly explain their insistence at home schooling me and keeping me confined to the house for almost my entire life. The neighbours thought us strange, but I liked it. It made for a quiet, sedentary existence of few concerns. Though if indeed my mother was a former baby-snatcher, that would certainly have qualified as one of them.

Interview with Andrew Biss

What will readers like about your book?

I would hope they would find this story a refreshing change from the norm. It's a little quirky and offbeat and takes you on a strange journey where you'll meet some very interesting characters indeed. It will also be, I hope, somewhat life affirming when all's said and done.

Why did you self publish?

I was about to start submitting this book to every small press publisher that I thought it might be a good fit for just at the same time that I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing. It just completely made sense to go that route for me. Why wait for months on end to see if I'd get one of those very few spots on a publisher's roster when I could take matters into my own hands and get the book out there myself almost immediately? Of course, the downside is all of the marketing is pretty much down to you, but it's finding its audience, so I'm very happy.

What is your writing process?

Believe it or not I complete every first draft in longhand. There's something about a pen in my hand and paper in front of me that helps my thoughts flow more freely. All subsequent drafts, of course, are typed up on the computer, but in the beginning I somehow still need that organic connection with paper.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

That can vary wildly, depending on how a particular work is going. To be honest, I've never timed it out. And it also is highly dependent on how much time on any given day I'm able to devote to my writing.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

At the time I was thinking quite a lot about what comes next...when we shuffle off the blue sphere. I was also reading up a little on Buddhism and discovered the state of bardo, from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In bardo, which is a sort of plane you reach after death and prior to rebirth, you're confronted with all kinds of strange apparitions and phantasms, some good, some quite terrifying, and that concept just fascinated me. It immediately took root in my imagination and the book just flowed from there.

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