You are in for some fun. You might want to have fingernails at the ready for a chew if you belong to the Big Honken Chicken club*, or tissues if you tear up at coffee or greeting card commercials.
Thanks, Tony. You gave us a great glimpse into the inner working of your mind. Oh my!
Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?
I don’t know if I’d want to be him, but one of the characters that remains the most alive for me several years later is Holden Caulfield from JD Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” Actually, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t want to be him. On the other hand, I would like to be a hardboiled pulp-noir detective of some kind. One who isn’t alcoholic.
What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?
Um…black, black, and black.
Pick one…..Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.
All of the above, because then I’ll be sitting down to a bowl of me Lucky Charms.
Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.
Many have lingered with me over the years. One I always remember, for some reason, is a line Stephen King used to describe a storm: “The lightning walked and the thunder talked.”
If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.
I don’t have any “If only I could write…” fantasies, to tell you the truth. I’d be writing the same kind of thing I write now. That’s what I love to read, and it’s what I love to write. So, I’d just magically make the book sell a couple bazillion copies.
What makes you feel alive?
This is going to sound flip, but it’s true: getting diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. It’s not anything I wish on anyone, and yet, the old cliché holds: it sets your priorities. It forces you to concentrate on what’s important. I’m less focused on “someday” kinds of things now, and more focused on making those somedays today.
How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?
Ooooh. All of them. I worked in marketing and advertising for several years, and one great wag once said: “All great advertising hinges on one of four emotions: sadness, fear, humor or logic.” I think all great stories hinge on one or more of those. I’m not sure “logic” really counts as an emotion, but give the guy a break. He was in advertising.
Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.
Well, I’d have to take my iPod, which is filled with music. Of course, if I had to answer the classic “If you were stuck on a desert island, and you could only listen to one album the whole time, what would it be?” question, I’ve always said it would be Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Or maybe the Pixies’ “Death to the Pixies.” But I’d probably also cheat and bootleg some Better Than Ezra, Foo Fighters, and David Crowder Band.
Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?
Having “Waking Lazarus,” my first book, named to the Library Journal “25 Best Genre Books of 2006” list was quite a lot of fun. Of course, that put incredible pressure on me, as well—it’s hard to raise the bar sometimes—but that’s also the thing a slightly neurotic personality needs. And to tell you the truth, I most enjoy the comments out of the blue: the random emails from people who have read a book and enjoyed it enough to find me and send me a note.
What criticism has cut the deepest and why?
The neurotic part of me remembers every criticism. It doesn’t matter how many nice comments and reviews you’ve received—and I’ve received a ton of very kind ones—it’s the “But…” statements that stick with you. The Publisher’s Weekly review of my first novel had a “But the book has a few flaws…” There was a lot of gnashing of teeth about that one. I also received a long diatribe from a woman who thought my first book was horrible—HORRIBLE!—begging me to please never write another. I thanked her for reading, and told her I was sorry she didn’t like it. She apologized and admitted she was insanely jealous a hack like me was getting published, while she was getting unnoticed. I don’t admire her lack of couth or approach at all, but I do admire that she was self-aware enough to realize she was being driven by feelings of jealousy.
What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?
This is, I suppose, a particularly poignant question in light of my recent cancer diagnosis. I mean, I’ve been able to think in these terms the last several months. I’d spend time with my wife and daughter—maybe on a cruise. Write at night while they slept. Do all I could to not sleep myself; in a week, after all, I’d be able to catch up on my sleep.
What is your favorite word?
Oddly enough, I’ve always been fascinated by the sound of the word “spatula.” Occasionally, I’ll find myself turning it over and over in my mind.
What word annoys you more than any other?
Superhero you most admire and why?
I was a Marvel guy growing up, and particularly loved the Silver Surfer, Thor and Ghost Rider. Thor and Ghost Rider, I think, because I was fascinated by mythologies. Also, Ghost Rider because he was touched by Heaven and Hell—both sides in conflict, deep inside him. I’ve been a committed Christ-follower for several years, but I can still identify with that struggle. I haven’t seen the Nicholas Cage movie of Ghost Rider; I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch it. At first, I was excited, but then I realized: nothing they put on screen can begin to compare to the world of Ghost Rider I’d created in my 12-year-old mind.
Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?
I love the NPR show “This American Life.” One of the segments on TAL some time ago was about this guy who went around asking people: “Which superpower would you rather have: flight, or invisibility?” And invariably, he was shocked at how seriously people pondered the question, asking all sorts of “what ifs” to clarify.
That said, I’d probably choose neither. I always wanted to have Ghost Rider’s flaming skull. Let’s not consider what that says about me in Freudian terms.
It’s not a favorite, but I’m borderline obsessive/compulsive about the kitchen. I can’t stand junk or clutter, and I have to wash dirty dishes IMMEDIATELY. My wife enjoys and encourages this obsession.
Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.
Oh, just one huh? Well, I can narrow it down to three. First, I hate purposely misspelled brand names and such. My hometown is home to the headquarters of KOA, which stands for Kampgrounds of America. As a result, KOAs offer Kamping Kabins. And so on. What did the letter “c” ever do to the KOA folks that they’ve banished it for life?
Second, I hate transposed “it’s” and “its” and, unfortunately, I have to say I see it all the time. Maybe that’s why I hate it so much: familiarity breeds contempt.
But perhaps number one on my list is unattributed quotes, in ads and signage: “We do it all for less!” or “Best in the West” or…whatever. All those little bits of puffery, put inside quotation marks. Is someone else saying this stuff, and that’s why it’s in quotation marks? Well then, tell me who it is. If it’s the company or business saying it, I don’t need the quotation marks; I can figure out that you’re declaring yourself “Best in the West” without the quotes.
Pick any of the following and have fun with it.
Pick a Genre - Describe a kiss….
I always love those overwrought, faux-literary works that try to be outrageous and social commentaries at the same time…and end up prattling on for several sentences with nothing happening.
Perhaps they would choose to kiss. Perhaps they would not. Perhaps their worlds would merge in that delicate touch of flesh on flesh, she the transgendered boy/girl from a small town in Wisconsin, he the self-loathing aristocrat who abhorred the blue blood coursing through his veins. And what, then, would follow such an exchange? Would she contact her estranged sister who had succumbed to the allure of methamphetamine and was now ensconced in a Georgia penitentiary? Would he admit to her that he had rejected the capitalistic values of his forebears, and now attended clandestine meetings of socialist thinkers?
Cliché, yes, but one couldn’t help being a cliché sometimes, and how so very cliché of them to be standing here, Capulet and Montague, pondering a future together against the backdrop of a world spinning unknowingly into its own oblivion.
Perhaps they would choose to kiss. Perhaps they would forego the kiss and instead choose the dagger and poison without so many obligatory steps that surely would come before.
Pick one of the "story starters" below and give us a sample of your voice.
If Alex had known the body of the senator was in the bathtub, she would've taken Jim's offer for coffee. After all, she had carefully orchestrated the senator’s murder—just as she’d orchestrated the seventeen murders before him—and she had been quite careful to leave the corpse in the garage.
But then Jim--dear, sweet Jim--dropped by unannounced. He wanted to take her for coffee, he said. Just a quick cup. But she had work waiting for her in the garage, didn’t she? Of course she did.
Or so she thought.
Some time during the night, while she slept, Dear Sweet Jim had moved the corpse to the tub to taunt her.
She would have seen it in his eyes, she knew, if she’d agreed to go with him to the Java Joint on the corner. She would have seen that manic fire dancing inside the pupils, and she would have known then what she knew now, standing over the senator’s lifeless body in her pink-tiled bathroom.
Dear Sweet Jim was going to be Victim Number 19.
Have an excellent weekend, everyone. Hope you BHC* Club members can sleep tonight. : ).
Change. I've learned to embrace it, ride it out til the end. Sometimes I'm kicking and screaming, other times weeping with my eyes clinched tight. Once in awhile I ride like a dog in a car, head out the window snorting what life has to offer. Mother to young adult children, a marriage of thirty years, and a desert to mountain to valley waltz with God have shaped me into someone I never imagined I'd be. Life is short and I want to live it. Tears, sighs, laughter and change. Every morsel granted to me. Scrambled, shaken or stirred.