1. Where is the best place for you to go to people-watch?
a tall tree with a pair of binoculars just outside the window you’re
peeping through. Not too close. Pick a tree close enough to see, but far
enough that you won’t get caught.
If you’re not the adventurous
type, the mall is a really good place to go, especially for a parent. A
mall play area or a park is great. You're people-watching skills can
also double as pedophile-detecting powers. I also like any kind of
event: a fair, a carnival, or if you can get to a demolition derby, run,
don’t walk. That is some fantastic people watching.
2. Do you base your characters on real people?
are some that have the pleasure of being born from actual people. For
example, ”Seven Stages" started out that way – based on friends of mine,
maybe a little of myself - and then went into all sorts of bizarre
areas and there ended up being no trace of reality whatsoever. There are
a couple of stories in Puppets Shows - and these are the ones that are
my personal favorites - in which, in my head, there’s a character who is
W.C. Fields or Groucho Marx. Way to make myself sound 100 years old! I
won’t say which stories. We can make a game of it. Read Puppet Shows and
guess which character is Fields and what character is Groucho. The
winner gets absolutely nothing.
3. You write about a superhero in your book. Who is your hero?
all know who people say the true heroes are: firefighters, policemen,
soldiers, the 2004 Boston Red Sox, The Green Hornet, The Blue Blazer,
Hiro the Japanese train from Thomas & Friends. But there's one group
of heroes who don't get any kind of recognition, certainly not from the
movie studios today. I don't know who producers think Mariah Carey, the
Foo Fighters and Bonnie Tyler were referring to when they sang about
heroes, but to me it was these guys, the protectors of the city of Good
Haven. I'm talking about the Mighty Heroes.
I'm talking about
Strong Man, with his southern accent and jet-propelled punch; Rope Man,
the dock worker who always gets tangled in himself; Tornado Man, the
meteorologist with the wheezy voice; Cuckoo Man, my personal favorite,
the bird shop owner who changes in a cuckoo clock in lieu of some silly
phone booth; and Diaper Man, the ginger infant who will knock super
villains out cold with his baby bottle. These guys, and I pay homage to
them in Puppet Shows, are my heroes, and have been since I was a wee
4. In hindsight, many of us find that our writing
was impacted by our schooling. What was your favorite assignment in high
school English, your least favorite, and the one that affected you
My favorite assignment, or the one I can remember
anyway, was in eighth or ninth grade a teacher asked us to write an
essay making fun of something (Which today sounds ridiculous. You don't
make fun of something! That's bullying!). I wrote about The National
Enquirer. The teacher read it in class and some kids laughed, but this
one girl accused me of stealing the jokes from Reader's Digest. I denied
it, of course, mainly because I wouldn't admit to stealing, but also
because I had actually stolen the jokes from "Weird Al" Yankovic and
watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher. So she was dead wrong. What kind
of hack steals from Reader's Digest?
That’s how my writing
career began was stealing. I remember writing something for another
class that was about cannibalism, the idea of which I stole completely
from Monty Python's "Undertaker's sketch." My story was two guys
discussing eating one of their deceased mothers: a complete replica of
the Python sketch. I had no shame back then.
My least favorite
one was we had to do movie reviews, which I hate the idea of writing
even today. We had to write two of them, and I couldn't have picked two
more forgettable films. One was Mad House, the John Larroquette/Kirstie
Alley comedy. The other was Body Slam, a wrestling movie starring Dirk
Benedict and Tanya Roberts, along with Roddy Piper and Captain Lou
Albano. I was always putting wrestling references into things I wrote in
high school. It's really no different today. I'm actually amazed at how
low Puppet Shows is on wrestling references. Readers should thank me
for that. My poetry books are chock full of them.
5. You’re stuck on a deserted island with only three books and one other author. Name the books and the author then tell us why. They
would have to be substantial books that would keep me busy for a long
time and perhaps make me want to go drown myself in the ocean. I always
think people sound pompous when they bring up James Joyce, but the first
two books would be Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. Ulysses I read years
ago and always said I'd read it again and haven't, and I've told myself
for years I would read Finnegan's Wake and haven't. So, with any luck,
I’ll end up on an island with Evangeline Lily and a smoke monster and
get to read those.
The third book would have to be the Bible, the
author of which, of course, is a bunch of dinosaurs and cavemen. I'm
sorry, atheists who want to set fire to hotel rooms for having a Bible
in the drawer, but that's what I'd choose because it's the Bible. I
might instead choose something by Dave Eggers or David Foster Wallace
just so that I know I'll be happy with my decision to throw myself into
the mouth of a giant squid. But I'm told that Joyce and God are good
6. If your writing career was a novel, what would the title be?
Harry Potter and the References Nobody Gets
7. Have you ever judged a book by its cover?
never. No one does that. That's why the word "Don't" comes before the
saying. You don't judge a book by its cover. Only assholes do that. Come
to think of it, I’m sure I have. I mean, it's why book have covers. But
who am I? A designer? What do I care what the cover of a book looks
like? I'm colorblind and I usually end up scribbling genitalia and
pentagrams all over the cover of all my books anyway. But I have. I
remember seeing the cover of A Clockwork Orange and being all, “Wow,
cool cover! This book must be awesome!” And it was.
8. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would you choose and what genre would it be?
the recent popularity of that 50 Shades nonsense, I would love to write
some erotica with Ann Coulter. Oh, we would tear up the Best Sellers
I wanted to be a lot of things when I was a
boy: a baseball player, a professional wrestler. I went through a stage
when I thought it would be great to be a mailman. But writing was
always my number one passion. The only thing that compared was to be a
rock star. I wanted to be a famous guitar player since the night I saw
Dexys Midnight Runners perform on Solid Gold.
But writing was my
first love. I was always writing silly things as a kid: song parodies,
poems, forged prescriptions. Every greeting card I gave my parents was
filled with my nonsensical junior high school humor and a script for
20mgs of Oxycodone.
Then in one of my high school English
classes we read “Muck-a-Muck,” the short story by Bret Harte. Not the
wrestler Bret “the Hitman” Hart, mind you, but the American author and
poet who wrote tongue-in-cheekly about pioneering life in California. It
was hilarious, and I was the only one in the class who appreciated it.
My friends were all, “Let’s go smoke some cigs in the boys’ room and
beat up nerds,” and I was all, “This story is funny, you guys. LOL!”
Then they were all, “What’s LOL? It’s 1990, weirdo!”
I spent the
next 22 years writing Puppet Shows. Well, not really. I’ve written other
stuff along the way – poetry, essays, screenplays, you name it, buster!
However, there is one story, “Dinner at Wither Port,” the tale of
everyone’s favorite mental asylum, that I first scribbled on cocktail
napkins and fig leaves years ago in college when I was doing acid and
drinking a lot of hairspray. When I got out of rehab at the turn of the
century, I went on a writing spree that resulted in tiny portions of
some of the other stories in this book, mostly just the beginnings of
sentences, so none of it made any sense. I later found out that I had
turned at the wrong century and a lot of my writing ended up ruining
books by Mark Twain and O Henry.
It was only after a group of
paleontologists in Boston were able to get the same dinosaurs that wrote
the Bible to comb through all of my gibberish that this collection
really went anywhere. Those brainy lizards cleaned it up, took out all
the love letters to Debbie Gibson and the numerous references to Satan
as the “one true Dark Lord,” and Puppet Shows was born.
the other thing you should know is where the title came from. I was at
one point writing this as a tell-all about my torrid love affair with
Prairie Dawn from Sesame Street, but her lawyers are brutal, man. I’ll
probably lose my house and children just for mentioning this here.
Anyway, that project was quickly scrapped. I kept the title and went
back to the original plan. That’s when the dinosaurs came in and saved