So… before we start this interview I have to say. I started reading Grady Hendrix’s Satan Loves you and it is freaking hilarious! I am going to finish this and get a review up as soon as possible. But seriously, if you’re in the market for something hilariously funny with a side of evil, Satan Loves you is definitely what you need!
What is one book everyone should read?
True Grit, by Charles Portis. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn may have been the Great American Novel of the 19th century, but True Grit is the Great American novel of the 20th. It’s short, sharp, fast, funny, and is about all the things we killed to get to where we are today.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
If you’ve ever had a crappy job, this is the book for you.
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
My wife and I just co-authored a comic book cookbook. It’s called Dirt Candy: A Cookbook and it’s out on August 21st from Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House. Dirt Candy is the name of my wife’s award-winning, all-vegetable restaurant in New York City, and we worked with artist Ryan Dunlavey (Action Philosophers) to tell the story of the restaurant (and to show folks how to cook vegetables like champs) with the help of giant robots, rowdy monkeys, Zen pandas, and unicorns.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
There are rewards? No one told me there were rewards. Can I get one?
What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
When I was about six years old, we rented a house in England and lived there for a year while my dad worked at a hospital in London. The house had an enormous library with floor-to-ceiling shelves, and most of the books were completely uninteresting. But way up at the top there was a book with a black spine and gold lettering, and I could just make out the word “Witchcraft” on it. I organized a moutaineering expedition, dragged it down, and read it in secret. I don’t remember the exact title, but it was an illustrated guide to witches, ghosts, and superstitions. There were woodcuts of heretics getting boiled alive in oil, weeping women with their hands tied to the clappers of ringing bells, banshees rising up out of the bog to kill. Once a week for a year, I’d scramble up the bookshelf, pull it down, read it until I heard someone coming, and then haul myself back up and tuck it away.
Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Charles Willeford’s Hoke Moseley novels – Miami Blues, New Hope for the Dead, Sideswipe, and The Way We Die Now – give him a pretty good claim to the title of All-Time Greatest Author. These are four of the best crime novels out there and, let’s face it, American literature is pretty much all crime novels. Deceptively simple, these four books are written in a near-autistic style, where the exact same quality of attention is given to everyday routines as to human interactions. Someone getting beaten to death and someone shaving are both given the same emotional weight, pace, and rhythm. Every detail of Moseley’s life – from his beliefs about clothing choice, to his preferred dinner foods, to his fraught relationship with his ex-wife and children – is examined with the same impassive eye. The result is a truly great portrait of American mandom in the 1980’s.
What was your favorite children’s book?
Mine wasn’t an individual, it was a company. I was obsessed with the works of TSR. I didn’t have anyone to play Dungeons & Dragons with, but that’s okay. I lived in a pre-Harry Potter world where talking about wizards would get you beaten up, and Hogwarts was something that required a veterinarian. But I must have read the Monster Manual and the Deities and Demigods manual twenty or thirty times, cover to cover. Then, even better, I started mail ordering the new games they were putting out, Gamma World and Top Secret. Those were the two that really blew my mind and I spent hours and hours imagining living in a post-apocalyptic world full of radioactive mutants, or being a super-spy.
If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?
A long time ago, I worked answering phones at a place that did serious research on psychic phenomena and they published a peer-reviewed journal. As a result, a lot of people would call with unusual requests, and I did my best to answer them. One day, a very nice woman called. She was talking around her question, hemming and hawing, until she finally got to the point. She wanted to know about time travel. Her husband had died in a hunting accident and she wanted to go back in time and make him not go hunting that day. She knew how crazy it sounded, she knew that time travel wasn’t real, but she didn’t know what else to do. She was crying, and apologizing, and crying, and apologizing. Her grief was so big that it just couldn’t fit inside her anymore, and the idea of going through the rest of her life without her husband was inconceivable. She had to try something to get him back, even if it was as embarrassing as calling a total stranger and asking about time travel. I couldn’t do anything for her. Ever since then, time machines feel more like sadness machines to me.
If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?
Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, John F. Kennedy, Jackie O, and Marilyn Monroe. Awkward.
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
As appealing as the thought of meeting Zombie George Washington or Zombie Florence Nightingale is, I think that ultimately I would prefer not to meet any zombies.
If you could choose only one time period and place to live, when and where would you live and why?
I would live in your house, about five seconds ahead of you. I’d use all the clean towels first, I’d get to use up all the hot water before you, I’d get your take-out food first, and whenever you bought cookies I’d eat all of them before you’d get any. You wouldn’t know it, because you’d never see me, because I’d be in your future, but you would eternally be picking up after me.
If you were a bird, which one would you be?
I’d be the one over there. It looks like it totally just scored a big hunk of stale bread, there are no other birds around to mess up its action, and now it’s sort of humping the bread. Right this minute, that looks like the happiest bird in the world.
What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Right about now, I would stop teasing that dog.
One food you would never eat?
I’m eager to please, so for me the word “never” has zero meaning. For example, I’m a vegetarian, but in the interest of getting along with other people I have eaten congealed pig’s blood, dog, and rotten fish that had been buried underground for two months. All you have to do is come at me with a live octopus and an expectant look in your eyes and I’ll be stuffing the whole, wriggling mess down my throat.
If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?
The 1984 JC Penney’s Christmas Catalog. I used to live in that thing and wish myself into the pictures so hard. All the houses had central air conditioning, all the carpets were wall-to-wall, all the toys were new, and the models didn’t have any problems. You could just lose yourself in their eyes and it was like getting caught in a rainbow. The Return of the Jedi action figures were out, GI Joe action figures were on Series Three, Wave Three of the He-Man action figures were out, The Ancient Art of War was available for the IBM PC, and the first wave of Marvel superhero action figures had just been released. It was heaven.
What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?
I prefer to think of it as the best writing idea I ever had. When I was writing the comic book cookbook, Dirt Candy: A Cookbook, with my wife and Ryan Dunlavey I came up with the idea of Nachoboarding. Basically, it would be a form of torture reserved for evil food critics where instead of putting a towel over their face and pouring water over it to simulate drowning, we would tie them to a chair and build an order of nachos on their face to simulate eating too many nachos. It was genius because each layer of nachos would make it harder to breathe, and only the real tough guys would be able to make it all the way to the sour cream and guacamole layer. I still think it’s a great idea, but Amanda and Ryan believed otherwise. Strongly. So it’s not in the book.
If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
Priapus, for obvious reasons.
What is your favorite Quote?
When I was in high school, there was a play competition where you wrote a play about some serious social issue and then performed it. Three friends and I wrote a play called Breakdance Explosion that remains, to this day, my favorite thing. It starts with two teens dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, moves on to childbirth at the hands of a magical clown, there’s some interpretive dance, some standing around in trash cans and making cow puns, and then it ends with a condensed version of Hamlet set on an escargot farm. During the Hamlet section, my friend Ryan Deussing made his entrance with the line, “Hello, it is I, Achmed.” To this day, whenever I walk into an empty hotel room, come home to an empty house, or arrive somewhere all alone I always feel compelled to say, “Hello, it is I, Achmed.” I don’t know if that’s sad or not.
If you were a superhero what would your name be?
That Guy at the End of the Bar Drinking Everything He Wants for Free Man.
What’s your favorite season/weather?
Bad weather – cold, rainy, preferably with thunder. I always feel so much pressure to go outside and “do things.” But I suspect the world would be a better place if we could all just sit quietly in our rooms more often.
Don’t forget the giveaway guys! Lots of great prizes!