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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Chris Bundy teacher, raconteur, man of mystery, and author of Baby You're a Rich Man (C&R Press) invited me to participate in "The Next Big Thing" wherein I answer ten questions about my work.  Here are the questions and answers; watch this space for upcoming link to the next author/victim participant.

1) What is the title of your latest book?
Paradise Dogs

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
One evening on our anniversary my wife and I were watching TV (this will give you an idea what interesting lives we lead) and there was a documentary on about making hot dogs.  I was riveted, but the documentary seemed to go on forever, and I felt apologetic for watching it, so I kept asking Nancy if there weren't something else she'd rather see, but she said, no, she wanted to watch as well.  I'm telling you, it was spell-binding.  Anyway, one place they showed made fried hot dogs.  I told Nancy someone was missing a bet; Georgians love hot dogs and adore anything fried.  The person who introduced fried hot dogs here would make a fortune.  That night I had a dream that Nancy and I had opened a fried-hot-dog restaurant with some friends of ours in Athens, Georgia.  To understand the full glory of the concept, you have to remember that Athens is home to the University of Georgia, where the mascot is the bulldog.  There is a hot dog joint in Athens, but it's the Varsity, which is really a Georgia Tech restaurant, the rival team.  Anyway, in the dream it was a home game, and the place was packed with customers right up to the walls; we were shoveling hot dogs and rings across the counter as fast as we could, and the till was so full of money, it wouldn't close - it was jammed open, and tens and twenties were falling on the floor to be trampled underfoot as we rushed back and forth from the window bringing food.  I woke up the next morning in a lather, convinced we needed to sell the house and move to Athens to open a hot dog restaurant.  Cooler heads, thank God, prevailed, and I realized while I didn't want to own a hot dog restaurant, it might be fun to write about one.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Here's a toughie, and may explain why my fiction has not earned me the widespread love and six-figure deals I so clearly deserve: my writing doesn't fit neatly into a marketable slot.  My agent is pleased to call it Literary Fiction, but it's not what people think of when they think Literary Fiction.  No one has ever accused me of Realism, but nor do I write Fantasy or even Magical Realism.  The closest analogue I suppose would be a cartoon, which is not surprising given that I was a syndicated cartoonist for many years.  If you look closely at the Man Martin World, you will discover a preponderance of primary colors, everything - even the sun and clouds - has a firm black outline, and in moments of extreme turmoil, sweat literally jumps from my characters' foreheads in sets of three drops.  As far as the stories themselves, and no one could be more astonished at this than I am, what I write are love stories, but again, these are not the sort of love stories that people who like to read love stories would normally want to read.  It is a hard row to hoe being a genius as I am, but that is the cross I have to bear.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Gary Busey would make a good Adam Newman.  He doesn't look the way Adam does in the book, but he has the right quality of lunatic energy: he's the sort of person you love but can't actually stand to be around.  Walt Disney has a small but vital cameo, and I think Johnny Depp might do a good job at that.  Most of the major characters, and minor ones too, are a little "mad."

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Alcoholic entrepreneur longing to reunite with his estranged first wife proves himself capable of solving everyone's problems but his own.

6) Who published your book?
Thomas Dunne

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
This I can readily answer because I know I was working on an early version during my last year at GSU, which would have been 2007.  The book was published in 2011, and it took a year to find a publisher and another year to find print.  So 2011 - 2 = 2009 and 2009 - 2007 = 2.  I can say with confidence it took me two years.  Two grueling, unspeakable years.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Paradise Dogs has been compared to Confederacy of Dunces, which I think is pretty apt.  The arcs of the characters are very similar.  In each case, the protagonist is a wrecking ball in his own life who manages to bring order to everyone else's.  Ignatius even works as a hot dog vendor for a time.  Coincidence... or conspiracy?  You decide.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think #2 already answers this, but since there's a "who" in the question, I'd have to say my father.  Like Adam Newman, he was an alcoholic, and a lot of the material about Adam came straight from Dad.  For example, he proposed to my mother by acquiring a dozen loose diamonds and pouring them in her lap with a "Take your pick.  We'll set it in a ring later."  He was larger than life in a lot of ways, but I never really knew him because - thank goodness - we left him when I was five.  There is nothing adorable and cute about alcoholism, it is a devastating illness for victims and families, but in some ways Paradise Dogs is a fantasy about a bonding adventure he and I might have had - might have had if we lived in a universe of primary colors where clouds were outlined in black and when people got really upset, three drops of sweat would pop from their foreheads in triangular formation.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book is about pre-Disney Florida, a place which no longer exists and many believe never did.

1 comment:

  1. Frankly, I'm surprised no one has acquired the movie rights to "P Dogs" yet. The role of Adam Newman is a part that just about any big actor would LOVE to play. (If only Paul Newman were still around, and just a bit younger...)