What is your next book, and when does it come out?
My newest, The Unflushables, will be released April 10th, and can be preordered here. I’ve got two more in the works, but they’re top secret, and I am forbidden to speak of them. Actually, even the mere mention that I’m working on something could put us both in grave danger. Oh well, I’m sure it’s fine. But if a stranger comes to your door, and they’re carrying a briefcase or a package or a pizza, then… never mind. I’ve said too much already.
What inspired you to write The Unflushables?
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of celebrity. It’s a status awarded not by a king, or a government, or a corporation, but by a large number of people who magically come together to “celebrate” a particular someone for being… someone. Generally, it’s bestowed because the selectee holds a particular job–actor, model, musician, athlete, politician, competitive hot dog eater… These are our stars. And I’m fine with that, they deserve to be recognized for being really good at what they do. But what puzzles me is why we celebrate some forms of excellence and not others? I mean, somewhere out there is the all-time greatest grocery stocker in the entire world, and we’re never going to know their name. Does that seem right? A dry cleaner has a much bigger impact on your life than, say, someone who smashes watermelons on stage with a giant hammer, but do you ever applaud the person bringing out your lightly starched, cellophane-wrapped Haggar slacks? Of course not.
No one does. Just like no one asks the bug exterminator for their autograph despite the fact they have more verified kills than Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris combined. This makes me sad.
I wrote The Unflushables because I wanted to create a world where celebrity landed on a different (but extremely deserving) part of society: plumbers. After all, a world without plumbers is not a nice place. It’s thirsty, dirty, dry, dull, sick, angry, and smells a lot like poo.
How long does it take to write a book?
Twelve minutes, provided the book isn’t very long and your editor has no changes.
How did you become a writer?
The same way everyone else does… forcibly and against my will. The truth is, I never saw it coming, probably because I was too busy having the typical American childhood–one thrilling adventure after another. These occurred every Saturday between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon, which was the stretch when they showed the really good cartoons. You know, the ones with anvils and explosions. My process was to get up extra early and find a prime spot four inches from the TV screen so I could achieve maximum neural overload before naptime.
And by naptime, I mean American Bandstand.
It was a good system. The only problem was that it was a long, long time between Saturdays (it felt like years) and by Tuesday afternoon, the view-phoria would start to fade. So, fearing total brain shutdown, I turned to books.
The Hobbit, Encyclopedia Brown, A Wrinkle in Time, Treasure Island, James and the Giant Peach, The Horse Who Lived Upstairs–these were the shows I watched over and over inside my head. And I could see them anytime I wanted. Did they provide that same hyper-frenzied pupil-popping mind rush I got on Saturday mornings?
Of course not. That’s what Cocoa Puffs were for.
But the point is, I was reading. And since there’s a thin, Big-Chief-tablet-style line between reading and writing, it was only a matter of time until someone dragged me across it kicking and screaming. That someone was my third grade teacher, Mrs. Campbell. Having lulled us into a false sense of security with chocolate milk and smiley stickers, she suddenly forced us to write a story and read it aloud in front of the class. It was terrifying–roller coaster terrifying–meaning I was sweaty and nauseous and pretty sure I was going to die, and then the second it was over I got back in line to do it again.
I don’t know exactly how Mrs. C. did it, but from that day on I went through ink the way The Hulk goes through human-sized, tear-away menswear.
How much does a writer make?
You mean money? What a silly idea! Writers don’t get paid in money, our payment is the wonder in a child’s eyes. Of course, the hard part is getting that wonder out, which is a long and painful process that requires squeezing the corneas with a special milking-tool. Then, when we have enough, we sell the wonder to witches who use it to cast evil spells that will one day plunge the world into eternal darkness. Without readers like you, and the ready cash of witches, every writer would starve.
What is your favorite book?
I don’t think it’s fair to call one book my favorite until I’ve read every single book in the known universe. And I still have four to go. But I can tell you which book is NOT my favorite–The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Sure, I’ve read it a dozen times, and peeked at it a hundred, but that doesn’t mean it’s my favorite book. It can’t be–I won’t let it. I absolutely refuse to be a fully grown man whose favorite selection in the vast world of literature is the story of a toad who is a very bad driver. I mean, what’s so profound about that? Can’t we assume that all toads are terrible drivers? It just seems like common sense. Now, I’m not saying it isn’t good, of course it’s good. But my favorite book? Ridiculous. No, if I have to put a label on it, I’d say that The Wind in the Willows is my favorite collection of words put together in sentences of varying lengths and slapped between two covers. And if you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. It reads like music, meaning I can open it to any page, at random, and enjoy it as I can the beginning, middle, or end of a symphony. I don’t need to read the entire thing, because the plot doesn’t really matter to me. What matters is the slow, smooth, honey-sweet way the words pour out.
Where do writers get their ideas?
It’s so funny you should ask. Did you ever read a story, or see a movie, and then think “Hey, they stole my idea!”? Well, there’s a reason for that… we did! Not personally, of course. Writers don’t like to get our hands dirty. Instead, we buy our ideas on the black market from shadowy brain-pirates who raid your dreams and steal your most creative thoughts. This is why no writer can be held responsible for a bad book or screenplay. I mean, why blame us? It was your idea.