So, over the past month I went on a blog tour – funny, when I say I went somewhere, when I really just stayed where I was and the blogs went on without me – for my book, Peck: A Book. Amongst the thing I did were an author interview, a Ford 99 post (that analyzes the 99th page of the book) and also a guest post. Since that tour has now drawn to a close, it seemed only fair I should share my posts and such for that here and get double duty out of them. Here’s the interview:Please tells us, in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Because it’s both funny and tragic, speaks to the human condition and no animals were harmed in creating it
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I write constantly, and usually work on more than one project at a time – which means that most times I have at least one project nearing completion and at least one other in some half-finished state behind it. Right now, the nearing-complete book is called Goliath and is about a boss from hell. Beyond that at three genre novels, a ghost story, a thriller and a horror novel, in various stages of completion.
What is your dream cast for the book?
This is actually a fairly tough question, given the book follows the main character, Cecilia, from the age of 17 to almost 40 and actresses that would be appropriate for the young Cecilia would not be appropriate for the older Cecilia. Kate Winslet might be the most obvious choice and could probably play the role in her sleep. Plus, the book hints at some amount of nudity, which she wouldn’t be afraid to do. Tina Fey would be an interesting choice, because she doesn’t normally get thought of for dramatic roles, but given she tends to play the straight-man on 30 Rock, she might be up for it. The problem with both of those actresses, though, is they’d have a hard time pulling off the 17 year-old version of Cecilia. Michelle Williams might be best suited to playing both the young and the old and wouldn’t overpower the part with glamour. Anyhow, for the part of the mother, I’d love to see somebody like Cate Blanchett.
Can you see you see yourself in any of your characters?
I see myself, or at least pieces of myself in most characters I write. Even the despicable ones have motivations or desires I’ve felt at one time or another, the only difference is, I generally had the good sense not to follow up on it. My most personal book was my newest, Peck: A Book, boiling down huge chunks of my life, and my family, for fun and profit. I’d like to think it’s not a roman a clef and I basically jumbled all the real life people up so that none is recognizable as any one person. However, one character is so identical to the real person that I might be in for some trouble, if that person ever reads the book.
What was your favorite children’s book?
My favorite children’s book has been, and always will be, Christina Katerina & the Box., which is about a little girl who takes a cardboard box and makes it everything. One day it’s a play house. Another day it’s a race car. Another day it’s a dance floor. When I was younger I used to love hearing the story because Christina was spirited and was very much how I wanted to be – imagination driven. When I finally had my own children, I read it to them and like to think that Christina’s imagination rubbed off on my son, especially since he would turn boxes in everything. I have no doubts that when I have my own grandchildren, they’ll probably hear the story as well. Incidentally, a close second is Ferdinand the Bull, by Murno Leaf.
Favorite book as a teen.
I was somewhat precocious with my reading habits, diving through Gone With The Wind, Dracula, and No One Here Get’s Out Alive by the time I was 16. If I had to say my favorite, though, it’d be Stephen King’s Misery, which I picked up when I was barely 13.
Your favorite authors of all time.
Younger, in my early to mid-teens, I was huge on Stephen King and even today he’s the author I most reread – at least the early work. In high school it was more Kurt Vonnegut, whose entire catalog I devoured in something like 18 months. As an adult, I’ve gotten very much into Jane Smiley and John Updike.
If you could have a signed copy of any novel, what would it be and why?
This is somewhat of an easy question: a copy of Stephen King’s The Stand. The reason it’s easy: I already have it. When I was around 14, my grandmother wrote to him through his publisher to ask if he would sign a book for me. He’s not a guy who usually signs a lot of autographs but he sent her back a letter that basically had a ‘coupon’ for one signed book. I chose The Stand, sent it off, and a couple weeks later, it returned, with the autograph.
If it had to be a second choice book, I’d like to have a signed copy of Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike. Though I’ve been a big fan of all the Rabbit novels, including the novella , Rabbit Remembered, of them all, Rabbit is Rich, especially with the themes of regret and oncoming mortality, really spoke to me. Unfortunately, John Updike has since passed, so getting a copy might be difficult. Never fear, though, I do have a framed autograph from him, though it’d be much nicer in a copy of Rabbit is Rich.
If you really paid attention, you’d notice that the cover of Peck: A Book apes the cover of the Rabbit books, and also rhymes with the title of his short story collection, Bech: A Book.
I suppose, third down the list would be Moo by Jane Smiley.
Finish this sentence. The one book I wish I had written is…
The Bible – think of the residuals on that! No, but seriously, The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. Or maybe The Corrections.
What made you want to be a writer?
In second grade we were given an assignment of writing and binding our own stories and even if I don’t have that first story, or the binding, I have the second one. Obviously, it’s a bit on the terrible side – I was in second grade – but clearly it was that assignment by Mrs. Gilmer that set the ball rolling. After that, it just was what I did.
If you could co-author a book with any author, who would it be?
I don’t think I could co-author anything. When I was about 20 or so I tried to work together with a friend of mine, at least a little bit, but I just feel so much ownership over the things I put my energy into that when my friend would suggest changes, I’d close down and try to fight him off – I’m just not overly collaborative in that way.
But even assuming I could be collaborative, I still don’t think I could write with any of my heroes – which is what the question really get’s to – because i’d likely be so deferential to them they’d eventually just cut me out altogether. That is, if you could get any work done with me sitting off to the side constantly telling them how awesome they are.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be.
I’ve only ever lived in Michigan. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to leave, I wanted to get out there and do my own thing and explore the world. As I’ve gotten older, though, and gotten to the point where I like things the way I like them, I’m more prone to loving to live in Michigan, and I guess it’s not an awful place. We have the lakes, we have the upper peninsula, and where I live, Detroit and Chicago are just over two hours away.
If you had a million dollars, what would you buy?
First, I’d pay off my student loans. After that, I’d probably buy a new car, nothing too fancy, and invest most of the rest and use the interest to supplement income. A boring answer, I know, but come on, if you buy a million dollar house you have to think about how much it costs to heat it, to put electric, to put water, to pay taxes, to insure it. I know the dream answer would be to go wild, but what’s the point? I have my family and after that the only thing I could want is a little security.
What do you do in your free time?
My day job.
What’s your favorite season?
Winter. There is nothing better than waking up on a winter morning, with snow on the ground and the air so cold that everything has crystallized and you can almost see the air. Nothing like it.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
Because my name is really Joe, I suspect it’d be some play on words like Average Joe. If it was more a book of my wisdom, then it’d probably be something like A Cup Of Joe – although, looking at it now, that might be better used as the name for my cookbook.
Rock and roll. From the 60’s and 70’s I’m very partial to The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. From the 80’s, Jane’s Addiction. From the 90’s it’s Nine Inch Nails and most grunge that isn’t Pearl Jam. From today, I really like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cage The Elephant, Phoenix, The Black Keys and pretty much everything with Jack White. Side note: mastermind of Nine Inch Nails? Trent Reznor. My son’s name: Trent.
My favorite kind of food is Chinese, hands down. But the one specific Chinese food I like is easy: egg rolls.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
I actually don’t eat a lot of ice cream. When I did, when I was young, I would get anything that was chocolate. My favorite was the Fudge Overload BLizzard at Dairy Queen (that’s not the real name of it, but it might as well be). These days, though, I’m more of a cookie person, preferring a soft bake double chocolate chip. Though, hoestnly, the greatest cookies in the known world are the chocolate no-bakes my mother makes. Even though she’s given my wife and daughter the recipe, they never get it to come out just like my mom.
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
This is actually a more complicated question than you might imagine in my house. In my house we eat light breakfasts – the kids like cereal, the wife likes very little, I like English muffins with peanut butter and honey – but we eat traditional breakfasts for dinner. I believe Scrubs use to call it Brinner. Anyway, of traditional breakfast foods my favorite is biscuits and sausage gravy.
One food you would never eat?
Omelets, their evil twin, quiche, and most scrambled eggs. I can’t really explain what I don’t like about them, since I do like eggs – generally Sunnyside up, though they have to be flipped long enough to get the snotty feel off the whites – but when the second you start to whoosh the white and yolk together, I start to gag.
Skittles or M&M’s?
M&M’s, preferably peanut butter. Can also take Reese’s Pieces.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Quit, because you’re stealing my audience.