Archive for January, 2013

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Illustration by Max Currie

Before I begin with excerpts from the book, I want to introduce Max Currie, the guy who illustrated Baby, You’re a Rich Man. When I was developing the character of Kent Richman and figuring where he fit in the Japanese landscape, I began to see how Kent’s life mirrored the comic book characters I’d read in manga from masters like Yoshiro Tatsumi, whose underground comics reflected a darker reality. I thought including illustrations, more graphic novel than comic, would enhance and complement the book since Kent’s life had begun to mirror the tone of some of the gekiga (dramatic pictures) style of Japanese comics. I like the way the illustrations reflect the combination of grim realism and the absurdly comic. And there’s the more obvious connection between the setting and Japanese comic books. The challenge was to find someone who could put what I saw in my head on paper.

I’d seen Max’s work and thought that he was going for similar effects and might understand how to capture the Japanese aesthetic without copying it directly. I wanted the illustrations to feel unique to the book and have a thuggish sense of humor, to take themselves seriously but be oversized like comic books and noirish like some graphic novels. But I also didn’t want to be too prescriptive. I wanted to see another’s interpretation.

I gave Max the manuscript, some general guidelines, and said have at it. He read it and came back with a few sketches, rough drawings that aimed to give Kent and other details of the book a distinct look. While that look has evolved, I recognized then that Max understood both Kent and the book.

From there Max took off, inked twenty plus original drawings. I wanted an illustration to precede each chapter but I asked Max not to worry about matching them with what was happening directly in the narrative. Instead, he discovered then focused on specific key details and transformed them into iconic visual moments that represent both the chapter (either directly or indirectly) and the book at large, yet still move the book forward. I love the way the words and images finally work together.

I’m grateful to Max for taking the chance and doing great work. So… thanks, Max. It’s been a pleasure.

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Max Currie

You can check Max and his work out here at:
Max Currie – How a Raven is Like a Writing Desk

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“Baby, You’re a Rich Man is part picaresque, part noir, part tale of a (not so) innocent abroad, part send-up of the ridiculousness of made-for-TV consumer culture. Kent Richman’s fall and rise and fall and rise is as weird and unlikely as his childhood infamy and his adult fame, and Christopher Bundy’s masterstroke is to make of that weirdness a heartfelt novel for the new century, a novel in which everything and anything is possible: love, loss, and maybe even redemption.”

–      Josh Russell, author of A True History of the Captivation, Transport to Strange Lands, & Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag

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Illustration by Max Currie

Thanks to Josh Russell for the kind words above.

For the next few months, I will be excerpting passages from the book one chapter at a time, including illustrations from Max Currie. While the book is illustrated in black and white, Max did some of the illustrations in color. I will showcase many of those color illustrations here, beginning with this frontispiece image from Section One: There’s Really Nothing to It.

Next week… Chapter One.

Ben Spivey, author of the recently released BLACK GOD (Blue Square Press, Nov 2012), tagged me in the ongoing “The Next Big Thing” interview series where authors answer a series of ten questions about their upcoming books and then tag other authors to do the same. Thanks, Ben…

 Baby Youre a Rich Man Cover Front_final

1) What is the title of your latest book?

The novel BABY, YOU’RE A RICH MANdue Spring 2013.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came from a short story I wrote called “Big in Japan” (Thuglit), which serves as the backstory for the novel. The idea for my protagonist Kent Richman, John Lennon look-a-like and B-level variety star on Japanese TV, came from watching Japanese TV when I lived there in the ‘90s. At that time, there were several foreigners who were popular on a number of variety shows.  Because guys like this spoke fluent Japanese and understood the culture inside/out, they were well-integrated into popular culture. I liked the idea of setting a story in Japan without resorting to the familiar “stranger in a strange land” scenario.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Maybe contemporary satire via a noir-ish/Tarantino lens?

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The protagonist has to look somewhat like a young John Lennon and be pretty skinny. Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull it off. Or Christian Bale, if he could pass for twenty-something. Sean Lennon?

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Man has it all; man loses it all; man wants it back.

6) Who published your book?

C&R Press.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft, and a much longer version with an entire sub-plot since excised from the novel, took about a year. Revisions took another year.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

When I first started writing the book, I had read a lot of Haruki Murakami and loved that first-person narrative. It turned out to be neither in the first-person nor anything like his books, which is good. Books that might fall under the same category/style: Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim; Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask; Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, with a dash of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In part, I felt a need to write a book about Japan because my time there meant so much to me. But I also wanted to do so in a way that wasn’t about Japan, i.e., I didn’t want to write about how weird or different Japanese culture might be perceived through a Western eye (stranger in a strange land), which has been done to death and feels more like travel essay. I felt the setting suited my protagonist’s story and went from there.

Also, many of my favorite stories revolve around man vs. himself, and I wanted to work from that premise.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book is also illustrated with black and white ink drawings from Max Currie, a friend and fantastic illustrator.

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Many were colored (see below) but are too expensive to print for a small press. I always thought the book should be illustrated because of the exaggerated nature of some parts of the story and the characters, like a good comic book. Kent’s life and Max’s illustrations mirror some of the gekiga (dramatic pictures) style of Japanese comics from masters like Yoshihiro Tatsumi whose underground comics reflected a darker reality and introduced the graphic novel format. And I like the way the illustrations reflect the combination of  grim realism and the absurdly comic in Kent’s story. Midway through the book, Kent even stumbles across a DIY comic book that someone has done, illustrating his post-celebrity life, which, of course, freaks him out. And there are also direct connections made in the book to the manga industry and the practice of cosplay (dressing up like comic book or anime characters), which is popular in Japan.

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Finally, I think the book is funny, not ha-ha but subtly so. Kent Richman is one of those characters who straddles the line between sympathetic fuck-up and douchebag. My favorite kind, the ones who are learning how to live in the world. Kent means well, most of the time, but fails a lot. I’m hopeful the reader can see through the douchebaggery to the human.

You can pre-order BABY, YOU’RE A RICH MAN from the C&R Press site.

In the spirit of the series, I’m going to pass the mantle to Gabe Durham, author of the forthcoming FUN CAMP, from Mudluscious Press. He should be posting his own answers to the questions above soon. On to you, Gabe…