Archive for June, 2013

baby_illustrations_3

Jon Sindell (baseball fanatic, all around good guy, and author of The Mighty Roman, a book on my summer reading list I can’t wait to hit) has tagged me in the ongoing (and circular) “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. MR_FINALsm copySince I’ve already been tagged once, I’ll simply repost my previous answers. Thanks, Jon… it’s been a pleasure getting to know ya’. At the bottom you’ll find a link to the talented Man Martin, the next link in this Big Thing…

 baby_cover_shadow1) What is the title of your latest book?

The novel BABY, YOU’RE A RICH MAN.

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_logo_newC&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.

BYARM_19

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.

baby_illustrations_2

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 order BABY, YOU’RE A RICH MAN from the C&R Press site or from Amazon, etc.

man_martin

Man Martin

In the spirit of the series, I’m going to pass the mantle to the man Man Martin, author of the endearing and comic Days of the Endless Corvette and Paradise Dogs, where he will answer questions about his next book “The Limonjello Remedy.” You’ll also want to follow his blog once you’ve read a few of his archived daily posts. He should be posting his own answers to the questions above. On to you, Man…

Advertisements
BYARM_20

Illustration by Max Currie

The current pushed against him, the water high and rushing; his feet slipped on the slimy green rocks. What felt good at first had become dangerous. One blunder and he’d slip under. Kent had never been a strong swimmer. How cold would it be under there, legs and arms stretched out like a big X, face up in the water, floating on to Tokyo and into the Pacific right on out of this island country? He looked to the other side, its steep bank nearly thirty meters away and covered in green grass, bobbing nests of dense green vine, and trees that leaned into the river, their branches and leaves pulled by the high water. He had to get out before something stupid happened. He stepped backward, stumbling and sliding. The water grew deeper and closed around his balls in an icy grip. He stood with his arms up and out at his sides, a ridiculous figure once again. He could no longer tolerate the life he lived, something had to change. Midori was right: Have you seen yourself, Kent? As he turned in the rushing water toward the bank, which seemed to stretch farther and farther away, Kent put his foot down in an overconfident search for a rock and found a hole instead. He went under, flapping his arms above his head in an attempt to stay upright, swallowing a gulp of river water.

As he surfaced, water rushed in his ears and he took in another mouthful. He coughed till his chest burned—as if matches were lit in his lungs—but he couldn’t stop coughing. I’m drowning, he thought, in four feet of water. How stupid. A final stupid act to close a stupid life. Kent drummed his feet over rocks but couldn’t steady himself as the river caught him in its current and pushed him downstream with the sand and the deadwood. Panic took hold, his stomach and chest tight, still on fire, his throat achy and the water sour and cold in his mouth like a bitter tea. His foot caught between a rock—a foothold—but his ankle twisted painfully. Kent bit hard into his tongue as his knee slammed up into his chin and he tasted blood. He tried to spin his body, again flapping his arms in the air and water, but the current pushed him forward, twisting his torso upriver and his legs towards Tokyo.

High up on the riverbank, Kent caught sight of a blurry figure in yellow. Would Ozman watch him drown, the river doing his dirty work for him? A wave of water washed over his head. When he looked up to the riverbank again, the yellow figure was gone. He wanted to reach up and pull Ozman, if it was him, into the cold water with him—just the two us now, friend, but he ran his knee into a large shallow boulder. As he reached his arms around the big gray rock, someone called his name. He could turn, he knew, and see his nemesis—how odd to have a nemesis—grabbing his crotch and laughing at Kent drowning before him in the river. He pressed his cheek to the cold rock and hung on, afraid to turn his head and look. With his name on the air, pulsating pain around his ankle and knee, the water rolled over him and all he could think about was the hockey bag that held his life’s belongings, Allan’s urn. How pathetic he would look to embassy officials when they gathered his body and his few possessions to ship home and discovered that he had no home, no place at all.

Bullet

byarm006

Illustration by Max Currie

Clear Comprehending

In Kent’s one moment of uninterrupted contemplation, he wished for penance, to finally and forever put his bloodied past behind him. His knees bent stiff and his head still throbbed with the shock of withdrawal and his recent accident, but the sensations seemed remote, part of another self, one bound to the earth by the roots of his past. He decided he needed the sum of all his pain to atone for his sins. He called upon the hurt to lead him beyond the empty room, beyond his body, beyond Allan, beyond Kumi. The greater the pain, the greater the chance he might find answers. He’d no longer have to forfeit happiness for guilt, he’d no longer think of Allan or Kumi, Ozman or Monique. He’d no longer ask himself, yet again, what might have been different that summer night in Nags Head. He’d no longer wonder where his wife was or if she’d ever take him back.

Kent pushed his mind to prayer, words to God—a god he knew little of—and let the pain in his knees and back and head and eye roll like the tides. The smarting in his head thumped just above his good eye and he couldn’t see clearly or focus any longer on the wall before him. He whispered his brother’s name, then his ex-wife’s, and engaged the pain, so strong in his back by then it made his eyes water. He guessed his spine might crumble, leaving him limp and crippled on the dusty tatami. He felt Ojisan’s eyes on him, but didn’t return the look.

A wet breeze blew through the temple, sweat cooled beneath his shirt, and a tingle rolled over his scalp. He smelled smoke from a cooking fire, a suggestion of spices that he couldn’t name in the air. He murmured his brother’s name again, his wife’s, the only words that formed in his throat. He tucked his thumbs under his fingers, an irrational trick Kumi had shown him to prevent terrible things. He tensed his back to ensure that the hurt would roam his body without favor to him or any part of him. An eye for an eye; he guessed he’d made his deal. Beside him, Midori stirred. Before him Oji-san tapped out a rhythm with the bamboo rod against his thigh. Outside, cedar tops swayed and rain poured from the overflowing gutters.

Bullet