One of my favorite parts of running the BookFetish site is hearing from all the up-and-coming writers who are trying to navigate through all the noise of the internet, and get their book noticed.
Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming volume of requests—and an average life expectancy—I have to turn down way more requests than I’d like to. It pains me to think of all the fantastic writing I’m missing, so it’s even more rewarding when I receive a book that just resonates.
Whether that resonation is due to the voice, writing style or topic, it’s hard to say, but one of my latest reads, Triceratops by Marcus Gorman (read review here) has it all—including a fantastic cover.
So, as usual, when I find someone with a great sense of humor who doesn’t mind answering silly questions I interview them. Marcus has agreed to subject himself—although I have to say that some of these ridiculous inquiries came from his book, so he only has himself to blame.
I love Seattle. It’s like a mix of San Diego and San Fran. How long have you lived there?
I’ve lived in Seattle since 2009, and as a native of Northern California (I was raised in Berkeley and Kensington), I can absolutely attest to Seattle’s similarities with San Francisco. Seattle has felt like everything I love about the Bay Area, except more condensed and with better traffic. I haven’t spent enough time in San Diego but have always enjoyed my time there, feeling it to be a laid-back, accessible, and friendly alternative to the sometimes overwhelming chaos of Los Angeles, where I went to college.
Well, I can tell you that L.A. and San Diego are practically different planets... Did you ever live in NYC?
I’ve never lived in NYC, but I have an obsession with the city and its artistic representations. Whether it’s film, drama, television, literature, music, or journalism, if it’s set in or around the city at any point in its history, I’m fascinated by it. Should I ever have enough money to live comfortably in NYC for the rest of my life, I would move in a heartbeat. Since around the age of 10, I’ve visited the city at least every two years, first with my family (mostly for theatergoing and sightseeing), and later for journalism conventions, film work, and a wedding anniversary. In the fall of 2011, I put together a Kickstarter project to fund a week-long research trip so I could get the details just right for the book.
It’s nice that you appreciate NYC so much. Those of us who live here wish we could afford it too. So, then setting your story here was a fairly obvious choice for you?
I set the story in NYC for a few reasons. I gave Henry my love for its artistic and cultural history, exploring his interests and influences and how it might fit into the city’s personality. For Charlotte, considering her backstory, her present circumstances, and her personality, she’s the kind of person who would impulsively move to New York at that age, as many friends have. I wanted a place far enough from Henry and Charlotte’s native land of Seattle so that it would feel otherworldly to them, exciting and confusing and even a little dangerous.
Well, it worked. Do you write full time?
That’s the ultimate goal, but my monetary circumstances prevent me from fulfilling my awesome dream of being able to work in my pajamas for all eternity.
There’s nothing better than sitting around in your pajamas, stewing in your own filth and writing. I highly recommend it. However, my husband does like it if I put on “big girl” clothes every once in a while. So you have a regular job then?
I have a slew of part-time occupations, as I am almost completely incapable of holding a regular job for more than a couple years. Here’s what going on in my life currently: I write British television show recaps for a public television channel in Los Angeles; I am a quizmaster for Geeks Who Drink; I am a dogwalker; I run sound for a monthly burlesque revue; and occasionally I consult for Gracenote on their film/TV global media database and Watchwith on their second screen technology.
You’re plenty capable. It’s the regular jobs that can’t hold on to us. My employment is similarly “varietal”. Can you elaborate on the Geeks Who Drink?
It’s a small Denver-based company with a very big reach. They create a daily 64-question pub quiz, all written in-house by the staff and the quizmasters. The tone is nerdy, snarky, funny, fairly vulgar, and nicely varied, and I was a participant before I was a quizmaster. I host Monday nights at Nick's Off Market in the Ballard neighborhood, and it's really helped me with my elocution and my general public anxiety. I really liked last night's quiz. One round had answers that doubled as precious metals and gems (i.e. Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Jack Ruby), one called "Where in the World is 007?", a visual round where you had to identify parts of a horse, and an audio round featuring clips of Samuel L. Jackson yelling. You know, something for everybody.
Sounds really fun. I’m horrible at geography, so 007 wouldn’t have a chance of being found—but I’d totally ace naming parts of a horse. Are you a sports fan?
I appreciate sports as pure entertainment and as a way to hold onto my roots (go A’s), but I’ve grown to despise sports fan culture. I have never understood how liking a particular sports team gives anybody the right to be an asshole. Just enjoy the game and don’t be a dick.
Exactly!! Be happy you’re not at the Garden when the NY Rangers play the NJ Devils… Do you have any hobbies?
My love of arts and entertainment has served me well in my professional life, so I’m not sure if it counts as a hobby anymore. I watch, I read, I listen, I learn. I don’t know. Is drinking craft beer in dark pubs and discussing independent cinema a hobby? Then that.
Drinking is definitely a hobby—it’s one of the few things I’m good at. What's the worst job you ever had?
I was a magician’s assistant in Oakland for exactly one week. And he was a truly terrible, foul-tempered magician. Among his many failed skills, there’s this unintentionally terrifying bit where he puts a box around his head, sets a camera six inches from his face so it can be projected onto a screen, makes shapes with his tongue for a few minutes, then pretends to drown.
That has to be one of the most disturbing and hilarious things I’ve ever heard. I honestly can’t stop laughing. It sounds like something out of a David Lynch movie. Are you a TV watcher?
I am a television-watching fiend. Currently, my three favorite shows are The Good Wife, Treme, and (don’t mock me) Big Brother.
Sorry, it’s impossible not to mock you for Big Brother… What past TV show do you miss most?
Six Feet Under.
Ok, you’ve redeemed yourself. What book would you change the end to?
The last book to really piss me off in its final bits would have to be David Nicholls’ One Day, which kills all of the beautifully established goodwill in the previous 300-or-so pages by tossing in the most terrible soap opera twist it can think of. It’s cheap, nasty, and useless. I understand why he felt compelled to tug at the heartstrings, but it’s so infuriatingly transparent.
I was unhappy with the movie version as well. Do you read a lot?
I’m usually reading three things at once. At home, it’s mostly fiction, more often than not books that have been optioned as movies. (I have a particular interest in cross-medium adaptation.) At the gym, it’s whatever I was able to purchase cheaply for my Kindle, which tend to be essays, detective fiction, and showbiz memoirs. When I’m killing time at bars and cafés, it’s plays, pop culture history, or criticism.
I really enjoyed Triceratops, and not just because I’m a New Yorker, is it your first book?
This is my first published book, but not the first I’ve written. That would be Lady Luck, a detective novel parody starring characters from the world of musical theatre (e.g. Sky Masterson is a private detective, Annie Oakley is his associate, Tevye is a mob boss, J. Pierrepont Finch is the mayor of NYC, Zombie Jean Valjean is a bar owner). It needs a heavy edit, but I’m planning on a 2013 release.
That actually sounds pretty fun. Do you think reading is an important aspect of being a writer?
Reading as much as one possibly can is essential to the writing process. It keeps your ideas fresh, it expands your vocabulary and storytelling skills, and it gives you new cultural obsessions. If I’m not reading, I’m not learning, and if I’m not learning, why write in the first place?
In your book there is a character named Leah who plays the “would you rather…” game. I love the clown question: Would you rather sleep with a clown on top of your bed every night, or have one sleep under your bed?
I would prefer it to be under my bed, so that I may feed it dry cat food and make it my clown slave.
My husband also chose for it to sleep under the bed, but only if it’s not allowed to jump out and scare him. But, seriously, who can be sure that the clown will follow the rules…
Of course I'm going to make you answer my other favorite: Would you rather have a penis on your forehead or no penis at all?
Penis on the forehead. I can get a job as a ring toss target at very disturbing birthday parties.
I’ve been to one of those parties. Ok, one more: if female zombies were the only species left to date, would you date them?
Yes. I prefer aggressive women.
Good to know. Triceratops has a strong jazz influence. Are you a big jazz fan?
I grew up with and was shaped by many different kinds of music, jazz being only one genre that my parents would play on the stereo at home or in the car. Like Henry, I was in jazz band in high school on the alto sax, and while it was clear I wasn’t especially talented, I learned to appreciate the history and theory of the genre.
By the way, the soundtracks you put together on Spotify for the book was a really nice touch. So what can we expect from you in the future?
After I complete Lady Luck, I’d like to write a book about Seattle counterculture, most likely a series of short stories and monologues so I can cover the many personalities this city contains. If I can find a good enough artist who agrees with my writing style, and if the stories reveal themselves more visually, I’d consider telling the stories in graphic novel form.
The graphic novel is an interesting idea. One last thing before you go. Do you have a triceratops?
It changes constantly, but recently it's how the Beatles were able to accomplish and create so much, truly push the medium forward by leaps and bounds, in only ten years. It's absolutely remarkable how much they changed the world.