This excerpt is Chapter 3 from Juggling Kittens. It is also a fairly autobiographical account of my memory of 9/11.
September 11th, 2001, was eventful for both me and one Ruddy Creek seventh grader, but not for any of the reasons you’d expect.
Rachael Marcel’s beagle died on September 10th.
The attacks started on that Tuesday around 8:00 a.m. our time. Ms. Peterman, the math teacher, and I were standing in the hallway talking about her spider bite when Coach Tipton swift-walked down the hallway, elbowing preteens out of his way to brief us on the first plane.
We reacted with a resounding, “Weird,” and filed into class behind our students as the second bell rang.
Coach Tipton wasn’t a coach. He used to be a coach. Somewhere along the way he realized driving a bus before and after school paid almost as much as coaching and required about an eighth of the time. Couldn’t lose the moniker though. He looked the part too much: shaved head, beefy neck, scowl. He was everybody’s favorite guy. Coaches loved him because he was one of their own. Teachers loved him because they viewed him as a coach who would rather teach. Girls loved him because he was 225 pounds of muscle. Boys loved him because he was 225 pounds of muscle.
Other than The Drew, Tipton was the closest to a friend that I made among the teachers at Dan Blocker Junior High. We ate lunch and watched Unsolved Mysteries together once or twice a week. Great guy. Knew how to play the game. Never took work home. Didn’t polish anything he could buff with a sleeve. September 11th, even when it looked like a freak accident to everyone but him, made for some easy-going TV time in the social studies classroom.
But it wasn’t half an hour before he came running back down the hallway, tapping on the glass rectangles in our doorways. It was surreal to see a mist coating those muscular eyes (yes, even his eyes were, in fact, muscular).
“I think you better turn on your TV,” Tipton squinted and nodded at me. I’m not sure if it took more convincing for others, but for me that one statement made me feel like a little kid being told about a death in the family. I fumbled at the remote and turned a little red at the fact that the TV would still be tuned to Lifetime from the Unsolved Mysteries reruns. But no one noticed. Lifetime was doing news coverage of the attacks. I’d never seen anything but sappy movies and crappy reruns on Lifetime. To this day, that’s still one of the most shocking things about the whole ordeal: they even covered it on Lifetime.
The kids were pretty clueless as to how to react. When the first tower collapsed, one kid said “cool”. Cool. They were watching TV—not real life. These events had no real bearing on their video-game reality. Not until years later, when they would sit around sharing “where were you” stories, all far too similar and pedantic, would they even start to understand the gravity of what they had witnessed. And that one kid would remember saying “cool” and would remember how Coach Tipton had jumped his ass and would get twice as embarrassed as he had on September 11th, 2001. But he’d leave that part out of his story—leave it for others to tell so they could divert at least a little attention away from what they sat and watched on a television screen all day long.
Like me, no one would ever forget that kid’s clumsiness, his head-ducked shame, our relief we hadn’t been the one to say anything inappropriate. We would eventually forget the numbers of dead, the order of crashes, the names, the details. We would remember ourselves: I was home sick, I was watching The Today Show, I was talking to Ms. Peterman about her spider bite, I was in a class with this kid who called it “cool”. The important stuff. No one remembers events. They only remember their perspective of events.
By lunch, half the kids in school had been checked out, either in an effort to hide from the moment or out of some fear that Ruddy Creek, Arkansas, would be targeted right after New York and D.C. My fourth period had four people in it. Tipton brought his class of seven down, and we all sat in silent wonder, listening to an anchorman tell us how our lives had changed that day.
Rachael Marcel’s life had already changed plenty the night before. Her sniffles stumbled into sobs, and eventually she dashed to the bathroom. She was in Tipton’s class, but we both taught her. We did “paper, rock, scissors” to see who would catch her on her way back to make sure everything was okay.
I stood outside my door and tried to poke at a scuff on the floor until it went away. The glow of televisions flickered out of the little windows turning the yellowing linoleum varying shades of green and blue. It felt like a hospital in winter. I would have shanked a kid for a cigarette right about then. Finally, Rachael unfolded herself from the bathroom. She was all red-headed lankiness. She would probably be pretty someday, but it could still go either way. At twelve, she was pure giraffe with freckles and an affinity for Pygmalion tales about girls like her who became knockouts and drove all the rebels to put on borrowed ties and take them to prom.
She caught sight of me and started jabbing at her eyes. I studied the last little trail of scuff mark until she got close enough.
“You all right?” I didn’t look at her, but I could tell she was nodding, and the tears were coming back in force.
I winced at her silence, willing myself to find a way to say something—anything. “Is it—is it all this on the news?”
I was still a little scared to look up at her, so I wasn’t sure if she nodded or shook or cried. She squeaked out a mumble, “Lucy.”
I gave her a look. “Lucy? Is that like, an aunt or something?”
She held her fists together under her nose and shook her head. “Dog.”
I nodded. “Your dog?”
We stared for a moment at a banner across the hallway which counted down the days until school was out.
“Was your dog—Lucy—was she in—New York?”
She gave me a puzzled look that melted into some form of tearful laughter. And I shared it with her, if for no other reason than because I found it hard to feel awkward when laughing about the same thing. After we both took time to appreciate the chance to laugh about something again, she wiped her nose with a sleeve and sniffed. “Lucy died last night. She was twelve. I’ve had her my whole life.” The last sentence had a well-rehearsed rhythm to it, but it still made her cry all over again.
I reached out then, felt my hand freeze in that horrible no-man’s-land, and then patted her on the shoulder as if she were a touch-lamp. She leaned into it hungrily as I swallowed at the beginnings of five different things I should have said. I groped at words until a lump formed in my throat and my eyes glazed with inexplicable tears.
I left my hand on her shoulder as I spoke, “When I was in the eleventh grade I had a psychology teacher who I really liked. One day we were talking about—I don’t remember what—and she stopped at my desk to ask me if I ever had pets growing up. I told her no, and she said, ‘Hmm, yeah that explains a lot.’ I never could get her to tell me what that meant other than to say it had to do with death and loss. I think I understand her now.”
We both looked at each other and cried for a minute. Then I thought about Tipton and nutted up so we could go back in the room. Later in the year, I brought her pictures of my beagles, which made her cry all over again. But she still thanked me. And in a Christmas card she gave me, she thanked me for the talk I gave her. Although I can’t imagine what good it could have done.
September 12th was a Wednesday. On Wednesdays in Ruddy Creek, this old lady named Sharon would roll around an old projector cart with a “soup of the week.” She dished it up out of a dingy-looking plastic bucket, and it tasted like God himself had cum in your mouth. I don’t even like soup. But this was some sort of other-worldly concoction of goodness. And in flavors that didn’t even make sense: Meatloaf with Peas, Turkey and Dressing, Cauliflower and Broccoli with Ranch Dip. How do you make that into a soup? Whatever she made, every Wednesday, no matter who you were, you showed up in the lounge and shelled out three dollars a bowl.
That day, Sharon sported a shirt with an eagle on the front and had a red, white, and blue bow in her hair which looked like she had swiped it off a four-year-old. She made a soup called The American Dream. It tasted like spicy barbecue ribs and cold beer, somehow. I bought two bowls.
The lounge was packed. It’s the worst place in any school, the teachers’ lounge. I’m a big teacher advocate and teacher apologist and all that, but Jesus—if a person’s only experience with teachers was sitting in the lounge for an hour or two and listening to them talk, said person would think teachers are the most bitter, judgmental, hateful, spiteful bag of dicks in the world. The eighth-grade history teacher named Mr. Smith (I don’t know his first name; I don’t think he had one. He was boring as hell. I once heard him sing along to “Margaritaville” and he replaced the damns with darns.) had brought cornbread from home and was warming it up in the nasty-ass microwave. I didn’t hear the first part of the conversation, but I saw him shake his head while he spat, “I think we should put all the towel heads in a camp of some sort until this blows over.”
The man wouldn’t use the word damn, but he would throw out towel head in casual conversation.
A math teacher threw a finger in the air. “Thank you! Did it with the Japanese. They got over it.”
Mr. Smith nodded at that. “I hate to admit it, but I’ve been looking at little Enrique Diaz in the hallway all day. And you know…” He shook his head.
Tipton had a mouthful of soup, but he frowned at me and said, “He’s Mexican.”
Mr. Smith furrowed his brow at him. “Are you sure?”
Tipton laughed. “The kids call him Beaner.”
Mr. Smith shrugged. “I thought they called him that because he’s lazy.”
Most everyone laughed. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend I didn’t understand why anyone would hate us while I enjoyed my second bowl of The American Dream.
This winter I will hold a book with my name on the cover. After twenty-two years of dreaming, at least fourteen years of toiling at it, a couple of failed manuscripts, more than three bad relationships with literary agents, and well over a quarter of a million written (like, final draft written) words, I will be a published novelist. In the book, I write a little about the changing of dreams—about the evolution of the fantasy of a future baseball player or ballerina into the reality of an accountant or a computer programmer. The process of going from a spiral notebook scribbler to an ISBN owner has not been dissimilar.
I can remember the fluctuating dreams of being an aspiring writer in my teens and early twenties. It was like the fluidity of a middle school persona, shifting with each new author I idolized. And my level of understanding of the publishing industry was so blissfully low. I was like that person you know who whistles a lot. If you ever ask yourself, how nice must it be to walk around like such a stupid asshole with so little to stress you out that you can whistle a jaunty little tune … Well, I can definitively tell you, now that I know much more about the publishing industry, that, yes it is nice. Very nice. The crazy thing is, though, that no matter how far behind the curtain any of us go, most of us still hold tight to that analogy of the big name publisher to the major leagues. We all want the big contract. But, in my experience, it’s not baseball. It’s more like picking a school for your kid. There is no perfect school for everyone. There is only the right fit for each individual student. Not every child fits in a private school or a public school or a charter school. And not every book fits in a big house or an indie or a university. At some point in my process of seeking a home for my most recent manuscript, I came to the decision that an independent publisher was the right fit for me. I was so sure that I (very early on) abandoned any and all search for an agent, essentially killing any chance of landing the big publishing contract. I ended up partnering with Pandamoon Publishing, out of Austin, TX. And this week, I felt completely validated in the choice I made.
Pandamoon is a little different as publishers go. They strive to be different. From our first conversation, the owner described to me her philosophy on book marketing—being willing to try different approaches so that she can place books into promotional windows that are not oversaturated with titles. Although I understood it and appreciated it at the time, it didn’t sink in until I was face to face with an example. During a recent meeting with one of the marketing directors at Pandamoon, he excitedly shared with us an opportunity to partner with a charity organization. To be honest, I almost zoned out during the first part of his pitch. It wasn’t a charity that connects with me personally—not that I don’t care, but there are those of us in the world with only enough empathy to invest in a limited number of sad-song-two-minute commercials. At a certain point, though, he explained how this was an opportunity to distribute our books to people in a very unique need of books to read. Not only would it make us all feel good about lending our talents in a selfless, helpful fashion (even the blackened-souled, dead-eyed writers among us … me, that’s probably only me), but it would also increase our readership, possibly leading to some word-of-mouth marketing. It was a risk, make no mistake. We were talking about giving away a potentially vast number of digital copies of our books. But risk … risk is, I realized in that moment, one thing that makes me love my publisher.
There was a basketball game I remember watching a few years back. I believe it was the Knicks and Bobcats, and I believe this is a J.R. Smith story (but that may be me wanting every basketball story to be a J.R. Smith story). Regardless, whoever the player was—we’re going to say it was J.R. Smith—had played a terrible game. He made the first three that he took, I believe, but then he missed nine or ten in a row. Missed ugly. He was benched for long stretches. He looked frustrated at multiple points. Terrible game. As the game wound down to its final seconds, the Bobcats managed to tip in a miss that put them up by one point. The Knicks called timeout and loaded the court with shooters. If I remember correctly, there was less than a second on the clock—only enough time to catch, turn, and jack it. Despite his struggles, there was no question that J.R. Smith was one of the five best shooters on the Knicks. Hell, it was the Knicks. Spike Lee might have been one of the five best shooters on that bench. It was a given that he would be out there. When the whistle blew, J.R. Smith curled off a screen and found space in the corner. Having no other options, whoever was in-bounding the ball (he was probably foreign, over-drafted, and is now selling cars … sorry, no more Knicks jokes) passed it to J.R. He caught it, turned, and jacked it. No hesitation. Not a thought in his crazy-ass head that didn’t involve that ball finding net. He had missed ten shots in a row, at least one was an air ball. But the key here is that J.R. Smith had become so accustomed to taking risks on the basketball court that he had no fear of doing so when it counted. Of course, he made the shot. The Knicks won by two. J.R. did some crazy dance or sat down in the first row and ordered a beer or something. Then they traded him. Because … Knicks. This is the story that came to mind this week though. I want my publisher to be J.R. Smith. I want to see that crazy-ass fire in the eye that says, I’ll take the shot … I’ll take every damn shot … and I’ll make it.
Even when you don’t make it. This shot—the idea with the charitable distribution of books—it tanked. It went south in less than a day. This is the part of this post where I have to be very careful. At its heart, this charity is gold. These are guys (yep, guys … not a mistake) who are trying to do good things for deserving people. But we (Pandamoon) discovered that there are some fundamental differences between our core beliefs and the misogynistic ideas hovering over this group like a funky cloud of Axe Body Spray. Again, I’m being careful. I DO NOT want to speak disparagingly about a charity which is doing good things. My focus is celebrating qualities I admire in my publisher. So I don’t want to get too deep into specifics in order to not out the charity. I will say that there is a connection between this charity and the video game industry. And I will say that Gamergate became very real for me in light of recent events. Pandamoon publishes a variety of books. Some of those books are romance novels. The guys (guys) involved in the charity (I do find it important to point out that it was not ALL the guys running the charity, but enough) exposed some of their own feelings about romance novels, gender stereotypes, women … you get the point, I’m sure. In light of the events of Gamergate, my hope as a male feminist (that’s what fathering two daughters does to you … or SHOULD do to you) was that the male-dominated video game community would be publicly shamed into either changing their collective mindset or, at the very least, doing a better job of bullshitting us all. Apparently, they may not be making an effort to do either.
My publisher, thankfully, is. The marketing director brokering this deal for us (male, for the record, but that shouldn’t matter … what matters more is that he, himself, has been a self-professed member of the gaming community) learned of these archaic beliefs less than a day after he told us all about this exciting risk he had taken. Any of us can imagine the embarrassment of having to turn around and say, almost immediately, Never mind, you guys. What he did, though, was exactly that. And, with his actions, I realized another quality that makes me love my publisher: principles. We all want to surround ourselves with people who share similar values. It is exceedingly rare, however, to partner with an organization that will so unflinchingly take a stand based on a shared set of values. Could this partnership with this charity have paid dividends to Pandamoon writers? Sure. It’s the very reason I admired it as a risk. But when the values of the people (guys) running that charity conflicted with those of Pandamoon, thoughts of possible book sales never crossed my publisher’s mind(s). No hesitation. It was a classic case of this is more important than any of that.
Everything above is exponentially cheesier than I ever get when writing about anything. I basically just wrote a love letter to my damn publishing company. I rolled my eyes a little at myself even typing that last sentence. But it is important to realize and it’s important to say out loud (print, whatever) the qualities we admire in the people with whom we partner. Analyzing it is important. Talking about it is important. When we start to simply accept things, overlook things, roll our eyes quietly and mumble things under our breath, we end up with situations like Gamergate. We end up too afraid to take that last shot. I love my publisher. And I’m not afraid to say it (write it) (self-shaming eye roll emoticon).
Starting today, I'll be doing interviews with writers on Tuesdays via Twitter. I ask 5 questions, they give 5 answers, and we keep it all under 1400 characters. We kick off with David Joy, author of the upcoming Where All Light Tends to Go. Joy lives in North Carolina and was a finalist for the Reed Environmental Writing Award and the Ragan Old North State Award for Creative Nonfiction before turning his talents onto novels and landing a deal with Putnam for Where All Light Tends to Go (2015) and Waiting on the End of the World (2016).
Question 1: National Novel Writing Month or No Shave November?
Question 2: What is the book about?
Question 3: Why choose to write in 1st person?
Question 4: Are there settings other than Appalachia we might see show up in your novels?
Question 5: If writers had the equivalent of cover songs, whom would you "cover?"
The book is Where All Light Tends to Go. It is currently available for pre-order on multiple sites. Be nice, buy it twice. David Joy is the writer, and he couldn't possibly be a better guy. You can follow him @DavidJoy_Author, and you should.
"Shaving is for swimmers."
I usually try to keep my personal tastes out of my #twitterviews decisions. And, for the record, that has led to me finding out that my tastes are broader than I thought. But when I read about Josh Cook's debut novel, An Exaggerated Murder, I must admit, this one is totally in my wheelhouse. A private investigator named Trike Augustine. Sherlock Holmes-like talent meeting absurd clues that defy deduction. A mixture of pure noir, dark comedy, and bizarro mockery. Before even reading it, Josh Cook was quickly becoming a new favorite. Add to that the fact that Cook is an indie book seller at Porter Square Books and his debut is put out by Melville House, and this one was a no-brainer choice. After reading this, please check out http://www.portersquarebooks.com/. If you pre-order your copy using: http://www.portersquarebooks.com/book/9781612194271, Josh will sign it before he sends it out. Just put "signed" in the order message. Be sure to mention #twitterviews. You don't really have to do that. It won't get you anything.
Question 1: Will Boston's snow-pocalypse show up in a writing trend?
Question 2: Which detective fiction conventions do you love/hate?
Question 3: Can you share with us one of your more obscure allusions?
Question 4: Do you think you'll make this a series?
Question 5: What's the most critical success factor for indie books?
An Exaggerated Murder gets its official release on March 3rd. Once again, you can pre-order it now from Porter Square and get a signed copy. All bright and shiny in the mail. You should totally do that.
"...these characters have been so much fun to write ... that I want to spend more time with them."
So do we, Josh. So do we.
Porochista Khakpour's second novel, The Last Illusion, was a Kirkus Best Book of 2014, a Buzzfeed Best Fiction Book of 2014, an NPR Best Book of 2014, an Electric Literature Best Book of 2014, and one of Flavorwire’s 15 “Most Anticipated Books of 2014″. So, you know ... it's not just, like, me telling you to go read it. It's basically every cool online maker of lists telling you to go read it. Khakpour, a native of Tehran by way of Los Angeles, moved from the memoir-like realism of her first novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects, to the magical realism, bordering on downright wonderfully weird of Illusion. We talked that and more this past week on Twitter.
Question 1: Your book made me want to watch a reality show where David Blaine helps Amanda Bynes reacclimate. What's a fantasy reality show you would watch?
Question 2: Tell me something, anything about your abandoned book idea about Bin Laden's ex-girlfriend.
Question 3: Your writing focuses on the power of story amidst trauma. What is the storyteller's responsibility in this equaion?
Question 4: Did your themes lead you to magical realism, or was it the other way around?
Question 5: Are barriers to lit diversity breaking down?
The Last Illusion is available now. There are obvious hints of Gabriel Garcia Marquez here, but there is also a Toni Morrison/Zora Neale Hurston kind of soulfulness and a sense of wonderment in line with the best Michael Chabon. And with all of those comparisons, the best compliment is to say that, actually, it's like nothing else. Go read it.
"I hear before I see. Language, sound leads. ... This book was animated in my head. No choice but to go fabulist."
Welcome to one of my cooler segments of #twitterviews. There are a lot of things to celebrate about Jason Reynolds. His two novels, When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit, give the YA genre fresh looks at both friendship and grief (in a genre where we thought those might have been all used up). He is also a black writer humanizing urban like in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in a way that strips down stereotypes. But what I like? The guy doesn't write boring books. He has come onto the YA scene like an explosion of new and different.
Question 1: If YA had its version of slam poetry, who's on your team?
Question 2: What elevates a book from boring to bad ass?
Question 3: Have you had a moment in your own life similar to the basement scene with Mr. Ray in The Boy in the Black Suit?
Question 4: How can we increase diversity in classroom literature?
Question 5: As a well-dressed writer, do you have advise for the sad state of fashion witnessed in most of the rest of us?
The latest from Jason Reynolds is The Boy in the Black Suit, a novel about grief and growth and not so much "coming-of-age" as it is about becoming human and coping with life. It's a quick read and definitely worth a look. And Jason Reynolds is one to keep on your radar.
"My whole life is a game of I Declare War... I NEVER intended on being a novelist. NEVER."
You know, memoirs are not usually my thing. But thanks to a reader's suggestion (big thanks, Donna Trump), today's #twitterviews highlights Minnesotan memoirist, Rachel Hanel. Her first book (available from Minnesota Press) is We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger's Daughter. The book is Hanel's account (through a series of semi-connected personal essays) of growing up as the daughter of Digger O'Dell, small town gravedigger. Of course, Digger O'Dell was not his real name. It was a persona he took on. And if the fact that this book focuses on a small town where gravediggers take on personas doesn't make you want to read it, well, then I'm not sure what to tell you.
Question 1: What's your favorite kind of tombstone?
Question 2: How did being a self-described "student of death" influence your writing?
Question 3: Which moments of your memoir were the most cathartic?
Question 4: Do you have a novel in you that we can expect to see?
Question 5: Share with us something about the burial process we don't already know?
Rachel Hanel lives just outside of Mankato, Minnesota, where the winters are cold and the writers are talented. She teaches Mass Media at Minnesota State University, where we can all hope she is steadily building up some material for a second book. We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down is available now. Check it out.
"Other people's stories fascinated me."
Today, on #twitterviews, we talk to Tim Johnston, who not only was once a carpenter, but has also accomplished the similarly Jesus-like feats of winning an O. Henry Prize and the favor of David Sedaris. His latest is the Algonquin Books publication, Descent. It is his adult fiction debut detailing a family's undoing by the disappearance of their daughter in the Rocky Mountains, and it has exploded into an Oprah-level of popularity that, quite frankly, it (and he) absolutely deserves. Great book. Great guy. Take it from me ... well, and, you know ... Oprah.
Question 1: You've said you thought of Descent while all alone working on a house in the Rockies. Have you read/seen The Shining?
Question 2: Why did you elect to use multiple perspectives?
Question 3: Did you know the ending before you started?
Question 4: I'm a big fan of Appalachian writers. As an author of a Rocky Mountain novel, what's the difference between the East Side and West Side?
Question 5: Your writing has followed you a bit. You've had an Iowa YA (degree from U. of Iowa) and Rocky Top lit thriller (Shining moment). Is there a Memphis (taught for U. of Memphis MFA) book in you?
Descent is out in stores now. This is my second week in a row when I feel a touch late to the party. I'm pretty sure everyone I know is reading this book. But, if you aren't, then go. Now. Do it.
"I thought I knew ... but couldn't go there. When I understood where I could go, the writing resumed."
on the ending of Descent
With most #twitterviews, I end up begging and pleading with you to read some book you might not have heard of quite yet. In this case, what's the point? It's The Girl on the Train. You're already reading it. Everyone is reading it. It's #1 on Amazon. Number one. On Amazon. I wasn't even sure that really ever happened. All of that almost makes this process a little less exciting for me. I think that makes me an asshole hipster. None of that is true. This is one of the more exciting posts I've made. Paula Freaking Hawkins. I mean, seriously. If you have, in fact, been living in some sort of spider hole in a Middle-Eastern desert, The Girl on the Train is drawing all kinds of praise and generating the kind of pub you get when your first novel (she doesn't even have a Wikipedia page yet ... Internet, get on this, ASAP) gets universally compared to (and may actually be better than) Gone Girl (not linking it ... do #twitterviews, Gillian Flynn, and I'll link your book).
Question 1: What's the craziest thing you've seen on the train?
Question 2: Are there any film influences on the book?
Question 3: Is Rachel's imagination an examination of female identity?
Question 4: Do you spend a ton of time editing for potential spoilers?
Question 5: Why are Brits so good at writing crime novels?
You may now resume reading the book. I know you were already.
"Watching a drunk guy fall onto the tracks in Paris."
No context necessary on that one, Paula. Hope your newfound fame doesn't rob you of precious moments like that in the future.
Sometimes, writers just exude cool. And sometimes, I get to interview them on Twitter. Not only has Benjamin Percy received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, but he has also won a Whiting Writers' Award and two Pushcart Prizes. And none of that even really factors into the fact that he wrote a werewolf epic. Read that last sentence again. He wrote a mother f'ing werewolf epic. And I'm actually quoting that term. From Stephen King, who called Red Moon a "werewolf epic" that he "can't stop thinking about." And if all that isn't cool enough, he has now reimagined the Lewis and Clark exploration during a post-apocalyptic future in his latest, The Dead Lands.
Question 1: You and Stephen King (admirer of Percy's work) go exploring, Lewis and Clark style. Where do you go?
Question 2: Why make Clark a woman?
Question 3: What is the draw of the American West for you?
Question 4: What comic influences inspired you to turn a short story collection into Refresh, Refresh - the Graphic Novel?
Question 5: Why the mutton chops?
The Dead Lands hits shelves in April. You should do yourself a favor and pre-order it. And, while in the process you can check out some other Benjamin Percy brilliance.
"If I shaved my sideburns, I would lose my writerly powers."