How long have you been writing?
I am a reformed academic author. Having written some 60 academic articles, four “scholarly” monographs, 300-some reviews, and served as editor of five professional journals, I gradually developed
the desire to write something personal, something that mattered to me, and which might actually be fun…
Back in the late 1980’s, I wrote some poems and short stories that appeared in various small literary arts journals (does anybody remember The Redneck Review of Literature?). More recently, I conceived of the idea of writing a significant work of fiction as my 50th birthday present to myself. The resulting book was my first novel, Dollarapalooza, or The Day Peace Broke Out in Columbus, which was published in summer 2011 by Switchgrass Books of Northern Illinois University Press. I’m currently working on a novel based upon the life of Johnny Appleseed.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where the Midwest begins, and about which its literary native son, James Thurber, wrote: “Columbus is a town in which almost anything is likely to happen, and in which almost everything has.”
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
Although I haven’t lived there in many years, almost all of my fiction is set in Columbus. It’s as if the city holds my muse hostage. I visit as often as I can, and I always find an easy presence in Midwestern spaces, a natural affiliation with the people, and currents of warm nostalgia that remind me of who I really am.
Also, since much of what I write is satire, I feel that as a child of Columbus, I’m permitted to make fun of it, which I do a lot in Dollarapalooza. As Thurber knew well before me, the comedic possibilities of life in Columbus are abundant.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
Midwesterners are famously stoic, understated, and measured in how they comport themselves. To many Midwesterners, self-expression can seem like an indulgence, and self-promotion comes off as unseemly. Midwesterners are also almost pathologically independent, so there is often a reluctance to identify with anything that smacks of a larger intellectual or cultural movement, such as an overarching literary style. Midwestern writers keep quiet about themselves. Writing a book doesn’t seem like such a big deal compared to bringing in 800 acres of a crop every year.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Obviously, it is a powerful and almost ubiquitous force, capable of fueling whole revolutions. The trick is to get a buzz started. I do have a Web page, but, alas, few people wish to be my “friend” on Facebook. I’d merrily tweet like a songbird if I thought anybody was listening. I am mostly awed and clueless when it comes to trying to comprehend the cryptic algorithmic forces that drive viral mentalities. If anybody can explain to me how a YouTube video about two kids playing with a bag of flour can attract a thousand gazillion internet views, please, let me in on the secret. I guess that I feel like unsocial media suits me better.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
Cherry flavored Otter Pops.
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
If I could have a drink with any person, let alone any literary figure, it would be Mark Twain. His comments on contemporary cultural phenomena like the internet, reality TV, “smart” phones, the Tea Party, eight-figure executive salaries, or insurance policies that pay for Viagra but not The Pill would be priceless.
Where can we find more information about you?
For more about me and my work, go to www.dollarapalooza.com.