Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Smoothie Criminal? What's That? - An interview with Eric Hendrixson

Eric Hendirxson, author of the hilarious Bucket of Face,  is the latest of the New Bizarro Author's I've shackled in my basement interviewed.

How did your becoming one of the New Bizarro Authors come about?
I was at a seminar at which Mrs. Sullivan, who originally published the Crown Conspiracy series, emphasized the importance of knowing your genre. I had no idea what my genre was, though I had been writing in a particular style for a long time, so I described a book I was working on and she said, “Oh, you’re bizarro.” That was sort of the end of the conversation, and I thought she was fucking with me. However, I Googled it later, and it turned out she was right.

After I’d read the first two starter kits and a few Bizarro books, I went found and signed up for the New Bizarro Author Series. My application was accepted and I sat down to create a boozy cyberpunk story about a poet looking for his muse, who possibly altered his memory before moving out of his apartment. The story was rejected, which makes a lot of sense. The whole story was so depressing that it didn’t make for a good first book. That was for the first year of the NBAS. I tried again in the second year with Bucket of Face and it got in.

What was the inspiration for the sentient fruit component of the story?
You see sentient fruit in the culture a lot, but it’s always in a fairly cartoonish way--the California Raisins, Mr. Peanut, those fruits and vegetables from old Saturday morning public service announcements—and for some reason, they’re always trying to get you to eat them, which is disturbing. Since I wanted to do something in the noir style, I thought instead of having happy fruits that want people to eat them I could have fruits with the same kinds of motivations and emotions people have, more flesh and juice. They’re still food, but from a certain perspective, we’re all food. Instead of taking something normal and making it weird, I took something weird and tried to make it normal.

Is there anything you had to cut from Bucket of Face prior to publication or something you wish you would have done a little differently?
I had a chapter on Mark Cline, the guy who built Foamhenge. For some reason, Foamhenge was very closely tied with writing this novel, though it never did show up in the book. There was a pretty long section on the history of horticulture and viticulture, focusing on the history of the phylloxera wine blight in the 1800s. There was more backstory on some of the characters. It’s good for the writer to know all about the characters’ past and extensive history of the world the characters live in, but most of that stuff had nothing to do with the story.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think it was any particular book. I learned to read at the same time as I learned to write. Since I learned to read from books, I assumed the purpose of writing was to write books. I did a lot of writing as a kid and as an adolescent. A collection of Walt Whitman went everywhere I went for about three years while I was learning how to write poetry. I think I overdosed on Whitman. I can’t really read him anymore.

Who are some of your influences?
Anthony Burgess, Nikolai Gogol, Raymond Chandler, the Mirrorshades or Cyberpunk authors of the 80s, Hunter S. Thompson, Italo Calvino, Tom Robbins, T. S. Eliot, and Warren Murphy. For each of these authors there was a time when I just sat down and read them obsessively.

However, when I was writing this book, I was reading Bizarro, so there were parts of the book in which I recognized the style of someone I’d read creeping in.

What's your favorite book?
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. There’s a character in the book just called the Judge who is amazing. I also find the destruction, violence, and nihilism strangely exhilarating. I really like Lolita, but every time I read the book I’m in a bad mood for a week.

Who's your favorite author?
That changes all the time. I’m a big Anthony Burgess fan, but I’ve read all his books. I watch the Eraserhead Press catalog, since there are a lot of good writers there. I always watch for when Chuck Palahniuk, Jordan Krall, Christopher Moore, Elmore Leonard, and William Gibson have something new coming out. I am waiting impatiently for Garrett Cook to release Jimmy Plush, a story of a hard-boiled detective trapped in a teddy bear’s body.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
There’s Christopher Moore’s Lamb, which is about Jesus’ childhood friend, Biff. That’s the most recent book I’ve read, though, so it’s still in a honeymoon period. We’ll call it the best mainstream book I’ve read in six months.

My favorite Bizarro book of the past six months is Night of the Assholes by Kevin Donihe. We’re all familiar with mashups like Pride and Prejudice With Zombies. This is Night of the Living Dead without zombies. Instead, there are assholes, and you can’t fight them because being rude to an asshole will turn you into an asshole.

I think the best classic I’ve read in six months is The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton.

I read all the NBAS books in October. Uncle Sam’s Carnival of Copulating Inanimals has stuck with me because it is such a difficult book to review. Every time I think of starting, I think, “Damn. This book is smarter than I am.”

What's your favorite dirty joke of all time?
A naked blonde walks into a bar with a poodle under one arm and a two-foot salami under the other. She lays the poodle on the table. The bartender says, "I suppose you won’t be needing a drink." The naked lady says,

Which vegetable would you say is the toughest in the world?
Probably beets. I won’t even go near them. The toughest fruit would be either a prickly pear or a durian. They both have spikes, but the durian has the smell thing going for it.

How excited are you about the recently unearthed collaboration between Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury?
Wow. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. There goes my evening.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
It's very important to find your community and your genre. I don't mean your workshop or your writing group but the people you read and the people who will get what you're writing. If it doesn't exist, you might have to build it yourself. Unless you're in that sort of community, most people you workshop with with will know neither what they are talking about nor what you're writing about and trying to publish will be an exercise in frustration. It is important to read a lot of books, both the kind of books that you want to write and books of the literary tradition. In addition to the wider literary tradition, each genre has its own literary tradition which you should become very familiar with.

What's next for Eric Hendrixson?
The main thing right now is this book. I have other books already written and another plotted out, but the important thing is to find and get to know my audience.

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