1. What is the title of your book?
The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
The book emerged from a short story that I had written titled “Henry’s Fence.” The story didn’t work, but Henry was compelling to me, so I kept writing about him. As I explored Henry, he developed an obsession with Bunraku puppets and it turned out that he had learned about this art form from his German grandmother, who was involved in the performance of a sacred ritual in the basement of her country house. That discovery led to my imagining a secret, half-forgotten religious group that had connections both to some obscure branches of European Radical Protestantism and to Zen Buddhism as well as to theatrical puppet traditions from Japan.
3. What genre does you book fall under?
The book is a quirky picaresque novel in flash fiction chapters.
4. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Four misfits are drawn to a beleaguered American town, where they re-enact a forgotten ritual with the help of ghosts, talking tattoos, Jack LaLanne, tall Mennonites, and a monkey king.
5. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft actually took several years, because the story kept morphing in such weird and crazy ways that I needed a couple of tries – and a lot of encouragement – to find the structure, and stay on the narrative ride as it got progressively wilder.
6. What inspired you to write the book?
Henry did. But this character presented one enormous problem: how in the world do you tell the story of an oddball hero, whose salient characteristics are that he is very shy and modest?
That one stumped me until I started thinking about what kind of people would be drawn to such a quiet, unassuming person.
From that point on, Henry acquired a bevy of peculiar but talkative relatives and associates who became the helper-narrators of the story.
7. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
4 issues continually haunt this story and are explored in ways that I think will surprise you.
- money. How much it matters and how little we talk frankly about it. How can fiction empower that conversation?
- education and culture. The dismantling of educational and cultural institutions in the US. Are we going to let the whole thing collapse? If not, what are we willing to do?
- God. Who or what is God? How do we encounter Him, Her, or It? How tolerant and open are we really of people who say they’ve got direct access to the divine?
- moral growth. People can change for the better in surprising and sudden ways. How does such change occur? What makes it happen?
8. Will your book be self-published or are you being represented by an agency?
Neither. A great new press — Urban Farmhouse Press — will publish my novel later on this year 2014 or in early 2015. It will be illustrated by the amazing Ann Brantingham, who published and did the cover art for my poetry collection How Formal?
9. In the comment section, please jot down your email so I can update you on upcoming book launch events and parties!