C&C: What did your grandparents do for a living?
My grandpa was a civilian contractor for the Army, fixing radios and such for most of his career. He was a tinkerer. When he was a kid he once rigged an electric chair and tricked little kids into sitting in it so he could deliver a jolt. He also built a wooden roller coaster powered by gravity and Taco Bell cooking oil. I’m writing an essay about that.
My grandmother was a cafeteria lady for a while before she retired. For much of her life, she stayed at home. She read bad horror novels like they were made out of chocolate.
C&C: Do you own and ride a bicycle everywhere? I have a friend in Asheville, bikes are his thing, and in my mind you’re issued a bicycle when you become a resident. Is the place truly rife with bicycles?
I am currently without wheels. I do see plenty of bikes, but they’re mostly on trails. It’s nothing like a big Northern city where you can throw a whisky bottle in the air and hit someone on a Schwinn.
C&C: Polecat. Poke. Plime blank? Do you know what all these words mean? I love Appalachian dialect.
Polecat sure, and Poke is a bag or sack. You don’t hear it much anymore, but in older slang sometimes. Plime blank is a new one for me. In terms of new words, I don’t realize if they’re new or not. I like to invent and play with verbs especially, something Cormac McCarthy does beautifully. Someone recently wrote to me that I “twisted the milk toast of grammar” and I liked that description a lot. I like integrating formal language with parlance. Something I guess a linguist would call “code merging”. Words have to venture something dire on the page to hold my interest.
C&C: Tell me about movie genres you enjoy besides dramas – you don’t have to go into Malick influence and all that, I know you’re a fan. But what do you just plain enjoy?
I really love horror and revenge movies. I like Re-animator and other similar schlock. I once watched Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and was so unnerved by the lawnmower scene I had to watch a couple of old Pink Panther cartoons and drink a beer just to calm down.
For an all-time favorite though, I have to say 2001. I think I’m the only person in the world who actually gets misty when HAL is dying and he begins singing “Daisy”. Also, the original Planet of the Apes, that holds up. And Vertigo–that movie made me understand how story can bend back on itself.
C&C: Have you seen those Paro Pets, the animatronic seals they use as pseudo companions?
I just had to have my 13 year old dog put down and it nearly broke me. There’s nothing more frightening to me than the tyranny of convenience. This is as gross as gross gets.
C&C: Can you think of a logical reason that anyone would keep llamas as pets? And what’s the oddest pet you’ve ever owned?
I like llamas because they have attitude but I can’t imagine owning one. All my pets are odd. My cat is the biggest asshole you’ve ever met. I tell him so daily.
C&C: What’s in your pockets?
My missing lottery ticket.
C&C: Who was your first crush?
I was obsessed with Linda Hamilton for a while. Also Wonder Woman. I guess I’ve always been drawn to strong women.
C&C: Were you into ‘artistic’ pursuits as a kid? Writing, drawing, etc. or did you pick that up later?
I drew a little and wrote lines of description. Most of these tales were a bastardized version of Star Wars. My first novel was a sequel to Terminator 2.
C&C: What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked by a student?
After screening the Dicaprio Romeo and Juliet, one student asked me if Juliet shot herself with a pistol in the original version.