Chris Reidy: Andy, why don't you go first?
Andy Warhol Robot: I don't know where the artificial stops and the real starts.
CR: Andy, I would think that statement would go doubly, now that you are a robot. But I know what you're saying. I think in the past few years we all feel that way; especially those of us living in America at this particular time. We all went down to Wonderland and we're only just now starting to climb back out. I'm scared that if we fall down there again; we won't be able to escape.
AWR: Does not compute.
CR: Well, I think around 2020 we encountered a perfect storm of technology, conspiracy, manipulation--you name it--and then layered a pandemic on top of that. Doublethink. Double-plus-doublethink! It was like the White House was using 1984 as a game plan. In a way though; I think the pandemic woke a lot of us up. It brought us back to a kind of reality. I mean, try as you might, it's kind of hard to claim "fake virus."
AWR: Ondine's been in the bathroom for two weeks.
CR: Good thing you don't have bodily functions. Joel?
Joel Craig: What would most people be surprised to know about you and why?
CR: I'm a frustrated jock. Sagittarians are natural athletes; but I wasn't, right out of the gate. If we'd had a physical education system in the 70's that actually taught kids how to play athletics; who knows what games I might've excelled at? I think I'd be an excellent golfer. Joe?
Joe Hayes: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
CR: Maybe around fifth grade? I remember back in elementary school, my best friend David and I created a little book. I guess it was sort of a graphic novel; although it wasn't a novel. It was a book about future inventions; like, space-age cars and so forth. Very Jetson's. I remember the car could fly and had all these bubble compartments for extra passengers. It wasn't really writing; but it was a book. Our teacher loved it so much she mimeographed(!) copies for the entire class. It was a hit with the playground set! I think that's when I realized that I wanted to be involved in printed entertainment/entertainment in general.
AWR: Everything's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.
CR: Well, now you are Andy. I'm a bit of plastophobe myself. That is, when it comes to polymers. But, as you reach a certain age; especially in the entertainment industry--as I'm sure you know--you start to wonder about the other plastic; as in surgery. You know, we upkeep our houses and our cars and our clothes; why not our faces? That being said, I think a man should never have any work done on his eyes. It never looks right. However, under the chin and the neck is fair game. Maybe a little forehead Botox. But that's it.
JC: Do you have a favorite quote?
CR: I do. "Make it work for you." This quote is from a man whose name is lost to the mists of time. Around 1998 I had returned to the family manse and secured a job at the Lord and Taylor store in Boston. I was being trained by this really cool gentleman. He was tall and lanky. He reminded me of the actor Tim Reid. He was showing me how to work the cash register and carry out the various transactions. Seeing that I was becoming overwhelmed, he stopped me. He explained that the machine was so advanced that you could enact numerous transactions in several different ways and arrive at the same result. "The thing is," he said, "is to make it work for you." This has become my philosophy.
JH: (When I first asked Joe to supply me with some questions for an interview; he thought I meant "job interview," so...) What do you think you can bring to our company?
CR: Well, if you're thinking dessert I could make a killer lemon meringue pie. Otherwise, you could put me in charge of chips and dips.
JH: Where do you see yourself in five years?
CR: You know, to be frank, I think that is the dumbest question in the history of questions. It's impossible to answer, as posed. Now, if it were: Where do you imagine yourself in five years or Where do you fantasize yourself in five years...I'm the Executive Producer on the TV series version of my novel. I have final say and complete casting and script approval; but I'm not the showrunner so I don't have to be on the set every day. The show is such a hit that we can film it in Hawaii (which is where I live most of the year) even though it's set in Boston. It makes the outdoor winter scenes a bitch; but it's totally worth it.
CR: Hmmmm. I would agree with you Andy if you were talking about a beautiful mind. You know, the way someone thinks. But if you mean physical beauty, like say, Catherine Deneuve--and I'm sure she's pretty intelligent; I mean she can speak French--but I'd have to disagree with you. I mean, there are a lot of pretty people out there who, let's say, coasted through school? Now, I think an appreciation for beauty, in all its forms, is definitely a sign of intelligence.
JC: You've written a second novel. Why did you start writing it?
CR: Well, it's interesting. I hadn't really planned on writing a sequel to 83 in the Shade. I thought it was quite self-contained and I felt I'd accomplished what I set out to with it. But then, the characters simply wouldn't leave my brain. There were some things that I wanted to get to in the first book but since it was already dense enough, I had to leave them out. I thought Michael McNamara's high school experience would be interesting too. And since he was on the verge of his senior year, it seemed logical. Talk about an eventful year in a person's life! I sat down and as soon as I knocked out a few sentences, it just started flowing. It really wrote itself. And in a quarter of the time the first book took. It's called 84 on the Floor. There isn't much meaning in the title, other than that it's set in 1984 and Michael likes to dance. I suppose the next one will be Stayin' Alive in 85 or something like that. Right now I'm sitting on 84 on the Floor. I don't want to self-publish it, although I probably will end up having to do that. But I want a literary agent and publishing house and all that; because frankly, I think I need whatever "protection" that might afford; because to be franker still, I think my work is being "appropriated" right, left and below the belt.
AWR: Who's Frank?
CR: Frank Sinatra, Andy.
JH: When you're writing a book, does it come together as you're writing it; or does it come together in your head and then you must write it?
CR: Well, for me it's both. But in the reverse order. So, there's an overall idea first. For example, with 84 on the Floor, the idea was to follow Michael through his senior year of high school, limiting it to that time-frame. So, then you start thinking: well, what happens during his senior year? For me, it was that Michael needed to get some new school threads, which was a great way to reintroduce everyone from the first book, because a lot of them would be involved in that undertaking. So, you start writing that with a general idea of "goes to the mall to get clothes." So, as that thread begins to unfold, that's when the fun starts, because me, as the writer, doesn't know exactly how that's going to play out. So I get to go along on the shopping trip too. So, then, what's the next thing? Well, the first day of school. And the first day of school is an assembly: and then you introduce the characters from the school story-line; and then that starts to unspool in real time (well, in your mind) and I don't know where it's going to go; but then I do and I can direct things...so that's kind of my process. But the beauty of it is, for me, that because it's not all thought out beforehand; I get to have as much fun as the reader.
CR: No, but I just learned he had one cat who would sit on his shoulder while he wrote. Also, doesn't that illustration of Poe look a lot like Peter Sellers?
CR: It's uncanny!
CR: Poe's work is really creepy. What's that one about the guy who's obsessed with his girlfriend's teeth?
CR: "Berenice." Remind me not to name anyone (or any cat) "Berenice."
CR: Andy, do you remember that time we met?
AWR: ERROR 404 - NOT FOUND
CR: Let me refresh your memory (holds down CTRL/ALT/DELETE) It was at the Boston Public Library and you were in the lobby, standing behind a folding table as a throng of enthusiastic college kids thrust things at you to sign. A lot of Campbell's soup cans. In fact, I remember there were a couple of kids who were on the floor above lowering cans down on strings! It was the late 80's, right before you went to the big canvas in the sky.
AWR: I always thought I'd like my own tombstone to be blank. Well, actually, I'd like it to say "figment."
CR: Well, as a robot, you're definitely a figment of something.
JH: To what do you attribute your success as a writer?
CR: Well, I think we need to qualify the word "success." I mean, if you measure success by books sold or readers, I wouldn't even chart. I'm still pretty much an unknown quantity. But if you mean successfully completing a book; I guess I'd have to chalk that up to determination. Perseverance. It's a hard thing to write a book. A lot of people will subtly try to persuade you out of doing it. Why? Because everyone on some level thinks they can write a book. I mean, we all use words, right? Everyone is sitting on that Great Fill In the Blank Novel. But so few people sit down and do it. And if you do sit down and do it: even if you didn't do such a great job; people get jealous/envious/annoyed. Not everyone. For example, my mother.
I think there's a lot of "who do you think you are that you could write a book that anyone would want to read?" I certainly had that mindset for myself. It's a drawback of the competitive nature of human beings. That being said: if you're reading this and you've always wanted to write that book in the back of your mind, DO IT! Just sit down and write that first sentence and say "F" the world! Because the world just may need that book. You certainly do.
AWR: Oil! Oil can!
CR: Oh Andy, that's you all over.
I'd like to thank Joel and Joe and Andy for their questions. They actually supplied me with quite a few; so look for more roundtable discussions in future blogs!