Friday, August 24, 2012

Interview with author James Kennedy

I had the opportunity to interview James Kennedy(the one in the pic that is NOT Kermit the Frog), the author of The Order of Odd-Fish and—on sale soon—The Magnificent Moots! I asked him a variety of questions, and he gave me a variety of answers, so check it out!

Cam: So, I've heard that you're in band. What made you want to be in a band called 'Brilliant Pebbles'?

James Kennedy: It's true, I was in a band called Brilliant Pebbles! But we broke up in 2009. I believe our singer Monika is continuing to do solo stuff under the "Brilliant Pebbles" name out in Los Angeles, but I'm not part of it anymore. You can read my thoughts about being in the band here (and there are also plenty of wonderfully ludicrous pictures). As for the band name -- "Brilliant Pebbles" was the name of a failed 1980s space-based anti-missile program. Our band also sounded like something from the 1980s that failed. But on purpose!

C: To some people, your book is abnormal and strange, and that's just by looking at the cover. Did you ever plan on writing such a unique and different book?

JK: Absolutely! That was my intention from the beginning. I wanted to write something that I hoped was unlike anything you'd read before, while still being accessible enough that it wouldn't alienate everybody. I love fantasy and science fiction, but I had read too many books that seemed to follow a formula that was growing stale for me, and I wanted to break out of it.

C: Say you died right now. If you could come back to life as any of your characters from 'Odd-Fish', which one would you choose?

JK: Probably Ken Kiang, the Chinese millionaire. I put a lot of myself into that character. Not that I'm Chinese, or a millionaire, but you know what I mean. Writing Ken Kiang's chapters was always very easy and enjoyable for me. I like the guy.

C: If you had to pick between a trip to Aruba or to Eldritch City, would you pick Eldritch? Or would you totally be a traitor to Odd-Fish kind and pick the warm, sunny beaches of Aruba?

JK: Are you kidding? Eldritch City in a hot minute!

C: Do you plan on going back to Japan, wear a loincloth, and fight other men for a stick?

JK: Some folks might be confused by this question! A little background for your readers: I lived in Japan for about three years, and while I was there, I participated in a ritual called the Hadaka Matsuri, or “Naked Man Festival.” In this festival, which takes place on a cold night in February, thousands of men must take off their clothes, put on a “fundoshi” (like a Japanese thong), and then run down the streets, jump in a pool of cold water, run down some more streets, and then fight all the other men trying to get some holy sticks that will ensure supernatural manhood or something. It was an insane experience--I was pulled under the crowd, people were stomping on my face, I was certain I was going to die. I never got near any of the holy sticks, so I suppose my answer to your question is that I have unfinished business in Japan. Yes, I would like to go back to Japan someday and have another crack at the Hadaka Matsuri!

C: You've gotten varying reviews on Odd-Fish. How did you react to them?

JK: Most of the reviews have been pretty positive (you can find links to all of them here), but of course the book isn't for everybody. The first few times I found bad reviews, it stung, but now the book has been reviewed so many times, and the balance of good to bad is very much towards the good, so that the occasional odd bad review doesn't fluster me any more. Early on I decided, as an experiment, to invite a reviewer who didn't like Odd-Fish to interview me. I found it to be a lot of fun (you can read the review here), but ultimately exhausting, and probably my time would be better spent just writing another book!

C: Oona Looch is comically large, crude, and popular. Where did you get the inspiration for Oona?

JK: For those who haven't read the book, Oona Looch is the queen of the mafia in Eldritch City, the leader of the crime underworld. (You can see a fan art picture of her here.) The inspiration for Oona Looch came from wanting to write a "mafia-boss" character who was original, and it seemed the best way was to make her into a grotesque, whimsically violent, monstrously sized, queasily flirtatious, steely-tough, yet back-slappy old woman. The name came from out of nowhere in a scene I was doing back when I was taking classes in improv at the Second City, and it had always stuck with me, and so I'm glad I got a chance to use it! Oona Looch is one of my favorite characters in Odd-Fish, but I'm not sure I would ever want to meet her.

C: The Ruby Palace--why not Emerald or Sapphire?

JK: The ruby palace is the castle out in the middle of the California desert where notorious elderly ex-actress Lily Larouche lives, and where the story begins. As for why "ruby palace"--sometimes you just have to go with what feels right. Maybe "emerald palace" would be too much like The Wizard of Oz, and "sapphire palace" feels too chilly for a castle out in the middle of the desert? I guess red is just a more Lily Larouche-ish color. You wear red when you want attention.

C: Does Sefino have an ascot problem? Does Chatterbox have a mustard phobia?

JK: For the uninitiated, Sefino is the exquisitely well-dressed and exruciatingly vain giant cockroach butler in the book, and Chatterbox is his nemesis, a snarky gossip columnist. I think Sefino would be outraged at your insinuation that there could ever be a problem with his ascots, or indeed any element of his voluminous and yet severely tasteful wardrobe. As for Chatterbox's mustard phobia -- I'm supposing you refer to the scene in Chatterbox's office when Sefino inadvertently and humiliatingly drips mustard on his ascot. I believe, especially in this case, Chatterbox was not afraid of mustard, but found it satisfyingly amusing, and probably had a long giggle to himself after Sefino stormed out in near tears.

C: Explain the doughnuts for the squires. Did you ever have sucky doughnuts like that, or did you just want to make fun of people forced to eat rock-hard pastries?

JK: The squires, or knights-in-training, of the various orders of knights in Eldritch City must report weekly to the Municipal Squires' Authority to receive quests from the city. The Municipal Squires' Authority is run by Commissioner Olvershaw, a desiccated old man in a wheelchair whose only part of his body that works is his thumb. Olvershaw takes a certain glee in making life difficult for people. The Municipal Squires' Authority is run like a shabby government bureaucracy, and I wanted to give the place a cheap, dreary feeling. You may not yet have had the experience yet of waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles or the post office, or grazing the "refreshments" table of some conference or convention in which the food has been sitting out all day and has become quite nasty, but if and when you do, that was the vibe I was trying to capture.

Thanks Mr. Kennedy! You can visit his website here

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