S. S. Michaels is the author of a brilliant novel called Idols & Cons. The book is disturbing, intense and funny as hell. S. S. Michaels has taken time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her book, monsters made of candy, and other topics.
Jeremy C. Shipp: Can you tell us a little (or a lot) about Idols & Cons?
S. S. Michaels: After a night of passion with a rock star she didn’t want to meet, poor Mary Bellows goes missing. Damien Tungsten knows where she is, though. After accidentally strangling her, he rolls her up in an expensive rug and dumps her in the trash. Hours later, his neighbor, one psychotic visual artist, Patrick Salinger, finds her. He drags her back into their apartment building, planning to fashion some ghastly and priceless installation pieces out of her dead body. One boy, John Thomas – meth dealer, high school loser, and son of an alcoholic – witnesses both incidents. Unfortunately for John, Damien sees him in his window as he flees the scene.
Following a battle with his own conscience, John confronts Patrick. Bad idea. Patrick forces John into helping him dismember Mary. Freaked out and in need of a smoke, John is allowed to step outside for a moment. As he puffs away, pondering his predicament, a big old Cadillac screeches to a stop right in front of him and whisks him away to the desert. When they arrive at their destination – a swank rehab facility – John finds Damien waiting to see him. Convinced that he’s about to be killed, John prays that Damien just makes it quick and painless. Damien’s got something else in mind, though – something much more painful than death: John, a punk rocker to the core, will be taken into Damien’s boy band, where he can be babysat twenty-four seven.
Reluctantly, John is transformed into teen idol Jake Wolfram. His ego spins out of control, swelling his head and his desire for even more fame and power. In an act of revenge, John uses his stash of drugs to weaken Damien and switch places with him – the imprisoned becomes the imprisoner. Patrick, also seeking revenge, comes out of hiding to attend John’s debut art exhibit. After shooting the place up, Patrick is carted off to prison where he ultimately makes it to death row. At the boy band’s performance immediately following the art gallery debacle, Damien collapses with a heart attack, caused by an overdose of cocaine. John has everything he wants: a successful art career, a promising music career, and a house in the Valley for his mom.
Back to exact his own revenge at a book signing, Damien pulls a gun and takes aim at John, ending the story with a bang.
JCS: In a battle royale, which McDonalds character would be victorious?
SSM: I’d have to go with the Grimace. He’s definitely got the size and weight advantage. And have you seen that crazed look in his eyes? I wouldn’t mess with that guy.
JCS: Me neither. How would you describe your creative process when it comes to writing novels?
SSM: I generally latch on to some weird idea I hear on the news or through social media, and I go off on a researching spree, which generates more weird ideas. Then, I make an insanely detailed outline, which I throw out about half-way through my story when I allow my characters to just take over and show me what they’re made of.
JCS: Did any real life event inspire you to write Idols & Cons?
SSM: Idols & Cons started life as a screenplay, which was inspired by time I spent working on various music award shows. I caught a glimpse of just what goes on backstage and at after-parties, and the whole thing just sparked my imagination. I thought how awful it would be to be stuck in the celebrity lifestyle if that just wasn’t your thing.
JCS: How would you defeat a monster made of candy corn and circus peanuts?
SSM: I’d definitely use a flamethrower.
JCS: Good plan. How would you define fame?
SSM: Fame is never being able to go to the grocery store.
JCS: If you were to create your own fragrance, what three smells would you combine?
SSM: Let’s see, I’d want it to be memorable. So, how about some candy corn, garlic, and sandalwood. Mmmmm.
JCS: What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
SSM: I’ve got one project completed, just waiting to be published, called REVIVAL HOUSE. It’s kind of a Fight Club meets Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil meets “Ghost Adventures” meets real-life reanimation.
Another project I’ve got going involves a teenager with growth hormone deficiency trying to escape his life in a cult. He finally gets the girl of his dreams (a local store cashier) to take him to a hockey game, where he gets hit in the head with a puck, which brings out some supernatural power in him. He eventually finds his way out of the cult, but it may not be exactly what he was hoping for.
And, I’ve got two anthologies I’m working on – one called ICE PICKS: MOST CHILLING TALES FROM THE ICE PLAZA (Rainstorm Press) with a bunch of stories from a lot of really talented writers, and the other called DETRITUS (Omnium Gatherum), also with some fabulous stories.
JCS: If you were a superhero (and I believe you are), who would be your arch nemesis?
SSM: I had an arch nemesis, actually. Last year, the same car would be in front of me every day in the pick-up line at my kids’ school. Some days, I’d leave extra early and he/she would be right behind me. I wonder what happened to that person. Maybe the curse I put on them finally worked. (Or their kid switched schools. Either way, I won!)
JCS: Good for you!
S. S. Michaels is a writer of transgressive/dark literary fiction. She’s jumped out of an airplane, driven a race car, and traveled the world. She lives with her husband and two kids, two dogs, and a bearded dragon on the Georgia coast. Her upcoming novel, IDOLS & CONS (Omnium Gatherum Media) is set to be released November 15, 2011, with a couple of anthologies coming out shortly thereafter. Also, look for a story in Evil Jester Press’s ATTIC TOYS anthology.
Idols & Cons is available on Amazon.