Brent Michael Kelley is the author of a fantastic novel called Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. I highly recommend it. Brent has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about his book, breakfast cereal characters, and other topics.
Jeremy C. Shipp: Can you tell us a bit about Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater?
Brent Michael Kelley: Sure. My protagonist Chuggie is the embodiment of Drought. He’s this sort of drunken drifter/junk salesman who’s fond of telling wild stories, and trouble always seems to find him. He gets to a town called Stagwater, and meets a witch in the woods. He tries to help her by going into town, where he’s lied to and manipulated. We got magic and monsters and plenty of rambling, drunken stories. I told one friend it was like Fear and Loathing in Middle Earth. It’s very light-hearted. Oh, and dark. If you like blood, grab a poncho and step right up. Release is scheduled for December 1, 2011. Shoot, is that today?
I’d also like to point out that, while I’d been tinkering with the story for years, I never had a clue how to tell it well. Then I took the Jeremy C. Shipp writing workshop. Boom. I learned how to write good and made some wonderful new friends. I came away with a new understanding of my story, as well as a first chapter that was miles beyond what I started with. That’s also where I met my publisher, Kate Jonez of Omnium Gatherum. She liked my story and asked to publish it. I said, “Awesome.” Then she helped me hammer it into something that I think people will actually like reading.
JCS: I’m very happy that you found the workshop to be beneficial to you! If you could make your own crayon color, what would it be called?
BMK: Grold. It’s a mix between the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers. Mmm, grold… Now there’s a color that smells like Championship!
JCS: What is it about writing fiction that you enjoy?
BMK: I like building on ideas, realizing them. It’s easy to sit around saying “I should write a story about haunted goat cheese terrorizing a trailer park!” But if you never write it, you start to sound like a crazy person. So then you sit down and forge your vague idea into something clear. Keep adding, then saw some pieces off. You get to meet new and fascinating people. Then, after you torture them for a while, you can show your friends.
JCS: If you could surgically attach any object to your body, what would you choose?
BMK: My first response is a shoulder-mounted plasma cannon, like that movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop. Was it Kindergarten Cop? I don’t know, it had Danny DeVito in it. I think a plasma cannon on my shoulder would really get me a lot of respect at Tuesday morning Bingo. But if that’s not an option, my second choice would be a megaphone. If I can’t be right, I should at least be loud.
JCS: Excellent choices! (And yes, that was definitely Kindergarten Cop you’re thinking of.) What would you do if you woke up and found yourself transformed into a giant coconut monkey?
BMK: I’d be calling YOU, because you obviously had something to do with it. But you’re on the West Coast, and I’m inWisconsin, so there’s a time difference. I’d have two hours to kill before you got out of bed and got my voicemail. I’d probably just watch Flapjack until then. Maybe Sons of Anarchy, depending on the morning.
JCS: You caught me! I put magic coconut monkey powder in your blueberry smoothie. Speaking of blue things, have you ever accidentally stepped on a Smurf?
BMK: Interesting question. I almost stepped on several smurfs two summers ago, but they dove to safety at the last second. I crushed the hell out of their Smurfberry cart, though. That’s when P’apah, their shaman, put a Smurf-curse on me. You don’t want no Smurf-curse. Ha! Like I need to tell YOU that!
JCS: I lose more organs that way! What’s your favorite place in the world?
BMK: There’s a stretch of Highway 64 inWisconsin. I take it from Bloomer to New Richmond. It’s all farmland and forest. It’s wide open, and there aren’t many cars to meet. I’ve seen deer, foxes, bears, turkeys. There’s this burnt-out farmhouse next to the road that I used to stop and photograph. The whole stretch is amazing year round. At least to me. That’s also where a lot of my novel was written. I used to jabber into my voice recorder with Tom Waits playing in the background. I’d work through the story, passing by crows on fence posts. It is wonderfully spooky at night.
JCS: I’d love to see it! Who would you rather hire: a monkey butler, a robot coachman, or a yard gnome scullery maid?
BMK: Robot coachman, final answer. Breakneck speed with robot precision? That’s what I’m talkin bout.
JCS: If you could have any breakfast cereal character as a sidekick, who would you choose?
BMK: Snap, Crackle, Pop. A lot of people don’t know this, but those three little elves? They’re one creature. It’s true! They are one mind across three bodies. I’d drive it insane by sealing one body in a shoe box and taking the other two with me on all my adventures.
JCS: You rascal you! What can you tell us about your future projects?
BMK: Coming this month, I’ll have a short story appearing in the Detritus anthology, also from Omnium Gatherum. That book has an all star list of contributors, and it’s pretty fantastic to be included with them. Then, this winter I’ll be hard at work on the follow up to Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. My publisher wants more Chuggie, so I’d best deliver. I’ve got some fun stuff in store for ol’ Chuggie, and I’m finding out more every day. I might need to take a few trips down Hwy 64 with my voice recorder, too. Thanks for the interview, Jeremy. I quite enjoy our conversations!
JCS: Thank you, Brent!
Brent Michael Kelley lives in the Wisconsin Northwoods with such creatures as hairless dogs, a snake named Darth Batman, and the woman he married on Halloween. By day, he’s a graphic designer. By night, he’s a painter, a writer, and a winemaker. He can be found on the web at brentmichaelkelley.com.