Today, reviewer Amy Lignor is speaking with Simon Plaster, author of Boo: A Chilling Tale of Too-Too #MeToo.
FQ: Talk journalism. One of the book's underlying themes is the subjectivity of truth. Henrietta wants that Pulitzer prize, but nowadays there is more about journalists being wrong or simply telling lies in the news, than any other news. How do you feel about the current state of journalism in the U.S?
PLASTER: Current journalism in the U.S. makes me dyspeptic. Physically, I get indigestion and gas. Mentally, it makes me Irritable, snappish, tetchy, crabby, cranky, crotchety, grouchy, cantankerous, peevish, ornery and bad-tempered. I never actually read or watch the shrill partisan commentary now called news, but it's like a huge cloud of flatulence in the air that you can't escape.
FQ: Plot twists inevitably abound. Do you pre-plan these game-changing moments or do they develop more organically? And, in your opinion, what is the key(s) to achieving an ending that is both satisfying and surprising?
PLASTER: Plot twists in my own tales always come as surprises to me. As for endings that are also satisfying, I agree with with Oscar Wilde that all tragedies end in death and all comedies end in marriage. With regard to the latter genre, I also agree with that movie producer who said there's only one plot: Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back. Or girl gets boy back in the case of Jane Austen tales. Unfortunately, my heroine -- Henrietta -- just won't get met by the right boy, but the series is not yet done. The tales may yet reach a satisfactory ending.
FQ: Oklahoma City is the familiar backdrop in your books. How do you view setting as enhancing a story; and in what ways do you attempt to capture the essence of the city on the page and bring it to life for readers?
PLASTER: I am more of a watcher of The Simpsons on TV than a book reader, partly because of impatience with written settings, such as two-page descriptions of sunsets. I have a pretty good feel for the town of Springfield from two-dimensional pictures. As for my own written cartoons, I am allowed to stay here in OKC on condition that I not attempt to capture too much essence of the place on a page.
FQ: Can you give readers a sneak peek at the book; perhaps "gift" them with something they won't be able to find in any synopsis?
PLASTER: Hmmm. For some reason reviewers and plain readers don't seem to pay much attention to the misadventures and observations of my recurrent character, Shatner Lapp -- maybe because he's a journalist, now that I think of it -- or maybe because he's old, ugly and obnoxious. Still, it's dear old Shat who pretty much sums up BOO! when he says that the radical feminista too-too Me Too movement threatens to replace the dear old Animal House of John Belushi a/k/a Bluto Blutarsky with the Animal Farm of Joseph Stalin a/k/a Napoleon Pig. Or was he quoting someone else, as he is apt to do?
FQ: Each new book brings with it the potential for new readers. How do you endeavor to balance introducing the backstory to new readers with maintaining the present story? And, in what ways does each story work as both a standalone and a continuation of the ongoing series arc?
PLASTER: Keeping your story straight and sticking to it is tricky, and probably beyond my abilities, but all of my previous dozen tales are short and available to any potential new readers. Probably reading the first one put into print -- Sumbitch, A Tale of Bigtime College Football and a Girl -- would be enough for someone to get the drift of all that follow.
FQ: Was there something specific that made you take on such a hot topic for your book's plot?
PLASTER: Yes, my politically incorrect stupidity, along with chronic dyspepsia.
FQ: Which of the characters do you feel closest to, and why would that be?
PLASTER: Well, as I said, Shatner Lapp is old and ugly; and feels literally bewitched, as well as bothered and bewildered by virtually all he sees, hears and smells in the changed world he now lives in.
FQ: Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?
PLASTER: I noodled for awhile with ideas for a tale that would reprise the Scopes so-called Monkey Trial of 1924 about teaching evolution in public schools, which -- to the extent it's remembered at all -- is misremembered, thanks to libelous screeds put out at the time by H.L. Mencken that were later made the basis of a movie titled Inherit the Wind. But the noodling petered out. Now I am taking on the more inherently comedic subject of a Russian deep think tank thinker's prediction that disintegration of the United States in the near future is inevitable. Henrietta has already hooked up with an old boyfriend, so although our country may fall apart, there is hope my series of tales may come to a satisfactory ending.
FQ: Again, thank you for your time. I thoroughly enjoy every "meeting" I get to have with Henrietta.
PLASTER: Me too, Amy. Thanks for reading.