Friday, June 10, 2011

Tough, Gruff, and Stuffed: The Garrett Cook Interview

Today's guest is Garrett Cook, author of the recently released Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective.

How did you get involved in the Bizarro movement?
It is convoluted and weird story, but I'll give you the short answer. The protagonist of my book Murderland (which was split into three parts by my former publisher Jeremy Needle because it works better that way)was named Jeremy Jenkins. Because of Jeremy Brett who played Sherlock Holmes for awhile, because of the Pearl Jam song Jeremy and because my college band was Mayonnaise Jenkins and the Former Kings of the Delta Blues. I bought an issue of Cemetery Dance in hopes of discovering some markets for the weird horror I was writing. I found none, but what I did find was an interview with Jeremy Robert Johnson, whose name was very close to that of my protagonist. I read the interview intently to see if I would have to change the name of the character. But I discovered a whole network of cool people writing things without boundaries. I wanted in, but I didn't quite know what to do. I queried a Bizarro press listed on Wikipedia, Fugue State. He rejected me, but he liked the book. So he kept me in mind. I queried Eraserhead, failed the interview, shrugged and thought my Bizarro dreams were over as fast as they came. I submitted stories to more conventional horror publishers, but they said my work wasn't genre enough. A year later, Jim Chapman from Fugue State wrote back to me about Evil Nerd Empire. Jeremy Needle accepted my book, saw Bizarro elements in it, of which there are many, though it's in kind of a nonplace genre wise. I got on the boards, I read Bizarro books, I got totally into it. I made friends. I impressed people. They impressed me. Went to Bizarrocon. Met the Eraserhead staff, bonded with Jeff Burk, who lived a town away from me for a few years and I never knew. Won the first annual Ultimate Bizarro Showdown. And I decided I could get used to all of this. I have some kickass friends doing kickass work and letting me do my best. It's beautiful. Guess that wasn't so short. Sorry, man.

Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, is clearly a love letter to all things pulp. Who are some of your favorite pulp authors and characters?
Solomon Kane is my absolute favorite. I have a character who's a Solomon Kane parody, but nobody likes him. So I don't do more stuff with him. Obviously, The Shadow and Doc Savage. James M Cain's stuff is amazing. Lovecraft. Robert E. Howard. Chandler.

What was the inspiration behind the Jimmy Plush character?
I saw a little girl with a Paddington bear one day when I was sitting at Borders. It made me think of Jodie Sweetin on Full House's teddy bear.

Will there be more Jimmy Plush in the future?
I'll be writing more Plush stories. I wrote a new one last month, serialized in five parts. Good luck finding where in the continuity it fits in, but it's connected to Martian Pharaoh. There are 9 Plush stories total. Three were just for people who preordered the limited edition. I feel good that I get to give them that.

How was your experience with LegumeMan and Archelon Ranch?
Legumeman are amazing. I'm working on a sequel to Archelon Ranch called Cart Fop, Fart Cop. It's hard to write, so it might be awhile before it comes to fruition, but we've got something else planned.

Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I've known I wanted to tell stories since I was about eight, so I don't think there was a book that made me want to be a writer, but there have been books that made me want to be a better writer. Ulysses, The Divine Comedy, The Great Gatsby were the three main ones that made me feel like I had to up my game. Since then, I've read books that had certain degrees of weirdness and beauty that let me know I had to up my game.

Who are some of your non-pulp influences?
So many. Dante, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Joyce, Kafka, Fitzgerald, Joyce Carol Oates and John Gardner were big inspirations. Each writer you love, you take a piece of even if it isn't something that looks on the surface like a component of your work.

What's your favorite book?
The Great Gatsby. It's both real and mystical, human and divine and noirish and sublimely written. Such great stuff.

Who's your favorite author?

What's the best book you've read in the last six months?
In the last six months? Alan Clark's Boneyard Babies might be it. Cameron Pierce's Abortion Arcade is also excellent.

Could Jimmy Plush take Roma the tomato from Eric Hendrixson's Bucket of Face in a gunfight?
When the protagonist fires a gun, he tends to hit things. Roma is at his best, an antagonist. Plush has the edge. And if you can't hit a tomato with a .45, you've got no business being a detective.

How long would Jimmy Plush survive in Thompson, New Jersey?
Three weeks. Then he would leave.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
Listen to writers, not books about writing. Say hi to us. Ask us questions. We're on Facebook, we're at signings and we're human beings. If you think we're above it, then you think you'll be above it when you get published, and that's a terrible way to look at things. Don't whine about the business because you don't get published. Lots of people are published and we don't like being called whores and sellouts. "Read my manuscript, whore!" How does that sound to you? Shitty? Because it is shitty. Don't do it. Read lots of books. Learn about publishers from their writers and what they put out, not from The Writer's Market. Don't get cynical. Don't be a Pollyanna. Assume you've gotta get better. Don't stop. Do your best but assume your best must be better.

What's next for Garrett Cook?
I don't know...and I love it.

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