Today I was lucky enough to chat with author Brent Kelley when he popped in for cookies.
E: So, Brent. Welcome to Erindipity. Lori Michelle ate all my cookies when she was here last week. Can I offer you a half-eaten donut instead?
B: No cookies? I was told cookies. I don’t know if this is going to work out. All right, fine. Let’s see the half-eaten donut. Ooh, it looks like a jelly! Wait a second. The jelly’s been sucked out of this half! I’m outta here. Whoa, take it easy! You don’t need that… Look, I’m sitting down. See? Just put down the crossbow.
E: Your book is called Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater. Where did you get the idea for your book and what was your writing process like? Did you have a rough outline of what you thought would happen, or did you decide to see where it took you?
B: Years back, when I was still in college, I beseeched the cosmos to send me a muse. I was hoping for a pretty lady in skimpy clothes, but I got Chuggie. I was an art major at UW-Stout, so I spent more time drawing him than writing about him. I started scribbling tiny scenes with Chuggie, but I didn’t have any direction. After college, I realized I was working on a book. My girlfriend Keri (who is now my wife) lived about 3 hours from me. Driving to see her on the weekends, I always traveled with my voice recorder (whose name is Booster). So Booster and I would cross through the Wisconsin countryside, and I’d tell him about Chuggie. Eventually, a real story unfolded, but I’d never written a book before. Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater took around a decade. No outline, just me jabbering into a voice recorder along Highway 64. I didn’t know how to write good back then, though. Critiques and workshops! Now I can write a little good. And the second book took far less time.
E: You have a blurb from Piers Anthony on your Amazon page. How did that come about?
B: I contacted Piers through his web page, and his staff gave him my message. I got very lucky with the timing, and he was able to fit Chuggie into his reading stack. He reminded me that he wasn’t guaranteeing a positive blurb, just his honest thoughts on my book. I was driving with my wife one night when my pocket started to vibrate. I pulled out my phone and handed it to Keri. She says “It’s from Piers Anthony.” So I says, “Read it! … No! Don’t read it!” In the end, Piers liked Chuggie’s first adventure, and we got some great quotes for the back cover. Piers Anthony is such a cool guy!
E: The book is from Omnium Gatherum Media. What has your experience with them been like?
B: Don’t tell anyone I told you this, but my experience with Omnium Gatherum has been a nightmare. And by “nightmare”, I mean Super Action Happy Fun Time! As with the Piers Anthony blurb, I feel pretty lucky to have gotten in with Omnium Gatherum. Chief Editor Kate Jonez is wonderful to work with. Her editing has really helped me elevate my craft. She’s got a great eye for talent, too, so OG has a whole cavalcade of kickass books. Publishing alongside the other OG authors is really an honor. Someday we’re all going to unite for an Omnium Gatherum Gathering. When we last discussed it, we agreed it should take place at a haunted insane asylum. I just worry that fellow OG authors Ennis Drake and Dean Harrison are going to get me into trouble at the Gathering. I’ll have to bring my A-game, that’s for damn sure.
E: If I understand correctly, this is the first book in a series. Can you tell us when the next book will be available?
B: Yes, Chuggie and the Desecration of Stagwater is book #1 of a bunch. It was published in November of 2011. It follows the perpetually-intoxicated embodiment of drought, aka Chuggie. Ol’ Chuggers is a loose-talkin’, junk sellin’ drifter, and he stumbles upon the remote city of Stagwater. There he gets stuck between various vile forces vying for control of the town. The next book, Chuggie and the Bleeding Gateways, is due for release in May of 2013.
E: What can you tell us about it?
B: I can tell you it’s going to be GLORIOUS! It picks up with Chuggie just a few days after the events in Desecration of Stagwater. Chuggie’s got some work to do and people to find. His recently acquired bone dagger, the Bleeding Jaws of Glughu, has some secrets to reveal. The Steel Jacks are becoming increasingly interested in Chuggie’s activities. If you don’t know, Steel Jacks are these energy creatures that live in 8’ metal suits. They came from another world through a rift, and they’re stuck on Mag Mell (Chuggie’s world). There’ll be monsters aplenty in Bleeding Gateways. There’ll be booze, babes, mayhem. All the good stuff. And plenty of Chuggie’s drunken ranting about people he knew or events that may or may not have actually taken place.
E: What authors have you been influenced by?
B: In a lot of ways, Chuggie is a response to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Other authors who influence me are folks like Frank Herbert, Hunter S. Thompson, Terence McKenna, Douglas Adams, and Robert E. Howard. I’m a fan of Warhammer 40k. Of course, Mr. Piers Anthony is another. There’s a graphic novel series called Requiem: Vampire Knight that blows me away – done by Pat Mills and Oliver LeDroit. So, from that list, you can get an idea where I’m taking Chuggie. His stories are meant to be nightmarish, gruesome, and profane… but also funny, whimsical, and reverent. All with cosmic resonance. The biggest influence of all, when it comes to Chuggie, is the musical artist known as Tom Waits. In his live shows, he’ll stop between songs and tell these wild stories in his gravel voice. You can find that on YouTube. If they ever make it into a movie, I’d want Tom Waits to play Chuggie.
E: Before you go, what one piece of advice can you give aspiring writers that you wish someone had given you?
B: I wish someone would have told me to shave my head and grow a beard as early as 2004. I was good looking back then, sure. Nobody’s denying that. But I’m GREAT looking now, and I owe it all to shaving my head and growing a beard! As far as writing goes, I’m no expert, but I know a little bit. I advise aspiring writers to get involved with other writers. Try one or more of these: workshops, critique groups, writing forums. Make friends with other writers of all levels. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and you never know how important those connections will end up being.