In a little under a week, I’ll be blog touring all over continental North America. What this means is that I’ll be answering a barrage of questions about what makes me tick and how much, if any of it, winds up in my characters. I’ve already proven that I can get inside the head of a rat, so I suppose anything is possible, non? But what is psyching me a tad, are some of the insights culled out of thin air, like they were there all along just waiting for an opportunity to be heard.
Author, friend and fellow Brooklin 7 alumna Connie Di Pietro offered one such opportunity when I dropped by her blog, a macabre place stocked with plenty ‘o bone chilling literary cocktails guaranteed to make you freeze.
“You have described your writing style as gonzo” Connie, asked. “Can you describe what that means.”
Yikes! I’d rather share my grandmother’s recipe for Hungarian gulash. But seeing as I was on the spot, I took my best shot, and I didn’t even have to cheat with Google.
A Chat With Connie Di Pietro, Queen of the Macabre
You went from politics to funeral director to author. Can you tell me how the previous two paths led you into writing?
It’s kinda like all roads leading to Whittamore’s berry farm in Durham Region. When you have something ‘good’ it won’t keep. It just draws you there. Every job I had informed the next one, until I wound up at my dining room table cranking out fiction. The sum total of all of my experiences simply outgrew my grey matter. I couldn’t house it anymore, so I started to write it down.
How much time do you dedicate to your craft?
When I was working full time at the funeral home, I wrote by night, which meant that for about two and a half years I was flying on four hours sleep. This, I think, accounts for some of the mangier dream sequences and the ability of some characters to see in the dark. Now that I’m on hiatus, I treat this as I do any job: I get the family out the door and am at my desk from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. Whether I’m blogging, tweeting, promoting myself or others, or working on the latest in the series, I am always up to something.
You have described your writing style as gonzo. Can you describe what that means?
created by the late Hunter S. Thompson, whose fantastical non-fiction embraced whimsy, absurdity, political activism and out and out civil disobedience where necessary. For quick reference, I recommend two films: The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, both starring Johnny Depp. Amidst all the chaos, you will see a clear message, like an Aesop Fable. So while gonzo may appear comedic, it is actually pretty serious stuff…only, you may not know it until much, much later. 😀
Tell us about your latest book Heuer Lost and Found. What was your inspiration?
Heuer Lost and Found is a metaphysical journey of two people: one living, one dead. In an elevator I would say that it’s about a dead cooze hound lawyer trapped in an idiosyncratic funeral parlor who relies on a boozy undertaker and a smart alecky spirit guide to set him free.
Inspiration? Wow…if I continue from the previous question, I’d say that Hunter S. was clear and present every step of the way along with the great Kurt Vonnegut. While I didn’t attempt consciously to mimic, I would call upon their inane sense of the ridiculous when negotiating heavy subjects. Humor in a tough spot as theme, trope, what have you, was first in line. Next, there were some old bones of contention I’d been chewing on for about thirty years: 1) the notion that nostalgia hurts more than it helps 2) the idea that kindness can be found in the oddest places 3) prying is a lousy thing 4) some things don’t need answers 5) insular people will, sooner or later, give in to others because we are social and 6) find that thing you need, then let it go to keep it forever. Yep. These needed addressing, so I did it through ‘Heuer’.
What has been the most challenging part of writing Heuer
Letting go. He’s been in my head for over five years. We were getting quite comfortable.
What are you currently working on?
Heuer Lost and Found is the first in a six volume series called “Unapologetic Lives”. The fourth in that series POOR UNDERTAKER is my mission now. It begins in 1947. Funny how I seem to be moving backwards. 😀
Who do you read?
I’ll list what’s on my work table right now:
The Essential Anne Wilkinson, Selected poems by Ingrid Ruthig
The Curse of the Purple Delhi Sapphire by Rachael Stapleton
Greek Tragedies Edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore
Will Rogers, Wise and Witty Sayings Of a Great American Humorist
The Republic and The Laws by Cicero
Reminiscences by Gen. Douglas MacArthur
How Not to Lose a Librarian by Sherrry Loeffler
You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers
And the excellent pamphlet “The Dignified Transfer and Post-Organ Harvested Embalming and Preparation” from MacKinnon and Bowes Ltd., Toronto.
Thank you, Connie.
For more Connie, visit her website http://www.conniedipietro.com/