Today's guest, Stephen White, has written a book with a unique premise, an idea that could have easily been dismissed as "too unrealistic". Instead, he ran with it. Enjoy!
Welcome to the blog, Stephen! Could you tell us a little bit about Clump: An American Splatire?
CLUMP is a very black comedy about a huge, headless man who becomes the most popular – and most dangerous – celebrity in America. But more than that, the novel is a pointed satire of our society at the present; the business practices, the seeming worship of brainless celebrities, the entertainment industry, and how moral erosion has real consequences.
All of which sounds very heavy. But the book is actually funny, as long as you like your humor pointed and very adult. I’d like to think that the book’s thematic elements outweigh the frequently graphic language and the sporadic sex and violence – but sensitive readers may need to keep a defibrillator handy.
What led you to write this book?
I’ve been fortunate to have a successful writing career which has covered a lot of areas. I’ve written children’s books, television, feature film, stage productions, humor books, and a lot more – but I’d never written a full length novel for adults.
I was preparing to write a different novel entirely, but a few days prior to my self-assigned start date I happened upon a photo of “Mike the Headless Chicken” (confession: I’ve got a real fascination for sideshow performers, human or otherwise). Back in the 1940’s, Mike had his head chopped off…but his body continued to live for another 18 months. He became a celebrity and traveled the country.
And out of the blue, I had one of those wonderful “what if?” moments. What if it was a man who was decapitated…but his body wouldn’t die? How would our celebrity-obsessed, Internet-driven culture react?
At that moment, I threw out my previous notes and decided to dive in to CLUMP. In part because I really wanted to spend time discovering for myself what would happen, and in part because I was drawn to the challenge of writing an engaging novel in which the protagonist essentially had no goals, no awareness, no obstacles, and no real possibility of a character arc. It seemed like such an impossible task that I had to do it.
And happily, it all works because, being a social satire, the novel isn’t about what’s going on inside Clump…it’s about what’s going on in the world around him. And around us.
Would you classify Clump as an anti-hero? Why or why not?
Clump (the nickname he’s been given owing to a small clump of nerves and tissue attached to his neck stump) is neither hero nor anti-hero. He is a huge presence with some surprising and frightening abilities – but he has no awareness of himself or the world around him. He doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t even have the capacity to want anything. Except to not be touched – which usually has very bad consequences.
But with celebrity comes power, and that power is available to be used by the many people who surround Clump. In that way, Clump becomes something of a moral amplifier. What is deep inside Clump’s handlers is drawn to the surface and empowered, for good or bad. Which, for a novelist and satirist, is a great jumping off point to comment on today’s media, medicine, politics, fads, and overall moral direction.
Who are your favorite authors? How have they influenced you?
Kurt Vonnegut is way, way up there. He melds humor, horror, and history into satires which are wildly entertaining and deeply thought provoking. Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” is another satire that transcends its time and genre. The wordplay in that book is incredible. Personally, I like writing a lot of dialogue (no doubt owing to my scriptwriting career) and so I try to incorporate some of those same verbal fireworks when I can.
Of current authors, Chuck Palahniuk is a definite inspiration. The man is fearless about combining humor, horror, and the scatalogical. I’m hoping that some of the readers who have enjoyed his works like “Fight Club” will discover and embrace “CLUMP.”
What is your best advice on writing?
I’m afraid it’s going to sound pretty familiar: WRITE! Even if you have all the natural ability in the world, you’re going to be a fairly bad writer until you’ve written (and discarded) enough bad words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages to get them out of your system. There’s just no way to skip that step.
The other advice I’d give is to free yourself from self-judgment while working on your first draft and focus on your daily word count. At that stage, momentum is far more important than perfection. If you get bogged down, don’t be afraid to insert a parenthetical note saying “Hero reveals surprising ability that amazes everyone” and then move on. When I’m writing, I’ll change the font color of those notes so I can easily come back to them later.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Stephen!
My pleasure! There’s very little point in being a writer other than connecting with readers, and I really appreciate this great forum for doing so!
Note: “CLUMP – An American Splatire” has been released under the name S. Redman White because there’s already a bestselling novelist out there named Stephen White and I didn’t want to create any confusion.
I’m originally from Indiana, attended Indiana University, and wrote advertising and performed stand-up comedy and music in Bloomington, Indiana. Subsequently, my wife and I moved to Dallas, Texas where I continued working in advertising and audio production.
This transitioned into a job writing and producing musical comedy scripts for the “Chuck E. Cheese” robotic characters, which in turn took me to a startup home video production in Dallas called “Barney the Dinosaur”. I joined the Barney team and wrote the first episode of the PBS television series “Barney & Friends,” and continued as Barney’s primary (but not only) writer for the next 16 years. Television episodes, home videos, live concerts, a feature film, audiobooks, children’s books and more. And while Barney was unloved by many who didn’t understand the needs of our preschool audience, I’m still proud of how many young lives were touched positively by the work we did, especially in the franchise’s earliest years.
Stephen White can be found on http://www.StephenWhiteOnline.com
You can find purchasing links and other info at http://www.ClumpTheNovel.com
The novel is available on Amazon and Createspace in paperback, and available in ebook form on Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple’s iBookstore, and it should soon be available for Sony eReaders.