Monday, May 25, 2009

The Ben Esch Interview

For those of you new to the blog, you should know that at one time I spend a considerable amount of time and intellectual energy (not to mention crazy amounts of wit) promoting a little, earth-shattering book titled Sophomore Undercover by Ben Esch. I did this for mostly selfish reasons, although I'm sure someone else managed to benefit. (Most likely the scores of people who bought the book after reading my review. And how did they benefit, you ask? Laughter, the greatest gift of all. Oh, wait...that's love. But laughter is right up there.)

It's been a while since we've talked Sophomore Undercover and frankly, I miss it. Sure, it's likely nostalgia for a simpler time (back when I had ten followers, for example) and it may have something to do with the increased difficulty of coming up with things to blog about. But really I think it's because Ben and his book fill the soul with such gooey goodness that when it and he are gone you suffer from debilitating withdrawal. Withdrawal is scary. Or so I've heard. So here it is, The Ben Esch Interview. Get your fix. Feed your soul.

What is one lesson you learned while writing your first book?

These things aren’t as hard to write as I thought they’d be. Okay, I know that’s kind of a douche thing to say, but stick with me here for a second: if you sit down and type for an hour a day, you’ll have a book in a few months. So, the book writing bit was a whole lot less difficult than I was expecting.

Now, taking the first draft and massaging it into something that doesn’t suck was actually pretty difficult. Okay, so that makes two things I learned:

Complete this sentence: I write because…

I’m not cut out for real work.

Rank these in order of importance to you as a reader: Plot, Characters, Voice

As a reader, I think that voice is the most important part about a novel. That’s why I love William Goldman so much. That guy has one of the most unique writing voices that I have ever read. So unique in fact, that nobody has really seemed to notice that I rip off his style. Or, maybe I should say homage. I’m pretty sure I can’t get sued if I say that my writing is an homage to William Goldman.

Then characters. Then plot. So long as the voice is solid and the characters are okay, I’m willing to forgive quite a bit if the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. For example, I Am The Messenger by Marcus Zusak. The last bit of plot on that book made me want to punch a wall it pissed me off so much, but I liked the voice and characters so much that I still really loved the book. Plus, he got me feeling some strong emotions, so there’s that too. Really, hats off to Marcus Zusak.

You write humor. What is one thing that you have always and will always find hilarious?

A good kick to the nuts always works for me. Here’s the thing about that, though: you can only have so many. Like, I think if you go over one nut kick per hundred pages, you’re in some pretty serious trouble, because that goes from hilarious to infuriating super quick. I can’t really explain it.

Does rereading your own work over and over again make the funny parts less funny to you and if so, how do you handle that?

Yes, it does make it quite a bit less funny. It’s just one of the things that you have to accept when you write a humor book: you are going to stop laughing at the funny parts. But, so long as you thought it was funny once, chances are that somebody else is going to think it’s funny when they read it.

If you were to start writing your autobiography tomorrow, what would you title it?

Heart of a Lion, Eyes of a Panther: the Adventures of a Handsome Doctor in South America.

In a battle between Grape Kool-Aid and chocolate milk, which wins and why?

Always chocolate milk. Sorry Paul, I know how you feel about this, but I never really got onto the Kool-Aid bandwagon. I’m thinking it’s because my mom never bought it for me, and if you don’t develop a taste for overly sugary crap (no offense) when you’re in the prime years of appreciating overly sugary crap, it’s hard to develop a taste for it when you’re conscious of stuff like calories and cavities and the like.

Besides, chocolate milk is a delightful treat.

Finally, has the fire really been burning since the world’s been turning, or can we actually place blame on some individual, generation, or entire culture?

I’m gonna go ahead and put the blame on the “Greatest Generation.” Maybe it’s just me, but I really think those guys need to get taken down a peg or two.

Pick ‘Em:

90210 or Dawson’s Creek?

I’m going with 90210. I never really watched the Dawson’s Creek for some reason, which is kinda surprising, because I was all about wasting my time on crappy television during the mid nineties.

Team Edward or Team Jacob?

I’m going with Team Jacob. First of all, I wouldn’t have to turn into a vampire, which is pretty awesome. I mean, the whole immortality thing might be kinda nice, but vampires aren’t able to sleep or eat real food. Seeing as sleeping and eating are two of my favorite things, we’re bumping into a logical problem here.

Back to the Future or Indiana Jones?

Definitely Back to the Future. They actually filmed all the old west scenes for Back to the Future 3 in my hometown, so that movie’s always going to have a soft spot in my heart.

Plus, did you see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Sweet mercy that was a turd.

Motley Crue or GNR? (in their respective heydays)

I never really listened to too much Motley Crue, so I’m gonna go with GNR if only because I like to sing like Axl Rose in my car.

Rappers: East Coast or West Coast?

West Coast. Definitely. I’m pretty happy that I got to live during the whole East Coast, West Coast beef. Those were an interesting few years.

Mario Kart or Simpsons Road Rage?

I only played Simpsons Road Rage once, and it was pretty awesome, but Mario Kart probably accounted for a good 2% of my existence during high school, so I’m gonna go with that.

Go for two or kick the extra point?

When I’m playing Madden, it’s always go for two.

Cha-Cha Slide or Macarena?

I still do the Macarena, so I’m gonna go with that. Though I really wish that somebody would teach me the Cha Cha Slide so I could diversify my moves a bit. (Editor's note: You're welcome, Ben.)

Best Jedi Perk: Mind-trick, telekinesis, or light saber?

I think the light saber, though it’s a tough decision. The mind-trick would be awesome, and it would be sweet to move stuff with thought bullets, but those light sabers are unbelievably badass.


Monica said...

So, this is why Mr. Ben Esch hasnt been updating his blog as much as I'd like, cuz he was doing your interview? ok then. ALthough, seriously, you'd have to update more than daily, for me to be satisfied. (you too, PMM)

Anita said...

I still haven't read Esch's book, but I think one more blog post from you and I'd buy it.

The Vice-Prez is driving by my house in a couple days. Does anybody have any witty slogans regarding chocolate milk? I can hang a banner from my van or something.

Kelly Polark said...

Entertaining interview with Mr. Esch! I think Ben needs to sing GnR in the car and put it on his blog. (Wearing a certain sweater of course!)

Ben Esch said...


Thanks for the very fun interview, and thanks for running the photo of me with the faux hawk. I only rocked that one night, and I don't know if I'll ever muster up the courage to do it again.

Okay, now I'm off to update my blog again. Monica, that message was for you. More blog updates on the way.

You rule, Murph!


Monica said...

Thanks, Ben Esch. I can appreciate that you have a busy life, out flogging your book and all, but please, remember us little people. lol

Ray Veen said...

Snappy questions, Paul, almost as entertaining as the answers. I'd totally let you interview me.

If I had a good reason to be interviewed, that is.

Unknown said...

If I run out of things to write about I'll just start interviewing all of the regular contributors.

Monica said...

oh man... i'm going to start imagining our interview right now, PMM.

oh, and btw, you should make one more blogpost about Ben Esch, just so Anita will buy his book. I'm just saying, do it for a brother, k?

Unknown said...

Thanks for interviewing Joe Lo Truglio, I mean Ben Esch.

Monica said...

this is apropos of absolutely nothing at all, but i think it's hilarious, and had to share it with someone. Readers of bookninja will have already seen it. Look at the address label on this package of labels.

Anita said...

Why can't I ever access MONICA'S blog? Does anybody know? Is there a secret to it?

Unknown said...

Monica has no actual blog. It's all a part of the mystique.

Monica said...

ed zachary, PMM. all part of that je ne said quois. Like the smile.