Born with one extra finger and two extra toes, Douglas Hackle lives in Northeast Ohio with his wife and son. His first published book, Clown Tear Junkies, is a collection of absurdist/bizarro short stories.
I’d like to introduce you all to the talented wordsmith Douglas Hackle who has so generously accepted our offer to be interviewed by us here at Ravenous Reads. Let’s get started.
~ If you really are Douglas Hackle, and not some alien bassist, could you tell us about your true self?
Can’t I be Douglas Hackle AND an alien bassist? At any rate, I really am Douglas Hackle. My false self is far more interesting than my true one. But you want to know about my true self. Well, truth is I’m sort of a boring soccer dad type of dude. However, I differ from many boring soccer dad type of dudes in that I like to lessen the tedium of my Thoreauvian “life of quiet desperation” by writing and publishing very bizarre short stories—which I suppose is another way of saying I’m not content to be completely quiet.
~ Do you write full time? If not, what’s your day job or what job do you wish you had?
While I don’t make a living writing my fiction (HAHAHAHA….), yes, I do write full time. My day job consists of writing a certain manner of business copy and conducting the research needed to produce said copy. In other words: I sit in a cubicle and get a paycheck. What job do I wish I had? When I grow up, I’m gonna be a pre-Mr. Furley, post-Mr. Roper, gay ice-road trucker, clown-fetus, haberdasher, paypaclip hustla. Betta ax somebody.
~ Is there any particular author or book that influenced you?
There are many authors and books that have influenced me. As far as a really super-significant, turning point sort of influence? Stephen King’s It would certainly fall into that category. I read it as a freshman in high school. It was the first book I read that I couldn’t put down, to use the cliché. There were mornings when, while riding the RTA, instead of getting off at my stop in front of school, I’d stay on the bus and ride the circuit again, skip first and second period just to read another chapter or two. As I recall, the book’s hold on me was twofold. First, there was the intractable, seemingly indestructible, shape-shifting evil of “It,” aka Pennywise the Clown—I was truly terrified of that monster. Secondly, there was the gang of adolescent protagonists—stuttering Bill, Ben, Eddie, Ritchie, Bev, and the rest of the Losers Club. King wrote these kids to life so perfectly that, in their own way, they were as real as anyone else in my life at the time. While I read the book, these kids were my friends too, and I was a member of their club. I suspect that if I returned to It for a reread now, the adult I have become would find himself concurring with some of the criticisms that tend to crop up about this book—for example, that it has a cheesy, melodramatic, over-the-top ending, etc. Therefore, I’ll never read the book again, and its pure and nostalgic magic will never be tainted for me.
~ What’s next on your to-read shelf?
Either No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy or They Had Goat Heads by D. Harlan Wilson. At the moment, I’m reading Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams.
~ Elkcah Salguod, your writing is considered absurd. Are you in this mindset all the time or do you have to prepare to be weird? Are there rituals that must be performed before you put pen to paper?
No preparation necessary, Drawoh Ikkin. My mind has been manufacturing ridiculous, absurd, and patently dumb story ideas more or less on autopilot ever since I was a kid. And I have no writing rituals per se, though I do require coffee if I’m writing in the morning and prefer to have beer if I’m writing at night. But as much as I love that old adage “write drunk, edit sober,” our livers don’t last forever, so I don’t always practice the first part of that bit of sage advice, yo.
~ Where did the concept of clown tears come from?
Hm, that’s a good question. I want to say the idea of clown tears as being a potent and addictive psychotropic substance used to lace street drugs first occurred to me when I was writing either “The Scream, My Dog” or “The Perfect Popcorn: A Recipe (Or Confessions of a Lady-in-Waiting),” both of which are included in Clown Tear Junkies. I can’t quite remember though. Regardless, I’m glad I stumbled on the concept, because I think the idea of clown tears is an appropriate symbol for the overall spirit of the book, as most of the stories contained therein mix and mash the tragic with the comical. Humans shed tears out of sadness and as a result of laughter, and the traditional clown figure itself represents that same basic dichotomy, as clowns can be either tragic or comical depending on which direction their exaggerated greasepaint mouths bend.
~ If you could be one character in your book, which one would you be? Why?
Probably Shanice in the story “Green Ireland.” Because at the end of that story Shanice gets to…whoooa, almost dropped a spoiler there!
~ Do you see yourself or someone you know in any of your characters?
Yes. The most obvious way to answer that question is to point to the protagonist of the story “The Day My ID’s ID Got Carded.” The protag in that story is literally me, Douglas Hackle, and the story is sort of a bizarre fantasy/alternate history of me and my life as a writer. I’m famous in that one! Sort of. But my presence in the book is not restricted to just that tale. I’m all over the place. At least parts of me are. In fact, you could say I haunt the pages of Clown Tear Junkies in the same way that the Douglas Hackle-Narrator comes to haunt the stairwell graffiti of his apartment building in “The Day My ID’s ID Got Carded.” (Oopsie, I actually did drop a spoiler here. Ah well.)
~ What is your favorite story in Clown Tear Junkies?
Hmm, that’s a tough one.
The novelist Toni Morrison famously said that if there’s a book you want to read but hasn’t been written yet, then write that book yourself. Substitute the word “book” for “story” and that’s basically what I do. That’s sort of my raison d’être, if you will. (Will you??) Anyway, I’m not saying the stories I write haven’t been written before. After all, there’s nothing new under the sun, right? I’m just saying that I write the stories I want to read. As a result, I love all my stories! And even if everyone else in the world loathed them, even if every review of my book was a scathing no-star diatribe of fire-breathing hate, even then I’d still love these stories. So they’re ALL my favorite!!
Alright, alright, I’ll just answer the damn question already and pick one: “Please Don’t Be an Unkind Person to Me and My Grandpa, and Please Don’t be Cross with Us.” (However, my pick is subject to change at any given moment.)
~ Would you like to see one of your stories made into a film? Which one?
Yes. “The Scream, My Dog.” I’d love to see that one turned into a short indie film made with a combination of live action and animation. A few times in this story, the main character drives his car down a country road that gradually takes him from the real world into the painted world of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. I’d happily rip my smiling face off and feed it to a polar bear to see that story filmed.
~ I have to ask you about “bro-love.” I really enjoyed the guys and their reasoning behind their actions. What compelled you to write this story?
Ah, yeah, bro-love; or brove, as I call it in the story. I wrote that one not long after I first encountered the term “bromance.” I got to thinking about what an extreme bromance might be like, and, for better or worse, the story “The Perfect Popcorn: A Recipe (Or Confessions of a Lady-in-Waiting)” was born. Actually, a number of my bizarro stories explore this sort of pseudo-homoerotic territory, always for the purpose of humor. But again, at this juncture in the history of storytelling it’s difficult to do anything original. I just found out there’s even a sub-genre of erotica out there called “brorotica” devoted to stories of straight men having gay sex. Who knew?
~ You have quite a few movie references in your stories. Do you consider yourself a connoisseur?
Nah, not a connoisseur, only because that word implies some level of expertise: “connoisseur [kon-uh-sur, -soor] 1. a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste.” I wouldn’t consider myself “especially competent to pass critical judgment” on anything! With regard to movies, this would be due in large part to the fact that I tend to watch movies that I really like over and over again, which of course cuts into precious time that I could be devoting to, for example, watching new movies and thereby broadening my basis of comparison and perhaps eventually attaining something like “expertise.” Am I a lover of movies? Hellz yeah, bitch!!
Nikki, I didn’t just call you a bitch. I just felt compelled to write, “Hellz yeah, bitch!” (where “bitch” is essentially used as an interjection meaning “yo” or “lobsterz.”)
~ What are 3 of your favorite movies?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Gozu, and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
~ Will readers ever get to read a novella or novel from you or are you more inclined to write collections and short stories?
Funny you should ask. I just recently started brainstorming and taking down notes for a bizarro novella that I intend to begin writing…well, any day now actually. Despite the core idea still being somewhat raw, I have a pretty good sense of the overall story, including its beginning, middle, and end. I’m excited to begin writing it. However, I LOVE short stories and short story collections, and I definitely plan on writing another collection at some point.
~ What can we expect from you in the future?
I guess I addressed this in the answer to the previous question. I’ll add that I’d also like to take a stab at writing a traditional horror novel, maybe a play or two, and perhaps a screenplay one of these days.
~ Is there anything else you would like to say to the folks reading this interview?
Sure. C’mon, everyone! Let’s all sing “This Land is Your Land”! Ready? One-two-three…
This land is your land.
This chair is my hat.
To the big, blue sausage-bats.
This clam is your mom,
Crab-dance across the sands,
This wannabe-gay, sentient paperclip was made for you and Chester Kranlin Finklesworth the Seventeenth!
~Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! We wish you nothing but the best, success, and all that jazz. We hope you’ll come back and visit us.
Check out these other Douglas Hackle titles: