BOOK GIVING GUIDE: 2009
Michael Snyder’s Return Policy
This week we are veering off the “romance” path a little and landing straight into the slightly neurotic but highly entertaining and humorous land that is Michael Snyder. If you’ve never read a Michael Snyder book, you are missing out, let me tell you.
But, then, just read my below interview with him and see for yourself. (I’m still wiping my tears from laughing so hard.)
Krista: I’m a little humbled here, I have to be honest. To have Mr. Funny man (my personal nick name for you… you’ll just have to live with it…) at my blog is a little nerve-wracking. I mean, I try to be funny but… you just beat all and put me to shame. To make me feel a wee bit better… give us a very bad joke. We’ll call it building Krista’s self-esteem, okay?
Michael: Okay, this is actually the first joke I ever made up (which is probably not true, but it is the earliest one I can remember…and it does indeed possess a high degree of “very badness”).
You remember those pretend book titles where the punch line was the author’s name? …Yellow River by I. P. Freely…Spots On The Wall by Hu Flung Poo…Under The Bleachers by Seymor Butts. Well, I made up one of my own, sometime around first or second grade. It may not be as groan-worthy as its predecessors, but it makes up for it by not being very funny either. So here goes…
Making Puppets by Mary O. Nette
Krista: Um, okay wow. That IS bad (but then, why am I still laughing hysterically? grrr!) I can honestly say I never imagined the “Seymore Butts” joke being posted on my blog… thanking for bringing me to an all new level, Mike!
So your most recent book is “Return Policy” that released in July. Was writing a “second” book any different/harder/easier/funnier/justshootme-er than writing your first book (My Name is Russell Fink… just in case you don’t remember the name…)?
Michael: It was indeed a lot more difficult. With my first novel (thanks for the parenthetical title reminder!), I had the luxury of no firm deadlines. I wrote the book at a leisurely pace and just had fun with it. Whereas the entirety of Return Policy was written with a metaphorical clock ticking in the background. (For the record, I’m not complaining. I do realize that’s a very good problem to have!) That was challenge number one.
The second, and way more cumbersome problem was the structure. The story of Return Policy is told through three distinct, first-person narrators. So the challenge was to create three different voices without sacrificing continuity. Adding to that was the mental instability of Shaq, a homeless man bent on co-opting the biographies of whomever he’s talking to. This not only rendered him a less-than-reliable narrator, but also presented the ongoing challenge of keeping his voice unique.
Full disclosure: “Fink” was my first published novel. Prior to hooking up with the nice folks at Zondervan, I did complete one novel, as well as quitting three others at about the 100-page mark. And trust me, all four were nearly as bad as the joke in question #1.
Krista: Thank you for correcting me. And I can totally see why getting into the head of a homeless man would be a challenge (but you did such a great job of it!–that, btw, is a little bit of interviewer brown nosing…)
Speaking of Return Policy, can you give us the low-down of what it’s about?
Michael: The idea of the story grew out of a short scene I’d written for a short story entitled, appropriately enough…Return Policy. I just thought it would be interesting to have a character try and return a perfectly good espresso machine because it wouldn’t die—despite all the warnings to the contrary in the owner’s manual. I had no idea why he wanted to destroy a perfectly good espresso maker at the time, but knew if I kept writing that one would emerge. When the customer service rep on the other end of the phone showed our hero the slightest bit of compassion, the larger story began to take shape.
At the same time I was working on another story about a guy dealing with the eerie aftereffects of a heart transplant. So I decided to inflict the heart troubles on Willy and see if I could thread the two stories into a novel. Originally, I was going to alternate between two POV characters—Willy and Father Joe, a former football great who now ran a homeless shelter. But eventually the voices of Ozena and Shaq pushed poor Father Joe into the background. Somewhere along the line I stumbled on the idea of having Willy accidentally run over a school mascot.
As you can tell, I’m not so great at synopsizing my own work. So if it’s okay with you, I’m going to borrow from the back cover…
In his second book, novelist Michael Snyder introduces us to three very unusual and distinct voices all torn by tragedy: Willy Finneran, washed-up genre novelist with an espresso maker that just won’t die and a habit of avoiding conflict even if it means putting the truth on a sliding scale. Ozena Webb, single mother and Javatek’s top customer service representative. She spends every evening playing board games with her twelve-year-old son who is mentally crippled from an early childhood accident. Shaq, a small and scraggy homeless man with trauma-induced blank spots on his memory, trying to piece together the story of his life while assisting Father Joe at the Mercy Mission. As their stories intersect, the narrative vacillates between hope and naïveté, comic relief and postmodern ennui. Startling in its authenticity, this unforgettable novel reveals that no matter how far one has strayed from hope, there is always a way to return.
Krista: The espresso maker thing still kills me!
Okay, it’s what we’ve ALL been waiting for! Michael Snyder… it’s time to play….
I love putting authors on the spot. Yours is special to me because it involves our brief history together (besides the cow…) Off the top of your head, plot out a story that includes: A fireplace hearth (wink), The side (wink again) of a cow, and FedEx (double wink.)
Michael: Meet Jack Uvaltraids, rogue FedEx deliveryman by day, professor of advanced bovinity studies by night. Sleep-deprived from his many hours of moonlit vocational duties, Jack inadvertently runs his delivery van into the back of a station wagon (one of those cool jobbers with the fake wood paneling on the side), lo, one Christmas Eve.
The driver of the wagon, Jill Schmill, was making an emergency delivery of an imported slab of granite to little Timmy’s house. Little Timmy had gotten it into his knotty little head that Santa only brings toys to kids who leave him cookies (suspiciously, Timmy’s dad weighs six-hundred pounds and is often found sporting a crystallized cinnamon-crusted “mustache,” but that’s really beside the point) and to not have a hearth is to not have a Christmas. (Obviously Little Timmy has not yet reached the age of accountability where his greedy little pagan heart will put him at eternal risk. Besides, this is not really an apocalyptic tale, at least not as it pertains to end times eschatology. It just might be an apocalyptic love story….but you’ll have to keep reading to find out!)
Meanwhile, back at the curb, Jack has already decided to salvage his flagging self-esteem (he flunked Driver’s Ed three times…also beside the point) by punching the driver of the wagon in the schnaz then running away screaming like a small child.
But…when his eyes meet Jill’s, it’s love at first sight…or it would have been, but Jill keeps blinking like mad…or is it winking? We cannot be sure because Timmy is now standing high atop his mountain of a driveway, whining about the botched delivery and the ruination of all things Yule.
That’s when smoke begins pouring out from under the hood of the station wagon. The inevitable happy-ever-after couple lock eyes, seeing deep into each other’s parched souls, knowing that true love awaits (plus a bunch of presents and some turkey and probably a football game and a nap) if they can simply deliver the stone hearth and keep their respective vehicles from bursting into flames (because everyone knows how difficult it is to actually fall in love when your car is on fire).
Without a word (but with a few well-timed guttural grunting noises) they each grab an end of the stone, toss it into the yard, then run up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
It turns out that Little Timmy had been way naughty and not so nice. His father missed Christmas altogether with sever bout of kidney stones. Jill took one whiff of Jack’s raging halitosis and decided that she already had a boyfriend. And for Christmas, Jack got a nap, which is all he ever really wanted anyhow.
Krista: Um. wow. That’s like… a tragedy novel! Oh, and where is the side of the cow? The bovine thing… that BARELY cut it. Still, truly funny! Thank you!
You come home from a hard day at work, and your wonderful wife has slaved over the house, cleaning it from head to toe, and it smells sparkly clean (my husband is totally jealous right now). What smell would you prefer, Pine or Lemon? Or are you an orange kinda guy?
Michael: Orange spice all the way. Almost every night I brew up a spot of Gevalia orange tea. I think there’s some cinnamon in there as well. A close second would be lemon (and his first cousin, lime).
Pine smells not only make me sneezy, but usually make my hands feel artificially sticky with imaginary sap.
By the way, I noticed you asked most interviewees about their favorite nail polish. Now I don’t want to insinuate any sort of subliminal sexism here on the blogfront, but…
Krista: Me??? Sexist? Whatever!! Seriously though, I’m thinking a passion purple would highlight the tones in your hair quite well…
Well, folks, that about wraps it up. Just one more question.
Michael: Another way to think about that is: Who shouldn’t buy my books?
But I realize that may sound a bit sarcastic and self-serving. So I’ll try and be a little more direct…
Everyone who reads this post should by seven or eight copies, then solemnly pledge to spend at least three hours per week launching their own hardcore marketing campaign on my behalf. My most sincere belief is that my novel, Return Policy, has the potential to grow into an insanely profitable network-marketing pyramid scheme for anyone who with the guts and fortitude to invest in a few thousand copies, which they can then sell to all their future-former friends and neighbors. (If anyone actually takes me up on this offer, I’ll figure out a way to include a parenthetical subtitle on future print runs: How To Lose Friends and Infuriate People).
So don’t wait! Call today! Just three easy payments! And in laboratory mice, reading Return Policy is assumed to help them lose weight, grow hair, quit smoking, and get dates.
Or, you know, anyone who likes a decent story with two-parts heart and one-part humor…
And if I may…Thank You! For sharing your blog space with me and saying nice stuff about my books. I can’t wait to interview you on my blog when your first novel hits shelves.
Krista: Well. I don’t need to grow hair (yet), quit smoking or get dates, but the losing weight thing… what’s the number again???
Thanks, again, Mike, for taking the time out to join us today! You are a hoot!!
Michael Synder lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee, with his lovely wife and four children. He studied music in college and played guitar professionally for many years. His first novel, My Name is Russell Fink, released in 2008, and he hopes the world is a slightly better place as a result.
On TOP of a copy of Return Policy, the lucky winner will ALSO receive a random piece of something from Michael’s own desk.
That’s right folks. This mystery gift could be anything from a five-year-old wad of chewed bubble-gum, the pencil he gnawed on while plotting Return Policy, or an old coin that Michael thinks is just a penny but really you take it to the Antique Roadshow and find out it’s worth an easy 20k in which you get to rub it in his face. Seriously, you really don’t know what you’re getting. But it’ll be authentic Michael Snyder… and that right there is priceless.
Comment Suggestion: (getting this right does NOT up your chances in the giveaway… is just a fun conversation) Anyone wanna guess Michael Snyder and I’s history together given the “brainstorming” clues??? Hint: We’ve never, like, actually met, not really anyway. (I’ll tell the real answer on Friday…)