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B.R. Snow discusses Sneaker World with Michele Cody

MC –Sneaker World is a great read.  It’s funny, smart, poignant and laced with startling insights. What might be most intriguing for me are the layers of subtle revelations you weave throughout the story – revelations both trivial (but entertaining) and profound.

BR – Thanks so much. As always, you are way too kind.

MC –Thank you for the sneak peek. Have you set a release date?

BR – It’s scheduled as my second independent launch.  I’m shooting for February, 2012.

MC – Meanwhile, you’re working on the next one?

BR – Yes, it’s called Summerman and will launch around Christmas, 2011. It’s set in the Thousand Islands, where I grew up. I’m still in my couch creation period. You know, lie around the house dreaming up interesting situations for my characters and my readers to enjoy.

MC – Nice work if you can get it.

BR – Indeed. (laughs)

MC – Let’s talk about Sneaker World.  A whole bunch of interesting plot elements including globalization, biopiracy, illegal arms dealing, indigenous tribes, sneakers, shoulder-fired missiles, dense jungle, hang gliders, poison darts, tequila, freshly baked pastries, the fountain of youth and…how should I put this…virility.   How on earth did you manage to maintain a coherent story line?

BR – I had the first draft written in about 6 weeks – it was like the story had to be told.  Of course, that was followed by excruciating edits to streamline the narrative.  I got the initial idea after a devastating tsunami hitIndiaright around Christmas, 2004. I started thinking about the rebuilding process that would be required. The character of Sir Bentley Carruthers, sneaker magnate and exploiter of the poor on four continents, started developing and the story was born.  And once I get to know my “bad guy” interesting paths seem to follow for Doc, Merlin, Summerman and Gene. But, like a lot of my story lines, this one had to percolate for a long time.

MC – Sir Bentley is one of those guys you love to hate.  He is enormously entertaining. One of my favorite scenes is Bentley trying to rally his troops for battle. Pacing back and forth, clapping his hands trying to get that motley crew’s attention. That scene reminded me of a few project managers I’ve met over the years.

BR – That’s a pretty apt analogy. Of course, most project managers aren’t sitting on 30 billion. Sir Bentley was really fun to write. I decided to keep him pretty much on point with his own self-description, “I eat, I fuck, I work, I make money and then move onto the next deal.”

MC – And he’s the manufacturer of the Cloudlifter. The sleeker, non-squeaker sneaker. I laughed out loud at the marketing slogans you sprinkled through the book. What was the one for the shoulder-fired missile?

BR – The SkyWriter? It’s the lighter, quieter, all-nighter fighter.

MC – I can almost see and hear the commercials.

BR – Me too. Kind of scary isn’t it?

MC –When I figured out what Freak was planning with the hang gliders armed with missiles, one of them powered by a riding lawn mower engine, I wondered if you would be able to pull it off since it seemed so implausible. But you made it work pretty seamlessly and when Freak and Gilbert were in the air communicating via a child’s plastic walkie-talkie playing nursery rhymes I thought I was going to fall out of my chair laughing.

BR – Hey, you can’t win a ground war without adequate air support. (laughs)

MC –I also enjoyed the tribe and valued your depiction of their customs and values.  You were respectful and never portrayed the notion that non-Western equates to inferior. And I loved the way you used the parallel of the introduction of new technology in both Western and indigenous environments. As in the Western world, Chief and Bantu are always on the lookout for new technology that might help make their lives easier.

BR – Thank you.  I’m very happy to hear from you that it didn’t come across as ham-fisted.

MC – There’s a theme running through Sneaker World about what you seem to feel is the inevitability of globalization and everything that comes with it.

BR – Yeah, I’m not sure I would even use the term inevitable since it is pretty much a done deal. Like the guys in the Posse, I’m hopeful we can minimize the damage. I tried to just let it emerge from the story, but that’s one of the book’s key messages.  Well, that and Esmeralda’s point about quitting tequila in the morning because it fucks up her whole day.

MC – (laughs) We’ll get to Esmeralda in a minute. Buddy Quizling tossed an empty beer can into the jungle, was such a casual gesture in the book I almost missed it. As is often the case in Sneaker World, the more I thought about it the more dumbstruck I was. I guess that’s always the way…

BR – Yeah, and a couple of years later, Buddy and other scumbags would be hiring local people and paying them peanuts to clean the place up because it’s a friggin’ mess.

MC – Since you brought her up, let talk about Esmeralda. She’s interesting. Will you be bringing her back?

BR – I think Esmeralda has much more to stay.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she came back with her new lover, Piqûre.

MC – A French guy who’s the lead singer and bass player for a Police tribute band called Les Gendarmes?

BR – You know my philosophy, if you’re going to take the time to create a character, no matter how minor their part, don’t waste them. Find something interesting about them and help readers get a mental picture and some insights.

MC – Knowing you as I do, I figured there must be some reason you named him Piqûre, so I looked it up. I love being right.

BR – (laughs) Yes, Piqûre is the French word for sting. Well done. I’m a huge Sting fan and I was actually listening to him when I was writing Piqûre’s first scene in the book. I figured what the hell. I was going to keep that a secret and let people figure it out themselves. Way to go, Michele. Now you’ve blown it. (laughs)

MC – (laughs) Esmeralda is such a party girl and an absolute mess, but I found her sympathetic.  I loved her back story about her dreams of becoming a Forensic Entomologist being cut short by the tragic golf cart accident.

BR – Yeah, forensic science probably sounds like a pretty cool career until you realize you have to spend a lot of time around dead people.

MC – Esmeralda and Doc are an unlikely couple.  I’m not surprised by what happens but did spend a good bit of time wondering why on earth he was with her. When Freak is pondering his fate and has the memory of Doc as collector-protector of lost souls, I realized you were exposing another layer of Doc’s soul. By gently bringing the insight into focus, you reveal volumes about Doc, and the reasons for the Esmeraldas in his life.

BR – Thanks. That’s great insight on your part and a very nice compliment. It’s a good example of some of the experimentation I’m doing with the series when it comes to revealing layers of the various characters. Since the Damaged Posse is a series with four primary characters, and a whole bunch of recurring secondary ones, I’ve got a lot of layers to reveal by the time I’m done. (laughs) I’ve got my work cut out for me.

MC – Sounds like a whole lot of layers in that cake.

BR – Fortunately, I love cake. (laughs) I’m intrigued with the notion that many times a lot of our core traits – those very fundamental parts of our nature – are often externally realized.  It’s like a three legged stool.  First leg, Freak has a realization about Doc stirred from a memory provoked by something his dead sister, Doc’s ex-wife, once said.  The second leg is Doc himself and the external reveal of this layer.

MC –It was interesting they were looking at each other through binoculars when it occurred.

BR –I thought the binoculars were a good way to show how far apart they were. The third leg of the stool is the Esmeralda-Doc relationship question you asked about. The collector-protector comment brings important context to their relationship but it is revealed simply by Freak having a memory. I like how that one played out.

MC – Very well done.

BR – Thanks. I hope that explanation made sense.

MC – (laughs) I’m sure there’s a thread there somewhere.

BR – Please don’t pull it, the whole thing might unravel. (laughs)

MC – We’ve talked about this before but I wanted to ask you again. Don’t you worry about being labeled, perhaps even pigeonholed, as someone who just writes funny books?

BR – I do write funny books.

MC – You know what I mean. Do you worry about not being taken serious as a writer simply because your books are so funny?

BR –I appreciate the question because I do get that label from some people. How good can he be? He’s just a comedy guy. My Damaged Posse series deals with important questions.  Doc, Merlin, Summerman and Gene all have serious baggage they’re carrying around as they try to do the right thing which, to me, makes the series even more interesting. Sneaker World deals with globalization, biopiracy, weapon’s technology and the exploitation of indigenous people under the guise of development rather than the rampant greed and out of control capitalism it truly is.  As a writer, I obviously have choices about how I approach issues I find interesting. My primary intent is to entertain my readers but, of course, it’s part of my job to offer some perspective.

MC –The humor, rather that coming across as jokey, consistently comes from the characters and the situations they find themselves in. Sneaker World, given the theme of inevitably we talked about before, has an almost melancholy tone to it.

BR –Well, when it comes to the planet these days, I’m not overly optimistic.  But I feel better when I can create a pathway through potentially dismal inevitabilities with a funny narrative.  Humor offers hope. I could have gone the other way and written hundreds of pages about the bleakness I’ve witnessed for millions of people around the world.  I read, and sometimes value, books written with a color palette reduced to grey where it seems that around every corner is another example of just how bleak things are. Those books can be profound and entertaining but they can also be dreadful. Either way, I have no interest in writing them. I’d rather take on serious issues and find a comedic thread that makes the same points but doesn’t make my readers want to slit their wrists halfway through the story. It’s always a challenge and gives me tremendous opportunity to create meaningful, mindful lives for the Posse.

MC – Booga, wooga, nooga.

BR – (laughs) Now that is funny. Thanks for taking the time to chat.

MC – As always, it was my pleasure. Thank you. Good luck with Sneaker World and the rest of the series.

BR – Be well, my friend.

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