Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sitdown with Donald Capone

My pal Don Capone was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions for me regarding his latest release, the comic-slanted novel Into the Sunset, which is now available.

I loved this book, and was really excited to hear him tell me a little more about it.

1) Into the Sunset is about a young man who decides he wants to live in a retirement community. How did you come up with the main premise of the story? As a busy New Yorker, is this something that appeals to you in theory?

While bringing my own mother around to check out these types of places, I had the same reaction as my lead character, Wayne. Which was basically, "Holy shit! This is great! I want to live here!" So, once I had my character in a retirement community disguised as an old man, I had to make something happen. It couldn't go smoothly, or there'd be no story. It had to all come crashing down eventually. Living in a community like The Sunset appeals to me personally, but I know it's just a case of "the grass is always greener."

2) You're a fan of The Sopranos. Didn't that show make it clear to you that moving anyone, for any reason, into a retirement community is a bad idea?

Yep, and things end up not so great for my lead character, too. Assisted-living communities are so popular now (seems new ones are being built every day) that I think we'll see them as the setting in more and more books, TV shows, and films. I'm glad I am one of the first to use this setting. A lot of potential for good stories there, both serious and comedic.

3) Though he has certain problems, overall Wayne Benson is a cool, laid-back guy. Did you base some of his personality on yourself or anyone you know? How about his friends? All imaginary, or ripped from the headlines of your life?

Little bits and pieces are me or people that I know—for all of the characters. But really not that much. And I don't know how cool Wayne is. He was a really selfish guy in the early drafts, then I gave him some heart and vulnerability. He's just a guy looking for a home.

4) If you were casting Sunset as a movie, who'd be in it? What would the soundtrack be like?

While I was writing the book I didn't have anyone in mind for the character of Wayne. Now I think it would be a good part for Ashton Kutcher.

For Eleanor I had in mind Julie Kavner (aka Marge Simpson) for some reason. Though I think Eleanor needs to be sexier, someone like Diane Keaton, though she's been on a real cold streak lately. As for the soundtrack, I actually mention a lot of bands in the book. U2, Cake, Green Day, The Ramones, Blink 182. Stuff like that. While in the Sunset, some old-time music would probably be playing, though. Maybe there has to be two soundtracks, one for each of Wayne's personalities. And the soundtracks should definitely include some funny dialogue from the movie between songs, like the soundtrack for Animal House.

5 a) Let's talk about writing in general. I've heard some writers say they write primarily to please themselves first. Others, I've heard say they write for an audience. Which do you do?

I think I write for myself. Stephen King has a theory of having a "first reader," someone you are writing for, someone you have in mind that you know will appreciate what you're doing. A spouse, whoever. But I think I write what I would want to read. That's my criteria. I am my own first reader.

5 b) Sometimes, there's tension amongst writers between the literary and commercial boundaries. Do you favor one or the other for reading? If forced to hear someone else categorize Sunset, would you prefer to hear that it's literary or commercial?

I think I do have a literary style, which comes out in my short stories (and possibly my next novel), but I think Into the Sunset is definitely more commercial. Which doesn't mean it's not well-written, just that it's probably too silly to be deemed "literary." I mean, there are toilet paper jokes in there! It's like a comedy film not garnering Oscar nominations. But, hell, I'd watch Office Space any day over Crash. As for my reading habits, I can read something just laugh-out loud funny, like anything by Tim Dorsey. Or I can read The Road, which is very gray and ashy (and literary).

5 c) If you were forced to categorize, which would you say your strongest asset is in Sunset: the craft, the art, or the storytelling? (or something else?)

Well, all those three things are really inseparable. But if I had to choose, I'd say the storytelling. The plot pretty much cranks along at full speed. I tried to keep in mind Elmore Leonard's rule about "cutting out the parts that readers tend to skip."

6) How do you think your favorite writers have influenced your writing?

Well, there are my favorite writers, and then there are my favorite writers. I've always listed John Irving and T. C. Boyle as my all-time favorites, but those guys are so good they're in another league. You can't even aspire to them (or, at least, I can't). This is what I got from those guys: from Irving I got the semi-colon; from Boyle I got the fucked-up shit always happening to the lead character. Now some of my other favorite writers are: Jonathan Ames, Ted Heller, Nick Hornby, Tim Dorsey, Christopher Moore, Bill Fitzhugh, and Elmore Leonard. From those guys I got the high-concept plots, engaging dialogue that includes lots of rock n' roll references, and screwed up romantic relationships.

7) Say you sold 10,000 ebook copies of Sunset, and only 10 paper copies. Would that satisfy you as much as if the stats were reversed?

10,000 copies? Are you high? Is that a typo? Actually, I get more money for the ebook, so that would be fine by me. Really, it doesn't matter. I just want people to read the book, whatever the format.

8) You've also serialized a novel online through Rebel Press, Like I've Never Been Born. Do you think this sort of electronic reading is going to continue to blossom?

People have a short attention span online. That's why flash fiction is perfect for the internet. Also, you can finish the story before your boss magically appears behind your desk. Not that I am speaking from experience, mind you. You shouldn't do that at work. NOW GO BACK TO WORK RIGHT THIS INSTANT! YES, YOU!!

Seriously, I think some version of the ebook will become practical. Like music on an iPod, you could load up your reader with books, go on vacation and have several books with you, though you'd only be carrying around something the size and weight of one book. Just think, you'd be able to search through the book easily if you had to refer back to something, or even switch over to an audio version of it! How cool would that be? Sony has the Reader, but it isn't Mac compatible, they have no clue how to market it, and no one really knows it exists. I'm waiting for Apple to pick up the ball here and do for publishing what they did for the music industry. Maybe they will incorporate it into the iPhone.

9) Rebel Press is growing with the latest new releases. What are your ultimate goals with the company?

The original intention of Rebel Press was to get exposure for the writers involved, so we could get another writing credit on the old resume, then enter the books in various contests which would hopefully lead to more exposure and more credits. So I'm not deluded. Those are still the goals. One day I'd like to have an ezine version of Rebel Press that would focus specifically on new, unpublished writers.

10) I've asked it before, but let's see if you've changed over the past couple years. You can't have both. So, from your writing, would you rather have critical acclaim or lots of cash?

The critical acclaim.

Thanks Don! Also, as a side-note, I stole the "who would you cast" question from Ellen Meister, who routinely does this with authors on her blog. It's cool. And, to answer Don's question about if I was high when I asked the one question, I was drunk. Nevertheless.

Now Available from Rebel Press

Into the Sunset by Donald Capone.Amazon


Ellen said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I got the "who would you cast" idea from Susan Henderson. She should have put a patent on it. :)

FANTASTIC interview. I love you both.


Kelly Spitzer said...

Great interview, both of you!

Don Capone said...

Thanks for the interview, Susan. You ask great questions! Now I only have 9,994 more copies to sell to reach your goal.

SusanD said...

Aw, Ellen. Shucks. Thanks.

Kelly, thanks! you're a great interviewer, so that means a lot!

Don, doesn't that seem like a MUCH smaller number than 10,000 though? Achievable!