Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One on One with Scott Cherney (Literally)-Part One

On January 26, 2008, RED ASPHALT, the very first novel written by Scott Cherney, was published and released to the world. Some might say it escaped. (Not me)

It is now available for purchase at http://www.lulu.com/content/1885435

RED ASPHALT concerns a week in the life of a troubled medical courier whose life takes a nasty sharp turn into the harshest of realities. When his marriage, job and dreams simultaneously implode, this distant runner-up in the human race suddenly feels empowered for the very first time when he becomes a nightmare on four wheels.
It's not surprising that Scott finally got around to finishing his novel. After all it has been a dream of his since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. You see, I've known Scott all of my life, so it's only fitting that I be the first to interview him on the arrival of RED ASPHALT. This may also be his ONLY interview as well, but only time will tell and as yet...he ain't talkin'.

But Scott is talkin'. I sat down with the author for this exclusive interview that you will see here only at ETC.

ETC: Welcome to Etc.
SCOTT CHERNEY: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
ETC: The pleasure is all mine.
SC: I know. I just said that.
ETC: Oh. Huh?
SC: Skip it.
ETC: RED ASPHALT is your first novel, but not your first book, am I correct?
SC: Right. I have a couple of other published works under my belt. The first was what I like to call my "movie memoir", IN THE DARK: A LIFE AND TIMES IN A MOVIE THEATER, which came out in 2003.
Then I compiled a bunch of comedy sketches that I had written into a collection called NOW THAT'S FUNNY.
And technically, RED ASPHALT is my first completed novel. There's another unfinished "masterwork" sitting in storage as we speak that I hope to finish before I croak.
ETC: Is it true that RED ASPHALT started out as a screenplay?
SC: Yeah, it did. Just about everything I come up begins as a movie. I look at everything cinematically. Everything's a movie to me. It's just the way I'm wired. I originally conceived RED ASPHALT as a film even up to the point that I wrote a first draft screenplay. Then I said to myself, "Hey! Why not write this up in book form, finish the screenplay and that way you can make two sales instead of one." So I used the first draft as an outline and proceeded to write my own novelization. But it soon became much more than that. The evolution of this material was quite amazing. Now when I return to the screenplay, there's going to be so much more to work with. I'm really happy with the result.
ETC: Speaking of movies, the title of your book sounds vaguely familiar.
SC: Yeah. It should. I stole that baby outright from an old driving training film about road safety, probably the CITIZEN KANE of the genre. RED ASPHALT was produced by the California Highway Patrol and featured a lot of gnarly real life car crash scenes-very gory and very graphic. A real splatter film-perfect for teenagers, especially after lunch. In fact, I just found out there is an entire series of RED ASPHALT movies, I think about five in all. The latest is from 2003. I'm sure they're all over You Tube. To tell you the truth, I've never seen RED ASPHALT or any of the sequels. I did see BLOOD ON THE HIGHWAY in high school though.
ETC: The cover of RED ASPHALT almost looks like the opening titles to one of those films.
SC: Yeah, by design. I think it gives it kind of a retro look. I always envisioned the opening credits of my RED ASPHALT in the same way, except a daytime shot. Anyway, I call my book RED ASPHALT as sort of an homage to those movies as well as an allusion to the traffic safety classes in the story. But it's also a better title than I ever could come up with, so there it is.
ETC: What's the story of RED ASPHALT?
SC: RED ASPHALT is about a guy named Calvin Wheeler, a dreamer who is in denial of his own reality. He feels shackled to his everyday life, a seemingly normal existence that he considers a prison. It's all because he aspires to greater things. He believes that he was put on this earth for a very special reason. Unfortunately, because he has to co-exist with the rest of the world, he thinks that his potential is being squandered and this great gift of his is slipping away from his fingers the longer he has to conform to a society that he wants nothing to do with. When he finds that is his only choice, Calvin goes all the way around the bend he had been heading for quite sometime. He's a guy who's splitting apart at the seams. Unfortunately, when he pops his last stitch, he just happens to be behind the wheel at the time because he drives for a living...and as Clint Eastwood says in THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, "Dyin' ain't much of a livin', boy."
ETC: So Calvin has road rage.
SC: Yeah, among other things. But RED ASPHALT is not about road rage, per se. It's not a diatribe on the subject or even what you might call "a cautionary tale". Calvin isn't meant to be an Everyman figure. This is just one man's story. That's not to say there aren't more guys like him out there in the world, let alone out there on the roads. Who knows what's really going on in the heads of everyone else who's stuck in traffic with us? We can only hope that they're in their right minds and don't do something incredibly stupid out there on the freeway or city streets or even through our neighborhoods. We all have the capability to turn our vehicles, whether they're Mini-Cooper or ten-ton semis, into goddamn guided missiles out there. The vast majority of us don't because we're not nuts. But there are a lot more crazies than there used to be. That's not just because the population has increased. I think the percentage has gone up as well.
ETC: But you don't have to be crazy to have road rage.
SC: No, you don't. And it's really not difficult to see why it's become so abundant. It's an increasingly frustrating world and it can compounded behind the wheel of a car when you're stuck in traffic, dealing with shitty drivers and torn up roads that are constantly being repaired. That's a situation we have here in Portland. This is NOT a car friendly area and it's getting worse by the day. It really wouldn't be so bad if so many people didn't take driving for granted. Like Calvin says at one point, "It doesn't cost anything to pay attention." Aren't there enough distractions both in and out of the car without creating a bunch of new ones? We have the attention spans of fleas, like those nimrods who have a cell phone in one hand, a latte in the other and a rat face dog in their laps, just weaving all over the road, driving way below the speed limit because they are so wrapped up in their conversations to give a shit. How the hell is this twit steering? With her knees? Her elbows?
ETC: Maybe that's what the dog is for.
SC: You could be right. It's like the last thing on their minds is driving. It's an after thought if it's any kind of thought at all. And, from my observation and I am on the road more the average commuter, as far as cell phone offenders go, it's mostly women. This isn't to say guys don't talk on their phones too, but women seem to be more inclined to get involved in their phone calls than men. Guys, on the other hand, make up the vast majority of road ragers. Guys flip out in their vehicles because they think they can, as if cars are the last refuge for Manly Men. It's all about the illusion of power. They use their vehicles to intimidate and bully other drivers. Their competitive natures come to the forefront and the evening commute suddenly turns into a big dick swinging contest. More often than not, gasoline and testosterone turns into piss and vinegar. Again, from my personal observation, this seems to manifest itself predominantly in white males.
ETC: You talk about the Angry White Man Syndrome in your book.
SC: I do. I've noticed the influx of Angry White Men for quite some time. They're popping up all over the place. They used to be just Stupid White Men, but now they're just plain pissed because they consider themselves endangered species. They feel threatened by the changes in the world and that they'll no longer have the dominance they believe they have. They oppose diversity whether blatantly or secretly because that means they have to share the world instead of controlling it. So they hold all this tension in because they can't just lash out whenever they feel like it. Pretty soon, they're going to blow off that steam somehow, some way and it's going to be at a most inopportune time. In the book, Calvin is deathly afraid of becoming an Angry White Man and that fear is becomes one of his biggest obstacles in preventing that from happening.
ETC: "The only thing we have to fear... is fear itself."
SC:Was that supposed to be FDR?
ETC: Yeah.
SC: Sounded more like Katherine Hepburn.


RED ASPHALT by Scott Cherney can purchased at Lulu.com
$17.50 paperback
$5.00 download
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