Thursday, March 20, 2008

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

Finally, the exciting thrill-packed conclusion to the exclusive interview with Scott Cherney, author of RED ASPHALT, now on sale exclusively at

ETC:You said that you based Calvin (Wheeler, the main character of RED ASPHALT) on yourself.

SCOTT CHERNEY: That’s right. Thanks for paying attention.

ETC: It’s what I do.

SC:That’s not all you do…

ETC: What?

SC: Nothing. Do you a question?

ETC:What personality traits do you and Calvin share?

SC:Well, we’re both extremely opinionated and we share a lot of the same views. This was a good way for me to rant and rave about certain subjects-like technology, for example-that have been festering inside out of me with no place to go. Sometimes my writing becomes a forum for me to blow off steam.

ETC: A lot of hot air, you mean.

SC: No, I don’t and you’re a clod. Anyway, Calvin and I are both dreamers, more often than not to the point of total distraction. We also obstinate, morose and painfully insecure, though I don’t think I’m the terminal case that Calvin is in this regard. We both loners, but I’m much more social than he ever has been. Calvin is what I would have been like without the wonderful people I’ve allowed in my life. I’m talking about my friends-and I’ve great friends in my life-the family I now have…certainly my wife Laurie…and the fantastic people I met through my theater days, the Pollardville gang and other playgrounds I romped around in over the years. I really miss acting.

ETC: Calvin acted too.

SC: Yeah, but he didn’t like it. That’s one way we differ. He doesn’t play well with others. Calvin did enjoy his time teaching traffic school since it afforded him to be a one man band.

ETC: Did you enjoy it?

SC: Sure. It was a blast. It paid well too. Traffic school was a way to get stand-up comedy out of my system since the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

ETC: Do you mean when you won the Stockton Comedy Competition?

SC: Uh-huh. Winning the competition became the high point and there was nowhere else to go afterward, at least not for me. I had no direction, no guidance and just floundered on the dock like a ..well, flounder. I always felt like I blew my shot. Traffic school at least was a way to figure out if I wanted to continue or not and actually became a fairly positive point in my life.

ETC: How else are you and Calvin alike?

SC: We both share this obsession with time. That comes out of insecurity as well. It stems from fear. Fear of running out of time before making one’s mark in the world, which of course is the most futile act in the grand scheme of things. It ‘s tough to look at the big picture. No one wants to be made to feel insignificant. But then again, perception is everything. I guess it depends which end of the telescope you’re looking through.

ETC: Or microscope.

SC: Yep. But you know, I have come to realize that worrying about wasting time is really one big waste of time.

ETC: What other ways do you and Calvin differ?

SC: You mean other than the killings and all? Calvin’s an isolationist, like I said before. That’s not healthy. You have to talk to somebody. All he does is talk to himself. He doesn’t take responsibility for his actions and feels like a martyr. When he feels that the whole world is against him, he takes it out on his telemarketer. Calvin becomes a bully just to make him feel better about himself.

ETC: Why didn’t you describe what Calvin looks like?

SC: I purposelessly left it vague. I preferred to let the reader fill in those gaps. Calvin makes a lot-I mean a lot of disparaging comments about certain characters’ weight or appearance and other than the cold sore he has, Calvin doesn’t talk about his own physical shortcomings. He’s really immaturely shallow in those regards. He's a hypocrite. He hates it when others judge him, yet he feels justified criticizing everybody else. The readers can take their own shots if they wish. But I don’t let Calvin get away with anything. Not one bit.

ETC: Doesn't Calvin's last name, Wheeler, have some significance?

SC: Why, yes it does. It actually comes from an old Goofy cartoon from the "50s or '60s about road rage, of all things. It wasn't called that back then. Anyway, Goofy was kind of a Jekyll/Hyde character. The nice guy was Mr. Walker who loved babies and kittens and whatever. But once he got behind the wheel he transformed into the monster Mr. Wheeler. Once again, another act of larceny on my part. I remember seeing this cartoon on THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY, but I might have also seen it in driver training. I would have loved to have shown it in traffic school.

ETC:RED ASPHALT is dedicated to Don and Mike. Who are they?

SC: Radio Gods. Don Geronimo and Mike O’Meara are the hosts of the nationally syndicated radio show aptly named The Don and Mike show. I’ve been listening to them since about the time I conceived RED ASPHALT back in the early ‘90s. It’s a talk show, not unlike Howard Stern’s…of that comedic genre, shall we say. Some people like Howard, I prefer Don and Mike. I always did. I still am a big fan even I listen to them on tape delay here in Portland. I give them a lot of the credit for keeping me from turning into Calvin.

ETC:How so?

SC: By just making me laugh. Don and Mike have a way of drawing listeners into their world and making them part of the conversation. It’s like hanging out with your best friends and shooting the shit for a few hours a day. When they came along, I was going through a rough patch. My family life was in turmoil, I really couldn’t stand my job and I had a lot of doubts that would ever do anything of any sort significance again. I felt like my creative pilot light had just blown out. I actually remember the moment that it happened and it scared the holy shit out of me. I had questions about my sanity too. To keep my mind off my ongoing pain, I’d listen to the radio while I worked. In those days, it was mighty slim pickings. Music was in the dumpster, So there was talk radio.There were the doctors-Dean Edell and Laura Schlesinger, two different ends of the spectrum, both equally maddening. The right wing wingnuts drove me batty. NPR put me to sleep. And there was Larry King, just off nights and starting a daytime snoozefest. Suddenly came this show originating from Washington,D.C. It was childish and immature at times, but also wise and accessible also, sometimes all at the same time. On top of all that, it was balls-out funny. It made me forget what I was commiserating about and just laugh it off. My problems would still there, but they were a hell of a lot easier to deal with after I would laugh my ass off. Comedy is therapeutic. For me, so is The Don and Mike Show. Don is retiring this year and Mike is going off on his own, so I dedicated just in the nick of time. As I say in the dedication, it’s my thanks to them for making me laugh when I needed it the most. And I still do.

ETC: RED ASPHALT is self-published, is it not?

SC: Yes, it is, through an online publisher called Lulu that I published NOW THAT’S FUNNY! through. I tried to get it published the conventional way. I finished my book in 2004 and sent it to over three dozen publishers and at least twenty agents. Nothing. I got frustrated and thought RED ASPHALT should see the light of day and not sit in storage forever. Sending it out is time consuming…there’s that goddamn time thing again! It’s true. So I went back to Lulu and here we are. It’s a bear doing it all yourself. I recommend it only if you have the stamina. Self publishing is one thing, but promotion and marketing...?Oy. It's all online and I'm not exactly that computer savvy. I'm pretty much of a Luddite as it is. I'm self taught on this infernal contraption. Don't get me started! (old man voice) "You kids and your Internets! And your music... it's just noise!"I really wish someone else had do all this for me, but here I am and I’m not going to let myself down. This way is extremely time consuming too, but at least it’s moving forward. I'm all about forward momentum at this point in my life. Of course, explaining all this to my grandson Sebastian put it all in perspective. I told him about publishing the book myself after it got turned down and he just said, “What’s the matter? Didn’t they think it was any good?” Out of the mouth of babes, as they say. By the way, he’s out of the will.

ETC: Well, there is one other main difference between you and Calvin?

SC: What’s that?

ETC: Unlike Calvin, your book is published.

SC: You’re right. You know what? You’re okay.

ETC: So am I.

SC: Yeah. Huh

Next up: An excerpt form RED ASPHALT
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