Do you remember way back in August when Kurtis Scaletta asked Steve Brezenoff six questions?
Well, it’s payback time.
Before we get to the questions, you should probably know that Kurtis has a new book out today. It’s called The Tanglewood Terror and it’s about creepy, glowing mushrooms that threaten to devour a town. His other books include Mudville and Mamba Point.
Also, you should know that Kurtis is having a book release party at 7 p.m. Friday, September 16 at the Red Balloon Bookshop, 891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN. You should totally go, because Kurtis is a fun guy (I’m allowed at least one mushroom joke, right?).
So on with the inquisition! I apologize in advance for the Marx Brothers reference I’m guessing about four people will get (two of whom are the interviewer and the interviewee).
Steve: What’s the first book you absolutely hated?
Kurtis: When I was six we moved to England and we lived for a short time in an old country house that was partly furnished. I found an old book in a drawer — and this all sounds like it’s out of a fairy tale, and that book should have been magical. It was The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton. It turned out to be so precious, condescending, and cloying that even a six year old could feel insulted. I wanted to beat up the children heroes and their stupid pixie friend.
Steve: What films or filmmakers do you consider a major influence on your stories and novels?
Kurtis: They made better youth movies than they do now. Movies like “My Bodyguard,” “Breaking Away,” and “A Little Romance” are as much a part of my consciousness as the books I read at that age, as well as some movies nobody but me remembers, like “James at 15” and “Kenny and Company.” “Super Eight” had promise to be that kind of movie but the characters were all plowed under by the plot.
Steve: If you could have come of age during any decade of American history, which one would you choose and why?
Kurtis: An intriguing question. I think the 1950s would have been an exciting decade. Muscle cars and Buddy Holly and Howdy Doody.
Steve: Describe your ideal writing environment.
Kurtis: I used to have a giant wooden desk, painted forest green, with capacious drawers that held all of my childhood treasures and a broad enough top for stacks of books and notebooks. I eventually dragged my mother’s typewriter into my room and pounded out my first few stories there, entirely in capital letters because I was too daunted by the need to shift/unshift all the time. I think that was my ideal writing environment — that room, that desk, and my 11-year-old “I can do anything!” head space.
Steve: Is there a boys vs. reading crisis?
Kurtis: I think the greater crisis is in developing scientific epistemology and reasoning skills in youth, so they become the kinds of adults that can make informed decisions as citizens and voters. Instead we have a bunch of people who think global warming is a hoax, that cell phones cause cancer, that immunizations cause autism. We even have school boards bullying educators into remaining neutral on known facts about evolution and sexual identity.
We’re ignoring real problems and busying ourselves with made-up ones because people honestly don’t know how to sort through evidence and come to responsible conclusions. That’s a theme in my latest book and one which I should have strengthened. In the end I would much rather live in a culture where people can do educated analyses of scientific data than a culture where everybody has a critical opinion of Moby Dick . Strange for a lit major and author to say, I guess, but I see science as being where the real problems and real solutions lay for the immediate future.
Steve: What has four pair of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?
Kurtis: That’s a good one. I’ll give you three guesses.
Steve Brezenoff, our very fine interviewer, is the author of Brooklyn, Burning and The Absolute Value of -1. For you New Yorkers, Steve will read on September 25th at Largehearted Lit at Brooklyn’s WORD bookstore along with Libba Bray and musical guest Alicia Jo Rabins of Girls in Trouble.