Inside the Author’s Head: Rick Dewhurst Interview
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Welcome to The Satirist and Inside the Author’s Head where we post in-depth interviews with some of your favorite authors.
We are excited to present an exclusive interview with Rick Dewhurst, a noted author of mystery and crime. He also has a penchant for literary prose, and it has been said by more than a few literary critics that just one of his sentences compels one to linger, often for hours, lost in the wonderment of discovering meaning. Also, it must be said at the outset that his professed Christian bent has prevented his acceptance by a larger, secular audience, but this hasn’t prevented him from pursuing his ambiguous quest for the middle ground.
Our interviewer for this feature is the young and up-and-coming literary personage of criticism, DB. So let us follow DB on her journey of discovery, as she gets Inside the Author’s Head:
I was perspiring bullets when I climbed the stairs to the author’s walk-up apartment on the third floor, and not just because of the exercise. I’d been warned by my editor that Dewhurst was eccentric and had only agreed to the interview because he liked to talk to people once in a while. He’d already blasted me on the intercom, and when I got upstairs I found he’d left the door open. He must have heard my approaching stiletto heels because he yelled at me to close it on the way in. The smell of yeast hung in the air. I walked into an area of sparseness that passed for a living room. And there he was, about 5’10” I’d say, though it was hard to tell since he was sitting down. But I wasn’t insulted that he hadn’t gotten up. I wasn’t that kind of woman. I nodded at him, in a deferential sort of way, but he wasn’t interested. He leaned back in his chair, and a few of what looked like bread crumbs loosed themselves from the breast of his brown cardigan and tumbled into his lap. He wasn’t amused, and I broke the ice.
“As you know, I’m here from The Satirist to interview you for Inside the Author’s Head.”
“Sit down,” he said. “Those things you’re wearing must be hard on your feet.”
I was encouraged by his invitation to join him and decided, because of my admiration for his genius, to ignore his dismissive tone.
I said, “I’m not here to waste your time, so I’ll get right to the questions.”
“Suit yourself,” he said.
I was unable to discern if his gruffness was an expression of nervousness or aggravation, or perhaps a combination of both.
“Have you read the sample questions we sent you?” I said.
“No…I mean yes, but I couldn’t be bothered.”
“Okay, that’s fine, they’re not that necessary. So let’s begin. Do you mind if I record the interview?”
He waved a derisive hand.
DB: This isn’t relevant to your writing, or at least I don’t think it is, but I couldn’t help but notice there’s a strong smell of yeast in the room.
Dewhurst: Kombucha tea. It’s floating fungus in a bowl. I’m brewing it in the bedroom. Helps the digestion. And for your information there is also evidence to suggest one’s complexion can benefit from its use. But that’s not why you’re here.
DB: No. I’ll get straight to the point. As you are no doubt well aware, you have attracted some controversy concerning your approach to creativity and the source of your inspiration.
Dewhurst: Ahh, you speak of my esoteric use of cheese. Yes, I do admit that I have managed to light a few fires under the critics for what they call my unorthodox methods.
DB: Let me say that I for one find your writing so, so elegant. And I’m not embarrassed to say I’m an admirer of all things Dewhurst, and today I am hoping, for the benefit of our readers, that you might clarify your literary theory for us.
Dewhurst: To oblige you, and oblige you I must, I need to begin at the beginning. And the beginning begins in my heart of hearts. You see, my heart is a contemplative one. I contemplate deeply about “things.” By “things” I don’t mean just things, I mean “everything.” And to apprehend all “things” and to expose these “things” to my readers in always engaging story form I exploit the exquisite subtlety of cheese. And, if I might be allowed to add at this time, I really do care about my readers, even though some of my critics have accused me of ivory tower aloofness.
DB: I know you care. Your loving heart speaks to me in all that you write. And I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t aware of your cheese method, which I admire so much. Please do go on about your cheese. I find your erudite flowing words of cheese and hearts and things so fascinating, coming as they do from the lips of the cheese master.
Dewhurst: To illustrate my method, let me describe in practice how I worked the cheese to create Bye Bye Bertie, my Joe LaFlam mystery, an homage to noir light.
DB: A delightful work. Awesome, in fact. A comedic tour de force.
Dewhurst: Quite so. And to accomplish such a feat, to produce such a light, artificial prose flavor, I consumed nothing but Cheese Whiz.
DB: Wow, an exclusive. To my knowledge you haven’t revealed that before, have you? And how long did it take you to write this…dare I say…masterpiece?
Dewhurst: I was finished in three weeks, my diet expediting my writing.
DB: Wow. Let me say it again, WOW. Now I’m sure you are aware that our readers will be asking the question, the one I am thinking about now, the one that I’m about to ask. And that question is, why cheese? What was the genesis of your discovery of cheese, a discovery that has many in academic circles lauding you as a literary genius?
Dewhurst: I’m glad you asked. As it happens with most discoveries, my cheese discovery came in a flash. I was eating Swiss right here in my chair, when a holy moment exploded within me. An epiphany. There it was in my mind’s eye, a TV image, a flashback of a Green Bay Packers’ fan with a block of cheese on his head. And I knew intuitively that if donning a cheese hat could lift a Wisconsin football fan to such cheese-head, cheering heights, what might the intentional focused internalizing of the cheese do for the creative process? I don’t mean helter-skelter cheese consumption mind you, but consuming different kinds of cheese for different kinds of writing tasks. The rest is literary history.
DB: Awesome. Just awesome. But I’ve been wondering, and I have been for some time…given the fact that cheese is the source of your inspiration, and I know this is a delicate question, but… have you ever experienced writer’s block?
Dewhurst: No, no, on the contrary, cheese serves to increase the depth of my knowing the meaning of “things,” that is, of truly knowing “things.” Do you see? And it also solidifies that meaning for me in my heart.
DB: I do see. I really do see. Incidentally, I need to make a small confession now. I have tried your method. I consumed a large tub of Limburger spread for a piece I wrote on the exquisite and elusive mirroring effect produced by Glass Ceiling, but my editor said bluntly that my narcissistic self-indulgence stank. Needless to say, it was never published.
Dewhurst: Limburger, dear me. Whatever made you choose Limburger, of all things?
DB: I thought a poignant air might….
Dewhurst: Don’t you mean pungent? Never mind, let’s go on. As I was saying, hearts are the “thing.” When you know a “thing,” and you communicate the “thing,” so that others might come to know the “thing,” too, whatever it might be, then you have accomplished your task, even if you are misunderstood. Do you grasp?
DB: Deep. So deep.
Dewhurst: Yes, I know. Now for another example let’s take Bye Bye Bertie’s highly misunderstood sequel, My Fear Lady, a paean to gumshoe Joe LaFlam and the exigencies placed upon us, the people, by Spelunkers Global, that shadowy group of one-world conspirators lurking below, awaiting the Rupture. To achieve the depth required, and to lift the reader’s spirits on the journey, a lively blend of grated cheeses was required. And I don’t mind telling you, and, of course, your readers, the kinds of cheeses I combined. My favorite cheese blend for this task was Mozzarella, Asiago, Provolone, Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. And that’s the recipe for My Fear Lady’s success, such as it was. And let me add there’s no literary law of mine that says you can’t throw the mixture onto a pizza shell and for zest add some pepperoni. But for clarification let me say that in no way am I implicating Italy, or for that matter the Vatican, in any so-called world conspiracy.
DB: Again, so fascinating. I don’t know how you do it. But to continue, and I know this is a delicate subject for you…how shall I say…let me try it this way…it’s no secret to most of us in the know that Stephen King is one of your cheese disciples. Comment?
Dewhurst: That’s true, and anyone with discernment can see the evidence in his writing, though I know he has always lacked the temerity to go on record and state the obvious. But, as I said, anyone can plainly see my influence in his basic theory of fiction, when he states confidently that everything already exists. No small insight in itself, though stolen from me. He goes further when he asserts that one can discover what already exists by digging for it using the tools at hand. However, he falls short by not describing the tools. I would have more respect for him as an author, and dare I say as a man, if he simply admitted to cheese and cut the obfuscation. We all know he uses cheese to uncover what already exists. And if he were less selfish he might reveal to aspiring writers the kinds of cheese he uses, so that as they are engaged in the humdrum of the creative process they might avoid wedging their way into places that lead further away from the light of life, places where they might even begin to wonder if they ever had the cheese to create at all, and thus succumb to darkness.
DB: King doesn’t fool me. I know the genuine when I see it, and you are he, sir.
Dewhurst: Thank you.
DB: Forgive me, oh dear…forgive me, but I’m unable at this moment to resist the torrent of emotional and intellectual stimulation your genius evokes…I need to say this, and I need to say it now. You, dear man, have today reaffirmed my life’s purpose…and that purpose is…to write.
Dewhurst: You don’t say. Are we done?
DB: Yet again, forgive me. I’m sorry, truly I am sorry. I didn’t mean to bring “me” into this, but I just want to succeed in my writing…to be noticed…to have someone, somewhere say something about my work, maybe a kind word, or even just read it. That’s why I do these interviews, to be noticed. But the road has been difficult and dreary. And to make things worse the editor never uses my real name, only my initials, I’m hoping one day….
Dewhurst: Had you thought of going home and interviewing yourself?
DB: No, no…again, I’m sorry. Let’s get back on track. I must compose myself. I only need a second. There, that’s better. Now, let’s get back to cheese.
Dewhurst: Since you have taken the time to bring up the subject of King, I’m compelled to add one further criticism of the man: Adverbs.
DB: Ahhh…I wondered if you might broach that subject.
Dewhurst: Yes, adverbs. I suspect that in his zeal to write 24/7 he fell into the temptation of overdosing on dairy generally – his cheese portions mixed, I would guess, with hot mustard – which no doubt led to a bad case of sentence diarrhea, resulting in the production and elimination of reams of text. His system thereby cleaned out he established a renewed system that took revenge on words that over-clarified the flow of action. Thus verbs became hardened and solitary and adverbs became his prose scapegoat. And as a further consequence of his ill-advised indulgence he now insists that all adverbs are to be eliminated from reality. He further insists that adverbs have no reality in themselves, and thus for all intents and purposes they don’t exist for anybody else, either. As for me, I have known some adverbs to exist when properly nurtured, and in my defiance of King, I extol the use of Kraft Velveeta. It’s smooth, spreads easily, and far from eliminating adverbs it discovers them intact and, indeed, from time to time puts them to good use.
DB: Yes, I agree. We needn’t do everything à la King.
DB: Sorry, I’ve never had a knack for the comedic bon mot. But let’s go on. For the benefit of our readers, and, of course, for the budding writers out there, please expand on your own use of the various cheeses, the ones you think are best when discovering your characters and plot.
Dewhurst: I see no harm in that. I now prefer mostly Mozzarella for plot development. It’s subtle and supple and inspires the twists for which I’m searching. But of course Mozzarella can’t be used carte blanche. I find Cheddar helpful for solidifying theme. And if I had to make a choice among Cheddars, I would say Wisconsin Mild results in a more nuanced discovering of my story’s pre-existing essences.
DB: So what about pickled eggs?
Dewhurst: Pickled eggs? You amaze me. How did you manage to get your hands on the unpublished manuscript of my first novel and get wind of my earlier, inferior creative methods? Never mind, I’m sure Social Media had something to do with it. You’re referring, of course, to my first novel, that nostalgic romp through the ’60s, The Dregs of Aquarius, and that fateful eighth chapter in which I omitted punctuation. That was an early period, of course, and my fanciful use of pickled eggs was identical to the pickled-eggs method James Joyce used to uncover Leopold Bloom in Ulysses and whose over consumption accompanied by too much beer was the precursor to the regrettable Finnegan’s Wake. But in my case, their use was simply ill-advised youthful exuberance. In my defense, let it be said that I have never sunk to the pickled-eggs method again.
DB: Since we’re on the subject of The Dregs of Aquarius, wasn’t it during that same period of time that you discovered there was a Christian God? And if so, how did your new found Christian beliefs square with your earthy theme?
Dewhurst: You’ve caught me there. At that time I was just coming out of the world’s way of doing things, and I hadn’t yet found a church to belong to. You see, I didn’t want to associate with religious people. The subsequent lack of fellowship discouraged me, and again I’m embarrassed to admit--in fact I haven’t revealed this to the media before, Christian or secular, that I not only used pickled eggs but also Gin, hence the fizzy tone of the piece and the stream of consciousness conceit. However, I did snap out of it, and haven’t used the Gin method since, and I can almost guarantee I will never abuse my prose with inferior and destructive tools again. I’m committed to cheese.
DB: Then what about fries, ketchup & Coke in The Spirit Dances?
Dewhurst: How did you find out about that? Again, I have to congratulate you on your diligent research. To answer your question, I succumbed only once to the lure of letting such inferior creative substances dissolve the external to expose the underbelly and then regrettably allow them to mix with the resulting uncovered characters in an unseemly way. I admit to this artless method, but again, I must remind you and your readers, this type of creative process, or might I say de-creative process, underpinned only one of my novels, or again might I say, undermined it, if you see what I mean. However, in my defense, some elements in The Spirit Dances were precursors of postmodernism, and, I might add, deconstructionism, which, as you know, thrives on fries, ketchup, Coke, and pickled eggs, though I don’t mean that as criticism, only as a comment on the inevitable direction of the creative thrust.
DB: Forgive me for appearing to ask the same question again, but did the writing of The Spirit Dances not conflict with your professed belief in Christianity?
Dewhurst: Okay, I’ll admit it. I have experienced some backsliding in my Christian walk. The Spirit Dances was written during one of those times. But then again, what Christian hasn’t done a little backsliding? And writing is a tough road. In fact I do recommend that Christians stay away from it altogether, but if they must take it up I advise they stick to employing the purity of pap, because, as we all know, cheese can be habit forming and induce truth telling, and when care is not taken can lead to pickled eggs, fries, ketchup, and Coke, and sometimes Gin. As for me, I’m an artist, a writer, a creative being, and zealous Christians are always saying we should be more active in the Arts. But when you step out and take the chance of writing a novel that doesn’t fit into the squeaky clean category, a novel that doesn’t square with the illusion that all is well in Christendom, you’re condemned for it…as I have been…so many, many times…and it hurts. I’m sorry…don’t mind me. Like everyone else, I do want to be accepted. And for the record I categorically state that I’ve been accountable and sticking to cheese in my writing for at least ten years now. And because of my early trials I am able to handle its use. As for other Christian writers, especially neophytes, I must advise them to stick with pap. But if they insist on ignoring the perils to go scampering onto the larger literary stage, I warn them to nibble the cheese with caution.
DB: On a happier note then, please tell us all about the creative cheeses you used in discovering Jane Sunday, your wise-cracking sleuth in The Good Book Club. How were you, a man, able to capture the essence of “woman” in your flawless, Jane Sunday, first person narrative?
Dewhurst: In a word, fondue.
DB: Utter, utter genius. Do elaborate.
Dewhurst: The key was keeping the pot hot enough for long enough periods of time, so that I might sustain the essence of her being. My favorite was a mixture of Gruyere, sharp Cheddar, and Emmentaler. I primarily dipped vegetables, of course, and the occasional tofu. When I felt the urge I supplemented my creative juices with a piece of spinach and Feta quiche. And to keep fit, I bought a Pilates mat and fitness ball. I felt Jane to the core of my being.
DB: There are no words to describe how creative you are. I admire you always. We must go now. And I thank you for being so forthright in your responses. I’m confident our readers will be encouraged by the victory you have had in your struggle to be you, especially the Christian you, although I’m not as confident that our secular readers will be able to comprehend the depth of your on-again, off-again spiritual torment.
Dewhurst: Is that the end then? I have….
DB: Yes, we’re done. I have a 3,500-word guideline, and once I write the last paragraph it should be about right.
I left him there, a talented man for all seasons. And as I descended the stairs I couldn’t help but wonder if the gifted among us were doomed to remain themselves. And what about me, was I to share the same fate, though it was plain that the depth of my gift was yet to be plumbed? And would I plumb it, the prospects being potentially so dismal? And would others allow me to plumb it anyway? No matter. When all was said and done I knew that the writing life was worth it all. Now a little wiser, I climbed into a cab, having garnered precious insights into the creative cheese, and I resolved to remember in future, when on third-story assignments, never to wear stilettos again.
Copyright © Rick Dewhurst 2012
DB for The Satirist’s Inside the Author’s Head.
Editor’s note: DB is an undergraduate student of creative writing at NYU and plans one day to write a book, possibly of short stories.