Welcome to The Sweetest Debut, a regular installment in which we reach out to debut (or near-debut, we’re flexible!) fiction, poetry and nonfiction authors working with presses of all sizes and find out about their pop culture diets, their writing habits, and their fan-fiction fantasies.
Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, And Other Tales of Men in Pain is a humorous, dark story collection from Timothy O’Leary. He spoke to us about getting inspiration from Costco and the former Vice President, and whose voice he likes to hear screaming at him as he writes.
What is your elevator pitch to folks in the industry describing your book?
Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, And Other Tales of Men in Pain is a collection of eighteen delicious, award-winning stories that will make you laugh, cry, occasionally gasp, and sometimes even retch. Plus, you’ll learn a few things about Dick Cheney you probably didn’t know.
What you tell your relatives it’s about?
Stories about men in transition. Lonely men, funny men, naked men standing in hotel hallways punching vending machine buttons with their penises, men in love, angry men, men named Hitler, men with fictional girlfriends, homeless men, drunk men, geeky men, men fighting their demons. A whole bunch of men.
How long was this project marinating in a draft or in your head before it became a book deal?
I published most of the stories in anthologies and literary journals over the last three years. About a year ago I realized that I’d unwittingly put together a themed collection featuring men in transition or pain. I found a publisher for the collection within about three months of assembling the book.
Name a canonical book you think is totally overrated.
I was never a big fan of Vulgate Esther 10:4-16:24. And maybe Baruch’s Letter of Jeremiah. Actually, I have no idea what you are talking about, but love the question.
A book you’ve read more than two times.
I seldom do that. I have too many books I haven’t read awaiting attention. I think I did read A Confederacy of Dunces, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a couple times when I was in college.
A book or other piece of art that influenced your writing for this particular project.
Since it is a story collection I had a wide range of influences. I conceived the Dick Cheney story while at a fly fishing tournament in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (I consider fly fishing a form of art), when I actually ran into Dick Cheney (who does not seem to be particularly artistic.) I credit an obscure report I heard on NPR for my story “Fake Girlfriend.” I love to write dialogue, and Elmore Leonard is my dialogue hero who infuses a lot of my work. The interior design of the Billings, Montana Costco store inspired me to write “Costco Girl.” There is a homeless man who lives under a bridge near my house who has a fascinating style sense — and he inspired me to write “Homeless Gary Busey.”
What’s your favorite show to binge watch when you’re not writing?
So I know writers aren’t supposed to say this, but I worked in television for much of my career — and absolutely love it — so I tend to sample a bit of everything. Lately I really enjoyed Goliath with Billy Bob Thornton, streaming on Amazon. I also really enjoyed The OC.
What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?
I had a two movie weekend – both that I loved. Elle, with Isabelle Huppert, and Nocturnal Animals, which was really stunning. One of the best openings in film history.
Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what kind?
If I am in a fugue and having trouble, I stick to classical so I am not distracted. If the juices are flowing I like to have a little 1970’s rock going in the background, Joe Cocker screaming at me.
Who is your fashion icon?
If you could buy a house anywhere in the world just to write in, where would it be?
On the banks of the Blackfoot River in Western Montana.
What did you initially want to be when you grew up?
I always assumed I would make a living selling ideas.
Did you have a new years resolution for 2017? If so, what?
Don’t let Donald Trump blow my buzz.
What freaks you out the most about four years of Trump as US President?
The normalization of cruelty and ignorance. Plus, the nuclear weapon thing is a little concerning. And I’m pretty sure Pence is a vampire.
Do you prefer a buzzing coffee shop or silent library?
Coffee shop. As my hero Chauncey Gardiner said, “I like to watch.”
Do you write at a desk, bed or couch?
Either a couch or a leather recliner.
Is morning writing or late-night writing your go-to-time?
Do you tend towards writing it all out in one big messy draft and then editing, or perfecting as you go (or something in between)?
I’m pretty meticulous as I go – but then re-read and re-edit until my head explodes.
How do you pay the bills, if not solely by your pen and your wit?
I invest a bit. I know quite a bit about advertising, which pays a bill or two.
What is your trick to finding time to write your book while also doing the above?
I write every day, seven days a week, no matter what.