Edward James Olmos and the Next Big Thing

by Salvatore Pane

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Cathy Day recently tagged me in The Next Big Thing, a series of blog entries where writers across the genres interview themselves and promote their books. Basically, I answered a bunch of e-mail chain questions. It’s come to this. Expect interviews from Tyler Gobble and Jay Varner next week.

What is the title of your novel?

Last Call in the City of Bridges.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

On one level, the book is about how modern twenty-somethings mediate loneliness by turning to virtual friends on Facebook and Twitter instead of seeking comfort from physical, flesh and blood people. I was living in Pittsburgh when I started writing the book—this was in the summer of 2009—and the majority of my friends suddenly and en masse moved away. We tried to keep in touch via Facebook, but I quickly found myself feeling more depressed as I “liked” their photos and made comments on their links. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction? Humor? Coming of age? Pop culture? Maybe wacky literary pop culture infused coming of age fiction?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

You know Edward James Olmos? The dude who played Admiral Adama in Battlestar Galactica? The sixty-five year old actor made famous in Stand and Deliver and Selena? I have this weird fantasy for a film version of Last Call where Olmos plays every character kind of like the barbershop scene in Coming to America, or more accurately, Eddie Murphy’s less successful venture, The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps. Olmos plays nerdy twenty-something protagonist Michael Bishop. Olmos in drag plays love interest/pastor’s daughter Ivy Chase. Olmos plays Michael’s dead best friend from high school. Olmos plays everybody. The soundtrack is completely culled from Busta Rhymes’ 1999 sci-fi epic Extinction Level Event: The Final World Front. I would definitely watch that if somebody made it.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

EXTRAORDINAY SWAG AND A MOUTH FULL OF GOLD:  THE MICHAEL BISHOP STORY (TRILL BOY IS SOME SHIT YOU NEVER HEARD OF)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The novel was published by Braddock Avenue Books, a fantastic independent press based out of Pittsburgh. It’s headed up by Jeff Condran and Robert Peluso, both amazing writers in their own right. My work is represented by Jenni Ferrari-Adler of the Union Literary Agency. She’s a great editor, and she’s been an absolute pleasure to work with.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I completed a “draft” of Last Call in about four months, but it was missing major characters and what eventually became the ending. It couldn’t be more different, and it took me about three years of editing for the book to become what it is now.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Man, this is ridiculous. Because if I say, “this book is a lot like The Great Gatsby,” I come off as a total douchebag. Instead, I think I’ll list some books that inspired Last Call: Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth, The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon, and anything and everything Lorrie Moore has ever done.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Kanye West. A$AP Rocky. Patrick Ewing. Spider-Man. Spider-Ham. Spider-Man 2099. Spider-Ham 2099. The world in Super Mario Bros. 3 where everything is really big. All the levels in Super Mario Bros. 3 where Mario gets to ride around in a giant green boot.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Look. I’m the worst at trying to convince people to read my stuff. For a brief, terrifying couple of days I thought You Better Fucking Read This: A Novel was a good title for the book. So I don’t know. If you want to read a book about the internet, sex, booze, classic Nintendo games, relationships, Obama, Pittsburgh, Kanye West, religion, death, and finding your way in the world, this might be a book you enjoy.

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