Thursday, December 20, 2018

Paper Bag Mask Tour

Paper Bag Mask

By Brock Heasley

Publisher Pen Name Publishing

Published October 23rd

Pages 252

At the same moment he catches his teacher giving illegal drugs to a student, Redmond Fairweather loses his friggin’ mind and steals Mr. Street’s prized possession—a stupid wooden sword with round edges that will never, ever cut through anything—“The Whomper.”

Redmond has no idea why he stole the Whomper. He guesses his extreme dislike (okay, hate… so much hate) of the school’s most popular teacher probably has something to do with it. To his surprise and delight, the hottest girl in school, Elodia Cruz, hates him too.

Soon, Redmond’s small band of misfit friends joins up with Elodia and the most popular kids on campus to hold the Whomper for ransom, pull off an elaborate, broad daylight heist to steal something even bigger from Mr. Street, and expose their teacher for the scumbag he really is.

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What do you do in your free time?
Mostly? Wonder what to do with these two minutes and why I’m not working on something.

Fiction or non-fiction? Which is easier?
Fiction, 100%. I wrote two memoirs before writing my first novel--one a coming-of-age story set between the two times my father was shot in armed robberies, and the other a Romeo and Juliet love story between a Mormon and a Protestant--and the first draft of each took years. There’s obviously some latitude when conforming real life to a narrative, but in order to make it truthful you’re really locked into what has actually happened. Finding the structure within that is a real challenge. With fiction, I can make up and or change anything I want. My first draft of Paper Bag Mask only took about 8 months.

Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?
I need to not be bothered. Whether that’s in a cafe or at home, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on around me so long as it doesn’t come at me. I also enjoy writing while listening to music. I know a lot of authors prefer instrumentals or movie scores, but I actually prefer songs with lyrics. As long as it’s not a new song to me, I can pretty much tune the lyrics out and feel it on a purely emotional level.

Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?

I’ll do that in my screenplays, but not so much in my prose work. Though, I will say that for Mr. Street, the jerk-of-a-teacher at the center of Paper Bag Mask, I took a lot of cues from Robert Downey Jr. and the way he can work a room and wrangle a sentence with a common idea at its core into something that sounds oh-so-clever and unique.

Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?
Other than the ones I write? Probably Superman. That might sound like an odd pick because Superman is generally regarded as fairly difficult to relate to because most of us can’t fly or freeze things with our super breath (kind of gross, when you think about it), but it’s not his powers I identify with but what he chooses to not do with them. Superman is a being of power who is always trying to do the right thing but who is capable of great evil. He genuinely wants to do good, but the temptation to give into natural impulse  just do whatever pleases him has got to be great. I think there’s an anger at the heart of Superman that Christopher Reeve played so, so well where you saw his utter impatience for those who don’t exert the same control over themselves that he forces on himself. At the same time, he turns that anger and impatience right back around on himself for his own failings and temptations. It’s a vicious cycle I know well.

Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?
I’ve written down dreams and nightmares and turned them into blogs, but the only real nightmares I remember nowadays are the ones that were recurring when I was a kid. Like, the one where I heard voices in the house taunting me, but I couldn’t find their source until I opened my own closet. There, on the ground, I found my parents chanting “Nobody loves you, nobody loves you” with baby bodies and football helmets on their giant heads. It’s too bad Freud is dead. I could really use some analysis on that one.

Tell me what you love most about writing comedy?
I love a good turn of phrase. I love expressing something from a different, less straightforward angle that can surprise and make someone laugh. At the same time, I can’t say I’m terribly conscious that I’m writing comedy when I’m writing it. People say they laugh a lot when reading my stuff, but that’s always a little surprising to me.  I think my worldview is a lot snarky and just a little less sane than average, and that tends to come across in a way I’m sometimes aware of and sometimes not.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?
If someone told me tomorrow that being active on social media is not important for my future success, you might never see me on there again. I find social media terribly distracting and obligatory. I feel like my energy on any given day is a finite reserve and I’d much rather spend it creating than “getting myself out there.” That said, I enjoy talking with people and interacting with readers. I just wish social media was a little more amenable to longer thoughts and that I could use it in a more organic way. Social media is really the only time I use exclamation points, for example, and I hate exclamation points. My teenage daughter tells me I always come across as too serious because I insist on using punctuation and, more specifically, periods, so I try to use exclamation points to ameliorate the apparent issues with  my online communication.

What five things do you do to prepare yourself to start writing?
  1. Make sure I have at least a couple uninterrupted hours ahead of me (unless I’m rewriting--I can always rewrite on the fly).
  2. Turn on my computer.
  3. Check email.
  4. Check the news.
  5. Put on music.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I think I hold those reins pretty tight. I tend to lead with story and then find characters to fit that story, so they don’t lead me around by the nose too much. I do like to be surprised and there will often be a point where it feels more like the characters are talking to me rather than me through them, but I can’t let things get too far off track. Once I settle on a story structure, there’s not a lot of room for movement. Structure is everything, I think, and if you pull out one stone the whole building might collapse.

Brock Heasley is a writer and artist who, to the shock of absolutely no one visiting this site, was a member of such prestigious high school organizations as “The Nerd Herd,” “Last Picked for Teams,” and “They Who Eat Alone.” He is a graduate of California State University Fresno, the creator of the online comic The SuperFogeys, and the award-winning filmmaker behind The Shift.

Brock lives with his wife and three daughters in California where they enjoy Pixar movies, dancing in the living room, and eating breakfast for dinner.


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