Does creativity have a taste? And, if it does, is it salty or sweet?
January Magazine’s “Authors on Snacks” is not meant to be a judgment. Rather it’s a personal peek at what some of our most beloved authors nibble on while pushing forward on their latest work.
This time out we chat with Emmy-nominated producer, film and television writer, and author, Ken Pisani, whose debut novel AMP’D has been named a finalist for the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor.
What do you snack on while writing?
Kit Kats, but only from the freezer. First, because they taste better frozen. (Try it. I’ll wait.) And they snap when you bite them! Like something much healthier, so I can fool myself that they are snappy raw green beans, not chocolate-covered fat-saturated wafer cookies.
But keeping them in the freezer also means that in the time it takes me to walk from my home office to the kitchen and back, I might be struck by some great “eureka!” moment that will crack the scene I’m working on. When that doesn’t happen, at least there was chocolate.
Do you consider your snacking to be mostly under control or mostly out of control?
See, here’s the thing: if I’m going to walk all the way to the kitchen, I’m going to make it worth my while. (I burned calories to get here, after all.) Sometimes that Kit Kat isn’t enough. Thankfully, my freezer holds a cornucopia of mouth-to-stomach goodness, from tiny enchilada bites to frozen pizza and even marshmallow Peeps from at least several Easters ago. And all it takes is a quick spin on the microwave turntable, during which—who knows?—that elusive writing epiphany might strike. In short, yes, completely under control.
AMP’D (St Martin’s Press)
Tell us about the book:
“The funniest book you’ll read this year about a guy whose arm is amputated” is perhaps not a description that will have copies flying off bookstore shelves. Whatever. AMP’D was also, on publication, a Los Angeles Times best seller, largely because I have a lot of friends and family in Los Angeles.
The protagonist of AMP’D, Aaron, is not a man on a hero’s journey. In the question of fight or flight, he’ll choose flight every time. So when a car accident leaves him suddenly asymmetrical, his left arm amputated, looking on the bright side isn’t exactly in his wheelhouse.
Forced to return to his boyhood home to recuperate, Aaron is confronted with an aging father (a former Olympic biathlete turned hoarder), a mother who’s moved into a yurt with a fireman twelve years her junior, and a Type-A sister whose insufferable husband proves love isn’t just blind, but also painfully stupid. Oh, and they keep a full-sized pet alligator in the upstairs bathtub.
As Aaron tries to make the world around him disappear in a haze of painkillers and medical marijuana, the only true joy in his life comes from daily ninety-second radio spots of fun science facts: the speed of falling raindrops, batteries made out of starfish, and sexual responses triggered by ringtones—all told in the lush, disembodied voice of commentator Sunny Lee, with whom he falls helplessly, ridiculously, in love. Aaron’s obsession with Sunny only hastens his downward spiral, like pouring accelerant on a fire. Pressured to do something—anything—to move his life forward, he takes the only job he can get: as a “fish counter” at the nearby dam, where he concludes that an act of violent sacrifice to liberate the river might be his best, final option. ◊