20 Questions with Erik Gumeny


1. So, what’s your book all about?

Exponential Apocalypse is the tender, heart-stirring tale of crappy jobs, a slacker cult, an alcoholic Aztec god, reconstituted world leaders, werewolves, robots, and the shenanigans of multiple persons living after the twentieth-aught end of the world. More specifically, it’s about Thor working the front desk of a Holiday Inn in New Jersey; the clones of Chester A. Arthur, Queen Victoria, and William H. Taft  going on a road trip; and Quetzalcoatl being crazy and falling in with a pack of hobos and English majors. Hijinks ensue.

2. What inspired you to write this tale?
Boredom and an unhealthy love of the end of the world. I had had this idea for a while about how bad service would be in a diner after the apocalypse, like having to wait an extra minute for a refill or something. I started it once or twice, but I just couldn’t get it right. Then one night, during some substantial downtime at an old job, I got really, really bored and started absentmindedly writing a story. It quickly became the apocalypse diner story, which quickly expanded itself to be about how terrible all services would be after the end of the world, so I added a hotel because I was working next to one, and then I thought of Thor because, well, Thor, and then in walked my coworker Catrina, so I added her, and that went on for about six months and I had Exponential Apocalypse.

I’ve always dug post-apocalyptic stories because, Cormac McCarthy’s depress-fest The Road notwithstanding, they’re actually kind of hopeful. The entire genre is built on the conceit that no matter how awful things get, humans will survive. Which I agree with completely, even in a non-fictional sense. Humanity really isn’t the type to start panicking and dying just because Armageddon hits. I think we’ll be fine and I wanted to get that across in the book. I mean, seriously, do you really think your comic book store is going to close just because the rest of the city was wiped out by meteors?

3. Do you have a favorite quote about creativity/inspiration etc…? What is it?
Kurt Vonnegut: “Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.” 

4. What things do you keep in your “writing space”? Do they inspire you? Confound you? Hold wires in place?
I’ve got a collection of Futurama toys on the shelf above my computer. I find them especially helpful when I’m starting to take myself too seriously. Also, I’ve got pretty much every episode memorized, so sometimes I’ll look at them, think of a joke, and start building on it for my own purposes.

I’ve also got the best of my book collection (Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide series, Vonnegut’s books, the Scott Pilgrim series, etc.), a shelf full of unfinished writing and scribbled ideas that I add to often but rarely go through, a picture of Boba Fett signed by Jeremy Bulloch, and a plastic Star Wars rancor toy. They all inspire me in their own unique way, and the rancor toy also doubles as a paperweight for scrap paper and holds a pen in its mouth.

5. What is your perfect “writing space”?
I’ll tell you when I find it. I’ve come close a few times, but I get tired of the setup quickly. It’s got to be within walking distance of coffee, though, whatever and wherever it ends up being.

Ideally it’s probably a hexagonal room with a different desk against and window in each wall. And while probably not physically possible, each window should look out over a different landscape. The coffee maker would be in the center of the room.

6. If your car horn could play any song, which would it be? Can’t say Dixie.
Does it have to be a song? I think I’d prefer a series of Morse code beeps that represents the phrase “You are a terrible driver and you’re making me sad for humanity. Please get off the road immediately.” If you held it down long enough it would also say “You’re lucky I don’t have a rocket launcher. And that I’m afraid of jail.”

7. What would you name the first permanent settlement on mars?
Stephanie.

8. How tall is the perfect sidekick? Please explain why it even matters.
5’7″. You’d want him to be somewhat average and unassuming, should the need for an undercover mission come up, plus you’d want to be able to take him in a fight, should he inevitably betray you or get mad at you for eating the last of the Cheerios. You wouldn’t want him any smaller, though, because while he should be physically inferior to you, he should also be helpful in a fight because, presumably, if you’ve got a sidekick you’re getting in a lot of fights and you need the extra fists. Also, if he’s too short, he might have a problem reaching the cereal, which kind of defeats the purpose of a sidekick and removes all tension from the relationship. Any taller, though, and your sidekick might encroach on your hero status. People might start asking him to get kittens out of trees and you just can’t have that.

9. If you were to mess with the time stream, what would you change? Let’s assume a hundred other people already took care of Hitler so you don’t have to say, “Kill Hitler.”
I’ve actually had this talk with a friend of mine, and written a play about it. I wouldn’t necessarily change anything but I would (a) bring historical figures back to the present and make them fight each other, and (b) bring back dinosaur meat and sell the steaks at exorbitant prices.

Rereading the question, though, I may need to change that. I’m assuming I can bring stuff back to the present when that was in no way implied. So, if I could only change stuff and not bring it back? I’d probably keep Jimi Hendrix and Phil Lynott from taking so many drugs.

And then I’d go back and mess with Hitler’s corpse so that he was found in a very undignified position.

10. Let’s say your character has a pet brown bear. What’s the bear’s name?
Stephanie. She was the first bear on Mars, an integral part of the initial landing/colonization team, and died tragically while subduing a Martian uprising and protecting the first space convent/orphanage/kitten reserve. For her sacrifice, and as mentioned in question 7, the first permanent Martian settlement was named after her.

11. If you had to give an antagonist an annoying trait, what would it be?
Uncontrollable flatulence.

12. What kind of car would your ultimate protagonist drive?
A black ’67 Mustang Fastback. Armor-plated, with bulletproof glass and a minigun mounted to the roof. It would probably also have an iPod hook-up.

13. You’ve got a year to travel anywhere. Where?
Everywhere in the continental U.S. And possibly Canada. I’d get a big ol’ RV (armor-plated, with bulletproof glass and a minigun mounted to the roof) and just drive back and forth and back and forth. I’d check out the world’s largest rocking chair and the world’s largest bowling pin and the world’s biggest balls of everything.

14. You just bought a boat with your book fortune. What are you going to call it?
Why Did I Buy This Boat or, possibly, Please Stay Out Of This Boat, Homeless People. Between living in New Mexico and not being a sailor, I imagine my boat will do a lot of sitting in my driveway or in nearby dirt lots if the driveway’s small. Unless, of course, I’m doing that cross-country RV thing. Then I imagine I’d tow it with me and call it Oh, God, Why Is Gas Is So EXPENSIVE?

15. What kind of music, if any, gets you typing the fastest?
Anything with electric guitars, really. Other than that, it depends on the story I’m writing. For Exponential Apocalypse: Dead Presidents, which I’m currently finishing up, it’s a lot of Mötley Crüe and other 80s metal. I’ll usually listen to a bunch before I start writing and then, once I’m into it, I’ll just kind of tune it out or turn it off entirely.

16. What’s the punch line to your favorite joke?
“I’m a frayed knot.”

17. What lyric do you sing poorly, yet loudly?
All of them. I am a terrible singer and yet I have a hard time stopping myself from singing along with classic rocks songs.
Assuming I’m alone in my car, that is.

18. You find a portal to another world in your sink’s drain. What is this other world called? And what is the best way to clean the portal so it doesn’t smell like old food?
This drain world is called Garbogia, and the inhabitants are amorphous blobs of old food and scraps that look kind of like that mulch pile shaman in Fraggle Rock. The Garbogians worship the portal and the foul, meaty rain it brings, but they live in constant fear of the dreaded Compacto, a demon with a terrible scream and a mouth of metal blades that tries to destroy them and claim the meaty rain for his own.

The Garbogians are a little ripe, so baking soda’s the best way to clean the drain, I think, and I’m pretty sure that’s true whether there’s a portal in it or not. I read it online a while ago. I never actually got around to trying it, though, so my drain still smells. It may very well be Garbogia. I’ve never actually checked.

19. Where can people learn more about you, your work or any pets you have?
People can learn more about me at my blog (http://egumeny.blogspot.com) and on Twitter (@egumeny).
They can learn more about my work at Amazon (http://amazon.com/author/egumeny) or Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/egumeny, which currently has my novelette “Devil Went Down To Jersey” available for free download). They can learn more about my pets by writing a story with me as the protagonist and then giving me pets.

20. What’s next?
Out this summer will be Exponential Apocalypse: Dead Presidents, the sequel to Exponential Apocalypse, released by indie publisher Jersey Devil Press. It continues the adventures of Thor, Catrina, Chester A. Arthur XVII, and Queen Victoria XXX in their post-post-post-apocalyptic world and brings some new antagonists into the fray.

After that? I’m not sure. I’ll probably start a third EA title soon; I’ve got an idea for one and I don’t want to wait as long in between this time around. I also think I want to do a YA — or at least more family friendly — story, since my mom is less than thrilled with the amount of f-bombs and dick jokes in my books thus far. Sorry, Mom!

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