By Edward Fairfax:
After interviewing authors Lucretia Mars (GASPING IN THE SHADOWS) and Jenni Frendswith (STONECRAFT) I interviewed the author who hosts both books on his website, Fletcher Rhoden, whose new nonfiction book is FIFTY SHADES OF TRAILER PARK BOYS: TPB in the Great Comedic Traditions. In the interests of full disclosure, my own book VIEWS OF A PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN is also hosted on Rhoden’s site at www.fletcherrhoden.com/links. Rhoden’s complete catalogue can be found on the PRODUCTS page of that site.
Q: Thank you for speaking with me today, Mr. Rhoden --
A: Fletch, please.
Q: -- Fletch, of course. And thanks for hosting me and my colleagues at your site. It’s been terrific exposure.
A: Happy to do it. Thanks for spreading the word about it. I’m happy to host other authors the way I do you and Lucretia and Jenni. They only have to contact me at the address posted all over my site. I offer purchase links, cover pictures, maybe interviews like these.
Q: I hadn’t thought of interviewing everyone.
A: It’s all free anyway. As long as its an even swap, link-for-link, that’s really the idea. Everybody shares to everyone’s benefit.
Q: You sound like a socialist.
A: I do support Obama!
Q: This isn’t your first interview for FIFTY SHADES OF TRAILER PARK BOYS...
A: No, I did a few radio interviews in Ontario and Nova Scotia, and there was a magazine spread of some kind, an online magazine I think. Good for you, helping to spread the word for all of us struggling indie authors.
Q: Maybe you could interview me sometime.
A: You got it. I thought your book was terrific. I’m a progressive Christian myself.
Q: Well, that’s how we met, isn’t it? But let’s get back to you. You’ve got an incredible catalogue.
A: I hate to say it, but I really do. Almost two-dozen books available online, including fiction, nonfiction, illustrated kids books, middle readers, a graphic novel, novellas --
Q: Your novellas are really the big critical favorites.
A: Among my books, yeah. Both THE TRIAL OF DAVY CROCKETT and LAST TANGO WITH MARLON are 5-star books, they top reading lists, critics called them, well, modesty forbids --
Q: Allow me: “Amazingly well written... incredibly believable dialogue throughout... thoughtful yet riveting from the first page to the last and is a must read... not to be missed... bravissimo...” And those books were just rereleased in a single volume.
A: Right. THE NOVELLAS. I included excerpts from my other novels too, the contemporary comedies SISTERELLA and NEVER DIE TWICE and my historical dramas, FREEDOM HALL and WARRIOR TIDE: Miguel de Cervantes at the Battle of Lepanto. It’s on Kindle too.
Q: Your other recent releases include the new novel for middle readers, SANTA & ME.
A: Yeah, that’s a really good one, too. It’s my only novel for middle readers to be published. I’ve written several, but this was the one I was willing to release. The others, for whatever reasons, just weren’t right.
Q: So, if you’ve got sixteen books published, how many did you leave in the drawer, so to speak?
A: That’s hard to say, probably another dozen or so books that are unlikely to see the light of day.
Q: Why is that?
A: Different reasons. I can tell you I’ve got two terrific books I’d love to put out, a young adult adventure called JOURNEY TO THE INNER SANCTUM and a World War I comedy called ACES HIGH. But they were based on scripts I’d written with a woman I no longer associate with. And as much as I like those books, and as hard as I worked on them, it’s not worth it to have to deal with that person again. Other books are either old and not properly digitized, or the subject matter has just gotten stale. I wrote one terrific little book about a decade ago, for young adults, but by now the idea has been done to death. Just goes to show you can’t sit on these things forever. I say get it out there while you can, who knows where we’ll all be tomorrow? Probably reading somebody else’s book of the exact same idea!
Q: SANTA & ME is from a story you co-wrote with Robbie Rist (THE BRADY BUNCH, DOC MCSTUFFINS).
A: Yeah, it was his idea originally: A high-tech, action take on the Santa story. We both saw it as a screenplay, and I wrote the book at the same time, developing them simultaneously.
Q: You’re credited with writing the screenplay together.
A: And we did. Y’know, I’ve worked alone and I’ve written with others, and every partnership takes a different shape. This one, because Robbie and I have known each other for so long, and we’ve done so many things together, had its own complexion and was really easy to work out. As I recall, I had just written an idie horror film for Robbie and I to shoot in and around his house called POOLCIDE. He was reading it and mentioned this idea he had. I really liked it, and came back to him with a list of notes. We knocked the ideas around until we had the right balance. I punched out the rough draft and then we bounced the draft back and forth until we were both happy with it. Probably the best co-writing partnership I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few.
Q: Where is the screenplay now?
A: Available. And it’s great, a CG animated feature, it’s really fast-moving and fun, it’d be a perfect Christmas movie for Pixar. That’s the model we used, because they’re the best in that field.
Q: What are you doing to publicize the book?
A: Not much. I try to do a lot of social media marketing, and I’m not finding as many groups and clubs for novels for middle readers as I am for things like Trailer Park Boys or historical fiction...
Q: Your TRAILER PARK BOYS: TPB in the Great Comedic Traditions was superb, I just loved it. Completely turned me on to that show, which I’d never heard of.
A: Thanks, Edward, I’m glad you liked it. I know TPB creator Mike Clattenburg has a copy, but I haven’t heard his impressions. I’d really like to see a class or two come of that.
Q: You’re offering a 14-week adult education course?
A: I am, there’s a full syllabus posted at my site. Even if nobody hires me to teach the course, my book and a laptop with Youtube could make for the best comedy writing class offered in any liberal arts or entertainment school in North America. Oddly, the Trailer Park Boys still aren’t that well known in the States, and there aren’t that many arts schools of this sort in Canada. There are one or two, but I never heard back. The economy is pretty rough down here in the lower 48, and schools are closing right and left, so it’s a tough time to be offering up such a class. I’m still open to it, of course.
Q: You cover so many subjects in the book, some of them quite classical: Freudian psychology, the existential hero, Joseph Conrad...
A: It’s a tribute the the TRAILER PARK BOYS saga that it really does have its place among all these classical models. It’s an extraordinary thing. I mean, you’ve never ever seen the perfect human embodiment of the Id, the Ego and the Superego as you do in the Trailer Park Boys.
Q: Your hope was to educate...
A: Sure, turn on lovers of comedy to the show, turn on lovers of the show to other great sources of comedy, teach young writers what works and what doesn’t and why. But I also hoped to entertain. It’s a perfect book for the bathroom, frankly. You sit down, read an essay, and get on with your day. It’s most pleasurable when read one essay at a time.
Q: Your book covers so many different storytelling classics and masters, from CASABLANCA to JAWS to The Three Stooges, Lenny Bruce and Bob Newhart to Batman and THE BLUES BROTHERS.
A: Well it’s a big subject, the history of comedy. It includes drama, music, politics, I keep thinking the book could have been longer, more in-depth. But as Robbie says, “You don’t finish a work of art. You abandon it.”
Q: You said you’ve worked together before SANTA & ME.
A: Sure. Robbie played me in my stage play SOUL CANCER, a blistering drama that I personally think is a career high for Robbie in terms of sheer acting chops. He really tears it apart, nails every beat -- and it’s not an easy role to play. He sure is an easy actor to direct though. Of course, we were friends when I went through the events that inspired the play.
Q: How long have you known each other?
A: We met when I was about eight and he was about 10, I think. Very close to that anyway. We’re both musicians, and he started including me in his recordings and bands when I was in high school. After that he played in my band DANCE HALL RACKET in the early ‘90s. Then the play. Robbie is also in THE CHRISTOPHER WALKEN ECSTATIC DANCE ACADEMY with his Snozzberries partner Quinton Flynn. After that he played with me on a few musical projects. We still do that these days via this Facebook group called THEME MUSIC, wherein folks like us record new songs according to a given theme and then upload videos and share them. Robbie spearheads those projects. [SOUL CANCER and THE CHRISTOPHER WALKEN ECSTATIC DANCE ACADEMY are available on DVD from Amazon.com, as are FLETCHER RHODEN LIVE and ST. LOUIS BLUES, two musical DVDs heavily featuring Rist in live and studio performances.]
Q: Your new TPB book is a nice companion to your writing seminar on DVD, WRITE MAKES MIGHT: Stronger Structure in Storytelling.
A: They do go well together. The three-act and scene/sequel structure are two thing I just couldn’t squeeze into FIFTY SHADES... And they both use modern classics to illustrate the various points. It’s harder to watch the DVD sitting on the can!
Q: Jenni Frendswith described your seminar as, “Like reading ten books in 30 minutes.”
A: Well, that’s pretty much what I was shooting for. And it includes a neat interview with me by Raf Mauro, who played Wally Cox in the world premiere stage production of LAST TANGO WITH MARLON.
Q: He was incredible in the role.
A: I agree, as was Frank Cavestani as Brando. I look back at MARLON as one of my career highlights; great book, great play, great dvd, awesome reviews all around. I’d like to remount it sometime. [The World Premiere Edition of LAST TANGO WITH MARLON is on dvd from Amazon.com.]
Q: Your next play was a stage musical about the making of I LOVE LUCY.
A: Yeah, REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND, definitely my most ambitious piece. Wrote 13 new songs, recorded them all, directed the cast, did the sound, the lights, the program, all the stagecraft. It ran for 2 months and I couldn’t get through a day without taking a nap for six months afterward. I just couldn’t get my B vitamins back up or something.
Q: You went from a simple black-box staging with SOUL CANCER to a more complicated black-box staging for MARLON --
A: Yeah, MARLON had music, a lot more sound effects. I was really the third actor in MARLON, where as I spent most of the SOUL CANCER performances in front of the theater. For REDHEAD CUBAN HAUSFRAU HUSBAND I had songs, sound effects, three separate backdrops, all kinds of costume changes and props.
Q: The soundtrack was your first released CD, but you’ve written some 500 songs.
A: Well, as I said, I’m a life-long musician, and I’ve accumulated a lot of recorded music in that time. When putting CDs on the market became so easy, I wasn’t sure exactly how to reshuffle all that and package a cohesive CD. When REDHEAD came along, one of the cast suggested a soundtrack release and I approved. It’s my first CD and I don’t sing a note on it. That may not be a bad thing.
Q: You did release a CD of your own shortly afterward --
A: Yeah. The thing is, I’d done most of my music before 1993, with just a few things over the next ten years or so. In 2005 I started writing and recording again with a real passion. I did lots of live stuff, wrote and played with the Eva James Band, and wrapped that up around 2011 when I moved out of Los Angeles. In the five years between 2005 and 2010 I’d recorded 3 full-length albums of original material in addition to REDHEAD... plus a very popular EP and two CDs of covers. I actually had half of another record of originals, but I didn’t see them as being much better than what I’d already written. So, to follow up the REDHEAD soundtrack, I put together THE FIVE AND DIME, Best of 2005-2010, featuring live and home studio recordings. It’s as long as a double record (remember those?) and I still had to leave out some of the better stuff.
Q: What about all the music you did before that?
A: I just don’t know what’ll happen with that. A lot of the best of it is on the music DVDs, so there’s no real need for a CD. But I might put one out. It’s not a big priority.
Q: What are your priorities these days?
A: Just trying to keep the word out on FIFTY SHADES OF TRAILER PARK BOYS, letting authors know about the link swap, getting ready for the holidays.
Q: No more books on the horizon? More plays?
A: No more plays for sure. My life just doesn’t allow for that, and although I have a few ideas, none of them are compelling enough to make me want to tackle them. Anyway, I kind of like my three plays as a trilogy. They’re all based on actual events, all gripping dramas about interpersonal conflicts, love affairs and friendships and our responsibilities in these relationships. Thing is, I’ve spent the last ten years thinking every book every play, every batch of tunes would be my last. Yet here I am with a new book I never expected to write. I’d never come across TPB until this past year. So I don’t know what’s coming next because inspiration can strike just about anywhere at any time. I really feel like I should focus on spreading the word about the stuff I’ve done instead of just piling things on. I think I’m out of book ideas too, for the moment. They do keep coming though, so I never say never. But I don’t always say always either.