Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Interview: Chad Coenson, Author of Me and Bobby McGee
Today's special guest is Chad Coenson, author of Me and Bobby McGee. Chad was born in Orlando, FL, but he can barely remember that and pretty much spent most of the years following his birth in a nomadic state of perpetual motion until finally finding a home in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two dogs. He has a degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona and spends his time “trying” not to take life too seriously. Despite his generally adventurous nature and willingness to attempt almost anything, he has never had the opportunity to cast the first stone.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Chad. It's wonderful to have you here. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was originally an inhabitant of the east coast but by the time I graduated from high school in Georgia, the western half of the country beckoned to me. It's not always easy to be akin to the highway as it often leaves you in a perpetual state of unrest; it ripples within your blood. And thus, while working to get my degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, I spent quite a bit of time on the road exploring the country with intrepid eyes in a never ending search for adventure and good old fashioned mischief. During that time I could also be found playing music in a rock band, for which I wrote most of the lyrics, and competing regularly as a performance poet in Tucson. The music led me to Tasmania, Australia where I spent quite a bit of time composing and playing gigs with my partner in melody, whilst exploring the many pleasantries and occasional provocations of the South Pacific. Upon returning to US soil I found myself in a whirlwind of transiency that dropped me off in Boston, spun me back across the country to Southern California, and eventually let me loose in the Pacific Northwest where I currently reside with my beautiful and notably patient wife along with our two dogs; our first child will be joining us in October. As I am a family man now, I am also a recovering adrenaline junky though I doubt I will ever be able to fully kick the habit as I have an unabashed affinity for bungee jumping and big-wave-surf-kayaking. Beyond that, I love live music, hiking the backcountry, and brewing my own beer.
When did you begin writing?
It's funny because shy of the actual date, I can pinpoint the moment that I began writing. I was in third grade and the entire class was given a paragraph long prompt and told to finish the story on the half-page of blank lines that followed it. After stapling six additional full pages to the original I realized that writing was all I wanted to do. I started constructing stories on a weekly basis and reading them to my class every Friday. By the end of that year I had won a countywide writing competition and had become addicted to the sound of lead and ink against the page. Naturally I continued to write and during my freshman year of high school, I had my first piece published in a small local newspaper outside of Atlanta, GA. I also wrote several poems and short stories that appeared in the award winning literary magazine, Chrysalis. The ten year span which I have just described is what I would classify as my larval writing stages.
What is this book about?
Me and Bobby McGee is a blatantly humorous adventure that examines several aspects of our modern social infrastructure from the perspective of a former CIA assassin turned Jack-of-all-Vices, Keesey Cypher. Constantly the victim of his unabashed alcoholism and penchant for games of chance, Cypher finds himself sea-leagues deep in debt after waking from an Absinthe inspired blackout in the back alleys of New Orleans. In an effort to avoid death, Cypher is given the option to make a risky cross country delivery for his "merciful" creditors. Upon excepting their offer he meets his chaperone, the beautiful and infinitely unstable Miss Bobby McGee. Their journey together unfolds into a frighteningly funny reality as the novel uses the vehicle of an illicit white-baby-slave-trade to ponder a host of humanistic issues including: apathy and indifference, corporate greed, human commoditization, and the supremacy of personal desires over what is best for the whole of civilization. At its core, the novel looks to inspire both laughter and thought as it scrutinizes the absurdity of ape-descendents with a perfect balance of ashamed love and playful distaste.
What inspired you to write it?
Me and Bobby McGee was inspired by a number of elements, but two in particular strike me as the most prominent. The first and most obvious is Kris Kristofferson's song by the same title. The concept that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" is a prevalent theme throughout the novel that is pensively examined under several types of lenses. This notion is in many ways the essence of the story and the primary reason for the title. In parallel to that, the current state of human affairs in the US and abroad was a further mode of inspiration. I wanted to create a story that was relevant to the modern social and political climate without being preachy, something that would rouse both thought and laughter, while avoiding telling people what to think. This is also the motive behind the main character, who doubles as the narrator, being such an uncomfortably likeable antihero, barren of role-model-qualities but brimming with seductive charm and rationalized evil.
Who is your favorite author?
Hunter S. Thompson is probably my all time favorite but Terry Southern, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Ken Kesey are not far behind. I am also a sucker for Jonathan Swift, Tom Robbins, and Henry Miller.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
At present I do not have an agent but truth be told, I am working on a new novel and in parallel, I am actively looking for representation. I could probably be more active in this search but I tend to enjoy writing the new book a bit more than writing query letters.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
All of the major online retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble carry Me and Bobby McGee, it also available in Kindle format. If readers are local to the Portland, OR metro area, the novel can be found on the shelves at Powell's Books, Broadway Books, or Murder By the Book in addition to some other local bookstores.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
My website is www.chadcoenson.com and it is filled with all types of information ranging from useful to useless, depending on what you are looking for. Folks can find out about upcoming events, new works, reviews, and check out the catalog of media available for viewing and listening as well.
What is up next for you?
I am currently working on a new serving of comedic American cynicism which I hope to have completed by the end of the year. The upcoming novel will include illustrations by E. Cobb Hoelzer as well. In addition, we are potentially collaborating on a book of poetry as I have a vast collection of works that I have written over the years that have been gathering dust for far too long. And to that point, there is a very talented, up-and-coming band out of Southern California called BISAHA. I collaborate with their front-man lyrically from time to time in addition to some other musical projects I am co-developing in the Northwest, so keep your ears open too.
Thanks for spending time with us today, Chad. We wish you great success.