Tom Strelich - If Dr. Strangelove and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Had a Litter of Puppies
Tom Strelich was born into a family of professional wrestlers and raised in Bakersfield, California, and his writing career began on a dare while he was a graduate student in Botany. His plays include BAFO (Best and Final Offer) which was commissioned by and had its world premiere at South Coast Repertory and its New York premiere at the American Place Theatre (APT); Dog Logic, which also had its world premiere at South Coast Repertory and went on to win a Kennedy Center Fund For New American Plays award for its New York premiere at the APT; and Neon Psalms, which won the Dramatists Guild/CBS New Play Award for its world premiere at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco and its New York premiere at the APT. As our Author of the Day, Tom tells us all about his book, Dog Logic.
Please give us a short introduction to what Dog Logic is about.
Hertell Daggett, the caretaker of a failing pet cemetery, unearths a vast time-cavern full of people, part of a long-forgotten Government program to preserve Western civilization in the charred aftermath of the nuclear war triggered by JFK's assassination -- at least that's what their computer simulation predicted. He leads the duck-and-cover civilization into the modern world and discovers that this, the modern world is actually the dystopian future we were always warned about. It’s funny, inflammatory, and weirdly prophetic, a literary duck-and-cover fable.
What inspired you to write about someone who got shot in the head on New Year's Eve (or possibly the 4th of July)?
I knew an ex-cop who’d been shot in the head once, he was dating an actress who was in a play of mine, and I asked him if there were any lingering after effects. He said that his ears rang a lot. I filed that away but ended up using it for the lead character in a play I wrote (also called Dog Logic) that ran in NY back in the ‘90s and won some awards (and is still being produced, Minneapolis next year I think) but I transformed ear ringing into species memory. The novel starts with the same characters and setting as the play but then goes in a completely different and epic direction.
If Dr. Strangelove and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had a litter of puppies, you'd get Dog Logic. Are you a fan of both?
Yes, a big fan of both, but a number of readers have told me that Dog Logic reminds them of Hitchhiker’s Guide because of the weirdness of it and the unpredictability, and I coupled it with Dr. Strangelove because of the whole nuclear war thing.
This book receive multiple awards. What surprised you most about readers' reactions to it?
The comparisons to Vonnegut, Kafka, Robbins, Heller, Huxley, Orwell, and Kesey. Which is tremendously gratifying since I consider Dog Logic to be literary fiction with a Sci-fi top-spin.
Tell us more about Hertell Daggett. What makes him tick?
The fact that he has species memory going back to the beginning of time, but has difficulty remembering events in his own life.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Bagpiper, pilot, playwright
Readers say that this novel evoked a wide range of emotions from them. Was this your intention? And how did you pull this off?
I was originally a playwright, and the whole objective in a play is to engage the emotions of the audience (with humor, anger, mystery, etc), and when you do that, their intellect will follow. So when I switched to novels a few years ago, I brought those same instincts with me. It wasn’t really the explicit intention, but kind of a normal side effect from setting the characters and the story in motion because at a certain point the characters take over and you kind of live through them and feel what they feel. And that’s kind of the joy of writing, the ability to live multiple lives, and ideally this transitions over to the reader as well.
You occasionally dive deep into an arcane subject, like how computers are programmed. Why did you take this approach? And how much research did it take from you to make the sci-fi ring true?
I couldn’t help it since I’m a tech geek by profession so all the computer stuff was like breathing, so it was a way to give all the technical, political, police stuff some street-cred. I didn’t do any research at all (though I did check wiki on Extremely Low Frequency radio since it ended up being kind of a pivotal element in the story.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
Yes, all of them do, and I would learn about them as I wrote.
Which one of your characters do you think you would get along with the most? What about the least?
The best would probably be Doug since he’s a bagpiper, the least would be the President
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I write wherever I can, on the couch, in a coffee shop, a pub. There is no average writing day. Like most writers I have a day job and a life, so you steal time whenever you can to write.
What are you working on right now?
The sequel to Dog Logic … here’s a link to the trailer… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ehpw-nhz3o&t=8s
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My plays are available through Samuel French https://www.samuelfrench.com/a/4805/tom-strelich
Dog Logic the novel is available on Amazon, B&N, GooglePlay, Kobo, Apple etc.
And the movie I wrote (Out There) is available on Amazon Prime https://www.amazon.com/Out-There-Billy-Campbell/dp/B074PC6HZY
And they can get in touch with me via my website www.tomstrelich.com