I had the pleasure of reading MANAGED CARE, by fellow Black Rose Writing author Joe Barrett, and of interviewing him for this month’s post.
1. What kinds of novels do you read? Who are your favorite authors? Any nonfiction?
I enjoy dark, offbeat satires – especially ones that allow readers to really empathize with main characters that have a twisted perspective on the world – like Nabokov’s Lolita or Donleavy’s The Ginger Man. I also am a huge fan of dialog, I like getting to know characters by what they say and do, as opposed to reading literal descriptions. In addition to the above mentioned two, some of my favorites are Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper, Matthew Norman, and Ron Curry. And I wish Paul Neilan would write another book because I thought Apathy and Other Small Victories was hysterical. Aside from satire, I also enjoy noir fiction classics (Chandler, Hammett, McDonald, Cain, Thompson) as well as more modern, comedic noir, like Caimh McDonnell’s The Dublin Trilogy books, which were a lot of fun to read.
2. Is all of your writing satire? Is there any reason in particular that you chose to write a satire?
I don’t actually intend to write satire, it’s just what comes out when I write. So, I guess my life is kind of a satire. I try not to take myself, or anything else, too seriously. And ever since I can remember, I’ve had these running dialogs in my head. I make myself laugh a lot (which isn’t great, like, when you’re sitting next to a stranger on a long plane trip). I think I started writing in order to give my internal dialogs some kind of purpose, instead of just representing my slow descent into schizophrenia. Wait, are other people going to read this?
3. Aside from the background given at the end of Managed Care about you, is there anything else about your past that pertains to the story of Frank, the hero? Any parallels between you and him?
I’m not sure if that’s a question or an insult. Friends of mine have said that reading Frank’s dialog is a lot like listening to me talk, which I definitely take as an insult because Frank is clearly an idiot. But I’ve never, say, lived in a managed care facility for a year out of spite. Although, truth be told, living in a nursing home does sound like a pretty cushy existence. I don’t wear adult diapers – though I probably would if it were more socially acceptable, at least, like, at a movie theater so I wouldn’t have to strain my bladder to the point of rupture in order to avoid missing anything. And I don’t booze with twelve-year-old kids – although, just keeping it real, I probably would if it wasn’t illegal and frowned upon (but that’s only because older people can be such a drag). Like Frank, I was raised Catholic, but I’ve never engineered a half-baked takeover of a local church in order to try and instigate a greater degree of intimacy within the congregation. I guess the one thing that makes me most similar to Frank is the fact that I have a younger brother. But a lot of people have younger brothers, so there goes your argument.
4. The title Managed Care conjures images of the health system. But in the story, Frank takes care of Elroy and Sally, two lonely twelve-year-olds who come to his nursing home. Did you intend a double meaning to the title, or an interpretation beyond that of a health insurance company?
I came up with the title Managed Care because it was about a thirty-something living in a managed care facility, and there was also a kind of double-meaning in terms of Frank’s limited capacity to care about Elroy and Sally. It just kind of fit as the title. Which is unfortunate, because naming a book “Managed Care” is very much like naming it “The Most Boring Book Ever” since it does evoke images of the healthcare bureaucracy. I experimented with some alternatives that were not what I considered to be the worst title of a novel ever, but nothing fit as well as managed care so I decided to just go with it – despite the fact that such a boring title pretty much ensured that the only people who would pick it up were readers who would likely be offended by the content. Shrewd, huh?
5. What are you working on now?
My second book, Daisy in the Doghouse, was released a couple of months ago and my third book, Unplugged is going to be published in May of next year. I know that wasn’t your question but I wanted to mention it anyway. Right now, I’m working on three different stories and trying to figure out if any of them have the legs to be a fourth novel. The jury is still out.
Thank you, Joe, for the interview! I look forward to reading more of your work.