Exclusive Interview: “Crazy In Poughkeepsie” Author Daniel Pinkwater
When it comes to deciding if you want to read a book, what it’s like is as important as what it’s about. Not everyone wants to read a sad book about someone being murdered; still others wouldn’t want to read a funny murder story. Which brings me to this email interview with writer Daniel Pinkwater about his middle grade fantasy adventure novel Crazy In Poughkeepsie (hardcover, Kindle). While he doesn’t say what it’s about, how he answered the rest of the questions should give you a sense of what the story is like.
I always like to begin with a plot overview. So, what is Crazy In Poughkeepsie about, and when does it take place?
Crazy In Poughkeepsie is about 170 pages long. I don’t know that it has a plot. I’m not very interested in plots. I like to read about characters, I like to write dialogue. I think plots are a crutch. (This is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with crutches. They are useful for people who need them…or possibly people who merely like the idea, who am I to judge the crutchness of others? Likewise, plenty of writers rely on plots, and very fine writers they may be.)
Uh, okay. So then where did you get the idea for Crazy In Poughkeepsie?
Like a lot of authors, I subscribe to an authors’ idea service. This used to be on paper and come in the mail, now it’s email. You may have noticed that books published in a given season will have some of the same elements. This can be because the authors subscribe to the same authors’ idea service. For example, my admirable publisher, Tachyon, has two books on the same list wherein there is the ghost of a whale.
And is there a reason it’s set in Poughkeepsie as opposed to Schenectady or Walla Walla or one of our nation’s other fine funny-named towns?
You think Poughkeepsie is a funny name? 650,000 proud Poughkeepsians might disagree with you.
The press materials make Crazy In Poughkeepsie sound like it’s a fantasy adventure story. Is that how you’d describe it?
I would describe it as a spiritual or religious allegory, but only the advanced and sensitive reader will see that.
Crazy In Poughkeepsie has also been called a “middle grade” novel. Does that mean older kids won’t like it?
I don’t know what middle grade means, now that I think of it. If you figure there are 12 grades starting with first, and through high school, I guess middle grade means sixth.
Right, but I was asking more for older readers? Like what if they’re a lot older? Like 54?
I think someone 54 years old and in sixth grade has to be a very rare occurrence.
You have written over a hundred books. Are there are any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on Crazy In Poughkeepsie, and just on Crazy In Poughkeepsie, not on anything else you’ve written?
You mean other than the Mozart Requiem?
How about non-literary influences; was Crazy In Poughkeepsie influenced by any movies or TV shows?
It was influenced by Hershel’s Hot Dogs, now long closed, and Hershel himself has passed on. It was a completely authentic Chicago…not Chicago-style, but really Chicago, hot dog stand…the hot dogs, the condiments, the buns even, were all imported from Chicago, and it was in Poughkeepsie! Can you imagine?
And how about The Peach, your — and I’m quoting you here — “world-class genius rough collie”? What influence did he or she have on Crazy In Poughkeepsie?
The Peach and I took walks in the beautiful Hudson River Valley before, during, and after I wrote the book.
For your information, a rough collie is not one with bad manners, it’s a type of collie, not a border one, or a smooth one, or a bearded one. Lassie was a rough collie.
Crazy In Poughkeepsie is the third book of yours to feature illustrations by Aaron Renier, with a fourth, Kat Hats, due out next year. What is it about Aaron’s art that you think just compliments your writing so well?
Aaron Renier’s art would complement anyone’s writing. He is just a very good artist, (and a nice fellow).
Did he draw anything for Crazy In Poughkeepsie that made you change anything in the story?
I didn’t even see his art until I was done with the book. I wouldn’t ask him to change anything, and I don’t think he would ask me.
Earlier I asked if Crazy In Poughkeepsie had been influenced by any movies or TV shows. But I’d like to flip things around and ask you if you think Crazy In Poughkeepsie could work as a movie or TV show?
I suppose someone could adapt it, but why should they? I know how to create movie and TV scripts. If I wanted it to be written for the screen, I could have written it for the screen. I don’t have strong feelings about this, but I tend to think books, anyway some books, should be books, and it might be a mistake to write them with an eye toward adaptation.
Finally, if someone enjoys Crazy In Poughkeepsie, and it’s their first experience with your oeuvre, which of your other books would you suggest they read next?
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson…oh wait, that’s not mine. Well they should read it anyway, it’s a doozy.