I have always tried to be a nice Jewish boy.
But I’m rethinking this approach to life, and not just because of that saying about how nice guys finish last.
To find out more about this suspenseful and comedic fantasy story, check out the following email interview with Koontz…while I hide under my desk.
Photo Credit: Douglas Sonders (2019)
To start, what is The Bad Weather Friend about, and when and where is it set?
It’s like a rocket ride through a too-real funhouse with Jim Gaffagan and Steve Martin and with a sleeping rabid cat that could awake at any moment.
Benny Catspaw’s life is abruptly turned upside down when he loses his job, his fiancée dumps him, his friends will no longer return his phone calls — and his favorite chair is cruelly destroyed. An uncle he never heard of sends him a life-changing gift in an enormous crate. Benny learns that he has been targeted for destruction because he is “too nice.” What’s in the crate might save him, even though it’s scarier than anything he’s previously encountered.
Lots of twists, so I will say no more.
Where did you get the idea for The Bad Weather Friend? What inspired it?
For a long time, I have noticed that niceness in any form is mocked in most of our media, is portrayed as phony and uncool, while characters who engage in every kind of meanness are celebrated whether they’re just nasty grumps or outright criminals. No society can survive if all its arts are selling nihilism. I wondered how I could dramatize this in the manner of a refutation of the dark philosophy behind our current culture. How could someone who’s been totally cancelled, like Benny, motor through? Then I thought of Spike, and the story almost wrote itself. I love Spike. I want a Spike of my own.
Spike is, of course, the titular bad weather friend, and the thing in the box. But is there a reason why Spike is seven feet tall as opposed to 10 or 12 or, conversely, three feet tall or three inches tall? Or maybe someone only Benny can see?
Spike’s mom was 7′ 2″ and his dad was 6′ 10″, so of course he would come into the world as a perfect compromise. Really, Paul, who would be afraid of a 3-inch-tall man? People have to be afraid of Spike if he’s going to help Benny. Please understand, I have nothing against people who are three inches tall. I have the utmost respect for them and would give my life to protect their rights as Americans. Some of my favorite people are 3 inches tall, and in fact one of them is 2 and ¾”. But let’s face it: 3-inch-tall people cannot lift firearms of any kind or chain saws, and if one of them comes at you with a knife. it will be no bigger than a pin. Invisible? This isn’t a stinking invisible-man story, Paul, nothing as ridiculous as that. This is a totally realistic story about a supernatural well-meaning but terrifying bodyguard; the kind of thing Hemingway might have written. Spike has to be able to go everywhere with Benny and not draw too much attention. What he really is will be revealed only when we’re in private moments with the antagonists. If he were invisible, how could he do what he does? I’m suddenly suspicious about the purpose of this question. Just how tall are you, Paul, and are you visible?
I’m 5′ 7″, and visible, though sometimes I feel otherwise. But I’m the one asking the questions. Like this one: It sounds like The Bad Weather Friend is…not exactly sci-fi, not really fantasy, but certainly fantastical. How do you describe it, genre-wise, and why that way?
It’s suspense and tense but also a comic novel. I do think it’s also fantasy of a no-dragons, no wizards, and no witches variety.
It also sounds like The Bad Weather Friend might be humorous. Not in a Douglas Adams / Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy kind of way, but situationally funny, like one of John Scalzi’s novels.
I think it’s funny in about six ways, but then I find a lot of things in life funny that others don’t. I avoid those people. People who lack a sense of humor. Just as I avoid people who cut off their neighbor’s heads and keep them in large bottles of preservative. Please understand, I have nothing against people who cut off heads and keep them in large jars of preventative. I’m sure they’re fine people who give back to their communities and keep a tidy house, but I am a shy person who has only a few friends, most of whom are 3 inches tall.
And John Scalzi is terrific.
Speaking of other writers, who do you think had the biggest influence on the humor in The Bad Weather Friend?
My inspirations are numerous, from old screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby to bent comedians like Steven Wright to the late great novelist Donald Westlake.
And how about your dog, Elsa? What influence did she have on The Bad Weather Friend? Because she doesn’t look seven feet tall.
Paul, are you implying that my beautiful golden retriever is only 3 inches tall? Not that there’s anything wrong or strange about 3-inch-tall dogs. For a person who is three inches tall, a dog of equal size makes both a wonderful canine pet and a method of transportation, as there are no 3-inch-tall horses. I would love to have a 3-inch-tall dog if I could only find teeny-tiny poop-pickup bags.
Now, you’ve written over 100 books. But it seems like this one, more than others, might be a good place to start exploring your oeuvre. Do you think this would be a good first Dean Koontz book for someone who hasn’t read any of them?
Starting to read my work with this book could add years to your life, enhance your IQ, and cure that stubborn case of toe fungus. It will also make you feel better about life and more hopeful. I know a lot of people don’t want to be hopeful or feel better about life, but I can’t write for them because they also hate 3-inch-tall people, and I refuse to write for bigots.
You’ve also had a bunch of your novels adapted into movies. Do you think The Bad Weather Friend could work as a movie? Or maybe a TV show?
My film agent thinks it is an obvious film, but we’ll see. I don’t want to jinx this. I don’t want to wax enthusiastic and tempt fate to give the project to a 3-inch-tall director with a cocaine addiction.
Finally, is there anything else people need to know about The Bad Weather Friend?
Amazon has made a deal with us to offer this novel free as an eBook to members of Amazon Prime, as an Amazon Reads selection for the month of January. You can always get it as a hardcover and audio book beginning February 1. That’s how much we love my readers: regardless of height, weight, age, species, or planet of origin.