Interview with Scott Semegran, author of To Squeeze a Prairie Dog

11 Feb 2019

What can you tell us about your new release To Squeeze a Prairie Dog?

To Squeeze a Prairie Dog is about a young man from a small town who joins a data entry unit of a state government agency. His unit becomes his makeshift, dysfunctional family and their lives are revealed to the reader. When his supervisor accidentally discovers a technological solution (after a drunken lunch outing) which could save the State of Texas millions of dollars, the crotchety governor and a curious reporter enter their lives and threaten to ruin everything. It’s a satirical look at working-class folks colliding with political ambition and the power of friendship. I wanted to write a novel that was quirky without being snarky and also uplifting without being saccharine. It was a huge challenge for me. I’m pleased with how it turned out.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I was inspired to write after studying literature in college. It seemed, after I graduated, to be the logical thing for me to do after spending four years dissecting and analyzing great works of literature. With an English degree, my parents assumed I would teach. I didn’t want to teach; I wanted to write. So, I started writing literally the week after graduating from college. That was over twenty-five years ago. I have published five novels, two fiction compilations, a compilation of comic strips, short stories in literary journals, and hundreds of comic strips in newspapers.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Aargh! I’ve read a lot of books, so that is a tough one. Here’s a list in no order of importance with a sixth-place runner-up. 1) Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 2) The Road by Cormac McCarthy 3) Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon 4) South of No North by Charles Bukowski 5) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut 6) Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would want two guests on my literary talk show: one famous writer and one indie / self-published writer. I would love to find the common ground between the writers and foster support in the writer community. I know this idea resides deep in “Nerd Alert” territory, but I don’t care. I love to talk to other writers about writing.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

My favorite thing is the writing process itself, working out the bits and notes from months of brainstorming into an actual story. When it all comes together, the completed project is very satisfying to me.

What fictional literary world would you most like to visit?

I read two books recently that share the same historical era: the comic book industry in New York during the 1940s. One is biographical—Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel—and the other is fictitious—The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. If you love Golden Age comic books (Superman, Batman, etc.), then you will love both of these books. This is the “literary” world I would like to visit. I know it is a real place and time, but since Chabon wrote a historical fiction novel, then I will declare it a literary world. These comic book writers and artists created very influential work, but many of them were screwed by corporate interests that are still being plundered to this day. I find it fascinating.

What scene in To Squeeze a Prairie Dog was your favorite to write?

I don’t have one favorite scene, although I would say that I enjoyed writing the various chapters showing the home lives of the different employees in Unit 3. I wanted to reveal their individual, personal struggles and how it motivated them to form their pact to share the cost-savings prize.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

As for a philosophy I live by: I really try to enjoy the moment I’m in, whether I’m writing or spending time with my wife, family, and friends.

My motto: Write or die.

My favorite quote: “The mind of man is capable of anything—because everything is in it, all the past as well as the future.” — Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

Scott Semegran is the author of the new book To Squeeze a Prairie Dog

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To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel

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