Interview with Tom Strelich , Author of Water Memory
27 Apr 2023
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Water Memory?
I started out as a playwright/screenwriter and had written a play called “Dog Logic” that was produced in New York and won some awards and such. But sometimes as a writer you encounter a character that you can’t let go, and that won’t let go of you, and I had such a character in Hertell Daggett, the damaged caretaker of a rundown pet cemetery. I wanted to take him on a new adventure—same character, same setting, but a completely new story, an epic story this time. So, I wrote the novel, Dog Logic, a very funny and epic satire as the first in a series of books which I call the Dog Logic Triptych (I’ve always been a fan of Hieronymus Bosch).
Water Memory is the sequel and picks up ten years after the end of Dog Logic, and it’s even more epic than the first book; however, I wrote it to work as a stand-alone novel with just enough context so that a reader doesn’t need to have read Dog Logic to enjoy the ride (though I hope it makes a reader want to get a copy to see how it all started).
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Water Memory, what would they be?
“If I Only Had a Brain” from the Wizard of Oz.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
I know it’s kind of weird for a fiction writer, but I mainly read non-fiction (e.g., science, history, philosophy, etc.), but when I do read fiction it’s either a classic (like Moby Dick or Don Quixote) or a literary satire of some sort (e.g., Candide, The Fall, etc). And as you’d expect, literary satire is my favorite genre to write in as well since satire is the perfect literary platform because it allows both the writer and the reader to explore the landscape of the human experience, the absurdity, the grandeur, the mystery, the horror—not with a sermon or a polemic or a sigh, but with a laugh and a nodding smile of recognition.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
“What is Life” by Schrodinger “National Audubon Society Field Guild to Trees” “The Phenomenon of Man” by Teilhard de Chardin “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Gibbon.
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
There’s a fantastic scene in Chapter 35 of Water Memory, where, in a case of mistaken identity, Hertell is introduced to a massive stadium full of people, accompanied by a choir, a brass ensemble, a harp, a Hammond B-3 organ, and because it’s set in Bakersfield, a guy in a cowboy hat with a pedal steel guitar. It was an absolute blast not only to write but also to record for the audiobook (complete with sound effects and preacher chords on the Hammond B-3).
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
I don’t know if it’s a habit, or just a quirky practice. In any case it’s a technique I’ve used since I was a playwright in which I’d intentionally write myself into a corner, such that the reader (or audience member) wonders, “how does he get out of this?” This would force me to come up with something, a twist, an unexpected turn, to send the story in some unpredictable direction. It made the writing process fun, and helped keep me (as I wrote it) and the reader (as they read it) guessing about where the story was going to go.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
Yes, “Fiction slightly askew” is my motto because I’ve always operated under the belief that you can’t make up stuff any weirder than it really is. No need for magic wands or alien life forms or mystical powers, just characters, their circumstances, the events that overtake them and their responses, and all of it happening in a world just like the real one we live in, but not quite the same. A realistic, or at least recognizable world just like ours, only a little bit off to the side, and tilted at an odd angle (i.e., fiction slightly askew).
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
That they laughed out loud many times.
Tom Strelich is the author of the new book Water Memory: A Novel
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