BY NICK OLIG
Short of roaming the streets, hollering through a megaphone—which is really more of a summer activity—there is little I won’t do to promote a book I wrote. When I relayed this sentiment to my editor at Scene, his response was unexpected. In essence, he said, “Go interview yourself.” I took that as a positive since there were worse words he could have used in place of “interview.”
Since I self-published More Stories, and Additional Stories, I suppose the next logical step in publicity is to self-interview. Right?! Honestly, I’m just trying to figure life out as I go along.
Now, before readers lose their patience and dare me to do something to myself that has nothing to do with interviewing, it’s worth noting that before I begrudgingly settled for me, the top three Q & A maestros I had in mind were Conan, Oprah, and my own mother. All three declined and threatened a lawsuit if I ever called them again. I kid! She is a truly amazing woman worthy of infinite gratitude… and now that I think of it, the same goes for my mom.
My fourth choice was, at least, willing to talk to me—and so here we go.
N.O. 1: Thanks for setting aside an hour or so to do this interview.
N.O. 2: You’re welcome. Once we realized that we both have Wednesday nights free, the puzzle pieces just sort of fell in place.
N.O. 1: Let’s get down to brass tacks, Nick. To promote More Stories, and Additional Stories, is there some kind of an ugly jumble of letters that can be put on this page, newspaper or otherwise?
N.O. 2: I’m so glad you asked that question. Yes. http://www.amazon.com/More-Stories-Additional-Nick-Olig-ebook/dp/B00PJB4XPS
N.O. 1: Whoa! It looks like the alphabet got into a car wreck and then staggered out, spewing characters.
N.O. 2: I never thought of it that way…
N.O. 1: Do you remember stuff about the book that you could—oh, I don’t know… maybe describe to people?
N.O. 2: Definitely. It’s a collection of funny short stories, loosely formatted like a newspaper. That means it’s sectioned into topics one might find in a newspaper: Top Stories, Entertainment, Local News, Opinion, Personal Ads, Obituary, and Bottom Stories. And within every chapter, I’m mostly trying to get laughs, but a lot of sincere emotions and revelatory thoughts went into the book as well, and so everyone who reads the book will ideally laugh, think, and have their emotions moved. In a quirky way, the book was partially inspired by Jim Valvano’s “Don’t ever give up” speech.
N.O. 1: I’m sorry man, but what the hell kind of a summary is that?
N.0. 2: Well, there are 34 different stories (plus a foreword by my editor, Tyler Maas, who was incredibly helpful throughout the process), and each story has its own summary, so that’s where it gets tricky to summarize everything. I can give you examples, though. “The Cat Lady and the Munsons,” one of the Top Stories, is about childhood adventures, sneaking into the soon-to-be condemned house of a mythical cat lady in my best friend’s neighborhood, having slam dunk contests on an adjustable hoop with mini-basketballs, and staging X-Men battles at the park, pretending to be superheroes alongside the incorrigible Munsons, who really set the bar high when it came to bad behavior.
N.O. 1: I trust you just a little bit more. Go on…
N.O. 2: In the Entertainment section, I deliver stories about TV shows, movies, and popular music. There’s one called “Billy Joel Is My Generation’s Dad,” which I like to think is a pretty self-explanatory title for the children of Baby Boomers. Local News shows my fondness for the kind of fake news one gets from The Onion or Weekend Update. I included a story about a vacuum cleaner outlet going out of business. During his final commercial, the owner laments that he just wanted to compete with Dirt Devil, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea, only he misguidedly named his vacuum line Soil Satan, and his store became swarmed with Satanists and Christians protesting each other.
N.O. 1: Whoa. I like it but it sounds pretty bonkers. Maybe dial down the crazy a tad.
N.O. 2: Sure. Admittedly, I do have some satirical, offbeat tendencies, but redemption is very important to me as well. I write a couple kooky yet heartfelt letters to my three-year-old nephew, explaining to him the realities of Santa and the plight of the Chicago Cubs.
Another one, “The Mario 2 Outlook,” gets goofy-philosophical and explains why daydreamers and misfits have long-preferred Mario 2 to its more popular counterparts for the Nintendo. “The Appendix Is a Lazy Psycho” is in there because the vermiform appendix needs to be protested. Finally, the Bottom Stories are the most personal and vulnerable pieces I’ve done so far. That’s part of the reason why I originally wanted Oprah to be on the other side of this interview.
N.O. 1: Well, we’re stuck with each other, so deal with it. This is better than nothing, right?
N.O. 2: That’s true! And it’s a nice segue to an endearing theme of the book: Something is better than nothing. So, learn to love something, because nothing is for nihilists, and nobody is worse than a nihilist. In the Bottom Stories, especially, I wanted to acknowledge all the heartache and resentment in this world, and still affirm that it’s all completely, 100% worth the trouble.
N.O. 1: That’s beautiful. You know, at first I thought you were a flaky smart-ass, but I’ve warmed up to you—so much so that I’m going to try to set you up on a hot date.
N.O. 2: Awesome. I’ll shower and brush my teeth and be polite and everything. But I should pass along that if she hates The Simpsons, then there’s a good chance the date would be doomed.