Tony Bender: More Q&A with Tony

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More Q&A with Tony

Q: Tony, “If Every Month Were June,” has been called by some readers one of the funniest books they’ve read—what’s your reaction?

A: Resentment. I mean I tried to write something deep and meaningful—a burning metaphor for our times. Originally, the protagonist was a white whale, but since the book opens in Colorado, I couldn’t get the whale to live much past the second chapter. I found myself stretching the eulogy.

Q: Instead, you wisely focused your story on the search for a calendar girl in a lime green bikini.

A: Yeah. I didn’t want to stray too far from that whole nautical theme. I’m sort of inflexible that way.

Q: Where did the story and all those eccentric characters come from?

A: I was in a Barnes and Noble bookstore looking at all the calendars they had for sale. One of them was the Sports Illustrated calendar. I remember paging through it and stopping dead on Miss June and thinking there was no point in going on. How could you top that? So the title, “If Every Month Were June,” evolved from that. And the characters in the book… you know that disclaimer where it says that all characters bear no resemblance to any persons living or dead? That’s my official answer. And if you try to pin on me what I am about to tell you, I will just claim I misquoted myself. Anyway, the spiritual center of the book is a homeless clarinet player based on a guy I met in downtown Denver years ago. He was playing in front of a sign that read, “War is Over.” I liked the sentiment. I have seen him a couple of times since during visits to Denver. The last time he was playing in a wheelchair near Coors Field. I gave him a few bucks and told him I had written about him in a novel. I’m sure he thought I was a nut. But I’m going to give him a book the next time I get to Denver if I can find him.

Q: “June” tells the story of Hooter Pridley, described as short on smarts and long on luck, whose infatuation with a calendar leads him on a search for a perfect girl, who isn’t quite as perfect as she seems. Is there a moral to the story?

A: Actually, having written two serious, soul-searching novels, which were not only rejected but literally spat and stomped upon by publishers, I decided to write “June” without any sense of obligation to include any sense of morality. The idea was to maintain a dispassionate satirical tone, but I’ll be darned if all sorts of heart and life lessons didn’t keep leaking into the book. I suppose that has something to do with my Lutheran upbringing.

Q: And yet the book is decidedly irreverent. You are betting God has a sense of humor?

A: Exactly. And there were always signs when I was going too far.

Q: Lightning bolts from heaven?

A: Well, I got a static shock from the carpet one time, but that was enough. I’m easily cowed. If I was Pharaoh, one plague is all you’d need. It wouldn’t even have to be a bad one. A couple of fruit flies, and I will set your people free.

Q: Since you seem to skewer just about everyone in this book, who is your target audience? Would my mother like this book?

A: Sure, if she’s some kind of degenerate. I’m kidding! While it seems like an obvious “boy’s book,”actually, women test readers loved the book because they really got the satire. Some guys tended to read it as some kind of demented male fantasy. But the bottom line is it takes you away and makes you laugh, and these days, no one laughs nearly enough.

As of this interview, you’ve signed a contract with a Hollywood production company to option the movie rights to “June.” Isn’t it unusual for that to happen before the book is even released?

A: Ah, yeah. My agent was also at a loss and told me so. It kind of hurt my feelings. I said, “Ahem, excuse me! Maybe it’s because it’s a really good story. I don’t want to go out on a limb here. I’m just sayin’…” Now, the trick is to write everyone I know into the screenplay.

Q: And you?

A: I may try to pull off a Hitchcock. I’ve got the silhouette for it. I have demanded a nudity clause, though.

Q: You won’t show skin?

A: No, I'm demanding to. It could be a deal breaker.