If you're like me, you're always curious to know how a story or novel takes root in an author's mind. Who are the characters influenced by? How much of the plot is based on actual events from the author's life?
Today, bizarro author David W Barbee is going to satisfy that curiosity by giving us a peek into his most recent novel Bacon Fried Bastard, which released back in November with Eraserhead Press....
Where Bacon Fried Bastard's Roots Came From
My most recent book is about alcoholism, so I’ve gotten a few questions about my personal experience with the stuff. People are surprised to find out that I barely touch the devil’s drink. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have experience with it.
My dad never drank, either. The reason was his own father, James. Everybody in my family still calls James “Big Daddy,” the sort of folksy name people down south give their grandfathers. My grandmother, “Big Mama,” had nothing for him but hatred because of all the things he’d put her through. She just called him James. It was cold and impersonal, and I liked that, so that’s what I call him, too. I never knew him, anyway. I only met the man twice, and the second time was at his funeral.
My dad talked about his own upbringing so my sisters and I would understand that he barely knew what he was doing. Big Mama worked all the time to support everybody, barely making ends meet. James was perpetually drunk, moving around and living from one bender to the next. So there were no parenting skills passed down to my dad. He was winging it. We knew this because he was telling little children bedtime stories about the shenanigans his alcoholic father would get into.
James hid bottles all over the place. He’d hide them behind doors and in the walls. He jimmied open the television to hide bottles there, or, better yet, the air conditioning unit. That way the liquor would be cold. Often he would forget where he hid his bottles and they’d stay there until he found them by accident, which to him must have felt like Christmas morning. When my dad and his siblings had enough of this, they started stealing his bottles and pouring the booze down the kitchen sink.
James once sat in a chair in the living room and drank a gallon of vodka all at once. He passed out in that chair for three days and his own children thought he was dead. One time he was walking down the street, didn’t realize he was stepping off a curb, and fell flat on his face in the road, giving himself brain damage. He also liked to fight, though he never won. James was scrawny and uncoordinated, but alcohol made him feel brave, so he’d challenge men to a fight and get walloped. He challenged Big Mama several times, and on one occasion she shattered a bottle across his head and the glass nearly sliced his ear off.
The first time I met James, I was still a kid. We drove out to the psychiatric facility he was living in. It was my dad and uncle and my sister and me. James didn’t recognize any of us, but he could turn on the charm when he needed to. He told my dad and uncle how much he appreciated their friendship. He remarked on how big my sister and I had grown, though he’d never met us before. It was surreal to see the subject of all those humorous stories, moving slow and mumbling his words.
It was hard for me to resent him in any way, but that’s mostly because I was never there to deal with him in person. From a distance, James wasn’t evil in my eyes. He was just weak and stupid. (For true evil, I’d have to tell you about my mother’s father, but that’s another story)
After James’ death, I started to learn other things about him. How he only had a third grade education. How he taught himself to read with a dictionary. How he started drinking after the death of his own mother, who he had been terribly close to. How she had been raped as a child and then, on the cusp of womanhood, watched the man she loved shot in the back on her own front porch. By her own father. James could be charming, but down inside he was missing something, and it ate at him. He felt weak and stupid, so he drank to medicate the misery, which only led him to be weak and stupid on a much grander scale.
Which brings me back to my book, Bacon Fried Bastard. Granted, this story is about a pig monster in a fantastical alien landscape, but the emotions are the same, and the emotions are what matter most. Drug narratives are usually about the downward spiral of the depraved addict. “These are the ugly consequences of your drug habit!” I wanted my story to be about the misery beneath the habit. I wanted a powerful Mr. Hyde type of character who loses his transformative elixir and slides back into Dr. Jekyll, and all the misery that comes with changing back to that wretched and pathetic thing you hate most of all: yourself.
David W. Barbee is an author born, raised, and residing in Central Georgia. He is a member of the bizarro community and has had five books published through Eraserhead Press. His most recent novel, Bacon Fried Bastard, is a weird riff on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde featuring alcoholic pork and narcotic bacon. You can find him on facebook, twitter, or wordpress.