Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Interview with humorist Bryan Taylor

There are some laughs in store today because Bryan Taylor is here to talk about his novel The Three Sisters.

Bryan is giving away a signed paperback copy of his book to a lucky commenter -- use the form below to enter for a chance to win.

Bryan Taylor is a double PK, a preacher’s kid of a preacher’s kid. With that legacy he faced two destinies, being an unhappy triple PK (Jubilees 17:23, “He that is born unto the son of a preacher and himself preaches shall be miserable until his dying day and suffer eternal damnation.”), or being sacrilegious and happy.

He decided to forsake the Southern Baptists for Catholicism, but when he applied to join a convent, he was rejected (sex discrimination!), so he decided to do the next best thing: write a novel about the three nuns he would most like to meet.

Bryan Taylor was born in Louisiana, grew up in Michigan and Texas, went to school in Tennessee, South Carolina, and California, taught in Switzerland for a year, and has traveled to 50 countries, more than any Pope except Saint John Paul II. He now lives in California, which is one of the few places with people crazier than him.

Welcome, Bryan! Please tell us about your current release.
The Three Sisters is about three former nuns who just want to have fun! But when they have too much fun and get in trouble with the law, they become nuns on the run. The novel is set back in 1979 and primarily takes place in Washington, D.C.

Coito Gott is the leader of the group who survived twelve years of Catholic School. She never liked the way the nuns treated her, so after she is kicked out of college, she becomes a novitiate so she can change the Catholic Church from the inside, but soon realizes this is a lost cause.

After escaping from the convent with a priest who falls for her, she meets Theodora Suora in Appalachia and Regina Grant in Washington, D.C., and thus, the three sisters are born.

Driving back to Washington, D.C. where they work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Parts, the three sisters are arrested in Tennessee. After defeating the local deputy in strip poker, they escape from jail, and are pursued by the zealous, misogynistic Detective Schmuck Hole, who has personally offered a $10,000 reward for their capture on the 700 Club.

The Three Sisters is a humorous, adult satire that skewers not only organized religion, but the government, the media, intellectuals, corporate greed, and every other part of the establishment. As I like to say, maybe not the greatest story ever told, but possibly the funniest.

What inspired you to write this book?
I conceived the plot of the book back in college when a friend of mine gave me photos of some nuns she had found in a book. I turned one of the pictures into a Wanted poster, and the second into a story about three nuns kidnapping an elderly couple and demanding three well-built men in exchange.

People thought the posters outside my dorm room were funny and wondered what the nuns were going to do next. Not one to deny the demands of my public, I started “publishing” an episode each week and thus the tale of the three was born.

In graduate school, I converted this into a novel. I sent the book off to various people, but for some reason, I had no success in convincing agents and publishers to take on a novel about rebellious former nuns who are hunted down by a misogynistic, Catholic-loathing detective.

The novel sat in my closet for the next 30 years until a writer friend of mind told me how easy it was to get self-publish. I only had a typewritten manuscript of The Three Sisters, since it had been written before computers made publishing and editing so simple. So I took the next logical step, and outsourced my nuns to India. They actually enjoyed the visit since they had never been there and were tired of being stuck on the upper shelf in my closet. I got a Word version of the novel, found a good editor, worked with her on getting it published, and now my three former nuns are ready to entertain and astonish the world with their exploits.

(From Chapter 1)
One of our goals in Catholic School was to save the Pagan Babies. For only five dollars, which seemed like a pretty good deal to me, we could get a Pagan Baby baptized and sent to heaven. They even showed us short movies of Catholic missionaries in Africa baptizing the Pagan babies to spur us on. We could buy a saint stamp for ten cents to paste in a book, and when the book was full, we could redeem the book for a Pagan Baby, whom we could name on our Pagan Baby Adoption Certificate. When we were first told about this opportunity, I rushed home to my parents and said, “Guess what, I’m going to have a baby, and she’s black,” which would have given my dad multiple heart attacks were it not for the biological impossibility of my statement at that tender age.

These Catholic equivalents to S&H Green Stamps prepared us for the future because they taught us how to buy on the installment plan. I asked our teacher if our book were half full, if we could we redeem it for half a Pagan Baby, but she said no, so there was always a rush to fill the book before the Pagan Baby Awards Day ceremony. There was a poster with Jesus in a pastoral scene at the front of the classroom and every time someone adopted a Pagan Baby, we got to add a child to the poster. By the end of the school year, Jesus had become the most prolific father in history.

In a way I thought the pagans were lucky. They automatically went to limbo and didn’t risk going to Hell until the missionaries baptized them. I could just imagine tribes fleeing the missionaries to make sure they kept their spot reserved in limbo. When my mother told me that our dog had gone to “Doggie Heaven,” I wondered whether unbaptized pagan dogs went to “Doggie Limbo.”

After realizing that once the Pagan Babies were baptized, they too would need a Catechism to guide them along the straight and narrow path, I wrote K’s Catechism for Cannibals in perfect Palmer Method penmanship, providing dozens of important questions and answers as well as prayers written just for the pagan cannibals.

Q: Is it better to cook a Virgin Martyr or a Heretic?
A: It is better to cook a Virgin Martyr than a Heretic because the Virgin Martyr is sweeter to the palate and the meat is softer to cook than that of a Heretic.

Q: Should a converted Cannibal woman continue to walk around topless?
A: A converted Cannibal should continue to walk around topless because Priests are celibate and will not be tempted.

I even provided the cannibals with a prayer to say before each meal.
Our Martyr, who hath been cooked, blessed be thy meat. Thy flesh be done, so thy sweet taste will fill us when we eat.

I sold my literary creation to my fellow students for a dime and then contributed all my earnings to converting the Pagan Babies in Africa. Despite my altruistic intentions, when the sisters got a copy of my addition to the canon, they imposed an excessive number of penances on me. The nun who imposed the greatest guilt and fear in us was Sister Mary Margaret whom we referred to as Attilla the Nun because she behaved more like a four-foot, ten-inch tall Auschwitz prison matron than a Sister of Mercy. Some students were convinced that not only did she have eyes in the back of her head, but that the Blessed Virgin Mary had endowed her with the ability to see through walls and read our minds. It was rumored that she made extra money in the summer by training Marine Drill Sergeants, and we had no doubt that she gave every penny she made to the church. We joked that Satan would rather do battle with the Archangel Gabriel than Sister Mary Margaret because at least Satan had a chance with Gabriel. Even K watched her step around Attila the Nun.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Most of the people who have read The Three Sisters have wondered if there is going to be a sequel or if it will be part of a series, so I’ve been thinking about what new trouble my nuns could get themselves into. In the meantime, I’ve been writing some short stories, about the bizarre ideas that pop into my head, about a miracle-working saint in Central America, about having face-to-face interviews with Jesus (it turns out Jesus loved to play practical jokes on the Pharisees), about Al Gore’s Cannibal CafĂ©’s, about an embalmed dictators tour, you know, the usual things. I’m sure at some point, they will all coalesce into my next novel.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It would have to be in college when I put together The Three Sisters. Everyone seemed to enjoy my serial and the humor, so I was hooked. On the other hand, after I finished the novel in 1983, I didn’t touch it again until 2012, so I’ll have to admit, I do have some long periods of writer’s block.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
No, I don’t write full time. I got a Ph.D. in Economics (hope the mention of Economics didn’t scare everyone off), and I spend most of my time analyzing and organizing financial data on the stock market (there went the last person. Is someone snoring?) In addition to the Nun’s Blog which I write for my novel and put on the Three Sisters website, I also write a blog on the stock market and on financial history. So far, my blog for the stock market has gotten more attention than the blog by my nuns, which is a bit of a disappointment, but since nuns live in poverty and people are interested in the stock market to make money, I can understand the result. I write on the stock market at work and on nuns at home after work. Maybe I should write a novel about nuns who put together mathematical algorithms based upon Gregorian Chant that they use to make a killing in the futures market.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I talk to the ceramic penguins in my yard to get inspiration. They inspire me, and bizarre ideas that pop into my head and find their way into the novel. I love to play with words and twist them around to give them new meaning.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Alive mainly. I didn’t want to be a nun. I would have had to have a sex change and follow the rules, and those would be two things I couldn’t abide by. To be honest, I never had anything that I clearly wanted to aim for.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I enjoyed the whole process of publishing my novel on my own. I could do exactly what I wanted to with the book and make it come out just as I wanted it to be. I had some great editors who supported me throughout the process. I don’t think the book would have been the same if I had gone through a mainstream publisher. The book wouldn’t have had the crazy humor, the unusual plot twists, the illustrations from Catholic books from 100 years ago or the stylistic idiosyncrasies that make the novel what it is. The trade-off of publishing your book independently is that it is much harder to get noticed and get people to read your book, but it’s worth it. You can make sure the novel is what you want it to be, not what someone else thinks the public wants it to be. Without e-books and Amazon and other resources, my book might never have been published because it doesn’t fit into any pre-defined category, it would have been too controversial for many publishers to take the chance, and even if they had, they probably would have wanted to shape it to be like the book they would have written, not like the book I wanted it to be. So if you want to publish a book on your own, just do it.

Thanks, Bryan!

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for hosting today:)