Author Interview with Michael Buckley
Get to know Michael…
Sometime after college Buckley moved to New York City to start an internship with the Late Show with David Letterman, then moved into a television production job where he worked on documentaries. His books are published by Harry N. Abrams.
Recently, Buckley and his writing partner, Joe Deasy, created a new animated series for Cartoon Network called Robotomy. Buckley and Deasy executive produced as well as wrote the first season that starred Patton Oswalt and Dana Snyder (Master Shake from Aqua Teen Hunger Force). The series aired in CN’s prime time block.
He is currently writing the screenplay for a N.E.R.D.S. animated feature developed by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures.
Michael Buckley is married to Alison Fargis, a literary agent and co-owner of Stonesong Press, and they have a son, Finn.
What dead person would you least want to be haunted by?
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen?
I worked on a documentary about Sideshow performers and saw a man shove bicycle spokes through his arms and legs.
What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever been to?
NOBU – the best sushi ever.
What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen someone do?
I think all those people who got to Walmart on Thanksgiving night and fistfight for toasters and towels are clearly a lost cause.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?
Narrowing it down would be impossible. I’ve done a lot of very dumb things. I’m sure I’ll do plenty more. It’s only 10 am here so I have a whole day of dumb stuff ahead of me.
If you were a cartoon, who would you be?
Mr. Peabody. I think it would be fun to be a super-genius dog with a pet boy and a time machine.
What’s the funniest prank ever played on you?
Those who were foolish enough to play pranks on me were never seen again.
Do you believe in UFOs?
I think I do. I recently read that scientists believe there is a planet circling every star in the sky. That’s a lot of planets so I have to think that one of them has people on it who may be a little further down the road than we are.
Define the worst day ever.
Any day where I have to get up before 7 am is the worst day ever. I like to sleep and I rarely get to do it. Tax day kinda sucks, too.
What song best describes your work ethic?
“Everyday I Write the Book” by Elvis Costello.
What’s your motto in life?
“You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
What is the most vivid or realistic dream you’ve ever had?
I dreamed I was a child on a beach building a sand castle when a crowd of people walked out of the ocean. They had weapons and bizarre armor and I could see their feet as they walked passed. It was so powerful I wrote it down and now I’m writing a novel about it.
If you could make something in life go away, what would it be?
Oh, I think the annoying things are important, really. They make life interesting. They make great stories, too. It’s the frustrations in life that give it so much flavor and in my experience the really annoying things and people come and go pretty fast. I wish Miley Cyrus would stop sticking out her tongue but she’ll be gone in a year or two so I just have to be patient.
If you were a road sign, what would you be?
Scenic Route Ahead.
If you were to attend a costume party, who would you be?
I love Halloween, it’s easily my favorite holiday and I dress up with my son every year. I don’t know how long I have until he finds this embarrassing so I’m trying to squeeze in the fun stuff while I can. Right now I’d love to go as Gene Simmons from Kiss – I want the boots and the fire breathing and the whole bit.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I remember my parents bought me a Smokey the Bear stuffed animal. It had a forest rangers cap and a hard, plastic badge on its chest and I loved it.
What food item would you remove from the market altogether?
Mayonnaise. I hate it. It’s also insanely bad for you – just a big jar of fat that people spread on everything. I would love for that to go away. I hate going to deli’s for sandwiches and having to watch the guy making my food because all the fatties love this stuff and everyone uses it. I’ve had to send sandwiches back four or five times because slathering that nastiness was so part of the routine he couldn’t stop himself. I also hate picnics and events because everyone loves macaroni and potato salad. It’s amazing people’s heart don’t just explode at church picnics.
What’s the worst thing you did as a kid?
I was a delightful, angelic child!!!!
If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?
The New Girl – I laugh out loud at that show. I truly think its one of the funniest sitcoms on network TV.
What’s your favorite zoo animal?
Gotta go with the monkeys.
Have you been told you look like someone famous?
I get Bill Clinton a lot but my favorites were Richard Gere and Simon Le Bond and there was a guy on Gray’s Anatomy I used to hear. I don’t see any of them when I look in the mirror. I think I look like Yosemite Sam.
If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be?
Doctor’s appointments. I hate going to the doctor and waiting in their overbooked offices. You’re trapped there – unsure of whether they have forgotten you, then they rush you in to see the doctor who gives you ten seconds because he’s got twenty other people in those little rooms waiting too. Being a doctor must suck and they don’t make it any easier on us.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?
I have a few already – one of a rocket and one of Saturn. I want more. I really like them so I’ll keep you in the loop.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I would love to fire all the old ladies who keep funny books out of the hands of reluctant readers. The one’s that turn their noses up at Captain Underpants and Wimpy Kid. Those people do an incredible disservice to children and should be fired.
What made you decide to follow a creative career choice (though possibly risky) rather than something more stable?
I wasn’t good at anything else. I tried other things but this was the one that I loved. I’ve been fired from almost every job I ever had.
In terms of your writing, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be known as a writer who tried to grow as a writer, who didn’t do the safe thing by writing the same kinds of books over and over again. I get bored and want to grow and challenge myself. It’s going to lead to a very eclectic body of work.
How has personal experience influenced your writing?
Writing is all personal experiences. Most of the best stuff I’ve done is rooted in a very personal moment or feeling I’ve had. If you want to bring truth to what you do there has to be some truth you have seen and felt and heard and smelled and tasted.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
I keep cashing the checks the publisher sends and spending the money. Nothing motivates you like having to deliver something. Seriously, I have a huge imagination so I’m never short for ideas and really, when you can have the best job in the world what other motivation do you need?
If you had to start over, would you choose a different path in your career?
I’m always starting over. I’ve written two series and I’m working on a third. Each is wildly different than the last and the newest thing is even more out of left field. I don’t believe in formulas or doing what’s easy. You have to start over every single time you start a new project or you are failing at what you do.
What do you do to get into your writing zone?
I have no idea. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not and there isn’t a thing I can do about it. It’s frustrating but completely out of my control.
What is your favorite accomplishment?
Being on the NY Times bestseller list the first time was pretty awesome, but I’d say marrying my wife and having our little boy together are the things I most cherish.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
Oh, there are plenty of jokes in there for specific people in my life and moments that I’ve shared with friends. Sometimes a character is named after an old buddy, sometimes an old bully, too.
Do you pay attention to others’ strong reactions to your work? Does that affect what you create?
Well, yeah. I pay attention because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m the kind of person that can get a thousand good reviews but will only remember the one that was bad. But it never changes what I do. I just keep doing it. I’m hoping to win that guy over eventually.
If your writing were edible, what would it taste like?
Hmmm – I think it might be a ice cream that had a sort of special touch. It’s sweet and fun but there would be something in it that would surprise you – something you wouldn’t expect in the ice cream, like bacon. You would eat it expecting this delicious treat and there would be a flavor that would make you think – why didn’t I think this would be good. Bacon is yummy in ice cream. BTW – a little bit of salty bacon in ice cream is really pretty great.
Have you ever felt enlightened by an event in the past that has given you a new perspective on life?
Everyday. Really, it happens every day. Last night I saw a Irish play and it was hilarious and sad and scary all at once and I was stunned that a story like that could come from one person. It makes me want to write better.
Has rejection ever affected your desire to continue writing?
Not really. It just makes me mad and makes me work harder. I feel like the people who truly succeed in this business are people who feel they have a lot to prove. I feel like there’s a lot of people in my life that need to be reminded how wrong they were about me. Each success I have is my way of kicking them in the pants.
What kind of jobs did you have before your career took off?
What didn’t I do? Ugh, Taco Bell and Olive Garden and I worked in TV and advertising and coffee shops. I even waited tables in a comedy club I had performed in a hundred times. Everyone should have to wait on tables – it teaches you a lot about people and what they need.
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your writing journey?
My fourth grade teacher told me that I would never be a writer because I wasn’t a good speller. There has never been anything in my life that I’ve heard that was more wrong than that – sadly, I believed it. You believe grown ups – especially teachers. Turns out, she had no idea what she was talking about. Thank God I discovered it for myself.
If you had the chance to live during a different artistic movement other than now, which one would you choose?
I would have loved to live in NYC during the late sixties and seventies – during the birth of punk rock. I would love to have been able to write about that.
If you could interview any author (past or present), who would you choose?
Moses – I’ve got a lot of questions about his editing process.
If you could choose a theme song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. It’s a song about hope and a reminder to get out of bed and get some work done.
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