I’m a nervous Nelly today. That’s because this afternoon on the radio show (ROI – Relevant or Irrelevant on KALA, St. Ambrose University, 88.5 FM) I get to help interview one of my favorite authors, Mike Perry from Wisconsin. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written, I get his e-newsletter, I know about his band, The Longbeds, (though, I confess, I’ve never actually heard them), I know he adapted his book Population 485 for the stage, and I know he hosts Big Tent Radio up in northern Wisconsin. I’ve seen him multiple times at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City (and will do so again tomorrow night). This is the closest I’ve ever been to being a groupie.
My biggest fear: I will not know what to say when I get the chance to talk with him. And that I’ll sound like a moron.
Most of the time on the show, which I don’t get to take part is as much as I used to due to time and distance from school, I can toss out glib little comments and sound sort of clever and witty. But now I have a vested interest: I’m a fan of our guest. You’d think that would be a good thing. I know lots about his work and the projects he’s been a part of. I know I make a connection to him via his writing and he feels like a kindred spirit.
As my day rolls on, I’ll try to jot down a few things to mention or ask about. References to his books that I’ve read, some more than once, and ask about the next time he’ll be in Mineral Point at the Opera House (so, hopefully, this time I can actually be there). Maybe I can pull up a YouTube video of the Longbeds and actually hear them. Maybe I can joke and say I thought we were interviewing the mixed martial arts fighter Mike Perry, whom I just found when Googling. Really? The sad thing is, there may be more people who know about him than about our Mike Perry, who is articulate and smart and can write like nobody’s business. Who can write like I’d like to write.
If you check out the link to his website, Sneezing Cow (as in “never stand behind a sneezing cow” – yes, this is the author for whom I own all his books), you’ll find the following: “Home of Michael Perry – New York Times Bestselling Author, Humorist, Singer/Songwriter, Intermittent Pig Farmer.” That’s the kind of smart-ass I tend to be in real life, and here, too, I guess. So that’s why there’s such a connection. Of course, I don’t have the New York Times thing behind my name. Yet.
Midwestern! I guess that’s it. We both grew up on farms, we are about the same age (maybe even the exact same, from what I can glean), we lived through the same eras, both have connections to volunteer fire departments, which is why I bought his first book, Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. (you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think; you can buy it on this link – I get no kickbacks for promotion, by the way — just love the guy’s books!). The observations and jokes are so down-to-earth and reach me so much that reading his books feel like having a conversation with a friend (I know – that sounds trite and dorky, but that’s really how it feels for me – like a comfortable pair of old shoes, with warm wool socks and a cup of hot cocoa on a snowy day as I snuggle under a quilt on the porch). Yikes! Sorry about that. I just get carried away sometimes.
“New York Times Bestselling Author.” That’s the one that brings me up short and makes me nervous. Because when I started reading his books, he was just Mike Perry from Wisconsin. Though I daresay that’s probably still how he would describe himself. Just a guy who writes (really well) all kinds of stuff and diversifies in order to make the mortgage and insurance payments, who has a lovely and sage wife and two daughters*, and an awesome ’51 International pickup truck that he and his brother-in-law restored** (making me dream of either restoring Old Yeller, my ’63 Chevy pickup, or winning the lottery and finding a ’55 Chevy). Yup. Just a regular guy. Who also happens to be a NYTimes Bestselling Author, which makes me giddy.
So, wish me luck. I hope I won’t get too tongue-tied or say anything too idiotic. And, if all goes well, maybe I’ll get to have a real, off-air conversation with Mike tomorrow night after his reading at Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City. I’m sure stranger things have happened. Getting the chance to sit down with a New York Times Bestselling Author and have a regular chat would feel pretty surreal but great. I’d buy him a beer, but he doesn’t drink. But maybe I’ll need one.
*read Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting
** read Truck: A Love Story