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Kevin Speaks at Torrance Rotary Club

Torrance Del Amo Rotary Club

When: Sep 24, 2019 @ 12pm
Where: The Depot Restaurant
1250 Cabrillo Ave, Torrance, CA 90501


Open to Members and Non-Members alike.  Lunch $25.   Lunch with Guest Speaker Kevin Thompson and hear the story behind the stories of The Pugville Chronicles.  Also visit Torrancerotary.org.

Interview with Michael Dean Jacobs

Reprinted from the interview published on Smashword, June 6, 2019

Question: You’ve been in and around show business for so many years, always as a performer, how did you come to write a book?
Michael: Well, first, I never considered it show business. I took what would be considered today an advanced placement class in summer school when I was really young and learned to read Shakespeare. That was it for me. I’ve spent the rest of my life since looking for a show. What I found writing a book was the thing I had been missing since college or repertory theatre, which is the occasion of total immersion in the material. The stuff I was doing on film and TV rarely afforded that kind of experience.

Q: You’ve been writing comedy for years, how was this different?
Michael: This was a different world. Stand-up and skit comedy is written on your feet, it’s spoken or played out physically. This work is written on your seat. It’s a different discipline and has very different demands. The storytelling is more like acting for me, the way I do it, which is probably less than optimal. I’m a method writer, in that I let the characters move around and find the story organically. It’s the way I enter the world, so I wouldn’t know another way to do it, but when time comes to craft it into a readable version of a real manuscript there’s a lot of rudimentary elements to follow. I wasn’t very good at it, and I got a lot of help from some brilliant and very generous people-shout out to my editor, Mr Bill Greenleaf, and to Mr. Phil Harnage, who provided enormous input throughout an arduous process. I’m much better at it now than I was before.

Q: Why this book? You work in nightclubs and movies, and you wrote a book for children.
Michael: We didn’t know it was a children’s book until we got pretty deep in the process. My friend Kevin pitched me a story one evening hanging out in the yard and I told him it was a good idea. You hear pitches all the time from friends and family, civilians who want to tell you a funny story to use in your act or their idea for a movie. Most of the time they wouldn’t work for various reasons, but Kevin had a good idea. He told me the dogs he never wanted to adopt for his children so long ago would climb on him after work and telepathically relate fantastical adventures. 

We met a few times to hammer the idea into a workable plot. We covered everything from Walter Mitty to Spartacus, and finally landed on a story about how dogs interpret the humanity we model for them in unpredictable ways just like children. So then what if they had to put these impressions into actual societal roles. What if they took over the world?

Q: So the book is a political manifesto?
Michael: No, the book is a humanities manifesto. Whatever politics you get out of it is what you bring to it, and I’ve heard some deep interpretations.

Q: Like what?
Michael: Like the answer to art imitating life or the other way around…the answer is always yes. My greatest delight is people asking if I meant to write their particular world view. I take that as proof that my work is, in fact, art. The conceit of this story is that we’re all raised in a laboratory and the results can be completely different from the same experiments, based on elements of humanity we can’t control. The idea that one observer can see a triumph of the spirit and another can see a tragic cautionary tale is, to me, magnificent. It means we’ve accomplished something, otherwise it would be like reading the baseball scores.

Q: What kinds of politics have people read into your novel?
Michael: It has run the gamut. People have asked in the past two years if it’s a book about the current presidency. It was literally finished in 2014, and I’ve been trying to craft it into a readable version of the story since. So, it couldn’t be about something we couldn’t have imagined. People ask if it’s about climate change, or a rebuke of PC culture…it’s like a fever dream, people see what’s on their own minds.

Q: It is said that people write what they know. What part of this book is a story about you?
Michael: Well, it’s a story about a bunch of dogs and other animals defining their characters and humanities through a series of adventures they can’t escape. But that wasn’t your question…

Q: No, it wasn’t. The question is if the two brothers are opposites, which one are you?
Michael: Yes, that was the question, and my answer is the same as before, and I’m not dodging here, but the answer is that I’m-we’re-all of them. I don’t know if I’m a Betty or Veronica, or a Ginger or a Mary-Ann, or whatever that’s about, but I know that we are all possessed of both sides of the coin. I have a lot of instincts like Tuffy and a lot like Snuffy, and I couldn’t write them if I didn’t. Kevin and I had a million story meetings where we tracked into ideas that the bad brother would do this and the good brother would do that, and we had to stop ourselves and get real. There are no good or bad characters, the brothers are always doing the best, most right thing they can.

Now, I can chart for you the guiding principles, but nobody set out to be wrong or evil, that’s a results based analysis.

Q: But surely you think there’s good and evil in the world?
Michael: I do, but not on purpose. Maybe that makes me a Snuffy, but I never played an evil character that thought he was doing wrong. And I’ve played some evil characters.

Q: Okay then, chart the guiding principles.
Okay, that is a lot to talk about, and I have to preface my remarks by saying I could be full of baloney. Where the book is political in any way would be 14th Century politics, when the French during the Renaissance adopted the three pronged lily as a shield connoting the three pillars of a great society. Some believe the symbol represents toil, or labor, and scholarship, lashed to the center post of faith. I believe Pugville achieves that balance in that it includes the scholarship of Bertrand and Sarah, the toil and the value of hard work in the beasts of burden and their confederates who build and grow the community, and faith represented in Mercy’s journey to breed a new generation, which ties both worlds together. 

Tuffy and Snuffy bring to the story perfectly human instincts for community and order, and they also, on a deeper level, show the tripartite aspects of self found in modern analysis. They are the id and the superego, balanced by the ego, which Tinkerbelle embodies and goes on to model classic existentialism. So there’s deep symbolism in the story, or, as I said, I could be full of baloney.

Q: And the book could just be about a family of dogs?
Right. And it is about a family of dogs, and I think it’s a worthwhile adventure that should keep you entertained. But I decided a long time ago, when I first started in comedy, that if I was going to ask for you attention I was required to have something to say. This book is meant to say something about the human experience.

Q: How is it human when they’re all dogs?
Michael: That’s the best way to tell a human story. The dogs have no excuses, make no interpretations based on outside social factors. You only get out what you put in. If the dogs were people there would be too many variables in the shaping of their personalities. Dogs are perfect mirrors.

Q: The Pugville Chronicles. Volume One, Making it Home. How soon before Volume Two?
Michael: Volume One is finished and available now in multiple formats. I’ve only a few minor assignments to finish before it’s widely available in hardcover, which it is right now through the website at pugvillechronicles.com. We’re organizing sponsorships to place the book in schools and libraries, and we’re building a coloring book from the brilliant illustrations we were lucky to contract through Foreshadow Films. Their web address is on the copyright page, and I recommend everyone look them up. 

There are two volumes simultaneously in process, a sequel and a prequel, and each book is in stiff competition to finish first. After that, I’m going to have some lunch.

Thanks to Smashword for publishing this interview. See the original interview at https://www.smashwords.com/interview/PVC999