Bhumika here, a not so lowly, down-trodden, or put upon intern for the AJC Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical. I was recently given the spectacular opportunity of emailing Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s publicist with questions I wanted to ask Dr. Soup. Dr. Soup, in case you didn’t already know, is the writer of A Whole Nother Story. A Whole Nother Story is about the Cheeseman family who are on the run from super secret agents.
After a long semester of heavy historical treatises, I wanted something light, and A Whole Nother Story is light, funny, and adorable. The mother of the Cheesemen children was killed by secret agents trying to steal Mr. Cheeseman’s mysterious invention. Their psychic dog, Pinky, warms them when these agents are close. The family moves from place to place and changes identities frequently in order to stay a step ahead of these murderous enemies. Along the way, the Cheesemens help a few people out who later come in handy when they’re in trouble.
Dr. Soup, in his extraordinary story about the Cheesemans, addresses many concerns children sometimes face, like the difficulties of making a new friend, the struggles which come from moving, and the sadness of the loss of a close family member. As I read, I found myself asking a few questions,and thankfully, I was able to get my questions answered. They range from inquiries into his education, into his eating habits as well as about his book and his writing habits. Here are the responses to my questions.
- Dr. Soup, what are you a doctor of?
I am a doctor of the utmost importance as I hold a Ph.D. in Unsolicited Advice.
- Where did you get your doctorate?
My doctorate was issued by the highly esteemed Southwestern North Dakota State University, where I also played quarterback for the SWNDSU Fighting Paperclips. Go Clips!
- What is your favorite recipe?
My favorite recipe is, without a doubt, the one for my mother’s famous Spam chowder. Unfortunately, because it is a closely guarded family secret, I am unable at this time to reveal the secret ingredient that gives this dish its special ham-like flavor.
- What do you think of breakfast? What did you eat for breakfast?
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so it would have you believe. Therefore, you should always eat something that makes you happy.
Unfortunately, because I have a severe allergy to all circular foods, I am unable to eat many of the things that most people enjoy for breakfast. These would include: Cheerios, Fruit Loops, bagels, doughnuts, English muffins, pizza and most types of cookies.
This morning, my breakfast consisted of two slices of rectangular wheat toast and two rather shapeless scrambled eggs.
- What books are on your reading list?
I am currently reading a very fascinating book called “How to Catch Up on Your Reading.” It’s six hundred pages long so I have had to put the rest of my reading list on hold for now.
- What is your favorite book from your childhood?
I have many favorite books from my childhood but I cannot think one that captured my imagination quite like Treasure Island.
- Where do you get your inspiration? Why did you write A Whole Nother Story?
Inspiration is a funny thing, like dogs wearing sweaters or Jell-O with fruit floating in it.
My inspiration for A Whole Nother Story was the result of a trip to my friendly neighborhood bookstore. And when I say friendly, I mean a little too friendly. They hug you on the way in. Creepy, to say the least.
Anyway, while perusing the bookstore aisles (and dodging the overly familiar sales staff) I spotted, high upon one of the shelves, a very conspicuous empty slot. Needless to say I was appalled and I decided right there and then that someone needed to write something immediately in order to fill that awful black hole of booklessness. That person, I decided, should be Nathaniel Hawthorne. Then I remembered that Nathaniel Hawthorne is dead. I realized then that it would be up to me to plug up that awful void between War and Peace and Wig Making for Dummies. The result is A Whole Nother Story. Perhaps I’ll tell it to you sometime.
- You play with names in A Whole Nother Story. Why? Do you have multiple names?
I suppose it could be said that I have multiple names being that my full name is Cuthbert Hubert Egbert Soup and my real last name is Schoupenstein, which was shortened when my family immigrated to America from Vienna at the height of the Great Sausage Famine. I don’t mind the fact that they chose to shorten my family name but to be honest it makes my cousin, Minestrone, absolutely livid.
- Is A Whole Nother Story based on true events?
I’m glad you asked me that question because if I had asked you, it might have resulted in some serious confusion. Yes, the story is based on actual events. In fact, if I had to estimate, I’d say that 95% of the story is absolutely 37% true. The rest is based on my interpretation of certain Beatles lyrics.
- What events from the story mirror your life? Did you move much as a child? Did super secret agents ever chase you?
Though I was never chased by secret agents, my father was in the army so we were constantly having to move because he was a deserter.
Also, like the Cheesemans, I have a psychic dog. Mine growls at bad guys on TV. He also growls at horses, whether they are bad or not. Trying to watch a Western with bad guys riding horses can make for a very long evening.
- Where is your favorite place to work?
Unlike most writers today I do not use a computer. I write the old fashioned way: on the walls of caves. Unlike computers, caves rarely crash. The lighting may not always be ideal and the air can get a bit stuffy but, still, it is my favorite place to work.
- What advice would you offer to aspiring writers? What writing rules do you live by?
To young writers I will say this. I truly believe that everyone could become a better writer and would have a lot more fun doing it if they began to look at words as they would a lump of clay. When working a shapeless blob of clay into a vase, a bowl, a bust of Beethoven, an exact replica of Michelangelo’s David, a dog, a cat or the always reliable snake, the process involves adding, taking away, rearranging and shaping until the clay conforms to the vision you had for it in your mind.
Remember, working with words is like working with clay, not marble. If you make a mistake working with marble, you could end up with a headless dog or a one-eyed Beethoven. (By the way, both excellent names for rock bands.) But with clay there are no mistakes, only the ongoing process toward your vision. Having a firm grasp of the English language is like having a limitless supply of clay and with it you can sculpt anything.
- Are you excited about the AJC Decatur Book Festival ?
Of course I’m excited about the festival. If it’s anything at all like the Renaissance festival I attended a couple of weeks ago, I can’t wait to see authors jousting.