I started writing this book the day after I filed the very last “Ask an Uptight Seattleite,” a satirical advice column I wrote for three years for the Seattle Weekly. Humor is an unforgiving genre. It exposes you as a writer. There’s nothing worse than something that’s something that’s supposed to be funny and isn’t! And if something is unclear or boring, you can’t hide behind the premise that you’re being enigmatic and “literary.” In writing the Uptight character, the more outlandish his ideas were, the simpler the language had to be. I was lucky to have an editor at the Seattle Weekly, Mark Fefer, who taught me the power of staying within defined parameters.
I wanted to take the discipline I learned writing the Uptight Seattleite and apply it to a genre I’ve always loved, crime fiction. This book took so long to finish that it became a joke among my friends, who started to think they’d never see it. This was partly due to various life events (deaths, break-ups), but also because the editing process was so time consuming. I did many, many editorial passes to fix or delete awkward phrases and other things that slowed down the story. I tried to follow Elmore Leonard’s famous dictum: If it sounds like writing, take it out.
While editing should be rigorous, you can’t give in to self-loathing (a specialty of writers everywhere). You have to believe there’s something good under the clutter. My vision of the city of Plankton felt like a transmission from somewhere else. The editing process was an effort to get a clean signal. Plankton is largely drawn from the Seattle of the 90s and early 2000s. It’s a kind of cartoon version of that time. A cartoon for adults.
I wouldn’t have finished this book without the encouragement and guidance of my friend and colleague Damon Agnos, and the whole crew at Mouse House Books. Writers and artists should do that for each other—give positive energy when self-doubt is strongest. I hope I do this.
It’s a weird time to be promoting something as frivolous as a crime novel, what with all the impending fascism and environmental apocalypse. Yet we must continue to live our lives. I couldn’t function without visions and stories—whether in books, art galleries, or on Netflix. I’m very proud of the book and hope that it will provide that same visionary escape for readers.