Interview: Travis Tea
Travis Tea is the author of Atlanta Nights, a novel nominated by at least one reviewer as quite possibly the worst book ever written and dubbed by others as “so bad it’s good.”
It is bad. Really bad. Bad enough that it's destined to be taught in writing classes as an example of what not to do. But it’s also irresistible, like finishing a pint of Chubby Hubby on your own or watching reality T.V.
The plot is incomprehensible, the characters are reprehensible and Tea’s grammar is a copy-editor’s worst nightmare. Chapters of the book are duplicated or missing and one, generated by a randomizing computer program, reads like a hallucination. And, yet, how can you not enjoy lines like these:
He’d killed a man before one time, with his bare hands, and, he could do it again, if he put something in his bare hands like a knife or a gun or something that he could kill somebody with. (Chapter 17)
Callie rubbed her suddenly throbbing head with her fingertips in slow, two-and-three-quarter inch circles. "Fine," she half-spat, one-quarter shrieked, one-quarter shouted, and she snatched her coat from the couch. (Chapter 26)
He was a commodity traded on his own futures exchange. He would die before he sold himself short. (Chapter 41)
VerbSap interviewed Tea from his suite at Motel 6.
VerbSap: Travis, Atlanta Nights is set in the glamorous upper echelons of Atlanta society, yet you were you were born in the small town of Sweethome, Alabama, to what you’ve called “a life of toil.” What sort of research did you do for Atlanta Nights?
Tea: My research for Atlanta Nights consisted of changing planes in Atlanta. The other research I did was watching Macon County Line half-a-dozen times. You know how people tell you "write what you know"? That's boring. Writing what you don't know allows you lots more artistic freedom.
VerbSap: You’ve written that you buried yourself in the pages of magazines and cheap paperbacks from an early age. What authors influenced you most?
Tea: Lionel Fanthorpe and H.C. Turk are two of the writers whose style I most admire. The unsung heroes are the authors of the Beeline Doubles. You don't see writing like that anymore. True Detective and Soldier of Fortune rounded out my early reading adventures.
VerbSap: Science fiction-writer Robert Silverberg once said “Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. But not necessarily in that order.” Do you think writers should work to an outline? Is plot overrated?
Tea: I had lots of good ideas for an end for the book. So I used them all. Same with beginnings. There are just so many that they can't all go at the start.
I love plot. Atlanta Nights has more plot than one book can hold.
I think that "outlines" and "second drafts" are passe in this post-modern non-story-oriented literary scene.
VerbSap: If Hollywood made "Atlanta Nights: The Movie," how would you cast it? Have you ever considered acting as a career?
Tea: The role of Bruce Lucent just cries out for the acting talents of Ben Affleck. Pia Zadora would play Callie Archer. Rory Edwards is the role Tom Hanks was born to play. Let's see ... Jerry Bruckheimer would produce, of course. Joel Schumacher would direct. Screenplay by Stirling Silliphant. Filmed on location in Vancouver.
No, I've never considered acting. Being myself is what I do best.
VerbSap: What do you say to the critics who panned Atlanta Nights?
Tea: Someone panned it? They must not have read it. Atlanta Nights is a book that's got something for everyone. It's the perfect book. The best book ever! I love this book. If anyone pans it I'll come to their house and read it to them out loud.
VerbSap: Will there be a sequel? What projects are you working on now?
Tea: Yes, there'll be a sequel: Return to Atlanta. Bruce Lucent's father's ghost appears to tell him that his uncle murdered his father and married his mother. Hijinks ensue. It's a wacky romantic comedy with an angry edge, ripped from tomorrow's headlines, in the grand tradition of Showgirls. My fans say they can't get too much Travis Tea.
Editor: As previously noted in VerbSap, Travis Tea is the pseudonym for some 30 science fiction writers who took umbrage at disparaging remarks about their genre by a vanity press. The group, organized by writer James D. Macdonald, produced the manuscript for Atlanta Nights, by their own admission a "deeply awful book," and tested the publisher’s own commitment to quality writing by submitting it for publication. It was accepted, although the deal subsequently unraveled when the hoax came to light.
VerbSap thanks Macdonald for arranging its interview with Travis Tea.
Cover Art By Clip Art
"You know how people tell you "write what you know"? That's boring. Writing what you don't know allows you lots more artistic freedom."
"I love this book. If anyone pans it I'll come to their house and read it to them out loud."