Question: Loser's Memorial involves some passages some might find offensive. You slay some sacred cows, so to speak. Were you trying to have an in-your-face approach?
Larry Nocella: It's easy to over-do, but I love offending bullies. I can't remember what it was, but I saw a video where someone commented on punk rock and they said, "We did anything we thought would annoy parents." Funny stuff! That said, I try to make my obnoxiousness have an agenda, sort of like Stephen Colbert or The Onion.
Q: Jamil uses some creative ideas to occupy his time while held in prison, did you base that on anything?
LN: I use today's headlines as a start point. The idea of secret prison network, unaccountable to anyone and in many cases operated by a for-profit entity is a recipe for abuse and horror. That's a serious and real issue, but such issues are good seeds for fiction. Basically Jamil was motivated by how I thought I would react if I was falsely accused and imprisoned.
Q: A lot of Pete's (later Zerd's) identity revolves around tattoos. Tattoos play an important part of the story. Is there a reason for that?
LN: I didn't get over the death of a loved one until I got a tattoo representing them. In doing so I became a living memorial. I like that concept. We think of memorials for people who accomplish something, or that we admire, but we can't all be winners. So what does a loser's memorial look like? I set out to find out.
Q: What's your favorite part of Loser's Memorial?
LN: Each character is nuanced. Even the most lovable characters do things that are cruel and even the cruelest show flashes of kindness. That's how life is, and I think readers enjoy that unpredictability.
From the Author
"As the barriers to communication and understanding around the world fall, any new novel about a conflict will ring false if you don't tell it from at least both sides. What I wanted to do with Loser's Memorial is highlight the stories of those who aren't even fighting, but rather are caught up in war either via exploitation or simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"I love hard rock and horror so I brought that sensibility to the story. I mixed that in with tender moments of feeling and doubt as well. I wanted to work on a new type of fiction in way, encompassing the whole human experience filled with uncertainty and doubt. Mostly I wanted to describe the fight of trying to stay sane in a world of insanity and violence. The young people fight this fight the hardest. Their sense of injustice is strong, but their response isn't always rational. Sometimes you win that fight and sometimes you lose."
"The concept of a Loser's Memorial has always struck me. There should be one, somewhere. We have so many monuments to the dead, so many to winners. But there are losers as well, and I mean loser in its fullest sense, those who are discarded, those who have failed, those who were cast out. If history is told by the victors, that's only half the story. Why not learn the other part of the story?"
"My favorite stories growing up were those that had an element of rebellion in them. Loser's Memorial was so much fun to write because I had two protagonists, each fighting in their own way against different tentacles of an unjust and cruel system. They are definitely underdogs, and maybe they will lose, but it will be one hell of a fight."