Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Jacobsen’s Books


1) What was the first piece you ever wrote?

Focusing the telescope of attention inward, the haziest memory of early writing I can think of is a gripping, multi-layered piece of fiction entitled “Snoopy Travels Around the World.” It probably won’t come as much of a shock to you—the person on the other side of whatever this is—that this short slab of edgy prose was about Snoopy, and how he…well, traveled around the world. I was probably seven or eight when my pen (or crayon, more likely) produced this genre-defying work. It was basically a list of places loosely held together with the dramatic conceit of Snoopy being bored, venturing forth, then returning home, realizing that he was happiest here all along. I believe some of the places he visited were “France, Italy, Africa, the desert, Mexico…” amongst others. I love the depth of thought that went into “the desert”…I even cribbed the main character. I’m surprised the Schultz estate hasn’t hounded me. Puzzlingly, the story was printed in The San Francisco Chronicle. Really. I ended up working there years later, probably on the merits of this early, disturbing work.

2) Where do you get most of your ideas?

Mostly my brain…but then again, look what’s telling me that! My brain thinks it knows everything. It’s like it has a mind of its own sometimes. Anyway, I’m just this sort of living, breathing ransom note comprised of odd scraps of often conflicting things, hastily pasted together to form some kind of coherent incoherence. Sure, I read a lot—mostly nonfiction (here’s a parenthetical statement wedged inside of two dashes: I’m currently reading the first volume in an exhaustive and exhausting history of the Beatles. It’s fascinating, but I just found out that the second volume won’t be published in another six years, when I’ll be in my 50s…my sweet lord…)—I also wage a valiant yet doomed assault on The New Yorker, where I try to keep up, invariably fail, then cancel my subscription until I get another offer where they basically pay me to read it…throwing in a desk calendar or something. I used to be a movie critic, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the dark. I also absorb most every conversation I overhear in coffee shops. So all of this stuff coagulates in my brain pan—baking for a fortnight at about 350 degrees until golden brown—and then I chip it out of the pan and…great, now I’m hungry and I’ve completely lost my way. The point is, I get my ideas everywhere. I think my greatest strength, besides competitive thumb wrestling, is in putting ordinary things together in unexpected ways. I have to make something my own before I’m interested, which is why I’d be a terrible co-author!
3) Who was your favorite childhood author?

At first, the Peanuts anthologies, then the Hardy Boys, then Jules Verne, then the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, then Dune, then Catcher in the Rye, then Crime and Punishment, and then a book of matches.

Probably Roald Dahl, for his wicked sense of humor. Then I got into sci-fi WAY hard. Inhaled most everything that had space ships in it. As a teen, I’d carry around anything by Kurt Vonnegut, even before I fully understood his books, perhaps hoping to absorb them through osmosis.

4) Who do you act out the scenes in your novels with?

I’m not sure I fully understand this question, though that has never stopped me before. I don’t really “act out” my scenes (though I have been accused of acting out, especially by my mom). I grab pictures of what I think my characters look like and pin them to a corkboard so they feel more real. I also have to sketch out my various monsters and creatures so I can describe them properly. That way I’m just recounting what I’m seeing rather than writing. The closest I’ve come to acting out my scenes (apart from literally acting out my scenes at readings) was one time when I was driving, which I almost never do as a committed cyclist, and I had a conversation playing out in my head, where it very much felt like two separate people, and I later realized it was Milton and Marlo Fauster, the two protagonists of my Heck series! What they were saying didn’t seem like what I would say at all. They were speaking for themselves! I’m lucky my insurance doesn’t cover meds or I would be out of a job.

5) What is your favorite thing you’ve written?

I was sort of a “Johnny come lately” when it comes to writing (as is evident by my use of phrases such as “Johnny come lately.”). As a kid I was really into drawing: mainly spaceships and superheroes (such as The Volt and the ill-named Human Faucet). Later, I was really into music, which was my driving passion up until my early 30s. I used to write stories, though, to supplement my drawings: mainly based on existing properties such as Star Trek. You know: having Kirk and Spock do cool things like destroy entire planets that wore white after Labor Day, or do awesome mash-ups with the Enterprise battling the Fantastic Four. I would also view the burden of writing a book report into an opportunity to use whatever subject was imposed upon me as a launch pad to write what I really wanted to write about. Like when I had to write about the Declaration of Independence. I housed my essay within a post-apocalyptic story where a man finds the document in the rubble of a destroyed building (razed by alien lasers) and, though English had changed so much he could only make out part of it, he gets the gist just as humanity is enslaved by our new alien overlords. It got an A, though that could have been because I used glitter on the cover. I became more serious about writing when I worked at The San Francisco Chronicle. Though I was mostly a messenger, I would review night clubs and books so that I could go to night clubs for free and get books before they were released to the masses. I found that I really enjoyed being published! Oh, and the writing too. From there, I began reviewing movies and became a movie critic, then started my own newspaper in Portland (Tonic), then was an Arts Editor at Willamette Week before being sucked into the Netherworld of advertising. When I look back at my reviews, they remind me a lot of the writing that I did as a kid, where I’d approach a subject as a springboard to talk about something else that sort of relates but doesn’t really. Like when I reviewed Alien 3 and it turned out to be mostly about my difficult relationship with my mother. I think it was the whole “hatching eggs, bleeding acid, and things eating their way out of stomachs” thing.

Oh…I almost forgot the question. I think one of the things I’ve written I’ve enjoyed the most was in my newspaper tonic. One was a fake news story of a bunch of dim-witted old protesters protesting the Arboretum, waving signs declaring that Arboretum Is Murder, and another where I did a fake profile on a guy that “tasted” local streets and reviewed them as if he were a wine connoisseur. Anyway, they seemed funny at the time. I’m probably the most proud of my books because, wow, it’s hard to sit for a year and write a book and not have a total breakdown.

6) What scene in your writing has made you laugh the hardest or cry the most?

My fourth Heck book, Fibble: Where the Lying Kids Go, takes place in an underworld advertising agency. So I had a lot of fun using my advertising experience for good use, coming up with ridiculous campaigns for products such as “Gee, Your Farts Smell Terrific!” (scented underwear) and flavored soap with a yummy “surprise” in the middle. That stuff cracked me up. In terms of crying, there is a note that Milton’s mother leaves him at the end of the second Heck book, Rapacia, where she is telling him he is not to blame for his sister’s death that gets me every time.

7) What do you think makes good writing?

A strong voice, declaring something that hasn’t been declared before, at least not in that particular way. I like experiencing a story through fresh perspectives. The story itself may not even be conventionally “good,” but I enjoy a ride in a new car, going someplace I’ve never been before. For instance, I love Tom Robbins’ Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, not so much for the story, which I barely remember, but telling that story in second person was so exciting to me as a reader! I love that he took that chance!

8) What made you fall in love with writing?

I loved creating worlds to inhabit, as an escape. I think any outcast retreats into their imagination, and that is just one of the many ways that I am not unique. For a time I did it with music, then movies, but then I realized I could have the most control by writing: controlling every aspect of the world I was creating. It probably seriously started for me when I worked the graveyard shift at the San Francisco Chronicle. I would be SO bored that I wrote little stories for my friends on the day shift. Nothing like being alone in a huge building tending countless machines at 3 AM to get your creative juices flowing. They started as funny little anecdotes then expanded into surreal tomes involving all of the people I worked with.

9) How do you beat out your writers block?

Of the many problems I have, that is not one of them. In fact, I suffer from having too many ideas, so my books are like high pressure canisters. One day I will relax and not have that anxiety that comes with thinking that every idea you have should be captured. Some, well…don’t. I do, occasionally, feel like my mojo has left the building…that what I’m writing isn’t crackling with creative energy. So I’ll ride my bike. That tends to dislodge the sludge from my brain. Wrestling alligators also helps keep me in the moment.

10) Who is your favorite writer?

The guy that writes the Emergency Exit signs on planes. Those are very useful. There are so many writers that I am DEADLY jealous of…but, in terms of writing that has always affected me on multiple levels, I’d say Kurt Vonnegut. I mean, every book of his has some wonderful nugget. Like Mother Night (We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.) and Slaughterhouse Five (How nice–to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.). Brilliant. I miss St. Kurt.


Dear Mr.Basye,

My name is [Fresca Von Happenstance], i go to [Licorice Juice High School] in [Osh Kosh, New Hampshire]. i am 11 yrs. old and im in the 6th grade. i got to meet you personally at the oregon writing festival when you signed my copy of HECK.i love it all ready even though im only on page 9.for my book report i was hoping to do a Q&A with you. 


1. In 5 words describe your writing.

Darkly comic with weird twists.

2. Why do you write?

Because I can’t think of any other way to satisfyingly express the odd things in my head to the outside world. I’m a decent musician but not good enough to really feel satisfied that what I’m thinking is making it out intact. I used to draw but I am terrible. So writing just sort of happened and, like most anything, the more I did it, the better I got at it.

3. How many books have you written and in what genres?

I’ve written 7 1/2 books. Six of them have been published. They are all Heck books, so I guess you could call them supernatural humor books for middle-school kids.

4. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

This is an intensely personal question, but I’m sure your intentions are admirable so I will indulge. I usually get up at 6:30-7 since my son has to go to school, like most children. I make breakfast and his lunch while my wife drives him to school. For breakfast, I usually make a really nasty protein shake: a banana, hemp seeds, blueberries, spinach, spiraling…and blender the slop together. Since I drink one of these every day I better darn well live to be 100. I also sometimes have eggs (over-easy) or oatmeal.

 5. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

I wish I had a giant cheerleader…that would be awesome! Like…50 feet-tall with pom-pons that block the sun! Her cheers deafening all within a three-mile radius! But you probably mean “who is my biggest supporter.” I’d have to say my family…mainly because they’re right here and would be mad if I didn’t. But, in all truth, they do help pick me up and dust me off if I need it. My agent is always supportive too, though I pay him to be that way.

6. What one word best describes you?


7. Who are you reading right now?

I’m reading a few things now: the latest issue of the New Yorker; Morning Glories comics; and a book about Self-Publishing. So I like to mix it up. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol I: The Pox Party by MT Anderson was the last novel I read. It was ok.

8. Give 3 great tips for newbie writers:

1) Write 2) Write 3) Write

Really…that’s it. It’s not about waiting for a great idea to visit your waiting brain. It’s about sitting down and writing something—anything—every day if you can. That’s what separates writers from wannabes. Actually writing, not just talking about it. Catching ideas in journals, writing them out, developing them, editing…it’s all writing and it’s all hard and it’s all wonderful.

9. Who was the most influence on you, in your past, for writing; a teacher, parent, or a sibling?

I had some pretty good teachers and my parents were supportive, but I was really only inspired or influenced by writers. I loved Roald Dahl, Frank Herbert, Isaac Asimov…mainly science fiction authors as a kid. They taught me to think about what was impossible, and make it seem possible.

10. What is your writing process like? How do you begin?

I begin by coming up with an awesome idea…and then instantly regretting it because that’s mean I have to do something about it. The most fun parts of writing are at the very beginning and at the very end. The “coming up with ideas” and the “editing down what I’ve written so it’s fun to read.” Everything in the middle is torture. The actually writing. That’s the part that makes you want to do anything BUT write! The facing the blank screen or piece of paper and trying to make sense of it all…the filling up of plot holes, etc. But I’ll begin with the idea then sketch it out…make an outline, and build the story from there. I like to know where I’m going when I set off on a story. Some writers are okay with just going for a drive, but that would “drive” me crazy…not knowing if I’m going to get lost or what. So I like to map it out with a detailed outline.


Tunes from Heck!

Longtime Heckler Jordan Knapp is a young musician from Georgia without what you would call “formal” training yet has an undeniable talent for composition…a Danny Elfboy, perhaps. Here is his latest composition, or “decomposition” actually since it’s for Heck, called “Enter Bea ‘Elsa’ Bubb.” Be sure to check it out!

Radio Heck

I had the great pleasure of sitting across from Dmae Roberts—Peabody award-winning independent radio artist/producer—to fill up her weekly half-hour Stage & Studio show on Portland community radio station KBOO (it scares me to even type those call-letters). Dmae (pronounced Dee-May) asked a number of thoughtful questions and allowed me to read and—gasp—sing a few songs. Give it a listen!SNS61411-DaleEBayseAlso, be sure to check out the Stage and Studio website for more information!

Writer Dale E. Basye Answers Your Questions Pertaining to Espionage

For reasons unclear, the bulk of my mail tends to contain inquiries regarding matters of international espionage. I will attempt to answer your queries to the best of my limited abilities:

Dear Dale “E for Espionage” Basye,

I have been looking for a covert way in which to spy on myself. I figure that this way I’ll know if anyone is watching me. Can you give me any advice?

John McKean
Great Falls, Minnesota

Dear Mr. McKean,
Spying on yourself is an excellent way to keep your covert intelligence gathering skills honed in between assignments. This practice, often dubbed “Secret Agent Solitaire,” pits you against yourself — pushing you to new levels of espionage excellence. This method of self-surveillance is not recommended for out-of-work operatives with a predisposition towards schizophrenia, however, as the escalation from mere “stake-out” to “snuff out” can be tragic if the lines of demarcation are blurred. If you do suspect yourself of being a double agent, then an Xcam2 (a small, affordable wireless video camera that transmits video to any TV, VCR or PC in your home, often bundled with a VCR Palm Pack) can help you ascertain your activities during black out periods. Also, acquiring multiple children’s erasable MagnaDoodle writing pads and placing them beneath your carpet before extended periods of self-scrutiny is an affordable way to “retrace your steps” when spying on one’s self.

Some agents may find the act of spying on one’s self unsettling. Yet, as you allude, spying on yourself can reveal if anyone is spying on you, other than yourself, that is. A matter of greater concern would be “who is spying on the person that is not you whom is spying on yourself?” This agent is often the one manipulating the agent you are able to detect and, like measuring the affect of a Black Hole, this agent – if they are worth their weight in high-octane jet fuel – will only be discernible through the actions, or inactions, of their puppet agent.
As a footnote, it is my experience (as well as the experience of those actively watching you) that there is no such thing as paranoia: only successive levels of heightened awareness.

Dear Dale “E for Espionage” Basye

I recently retired from powerful world government’s espionage organization and have taken espionage up as a hobby for my twilight years. The problem is that I don’t get
around as well as I used to. I find most windows and ventilation ducts are inaccessible to wheelchairs. Is there any current legislation requiring government agencies to provide special access to spies under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Best, James B.
London, England

Dear Mr. B… James B.

What an honor it is to hear from you! You are in luck: with so many retired Cold War agents firmly entrenched within the arthritic grip of their winter years, governments (both secret and not-so-secret) are beginning to accommodate these seasoned spies with a host of legislative “mobility” acts, most notably the Geriatric Operatives Undeterred by Disabilities Act (G.O.U.D.A.). Many top secret international facilities are being mandated to construct wheelchair ramps or walker/cane-friendly platforms to access sensitive, high-security areas such as restricted data centers, submarine platforms, satellite/warhead kidnapping installations, cryonic storage repositories, and even super-criminal lairs. For sight-challenged agents, seeing-eye dogs are now allowed in most covert operations centers, and microfilm blueprints are now available either in EZ Read Macrofilm or in a Blueprints-On-Tape format, read by Roger Moore. Also in consideration of geriatric operatives brought out of retirement due to budgetary constraints, conveniently-located bathrooms, clearly-marked signs, oversized keypads and on-site pharmacies (with $25 co-pay) are being offered in most progressive international intelligence facilities and subterranean testing bunkers. An installation in Holland even offers handy curbside service for delivery of sensitive military data. And for those operatives allergic to certain toxic gases or smokescreens, herbal alternatives (like organic mustard gas) are becoming available in most black markets.

In Which I Answer Your Pressing Questions

By far the most frequent question posed to me as a writer—aside from my favorite research tool (Google), my preferred way of viewing attractive people (Ogle), what a group of geese is called (Gaggle), and my favorite lady (Gaga)—is “Mr. Bayse (always spelled wrong…always), how are crop circles made?” To which I would answer, there are two ways to make a crop circle:

1) Make one yourself.


First, you will need the following supplies:
• Two planks attached together at the end by a rope
• A two-foot long marking pole
• One hundred feet of plastic surveying tape
• An OS Pathfinder map, with detailed field boundaries and pathways
• Infrared glasses (not necessary if sufficient moonlight is available)
• A plastic garden roller

Field Work

Choose a field: something that will conceal your flagrantly illegal act yet is still visible enough come the dawn to draw the media attention you so crave.

Round and Round You Go

Drop off the planks and roller near the site by some identifiable marker that you can find in the darkness. Park your vehicle away from your site as to not arouse suspicion. Walk back to the site to the point at which you have previously decided will be the center of your design. Move to this point using tractor lines. From the center of your circle about six feet from the nearest tractor line, spin around in a tight circle on one foot while dragging the crop down with the other. Place the marking pole at the center and attach the tape before walking out to your predetermined radius. Walk the perimeter, dragging one foot as you go to leave a trail, until you return to your starting point.

Next, get out the planks and roller and get to work! The planks are ideal for angular, detailed work while the roller is a powerful ally in covering a great deal of ground while lending subtle curves. A circle flattened from the inside out will create something called a “radial lay,” while the reverse will approximate a concentric flow. For added credibility, try to select a shape that has some mathematical or mythical importance (i.e. nothing obscene or related to your college football mascot).

Before you finish your formation, always check for accidentally cast human detritus such as beer cans and cigarette butts: anything that researchers will not likely associate with higher life forms. By carrying with you either a magnetometer or calibrated dowsing rod, you can leave behind a confounding electromagnetic residue. Extra points for mysterious, anomalous goo or chemical substances left in the middle of your creation: the nougaty center of your perplexing, paranormal riddle.

The second way to make a crop circle is…

2) Make contact with a technologically advanced extraterrestrial race.

• After contact is made, decide on a common language (I suggest Esperanto or a binary-based language…in a pinch that catchy melody from Close Encounters of the Third Kind can get a dialog going).
• Next, submit a shape that you think would make a compelling field of dreams (or nightmares). Most extraterrestrial races are more than willing to work with you on shape development for a minimal surcharge. Sometimes you can get “two-for-one” deals where they throw in shape design as an incentive. Hold your ground. Many aliens will attempt to charge you an arm, several legs and what appears to be a pronged tail.
• During the shape review process, be sure to ensure that your shape affects on an emotional level; uses complex codes to communicate a new language; or is strong enough to survive the inter-dimensional transfer process without compromising the design.
• Now the fun part: selecting a field. Cornfields make a bold statement, yet never underestimate the subtle sculpting properties of wheat. Most alien races have detailed maps of their favorite fields and regions, but don’t be afraid to bring a relatively new field to their attention. You are the artist and know best what canvas would prove most complimentary to your unique work of artistic expression. Also, take into account the collective psyche of the region you select and what would freak them out the most.
• Before your shape is transmitted, have your lawyer review your design and the trademark laws of the selected country, to ensure that no branding transgression has occurred (it is best to avoid anything remotely resembling a swoosh).
• Lastly, sit back and enjoy the pandemonium your weaving, inscrutable pattern of broken stems creates.

This approach, while intriguing, is expensive and may well incur the possibility of hostile extraterrestrials abducting you and your family while you sleep (most extraterrestrials receive their human medical training by playing Operation… and, as many of you know all too well, there is nothing colder than an alien probe).

For more information on writing, visit http://www.wherethebadkidsgo.com.

Oh, and here are some other questions that have recently come to my attention:

My writing process: Put off, freak out, write on.
The inspiration for my current book: my devotion to the Heck series and expanding/deepening the emotional world of the characters; contractual obligation.
One aspect of my current book that interested me the most: stretching wide the scope of Heck to accommodate all sorts of nasty layers and thinly veiled personal vendettas and agendas, especially the hamster wheel of consumerist society (“Mmm…Buy a Triple Bacon and Asbestos Cheeseburger and be Momentarily Happy today!” “Buy ‘Frighteningly Thin Celebrity Magazine’ today!” “Buy the ‘I Am, Surprisingly, Overweight and Unhealthy Due to the Cheeseburgers Yet Want to Look like an Airbrushed, Studio-photograph of a Celebrity with an Eating Disorder, Five Personal Trainers and On-call Plastic Surgeon’ Diet today!” “Buy the ‘I Am Miserable In That I Cannot Attain Falsified Perfection’ Self-Help book today!” “Mmm…Buy a Triple Bacon and Asbestos Cheeseburger and be Momentarily Happy today!”)
A challenge I faced when writing my current book and how I overcame it: Having to write a book in a few months, staying with it until it was finished, editing it again and again until it was pretty good.
How much truth is there in my work and how do I handle that?: Lots. I am not nearly creative enough to fashion worlds and characters from scratch. I always have to draw from some personal experience. I just make sure it blends well with the story. I find that the nuggets of “truth” act like little hooks that pull the reader closer.
What are you reading right now?: I am reading Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World by Steven Johnson. I love reading books about diseases. I find them infectious.
What is my favorite food?: I don’t care for food. It always ends up making me have to go to the bathroom.
What writers have influenced me?: Most every writer influences me in one way or another—a clever turn of phrase, a particularly concise sentence. Even bad writers influence me, hopefully for the better. I love reading the work of Heck’s fans. As a kids’ writer, it’s important to read kids’ writing.
What am I working on now?: Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck.

Heck Interviewed by Newport, Oregon’s KCUP

Recently I was interviewed by the wonderful Rebecca Cohen from the Newport Public Library in honor of my visit there this week. I had a great time with Ms. Cohen, Lady Literacy of the beautiful town nestled on the Oregon Coast. She escorted me to a couple of fabulous schools and then later that night I gave a talk for adult writers on how to write for children (as if I know anything about that). In any case, Part 120101004a and Part 220101004b of my interview are available for your listening pleasure.