Arts & Culture » Lit

Whole Ass Writer

Chad Rinn puts his non-trad novel through non-trad publishing rigors

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Half Ass Jig is more than just some guy's novel. It's a veritable cottage industry. Begun as a comic strip (running in Boise Weekly, as a matter of fact), author Chad Rinn turned Half Ass Jig into a novel and it premiered this past spring as a movie, too. The story follows the disparate but intersecting paths of eccentric Boiseans as they make their way to L.A., each searching for that elusive something that might "fill the void in their empty, half-assed lives." The book is often gross, and its narrative meandering and sometimes random. This is deliberate on the part of the author, whose mantra for the project is "reject human consensus reality."

To find out what this means and more about the triple threat that is Half Ass Jig, we went straight to the horse's mouth.

BW: What does "reject human consensus reality" mean?

Rinn: In regards to "consensus reality," it's like the reality that our society as a whole kind of puts on us ... I was playing with this idea that all the characters in my book are parts of me. I was trying to make clear, I think, some of the parts of me that aren't as clear as I'd like. So I guess that how it fits in with rejecting human consensus reality was instead of sort of trying to create a definition of myself that would fit into what the expectations of our society. I was more interested in exploring the things that I found in myself, that I'd been taught all along to sort of not love and not explore.

Give me Half Ass Jig in one sentence.

You'd think as many times as I've been asked to do that ... (laughs). Follow your heart. It sounds really corny, but I think that kind of sums up the book.

Why did you self-publish Half Ass Jig?

I had the book with a couple of publishers. One small publisher, Bainbridge, the guy [Associate Editor W. Lane Startin] really loved it and wanted to publish it. But he lost his job and they stopped publishing new fiction.

And I just wanted to get it out there. We were dealing with other publishers. So we decided to make the movie, and so we made the movie.

What was the response to Half Ass Jig from the traditional publishing world? How many rejections are we talking about?

We're probably talking a little over a dozen. One of the rejections that comes to mind is the editor at Knopf. She liked the book ... said it had well-defined characters, but that they come across as action figures--which I don't think she meant as a compliment, but since this is what I was going for, I liked it. Also, she said it had an "overly Byzantine story line." I was like, "Wait, but I kind of like that description." And I was kind of like, the reason it doesn't work for you is kind of the reason it works for me, so...

One other kind of rejection came, from W.W. Norton. One of the readers who goes through the proposals before the editors--I think she was in college, like an intern--called me up and said, "Oh, I just wanted to tell you I think your proposal is great." She couldn't give it to her editor--she liked it, but it didn't fit into the current marketing.

Do they have a copy at the library?

I don't think they do have a copy at the library. Maybe they lost the copy I dropped off.

How's the response been? Selling well?

We sold almost two dozen when we had the signing at the Book & Game Company. So that felt good. It felt like a lot of books.

How's the follow-up novel, Star Belly, coming along?

Oh, doing good. I've got stacks and stacks of notes. I don't want it to be this huge, 2,000-page novel, but it's coming along good. I've got lots of projects, so it's [a matter of] finding the time.

When you do complete the book, do you plan to try the traditional publishing route or self-publish?

I'll probably try the traditional publish route. When I did Half Ass Jig, I didn't have anything other than the novel. The publishing people are always asking: "What else does he bring to the table?"

Who influences your writing?

I think it might be my dad. My wife has a lot to do with everything I do creatively. My dad had a lot of influence because of the writers that he introduced me to, like Charles Bukowski.

Who would it piss you off to be compared to?

Well, I don't know if it makes me mad, but some people have said the book is like Hunter S. Thompson, which is kind of surprising. And then someone compared me to John Irving, which I thought was flattering.

I wouldn't want to be compared to, like, Stephen King. People are like, he's a writer, and I'm a writer, and they'll say, "Stephen King got all these rejections when he started..."

Which doesn't necessarily mean you have anything in common.

Yeah.

Who are your favorite writers?

Mark Leyner. I went through a Bukowski phase. I think my favorite book right now would have to be Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I wouldn't say he's my favorite author ... I tried to read his other books, but they weren't as good.

Ever thought about writing kiddie lit?

Yeah, I have. I'd like to put more artwork into the writing. There are those books where you're like, yeah, you need an education to read him. An 8-year-old can read one of my books and not get lost.

Half Ass Jig can be purchased locally at the Book & Game Company, 906 W. Main St.; The Edge ("it's in there somewhere"), 1105 W Idaho St.; online at the Rinns' Web site, www.ftbproductions.com; Small Pond Films' Web site, www.smallpondfilms.org; and at Bandtrax, www.bandtrax.net.