The King of Pain: An Interview with Seth Kaufman
September 21, 2012 by Jane Jonas
Seth Kaufman has written a new novel called The King of Pain, and it is garnering rave reviews from varied publications. Below, find a synopsis and an author interview. Best of all, Seth has shared one of the stories from the book for free for our readers!
“The King of Pain is a book with messages, wrapped in stories and sprinkled with wit, bound together by the themes of imprisonment and human endurance…Kaufman has created a brilliant satire that entertains as it sends its message. It’s unique, original, and innovative, presenting commentary on modern culture while being wonderfully entertaining. I was so drawn into this book that I flew through it in less than two days, unable to put it down.” – zigzag timeline
SYNOPSIS: Rick Salter expects to be hated; after all, he’s the mind behind the outrageous—and outrageously successful—reality TV show about torture, “The King of Pain.” What he finds much more worrisome than the ire of cultural critics is that when he wakes up one Saturday morning, he’s trapped underneath his gigantic home entertainment system with no idea how he got there. Rick has 48 long hours ahead of him until his housekeeper will come to his rescue and nothing to pass the time except pain, bad memories—and a strange book he finds lying beside him. Called “A History of Prisons,” it is written by one Seth Kaufman, and it seems mysteriously relevant to Rick’s predicament…
1. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Although I’ve never been in prison or on a reality TV show, I brought a lot of personal experience to The King of Pain, which is about a reality TV producer with a hit show, who wakes up pinned beneath his home entertainment system and has no idea how he got there. He spends the rest of the book piecing events together and reading the only book within reach, it’s called “A History of Prisons.” Since I am a former TV and gossip reporter, I had a lot of experience with the kinds of people and issues that come up in the book. I also grew up overseas, so I was able to use a lot my experiences in the short stories that appear in “A History of Prisons,” which are set all over the world.
2. Where do you get your ideas?
That’s a tough question. They sort of smack me in the head. The King of Pain arose from two related ideas that I had carried around with me for years. The first idea was that I wanted to write a book of short stories called “A History of Prisons,” which was partially inspired by stories my grandfather told me (he was a political prisoner for 8 years). The second idea was a comical image: a man pinned by his own massive home entertainment system. It took me years to figure out how to connect these ideas.
Now some of the short stories in the novel just evolved out of modern day concerns. “The Gizless Days of Thomas Binder” came about because of my ambivalent feelings about digital technology and the mania for devices and my love of books. I was running BN.com, so I had a ground-level view of so many issues.
A story like “The Daquiri Case” came about when, studying a map, I noticed that the closest town to Guantanamo Bay is the sweet-sounding town of Daquiri.
Meanwhile, a story like “The Stocks” just sprang, really, from a great first two sentences: “If Leader hates you, he will throw you to the crocodiles. If he really hates you, he will put you in the stocks and then he will throw you to the crocodiles.”
3. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. Sometimes, when things get complicated, I have to map out what is going to happen where. But I’m a very disorganized person, so I like to blast things out and refine them later.
4. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
That is a tough question. I really like this book, even after reading it a dozen times. But my favorite moments are:
When the main character, Rick, starts wondering who the hell the author of “A History of Prisons” is, because the author is me. So that was a funny way to discuss my own stories in my own book.
Writing “The Translator,” which is a story that really showcases the redemptive power of story-telling.
Writing “The Gizless Days of Thomas Binder,” which is set in the future and deals with reading, books, libraries in a fast approaching world. It, too, is about discovering the magic of reading.
6. What project are you working on now?
I just finished a draft of a novel about gambling. It is more of a genre-thriller than The King of Pain, but it’s still a little nutty. I’m hoping to get it out there by next summer.
7. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes. It will be out in November. It is a very different book than the King of Pain: it’s a parody called If You Give an Architect a Contract. I wrote it as therapy after a very, um, difficult renovation experience. It will resonate, I hope, with anyone who has a kid and read the super-great If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. But it’s more directed toward anyone who is going to do construction on their house. I worked with a super-talented illustrator name Laura Lee Vo, who really has a wonderful sense of humor. It’s a comical, caustic cautionary tale. And it’s the perfect house-warming present—along with The King of Pain, of course.
About The Author:
Jane Jonas is the CEO of Eyeth Studios, LLC (http://www.eyethstudios.com). Jane grew up in the Bay Area, and has always been somewhat obsessed with technology and literature. Her first efforts at entrepreneurship came in elementary school. At age seven, she used her Apple IIc to write up newsletters with stories and jokes, and then peddled them to the neighbors. That early drive for independence and creativity has never faded. Throughout her career, she has been involved with establishing underground newsletters with groundbreaking journalism stories, interviewing, filming and editing videos, designing and producing websites, and administrating employees. This diverse background led to the formation of Eyeth Studios in 2006. In her spare time, Jane enjoys mothering her two rhodesian ridgebacks, cooking gourmet messes, and reading as much as possible. Her personal website and CV may be found at janejonas.com.