Charie La Marr is the author of the anthology Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie, which is available on Amazon.
Eliza: What is Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie about?
Charie: Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie is a collection of 25 short stories about the circus, carnivals, freak shows, midways and all the crazy cast of characters that go along with them. The stories are meant to make you laugh, and at the same time some are very heartwarming and make you think about the person behind the clown makeup.
Eliza: What made you want to write about circus freaks?
Charie: I spent nine years working as a professional clown. It was a great time for me. My five year old son worked with me for about five years. We had a blast. However it amazes me when I talk to adults who say things like, “I $^%$^ hate clowns!” and, “Clowns scare the $%$^%$ out of me!” I decided if people are so interested in blowing up clowns, lets do it—but let’s do it MY way. With broad satire and lots of fun. I meant for people to kind of read the book as the antidote to clown phobia. Secondly, as far as freaks and the circus, I must say that it has changed quite a bit over the years. Ten in ones and freak shows aren’t allowed anymore. And many acts come from other countries. But in its heyday, the circus was a very warm and welcoming family. They even lived in a community in Florida when the circus wintered. They were very accepting of everyone—freaks included. And I want to try and bring back some of that spirit and comraderie and show people how the circus operates. It is—or was—a totally different world. A very caring and loving one. And these days, we get hung up in being PC and referring to little people and we tend to hide away imperfect people. Back then, they were treated as equals and very much an integral part of the circus.
Eliza: Who are some of your writing influences?
Charie: That depends on what I am writing. When I am writing satire like this, my influences are everyone from the first century’s Juvenal to Jonathan Swift to to Kurt Vonnegut to Christopher Moore to the absurdist playwrights. I am also a huge fan of Faulkner, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and so many others. I learn something from everything I write—good or bad.
Eliza: Of all the actors in Hollywood and politicians in Washington, who do you think would fit in best in a freak show environment?
Charie: Ha! Let’s just say that in Washington, I think at any given time almost any of them would fit into the circus. More likely as clowns. In Hollywood, it would have to be Tom Cruise. He scares me. Anyone who believes in Scientology is pretty freaky to me. But the one who would truly understand the circus and the dynamic the best would absolutely be Johnny Depp. I believe he is that kind of person.
Eliza: Why would Portlanders like this anthology?
Charie: Well, hopefully because they like to laugh and enjoy edgy, new kind of things. I know there is a Lovecraft Café in Portland, and two of the stories are Lovecraftian. Also, over the years I have read practically everything there was to read about the circus. It enchants me. One of the things that I read was an article written in 1938 as a part of the Federal Writers’ Project’s American Life Histories Program. It was an interview with a man who joined the circus in the 1800’s spending over half a century under the Big Top, eventually retiring to Portland in 1914. He was a medical student and was called “Doc”. I don’t know whether it was a part of Sarah Gruen’s research for Water for Elephants, but I suspect that it was. When Doc retired, he chose Portland because he remembered it as a “big show town.” The circus never forgot him and when they came to town, he always got lots of "Annie Oakley's (free passes) to take all his friends to see the show. He never lost his love for the circus. His story enchanted me. You can read it at http://www.offbeatoregon.com/s1303w-wpa-sherbert-vanalstine-circus.html
It is a very inspiring story. I hope the people of Portland were proud of him. I just love a good circus story.