Today I welcome Leonard Stegmann to my blog. His latest book, There Are Places I Remember, came out in June. You can purchase it on Amazon.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Queens, New York and grew up in Bethpage, which is a little further out on Long Island. After college graduation in 1975 my equally clueless friend and I loaded our stuff onto a tiny Toyota Corona and headed to California, never having been there and not knowing a soul in the entire state. Without jobs or references we got a modern furnished apartment, with a pool, Jacuzzi and tennis courts, for $189 a month. It was a different time, for sure. I currently live in the beautiful coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California with my wife Melinda and a fluffy orange cat named Celine.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
There was never any decision like, Hey, I’m gonna be a writer! Sure, like anything you have to work at it to improve, but I’ve always believed that the desire, or rather the compulsion, to write, or make music or to be an artist, is often something with which you’re born. For example, I’ve been playing guitar for over forty years and I’m terrible at it and always will be. For me it’s always been the written word. I remember writing a poem about Halloween when I was about six or so. I tell you, it was a big hit with the family! When the creative writing instructor came to our elementary school class once a month, I was the guy who was excited while most of the class just groaned.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Almost always. I’ve had dozens of miserable jobs, as documented in my book My Jobs and Why They All Sucked. And in each of these jobs I was always of the mind that Sure, I might be getting paid to call deadbeats about their delinquent car payments or sweep out the back room of a x-rated book store, but I’m really a writer.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
(Laughs) All of me! At least in most of my books. I write mostly first person humorous non-fiction. At least I hope it’s humorous.
What fuels you as an author to continue to write?
Damned if I know. I recently finished my twentieth book and had the idea in my head that, Okay that’s enough, I’ve said it all. Also, I think part of it was I liked that twenty was a nice even number and the books could all be arranged in a neat 4 x 5 rectangle! Then almost before I knew what I was doing I put out the twenty-first book, and am nearly finished collecting the topics for the twenty-second. They once asked Ringo why, at his age and with his wealth, he continues to go on tour and perform. He explained that he’s a musician and that’s what he does. I guess I can relate to that. Except, sadly, for the wealth part.
Please tell us about your current release.
It’s called There Are Places I Remember, and it’s my second book of nostalgia. When I started writing in earnest the last thing I thought I’d be doing is writing stories about the ‘olden days.’ I figured I’d be the new Hunter Thompson, a wild man trying to expose all the hypocrisy in the world. I finally came to realize that this was unlikely, as I avoid confrontation, have never fired a gun and don’t really like to drink. You have to find your own style, your own voice. One day I noticed that I did a lot of these nostalgia stories and, more surprising, that they were my favorite pieces. I’ve also just put out a collection of my writing on the Beatles, called Re: The Beatles.
If you could jump into any book, and live in that world, which would it be?
The Kama Sutra.. Next question!
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
We use the smallest bedroom in our house as a little office. When we first moved in my wife and I called it ‘the turn-around room,’ because that’s about all there was room for. We live a few blocks from the ocean, but unfortunately I can’t see it from my office. Sometimes I can hear it, but more often than not it’s drowned out by that yappy little mutt next door.
Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
I have many, many favorite snacks, and when I’m writing might be the only time I’m not actually eating them! I go through phases where I drink a single glass of wine when I do my night’s writing. Even then, I sometimes don’t even finish it. Did I just hear Hunter Thompson spin in his grave? Incidentally, Hunter Thompson once threw an ice cube at me. I’ve always been very proud that I caught it in mid air!
Do you have an all time favorite book?
I’m not sure you can have one favorite book any more than you can choose a single favorite movie or Beatles song. In elementary school I read all the joke and riddle books in our school library, so I’ve always been drawn to humor. To this day I can answer nearly any riddle a kid throws at me. There was a recent thread in a writers’ forum where people named their favorite writers. As soon as I wrote mine I remembered a bunch more. Some of my favorites, at least as of today, include Mark Twain, Larry McMurtry, Philip Roth, Douglas Kenney, too many to list. I’ve known of H.L. Mencken for most of my adult life, but only have recently begun to appreciate him. To me he’s to the written word what Clapton is to the guitar.
What book are you reading right now?
I picked up a biography of Henry Miller in a thrift shop the other day and put it on my nightstand. I figured I’d maybe get through it someday, but since I started reading it I’m having trouble putting it down.
Tell us some random facts about you that we never would have guessed.
I’ve eaten kangaroo, I’ve never been to an NFL game and I have webbed toes.
The follow-up to Leonard Stegmann’s nostalgic “People and Things That Went Before” once again takes you back to a time of bottle rockets and snow days, Beatles albums and Kool-Aid stands. Warm, funny and sometimes sad, “There Are Places I Remember” will stir memories of those not-so-long ago-days that you once believed would never end.
About the Author
Leonard Stegmann is an American humor writer. He was born in New York City and currently lives in Half Moon Bay, California with his wife Melinda. And a cat.