Monday, August 27, 2012

Author Interview: Mike McHugh

by Sylvia Ney

1) How did you develop an interest in writing? I’m not interested in writing. I just do it in the hopes that someday I’ll run into somebody in a bar who likes my stuff and offers to buy me beer on his tab. No, seriously, a few years ago some good friends of mine launchedThe Jambalaya News here in town. I pitched the idea about a doing column about life in Louisiana from a Yankee’s perspective, and the rest was history. Little did my friend know at the time the monster she was about to create. Nor did I, for that matter.

2) Please tell us a little about your blog. It’s called I started it just this past spring after attending the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference. While there, I made it a point to ask every speaker for advice on how to succeed as a writer. After the sixth one in a row asked me, “Do you have a website?” I got the message. I can take a hint if it is presented in the form of a sledgehammer.

3) What other styles do you write? I write humor, plain and simple. Nonfiction. Why struggle to create fictional characters when I know so many outlandish ones for real? Besides, I seem to take well to the newspaper column format, short reflections on my own experience of life. It also helps to be married to someone who’s Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett rolled up in one. I’m never at a loss for material.

4) Is this a hobby or do you plan to make a career from writing? Shhhh….my boss might see this.

5) What authors do you admire? Dave Barry, hands down. I worship the keyboard he types on. I’m planning to attend a conference next year where he will be speaking, and I plan to do some big time sucking up.

6) What do you do when you have writer's block? I type out something that has to do with road kill. I don’t care what anybody says; road kill is always funny.

7) Where do you live? I’ve lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana for the past nine years, but I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland. The folks here call me a Yankee, but my friends and family back home call me a Coon Ass. I am truly a Man Without A Subculture.

8) Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? Being a columnist, I firmly believe that you’ve got to hook the reader in the first paragraph, if not sooner, to have any hope of him staying with you. This is because many readers tend to have the attention span of a decapitated chicken. That’s why I like to put a lot of thought into coming up with attention-getting titles for my articles. A recent example was an article I wrote about the horrendous traffic in Yankee Land. After playing around with several ideas, I finally came up with, “Make Me Groan, Yankee Roads.”

9) What are you reading now? This questionnaire. Duh.

10) Classic you’ve been meaning to read? My editor was an English major and she told me once about how she had read William Faulkner as part of her studies. I, on the other hand,struggled to get C’s in English and considered myself lucky to have not been assigned to read any of his works. The Faulkner thing has become somewhat of a joke between us, and now she’s got me curious. Besides, now I won’t have to write a term paper about him.

11) Favorite book from childhood? Jokes and Riddles. My grandmother gave it to me for my First Communion, and I still have it. There was one particular joke in it that I must have told a thousand times before I reached the fifth grade: “What did the bald man say when he got a comb for his birthday?” I’ll leave it to you to figure out the punch line.

12) Book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone? Weird Louisiana. And I kept the Sam’s Club price tag on it to even further impress people.

13) Best thing you’ve read online recently? It’s a tie. Someone I met at the Bombeck conference, a guy named Joe Donatelli, wrote a really nice primer on how to use Twitter and managed to work some real good humor into it. Speaking of which, it was a tweet that led me to the other gem—a blog called Dumb Ass Questions. It had some stuff on it by Raymond the Amish Comic, a defected Amish guy who does stand-up and whom I’d once seen up in Yankee land. The guy’s a real hoot.

14) Most anticipated upcoming release? A gal that I met at the Bombeck conference has a book coming out soon. Her name is Michelle Wojokow… uh, she just goes by Wojo for short, thank the Lord. She’s from my hometown of Baltimore and it turns out we have a close mutual friend. So I’m looking forward to reading her upcoming book.

To learn more about Mike, please visit his site "The Dang Yankee" at

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