Situation: Cruel author decides to put her characters through interviews for the heck of it. Despite there being tons of interview lists available as writing exercises, she decides to picture some unnamed, unspecified talk program and plant characters across from an equally ill-defined celebrity host who has done some background and wants to see a ratings spike.
Fancy Celebrity Interviewer: Tall, blond, well-tailored individual with stiffly-coiffed hair, straight teeth and perfect skin.
Setting: a private studio set. Camera-neutral chairs and carpeting, dark, matte-finished table with random lump of sculpture and mugs no one uses. Bright lights & other hanging equipment overhead, technical crew and a few onlookers in the shadows. We join the interview in progress, after the handshakes, jokes and mugging for the cameras.
Fancy Celebrity Interviewer (FCI): When we put out the call to our followers for questions and stories about you, we received quite a lot of interesting material. I know I introduced you to everyone, but despite this , I have to start by asking, What is your name?
Justin: You’re running the interview. You don’t know who I am? We’re in big trouble. Ha. Just kidding. Sorry. I’ll behave, I promise. Justin Wyatt is the name you probably know.
FCI: Yes, exactly, that’s the name everyone knows, but your full name…?
Justin: Oh someone has been telling stories. Which name do you want? The one on my birth certificate? Geraldo Justin Romero. The one on the first patent I filed, the one that made me obscenely rich? Justin Clooney. I was underage and couldn’t apply without a guardian, so William adopted me. Long, funny story. The name on my first business license was Justin Lewis Wyatt, and I stuck with that one for a while, but I’m thinking of going back to Romero.
FCI. So with all that, do you have any nicknames?
Justin: None I’ll admit in public. Seriously, though. I had a lot of nicknames growing up, but no one’s said them to my face since I earned my second million. Except Tyler. He’s allowed to call me anything he wants. And Alison. She calls me an idiot when she gets aggravated–hi, Allie. I see you back there behind the lights with Serena. Don’t shake your head at me. It’s okay. I am an idiot sometimes, but you’re the one who said this would be a good way to get in front of the rumors.
FCI. Yes, about those. It’s being said you have some special gifts that aren’t entirely human. Is that true?
Justin: I’m as human as anyone. All the freaky-ass abilities come from…honestly, I have no fucking idea. Oh. Sorry. Probably shouldn’t swear. You call it gift. That’s one word for it. Something lives in my skin. Not entirely sure where it came from, but it started with a comminuted tibia fracture that left the inside of my leg exposed to the outside. Then we wrapped it in experimental fungal cultures because that’s all we had handy, and then we camped out in sub-zero temperatures under starvation conditions for a few weeks. It wouldn’t be easy to reproduce that experiment even if I had samples of the material, which I don’t. I doubt I’d get a lot of volunteers. Being mostly invulnerable isn’t all that useful anyway. I don’t want to talk about that any more.
FCI: Yes, all right then. How about a little history? Where were you born and so on, how did you get from there to where you are today.
Justin: I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, fourteen years before Omaha’s entire population dropped dead, my parents and little sister included. But today? I have no idea. It’s one of those days, so I honestly have no idea how I got here. OR where here is. I also have no idea who you are, for that matter. Serena and Alison are standing behind you giving me the thumbs-up, so I’m trusting this is something I agreed to do when I was having a good day. Your job is to ask me questions, do I have that right?
FCI: Okay, um…okay. Yes. Maybe we should stick to general topics. Here’s a question from a fan: do you believe that you are a good person?
Justin. What a weird thing to ask. I’m good at some things, rotten at others. I’m really good with mechanics and engineering, especially making new combinations of things no one else thought of putting together. Remembering shit, that’s not one of the good–oh for fuck’s sake, why are you waving your hands at me, Serena? Oh. No swearing zone? Right. Yes, I remember. Sorry. What was the question again?
FCI: I think we should pause for a break here.
<Interview resumes. Mugs are in different positions, sculpture has been replaced by flowers, Fancy Celebrity interviewer’s perfect hair is beginning to droop.>
FCI: All my followers are eager for you to tell us more about yourself. How would you describe your personality?
Justin. This one again? I hate it. I’m always wrong. See, I think I’m pretty likable and laid-back, but whenever I say that–see? Listen to Serena laughing at me back there. I don’t know. How would you describe me?
FCI: Would you say you’re someone who can handle pressure? What’s a good example?
Yes, I am. A good example? Seriously? How about surviving a plane crash that killed three other people, spending three days in a coma and then another six weeks in the Arctic? How about surviving an ex-wife who tried to kill me not once, not twice, but four times? How about escaping from–oops. Sorry, no. That’s still classified, judging from Alison’s panic face. Never mind that.
FCI: All right then. Moving on to unclassified things. Would you say get along well with others?
Justin: Most people. Most days. Don’t try to steal from me, don’t harm me or my family, and we’ll get along fine. Why? Are you planning something?
FCI: Ha-ha-ha. No. Someone as rich and secretive as you are must make enemies. Is there anyone in particular you keep your eye on?
Justin: It’s a long list. Reputation and money equal power, and some people always want more. I’ve outlived a lot of enemies at this point. Two of them blew each other up, another blew himself up, and the Feds made one—what’s wrong, Alison? Oh. That never happened. I remember. Never mind.
FCI: No, this is going out more or less live. How about allies? Do you want to give a shout out to anyone while you’re here?
Justin: Allies. That’s a cold word. I have friends. Two of them are right there. They have names. Please don’t ask me who they are, you’ll embarrass all of us and make the short one mad at me. Most of the time I still remember their names. This is an interview, right? Not an interrogation? I’m not tied up, and everyone else looks confused now, so I’m shutting up before I screw up even worse.
FCI: Uh-huh. That was an interesting answer.
Justin: I excel at interesting. Are we done?
FCI: That’s up to you, of course. I have a lot more questions. Here’s one that got a lot of votes: what are your plans? Is there one thing that you would like to do in the future?
Justin: Hey, I’d love to know where I am and why I’m here. That’d be a great start. Wait. I see Alison there. Hi, Allie. Have I mentioned how much it sucks to be losing my mind? Hey, Serena. Yes, I know you, too. Don’t get all worked up. I think we should leave now. Is that okay? You know, I don’t care if it is. I think we’re done.
And there you have it. Here’s my favorite visual imagining of Justin, courtesy of the talented Daniel Govar.
If you’ve stuck around this far, stay tuned for the next edition, which will happen the next time I feel like slacking. Probably next week, the way things are going. I’ll interview Jack Coby, a recurring character from my Rough Passages series. Maybe next week, maybe not, but eventually.