The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag: Interview with Author Sal Cangemi

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“The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag” is a new horror-comedy novel by author and playwright Sal Cangemi. The story follows Kyle Jarvis who is hiding from those he has wronged in the pleasant suburb of Le Trou Du Cul. Yet not all is as it seems. Kyle soon learns that his neighbor’s odd behavior — from listening to Christmas music all year long, to hiding in the house, to seemingly reliving the 1980s — all stems from their efforts to fight a demon that is residing in their neighborhood. As it just so happens, the neighborhood is on the edge of a forest that is rife with strange creatures ranging from Sasquatch families to Nessie-like serpents to ghosts…and the demon, the semi-evil Slymind Braintwist, is behind it all. When a boy from the block goes missing, Kyle finds himself in the unlikely position of being the head of the search party alongside a hippie named Summer and a flamboyant clairvoyant named Anton Snow. Filled with both horror and humor, this absurdist allegory about conforming, lost dreams, and regret is a social satire at its core.

New York-based author and playwright Sal Cangemi recently discussed this novel via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for storytelling and why do you gravitate towards horror with a comedic edge?

Sal Cangemi (SC): My story is different than most writers. By all accounts I am a late bloomer. I did not begin writing until my early twenties. I wrote for a while, having a couple plays staged, but stopped writing for about twenty years as my career became more demanding and found myself with less and less free time. While I still work a day job, a few years ago I decided to come back to writing. However, I was always a natural storyteller. The signs were always there. When I was a kid, I would put on puppet shows for all the kids in school. Then I made a fake turd out of brown clay and had a puppet make it fall from his butt and the party was over! As for why I write horror with a comedic edge…I am not sure I even have a choice. I love horror…LOVE it! But I am a goofball at heart and it always comes out.

MM: Why do you think comedy and horror pair so well?

SC: I think comedy and horror are two sides of the same coin. Being scarred and being unable to not stop laughing, to me, feel very similar. The two pair well in the right hands, accomplish neither anything funny nor scary in the wrong hands. Movies like “Evil Dead 2,” “Re-Animator,” and “Sean of the Dead” are great examples of great comedy\horror pairing. In the written word, I do not see it done very often.

MM: What inspired you to write “The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag”?

SC: I originally wanted to write an epic novel of an apartment complex where each floor represented a level of Dante’s Inferno. That soon proved too much, so I scaled it down, made a funny demon and kept only the apartment complex.

MM: What’s your favorite part of the book and why?

SC: That’s a tough one. I really like the scene where the character of Bubby wakes up back in the ’80s, when he was a high school “football star”. I used to play in a glitter-punk band back in the late ’80 and early ’90. I like to get my daughter all riled up by telling her how her dad was a local star. So, I kind of based it a little on this. I never played football! Oh, and I really love the way that scene ends.

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MM: Were any aspects of the book — like the ceaseless Christmas music — inspired by any real-life experiences?

SC: Some stuff is based on past conversations and people from my past; other stuff is completely made-up. However, I did go to school with a kid who listened to Christmas music all year round. I thought it was completely insane and he thought it was perfectly normal since he liked the music. I suppose he had a point. But that always stuck with me.

MM: How did you develop the characters and what was it like to design a demon?

SC: Every character I have ever written is me. A part of me. The conflicts two or more of my characters have in any given story is conflicts I have within myself. The demon (Slymind Braintwist) was fun. I was not trying to make something evil or scary but rather more of a trouble-maker. He’s sort of Woody Woodpecker meets Mister Mxyzptlk from the Super-Man comics. He’s better at pitting people against one another than doing anything himself. And this is where a lot of the humor comes in.

MM: How did your own suburban experience inspire the fictional neighborhood of Le Trou Du Cul (aka Devil’s Hole — very clever)?

SC: My suburban experience…damn. I have lived in New York my entire life — both urban and more suburban areas. When I was in my early twenties my buddy and I moved into an apartment complex together. It was very odd. It had its own security and even a little theatre (which made it into the book). And the people there were a real cast of characters.

MM: How long did it take you to complete this book overall?

SC: It’s hard to say as I wrote this on a very part-time basis. Less than a year. I was not really setting deadlines on myself as I am now. My writing life is a nights and weekends thing. As a book really takes form, I begin to get more dedicated.

MM: How did you find your publisher, HellBound Books, and how have they been pitching this book?

SC: I honestly cannot remember how I found my publisher. I am not one of those writers that sends out my manuscript to hundreds of publishers. I have never been a “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” guy. I sent this one to two publishers and HellBound was one. Once I began working with them, I was completely at ease. They were amazing and totally supportive. I could not have asked for a better experience.

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To learn more about “The Demon, the Dumbwaiter, and the Douchebag,” see here.

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