Self-published literary novels are supposed to be ignored by, well, pretty much everyone. Seth Kaufman’s The King of Pain — dubbed “One of 2012’s most enjoyable novels” by the NY Times — broke the mold, even cracking the Amazon Top 100. The satirical novel was powered by Kaufman’s wild imagination and his foul-mouthed protagonist, Rick Salter, an outrageous producer whose reality show about contestants being tortured becomes a smash hit.
Kaufman, a former Page Six reporter, TVGuide.com editor, and current deputy editor of GLOBE magazine, has written a hilarious, moving sequel, Nuns with Guns, which follows Rick Salter leading four Catholic sisters to gun exchanges across America as they compete to collect the most weapons. Naturally, huge ratings, a gun lobby backlash, death threats, and dark humor follow.
We talked to Kaufman about the sudden inspiration for this riotous tale, his off-the-wall hero and why Nuns with Guns is likely to be one of the most relevant, timely novels you’ll read this year.
The first thing that grabs you about Nuns with Guns, of course, is the title. Where did that come from?
It popped into my head a few months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school. The was a debate about banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons turned into nothing. So I was pretty depressed about the state of the union — the insane amount of gun violence in this country and the political power of the NRA. I remember thinking, what would Rick Salter do? Rick, of course, is the crazy producer in my first book. And the answer was obvious. He would do a show called Nuns with Guns.
So you never intended to write a sequel to The King of Pain?
Correct. I thought Rick Salter was a one book man. Honestly, I had already started working on a historical novel. But I tossed that aside to try and hammer out Nuns with Guns. It seemed so much more relevant. This is one of the most divisive issues in America, and I wanted to explore it.
Did you worry that a reality TV show about four nuns vying to collect the most guns seems too… crazy?
Not really. Crazy to me is: I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant. Or My 400 Pound Life, or whatever those shows are called. I think The King of Pain really ripped into the evils of reality TV far more than this book. What’s interesting about Nuns with Guns is that it imagines a reality show that is pushing for social change, for good, for safety.
But the show comes under fire. Not just from gun rights groups but from a Catholic organization. Which is very similar to something that just happened with Dan Savage’s sit-com on ABC.
Yes, it was real-life imitating satire, I guess. The Catholic League blasted Dan Savage for his new sit-com’s depiction of a Catholic family. In my book, the TV show Nuns with Guns is blasted by something called the Catholic Anti-Defamation League, which accuses Rick Salter of abusing a pillar of the Catholic Church for profit and political gain.
There’s a lot about the book that seems very timely. Gun issues are in the news. There have been a stunning number of mass murders. Reality TV is everywhere.
Yes. Guns are in the news, and there is, I believe, a chance for a sustained national effort to organize for increased gun safety legislation. I may be a dreamer, but I think there’s a sense — common sense — that we need a way to keep weapons away from certain people. I think the San Bernadino tragedy underscored that. But it’s not just about keeping guns from terrorists. People with mental health issues, with anger issues, drug and alcohol issues should have checks, too.
Are you a TV addict?
Nope. I like movies, sports, and a few sit-coms.
So why write about TV?
TV is still the most important and powerful medium in the world. You know what gets the most tweets on Twitter? TV shows and TV events. People watch and tweet. It is our religion. Now, it may change, thanks to the Internet. And smart phones. But for now, TV is still king. And it is still fascinating, how it drives careers, products, the news. How it manufactures celebrity. Listen, Donald Trump is a former reality TV star. I think he owes a lot of his popularity to that exposure, where he was always large and in charge. I’m amazed more people don’t write about this superpower.
Rick Salter is quite a character — commenting one everything from shoes to film history to colostomy bags to “banging the help.” But he seems to be evolving.
Yes. He’s older. And he’s learned a few lessons after being trapped underneath his home entertainment system in the last book. Some of my early readers wondered if he’s evolved too far and gotten too nice. But I think his passion, outrage, competitiveness and a twisted sense of humor still make him a likeable anti-hero.
Will there be a third Rick Salter novel?
I have an idea for one. So I guess if this one takes off, I will once again put that historical novel on hold again.
To purchase Nuns With Guns please go to: Amazon.com