Meet the Author Monday: Al Schnupp

Al Schnupp

It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Al Schnupp, author of Goods & Effects.

About Al Schnupp:

Al Schnupp is a retired faculty member of the Theatre and Dance Department of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. During his tenure, Mr. Schnupp directed and/or designed approximately eighty productions. He also wrote a dozen plays, many were produced in university settings, regional theatre venues or Off-Off-Broadway. He was the recipient of the Margo Jones National Playwriting Award for the play My Body, awarded by Texas Women’s University. The Stone Circle, a full-length adult puppet show, was co-authored and designed by Mr. Schnupp; the show was produced at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta and won an UNIMA International Citation of Excellence.

About Goods & Effects:

Devastated by the death of her husband and sons, Hannah Mercer sells the family farm and creates a store and living quarters in a delivery truck. As she travels several circuits selling her wares, Hannah becomes the heart of a network of interlinking lives: Nathan owns the motel where Hannah often parks her truck. Darla is a young and talented deaf artist, whose parents let her accompany Hannah on her rounds. Wanda, the sassy receptionist at a hardware distribution center, has larger ambitions. Naomi, wife of the pious Mennonite deacon, entertains fantasies of sexual freedom. Frank, a gentle farmer with a chronically-ill wife, harbors great affection for Hannah, but has troubling biases. LeRoy is a black farmer and talented singer, yet his family is subjected to racial terrorism. Velma owns a woodworking shop. Is she a good match for Vivian, Ronan County’s elegant, lesbian librarian?

Larry… Maddie … Tom… Molly. As time passes and Hannah’s relationships deepen, her faith diminishes but her vision of humanity expands. Hannah Mercer is a clever problem-solver, a shrewd schemer, a spinner of tender lies, an advocate for justice, and a dream weaver.

Author Interview with Al Schnupp:

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  1. What inspired you to start writing?  

A high school teacher initiated my interest in writing when she complimented me on a number of poems I had written.  Later, as I studied and performed theatre, I was captivated by the power and beauty of dialogue.  It was an economical and poetic way to reveal character, illuminate plot and conjure emotion.  I began my writing career as a playwright, garnering success in the dramatic-writing genre.  Later in life, I turned to prose.

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Although I cannot recall the specific moment, I recognized the power of language when I realized during life-changing events – such as graduations, weddings, childbirth, funerals – people shared poems, songs, letters and stories to honor and celebrate people, to make sense of life-passage events.  Words promoted solace, humor, meaning.

  1. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

This is a two-fold answer.  

I’ve written plays about real-life individuals, usually women who are artists and activists, such as Peggy Guggenheim (Art Collector), Ivy Bottini (LGBTQ, AIDS and Women’s Rights activist) and Käthe Kollwitz (Famous German Artist Whose Art was Labeled Degenerate by the Nazi).

In these cases, I felt I needed to responsibly channel the spirit and work of the women who were the subject of my plays.  This required intensive research, and in one particular case, a series of four, three-hour interviews.

GOODS & EFFECTS is a fictional piece.  Like the main character, however, I was raised in a religious Mennonite community.  The protagonist, Hannah, and I share a similar spiritual journey: we each rejected dogma and worked to embrace a more inclusive vision of the world, to celebrate diversity, to honor the abilities of women, to fight for disenfranchised individuals, to seek social justice.  

  1. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Writing a novel or play takes an immense amount of time and energy.  Like all writers, I suppose, we devote our resources to a project because the characters and story are important and they reflect our values in some way.  A writer, I believe, cannot sustain long-term energy on a project that has a weak personal connection.

5.  How do you handle writer’s block?

In the article 36 Assumptions About Playwriting, José Rivera stated, “Often, writer’s block happens to you because somewhere in your work you’ve lied to yourself and your subconscious won’t let you go any further until you’ve gone back, erased the lie, stated the truth and started over.”  I believe this to be true for me.  Regarding GOODS & EFFECTS, the protagonist was initially a Baptist.  When I decided to make her a Mennonite, I opened myself up to exploring my past and family relationships in a much deeper and authentic way.

6. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I want to be transported when I read.  I want to be moved.  This happens when an author connects to him/herself and his/her character to humanity.  As a writer, I embrace simplicity and focus on dialogue.  I endeavor to suggest, but not reveal subtext.  I strive to show complexity in a character, to embrace the strengths and shortcomings in each individual.  

7. Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.

Again, this is a two-fold answer.

I recently published a political satire, ZERO.  It features a character named Inspector Oodles.  My inspiration for this character was Inspector Jacques Clouseau.  It was great fun dreaming up disguises, schemes, and oddball detective tactics for Oodles.  It would be a joy to see Alan Cumming play this role.

Hannah, the protagonist of GOODS & EFFECTS is dear to my heart.  Although the novel is in no way autobiographical, Hannah and I share so much in common.  I would cherish Hannah as a friend.

8. Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.

I am a visual artist and theatre set designer.  For both of my recently-published novellas, GOODS & EFFECTS and ZERO, I submitted ideas to my publisher.  These materials included a painting, photograph, pencil drawings and map.  Both publishers had graphic designers who adroitly manipulated the images to create the covers.

9. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Integrity.  Generous.  Creative.

To learn more about Al Schnupp, here’s where you can find him:

Instagram: @al.schnupp

Meet the Author Book Promotion

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

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