Welcome to the last Monday in August, which this year also happens to be the first Monday after LonCon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention. If you were among the record numbers who attended this year’s Worldcon, then dropping in here at EATING AUTHORS will allow you to catch your breath. As for the rest of you, please breathe normally.
Our guest this week is Michael A. Ventrella, a member of that highly specialized fraternity, F/SF authors who are also lawyers. And given the behavior of most authors I’ve met, having Michael’s number in your contacts list is probably a good idea as it’s only a matter of time before we’re all going to need an attorney. Until then, let’s focus on Michael’s work in the genre. His most recent book, Bloodsuckers, blends classic vampiric tropes with something truly horrific: politics. Vampire fiction has been overmined in recent years, so it’s particularly gratifying to have a refreshing take, regardless of your political affiliations.
In addition to writing both short stories and novels, Michael’s also built a treasure trove of interviews with other authors, putting them on the spot with seemingly innocent questions — hmmm, maybe it’s not so easy to separate out the lawyer from the author. You’ll find them on his website, alongside an impressive collection of writing resources. Just another example of a writer paying it forward.
LMS: Welcome, Michael. If you would, tell me about your most memorable meal.
MAV: Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary, so I am always reminded of an unforgettable anniversary dinner Heidi and I celebrated quite a few years ago.
It wasn’t that the meal was so special, or the atmosphere, or even the conversation.
It was that damned manager.
Money was tight, and a trip to Red Lobster was just about in our budget. We dressed nice and Heidi even put on lipstick. We took our seats, ordered dinner, and then salad was served.
And that’s when things got weird.
Our dinner conversation abruptly halted when Heidi let out a very loud yelp. Just a short syllable of a shout, but enough to make everyone around stop and look in our direction.
I raised an eyebrow. She glanced down at her salad, eyes wide, and pointed.
There, amidst the lettuce, spinach, and assorted unidentifiable leafy substances, a large dead bug stared back at my wife.
It appeared to be a lightning bug or something of that sort, and I think both of us at that moment had the same thought: At least it was found before it was digested.
“What’s going on?” asked the nosy fellow leaning over the divider, much in the way an albatross stares at your meal on the beach. (Forgive me; the seafood decorations at Red Lobster may have placed that image in my brain unwittingly.)
“Bug in the salad,” I said.
“Bug in the salad!” the guy repeated loudly to the room so that everyone else could experience the situation. This pronouncement was immediately followed by the sound of forks shifting through glass plates, in search of other non-invited entrees hidden within their own appetizers, perhaps buried under creamy dressing.
A waitress zoomed up. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
Heidi merely pointed. A series of profuse apologies poured over us and continued on non-stop as she grabbed the plate and rushed to the kitchen, her voice changing pitch, Doppler-like.
The manager was soon at our side, kneeling close to the table. A mousy man with glasses that looked too small for his face. “I am so sorry,” he said. I had a brief flashback of an old Monty Python sketch and winced slightly, afraid that he would end the conversation by stabbing himself like Eric Idle.
He gave a small apologetic shrug. “This sometimes happens,” he said. “They pick the leaves and put them in the huge bags, and sometimes bugs get in there. We usually catch them when we wash the leaves, and removed them then, but not always, as you can see.”
“Dude, you’re not helping things here,” I said, proud of myself for using the word “Dude” in a totally appropriate way for the first and only time in my life.
He bowed his head and looked askance to see if any other patrons were still watching. “Yes, sorry, it’s just embarrassing.”
The waitress came by and deposited a second salad before Heidi, who stared at it, wondering if another bug had recently been removed by alert kitchen staff.
“Allow me to get you whatever dessert you want,” the manager continued. We nodded, deciding that was a good outcome—although in retrospect I wonder what he would have done had I announced that I am a lawyer.
Thanks, Michael. But aren’t you haunted to this day, wondering who that bellicose stranger was? I suspect he demanded free dessert too, collateral damages and such.
Next Monday: Another author and another meal!
Tags: Eating Authors