I basically went from reading comic books to reading William S. Burroughs. Like many people my age, I discovered Burroughs through less-than-literary sources:
I quickly became obsessed and created my first bizarro book, a cutup hodgepodge of nonsense featuring a Dr. Benway-esque character named Dr. Lamplighter. Strangely, it was sex-free. I was just entering high school at the time, so I was a bit afraid of sexuality still. So instead of having scenes of strangulation jerk-off time travel, I wrote about exploding squirrels. There were a lot of exploding squirrels in this book.
While I was working on it, I walked into school one day to find a bunch of kids mobbing a squirrel that had accidentally gotten inside. They were rabid, zombie-like. They killed it in their attempt to catch it in their coats. As a naive young author of bizarro fiction, I took this as a sign that I needed to write about squirrels. Lots of squirrels. Fuck.
I wrote a squirrel-free piece of bizarro fiction called “Freak Tension,” which later appeared in thoroughly revised form in the debut issue of my zine. My high school English teacher got really excited about it. She pulled me aside after class and said it was the best thing she had ever read in her years as a teacher. I felt so proud. Then I told her I was inspired by William S. Burroughs. She had no idea who he was. Baffled, I decided that compliments on my writing didn’t mean shit from ignoramuses like her.
Although the Burroughs influence is much less overt in my writing these days, I still like the idea of including almost standalone bits in larger pieces, such as the Nazi fly bit in The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone. Now I suddenly have an idea for a story about a squirrel.