Interview with Author Marc Severson
Our publisher, Sean Buvala, sat down with author Marc Severson to talk shop about his new book “Don’t Throw Me in the Cholla Patch!” recently published by us. A transcript is included below. It’s a transcript, not a polished, printed document. Enjoy the “flavor” of it all.
Sean Buvala: Hey. This is Sean Buvala with Small Tooth Dog Publishing Group. I’m talking today to one of our new authors. You’ve been around the block for a while.
Marc Severson: Thirty years or so.
Sean Buvala: This is Mark Severson. He has just released with us, Don’t Throw Me in the Choya Patch. The wood rat and coyote story. The first of the woodrat stories.
Marc Severson: Absolutely.
Sean Buvala: Mark, how are ya?
Marc Severson: I’m doing great. I like to say that over the last 30 years, I’ve become an overnight sensation.
Sean Buvala: Yes, that’s right. That’s all it takes is 30 years. Hey, so we are really pleased to see this book come out with you.
Marc Severson: Not as pleased as I was.
Sean Buvala: That’s good. Look, even your name is on it.
Marc Severson: I know.
Sean Buvala: Where does the story come from? What is the history?
Marc Severson: That’s a great question. When I was an archeologist, I used to be out in the Sonoran desert and I’d find these piles of brush and such. They were surrounded by cholla. I always wondered about them. The fellow that I was doing the survey with said they were woodrat nests. I just thought, “Wow, what a fascinating creature.” They can bring cholla to its nest to protect it from all the other animals.
Sean Buvala: Nobody else wants to touch it.
Marc Severson: No. How smart.
Sean Buvala: Is this a story you’ve been telling. What’s the … how did the story develop?
Marc Severson: I’ve been telling wood rat stories off and on for a couple of years. Not very many actually, because it took me a while to kind of put it together. Some stories come easily, some stories take a long time. This one took a while because I couldn’t think of the item that I wanted to install. Then when I remembered the old briar patch story, it all came together. I got it. I figured it out. So it took a while to put it together. But then I’ve been telling it about two years now.
Sean Buvala: You know what’s interesting about that story is the tale type, a lot of people will say something like Briar Rabbit or something like that, but it’s a tale type. It’s a kind of story about, I’m begging for you not to put me where I grew up.
Marc Severson: That’s right.
Sean Buvala: So the tale type has existed for … the tale type’s been around for a very long time. So that’s not necessarily new, but your reframing of it is that. Why Sonoran dessert?
Marc Severson: It’s what I know best. I’ve lived here since 1964. I was an archeologist for, I’ve been an archeologist all through it, but part time and full time. Full time for a while, then part-time. Then I taught out at the Reservation for four years. I did tours. I’ve done tours on the Reservation for many years for Pima College. I know the dessert. I’m a desert rat.
Sean Buvala: Right. Both of us have been here for a long time. You’ve done more direct work out in the wild.
Marc Severson: I’ve been to some wild places.
Sean Buvala: We’ve both been here for a really long time, but your background is not just BLM or anthropology, you’ve taught too.
Marc Severson: Yeah, I’ve taught for 25 years. I taught public schools for 25 years. I taught for the state for seven years in developmental disabilities. Pre-school and zero to five children. So I’ve had a lot of education background. When I left archeology full time, I went to teaching and did archeology part time as my side job. Because I was a teacher so I had a side job. That’s all there is to it.
Sean Buvala: Right. We’re at the Tucson Festival of Books. You just did a performance up there on that stage up there. That was really nice.
Marc Severson: Thank you. It’s the most fun thing I do.
Sean Buvala: And it shows. I love storytelling and I’m a storyteller myself.
Marc Severson: Really?
Sean Buvala: Yeah. Little kids like that, that’s not my thing. Then when I watch somebody who’s really good at it-
Marc Severson: They don’t scare me.
Sean Buvala: That crowd when you did the little hunt and all the folding and gestures and all that, that crowd was little ones. Probably the oldest was like 12. You had them all in it.
Marc Severson: They were good. They were involved. They were participating is what it comes down to. If you get them involved and they come right along. A friend of mine used to say I run right along the edge of losing control, but I never quite do.
Sean Buvala: Well, your facial work is really good on there. Particularly I’m thinking at the end with the bear, we called it the bear. Just how well … that’s kind of a deeper concept. It’s like you’re talking to these kids, you’re doing very direct stuff. Dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. Then you grab the bear. That’s abstract. It’s really abstract. For you to convey to the kids so well. You didn’t over explain it which I think is a terrible thing that storytellers do, over explain. You didn’t over explain, you pulled them with you.
Marc Severson: If you take it too far, you’re gonna lose them. You gotta move quick.
Sean Buvala: Quick and dirty. Yes. Right. Our goal with you is trying to produce a series.
Marc Severson: I would love it.
Sean Buvala: What are we thinking about next?
Marc Severson: I am hoping that we can go to woodrat and badger. That’s one of my favorites. I really like that story. To be honest with you, the badger’s kind of my totemic animal.
Sean Buvala: Really?
Marc Severson: Yeah, when I would work in archeology, one of my archeology pals knick named me the badger, ’cause I was short, squat and liked to dig. I moved a lot of dirt. I have a lot of Zuni badge fetishes at home. It’s just been kind of my nickname. If they don’t call me the bear, they call me the badger.
Sean Buvala: I think out of all the stuff that I’ve looked at, I think we have at least three in a series. I think that’s where we’re gonna go. Assuming we can get the artist on board.
Marc Severson: Absolutely. I love the artist.
Sean Buvala: So if we can go with Francisco Orsini some more. Badger probably next.
Marc Severson: Sounds good.
Sean Buvala: It’s a very similar story about, “Hey don’t go in there are eat them.” But then the badger does something else.
Marc Severson: Getting somebody to do something that they think they’re doing for them, but they’re really doing it for you.
Sean Buvala: It has kind of that Tom Sawyer-ish thing.
Marc Severson: It has.
Sean Buvala: They’re all painting fences.
Marc Severson: Painting fences.
Sean Buvala: Digging in the dirt is so much fun.
Marc Severson: You’ll really enjoy it.
Sean Buvala: I don’t know where my babies are. They could be in there. That’s good stuff. You also publish other work as well.
Marc Severson: Yeah.
Sean Buvala: Tell me about some of your other stuff.
Marc Severson: I self-published four novels in a series. It’s a Lovecraft inspired horror fantasy. It actually came from a bunch of short stories I wrote when I was in college some 40 years ago. Then when I retired, I started writing and they became novels. It just went on its own. I call it the Chaos Series. The first one is Chaos Territory. Just recently, I published through iUniverse Bit of Sky which is based on some sites I dug over a period of a couple of years up near Gold. I just took the sites and I turned them into the locations for a novel. I wrote a novel around the sites. So they’re actual places. I kind of used things we found there in the novel.
Sean Buvala: Cool. Before the wind pushes out microphone out completely, thanks. This book is great.
Marc Severson: Thank you.
Sean Buvala: I’m happy to be making this happen with you. That’s a good thing. Alright, Sean Buvala, Mark Severson from Small Tooth Dog Publishing Group. We’re talking about Don’t Throw Me in the Cholla Patch, which is the latest release from the two of us. You can find this one at ChollaPatch.com You can find information about Mark there as well. You do school shows?
Marc Severson: I’m everywhere.
Sean Buvala: Good. Great. Thanks a lot, Mark. Appreciate it.
Marc Severson: Thanks.