Sarah Wendell: Hey there! Welcome to episode number 579 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I am Sarah Wendell, and Dr. Chuck Tingle is back. His episode with me from 2016 remains the most popular episode in the catalog, and I am so excited to have Dr Tingle back on the show! So we’re going to talk about eliciting joy, proving love, and the three most maligned genres and why they’re denigrated. Plus, we talk about Chuck’s ever evolving trot as an artist and a person. I want to say a very special thank-you to Caro Perny for coordinating this interview.
I also want to say hello and thank you to the Patreon community, and I have a compliment this week!
To Ellen H.: I don’t know if you are aware, but your kindness, cleverness, and ability to make people laugh inspired all the happiest and most popular emojis on everyone’s phone. Yes, even that one!
If you have supported the show with a monthly pledge of any amount, thank you. You are keeping me going, and you are making sure that every episode has a transcript hand-compiled by an actual human: garlicknitter, who is not an AI. I have met her; she’s a real person. [Yep! – gk] It is important to me that the episodes be accessible, and it’s important to the community as well, so thank you for keeping me going!
And hello to AK, who just joined the Patreon community. Welcome aboard! If you join, we have bonus episodes, we have a wonderful Discord community, and we have a lot of jokes and silliness, so have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches.
Support for this episode comes from Lume Deodorant. It is the perfect time of year for me to talk about Lume, because the calendar might have flipped over to a new month, but it’s still plenty hot and sticky where I am. It is still soup. It is still weather that makes me want to hide inside and it will be for a little longer, but thankfully Lume Deodorant makes it very easy to feel comfortable and freshly scented. And I have a special offer: new customers get five dollars off Lume’s Starter Pack with code SARAH30 at lumedeodorant.com. The whole family over here really likes Lume. I use the solid stick deodorant, and it is great. The Toasted Coconut scent is lovely, but not overpowering, and I don’t ever have to reapply! I think about it once a day and only once a day. Not only do I like Lume, but my teenagers do as well. How does it work? Well, some products try to mask odor with a fragrance, but Lume is formulated and powered by mandelic acid to stop odor before it starts. It’s more like a pre-odorant. Lume can control odor for up to seventy-two hours. It’s a first-of-its-kind deodorant, too: it was designed to be safe to use anywhere on your body, even your feet! Lume was developed by an OB/GYN, and it’s aluminum- and paraben-free, skin-safe, and clinically proven to control odor for up to seventy-two hours. Lume’s Starter Pack is perfect for new customers: it comes with a solid stick deodorant; cream tube deodorant; and two free products of your choice, like mini body wash and deodorant wipes; plus free shipping. As a special offer for listeners, new customers get five dollars off a Lume Starter Pack with code SARAH30 at lumedeodorant.com. That equates to over forty percent off your starter pack when you visit lumedeodorant.com and use code SARAH30.
Support for this episode comes from Wattpad. You might recognize the name Anna Todd from her number-one bestselling After series. It was a massive global hit; it was made into a movie; her appearances cause lines to form around city blocks. So you might have heard of her before, but did you know she’s written a new romance trilogy? It’s true! The first two books in the Brightest Stars are out now, and if you are looking for some late summer, hey-it’s-still-hot-and-maybe-I-can-go-to-the-pool type of reading, listen up: set against the backdrop of a military base, both books feature emotionally powerful stories about slowly falling in love with another person and with yourself. Colleen Hoover is a massive fan of Anna Todd’s heart-stopping new trilogy, and she raved about the first book, The Falling, by saying, “Anna Todd…is my go-to for a story I know I’ll love and characters who live in the heart long after the last page is turned.” You can find The Falling and The Burning by Anna Todd and buy your copies wherever books are sold.
All right, it’s time for me to talk to Chuck Tingle, which is always a lot of fun. On with the podcast.
Dr. Chuck Tingle: Yes! Oh, dang! I am Chuck Tingle, author of erotica and romance and now, for the last couple of years actually, horror. Camp Damascus is my first traditionally published horror novel. I had a horror novella called Straight…that was out before that, but I self-published with them? I would say cross genres, but sticking with the LGBTQIA themes is, is what I would say.
Sarah: Absolutely true. And you have been publishing Tinglers for a very long time. You and I first spoke, I think it was 2016 we did an interview.
Dr. Tingle: Wow! Oh, this is so excite! I am, I am…so happy to be here, and it’s very moving. I think that at this point, putting out first traditionally published novel, there, there’s a lot of reflection and a lot of just, I’ve been having big feelings – big, good feelings – seeing the way that things have kind of changed and perception of me and, and my work has changed a lot. I think, honestly, I am, I will say, to give you credit, and one of the reasons I’m, I’m so happy to come back is I feel like you, you were always taking me seriously and, and at least understanding that what I was creating was from a, from a place of love? I mean, we all have our own interpretations of, of art, but you, you were always a very strong proponent from the very beginning, and I, I appreciate that! So this is another full circle – I, I’m just, I am so happy to be here.
Sarah: Oh, that’s really nice of you to say, and absolutely, we have been long-time supporters of the Tingle universe, particularly because what you’re doing is blending absurd silliness with really thoughtful commentary about whatever it is you’re writing a Tingler about. You’re actually informed about –
Dr. Tingle: Yes.
Sarah: – what you’re talking about, but you’re also – forgive the language – injecting it with a significant amount of silliness and absurdity, which is, like, exactly the intersection of my sense of humor, so absolutely we want to support this! Plus, you’re writing consensual, erotic, queer short sore, short stories, effectively. I mean –
Dr. Tingle: Yes!
Sarah: – why wouldn’t we support that? That’s frigging awesome!
Dr. Tingle: Yes! And, and you know, it’s so interesting. I guess with all, with all art, even the artist themselves is kind of picking – I understand it when I create it, but then I, I learn more about it –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Dr. Tingle: – as it goes?
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Dr. Tingle: And I think that there is so much sincerity in Tinglers, despite them being objectively absurd –
Dr. Tingle: – that I, I’ve kind of come to terms with that maybe that is satire, but it is sincere satire.
Dr. Tingle: And I think year, years ago I couldn’t articulate that, that those two things could be possible? So that’s just my journey. We’re always on, on journeys, you know.
Sarah: Oh, it’s true! And you don’t necessarily know what you think until you read back something that you’ve written and think, Oh, yes! Okay, my –
Dr. Tingle: Yes.
Sarah: – I call it the Crockpot in the back of my brain? I just chuck ideas back there and they cook for a little while, and then oh, oh! Here’s a fully formed idea that you can write! And it’s in, almost in order. I don’t ever write in order –
Dr. Tingle: Oh!
Sarah: – but that’s, that’s how it happens –
Dr. Tingle: Wow!
Sarah: – it goes in the Crockpot, and then it comes out.
Dr. Tingle: I love that! That is exactly my process too! I think we might share a process!
Sarah: I think we do!
Dr. Tingle: When I’m waiting, waiting to write – this is mostly novels I’m talking about – my writing process is probably two or three months of thinking of the idea, thinking of the message, kind of swirling it in my head. I like to go on an hour-long trot every morning up a dang hill, and I just think about it. I don’t write a word, and then after about three months when I could – I like to say when, when I can tell the story off the top of my head like I’m sitting around a dang campfire and I just know it like that, then I sit down and write, and when I write it, it only takes about a month, because I’m just writing a story that I know very well? Maybe you could say it’s been simmering in the Crockpot!
Dr. Tingle: Is that kind of similar to how you just think of it and let it sit and simmer and then it just comes out?
Sarah: Pretty much! And, and I struggle with this, and I wonder if you do too: I struggle with, when I am writing, responding to something that is happening right now, because I haven’t had enough time to cogitate on the larger issues that are, that are nagging at me? So when there’s like a breaking news story in romance, for example, I often struggle with trying to fully articulate it, because what I’m doing is reacting, rather than –
Dr. Tingle: Yes!
Sarah: – analyzing, which, for me, takes longer; needs to go in the Crockpot.
Dr. Tingle: Oh! Wow, that’s interest-! I’ve, well, I have two, two answers for this because I write two kinds of stories. One is, you know, erotica, which can come out twenty-four hours after something dang happens, and then next is these horror novels, and, you know, I’ve self-published erotica and then doing – so traditional publishing takes much longer –
Dr. Tingle: – so I’m basically op-, I’m operating at warp speed and then super slow grinding machine –
Dr. Tingle: – that takes at least a couple years. And I feel very fulfilled with, because I’m allowed to do both. I think that the way that I write Tinglers, I don’t have that hesitation, because I kind of think artistically, there is no perfect. I’ve, I’ve had to learn that, and that’s been part of my process, and so, I mean, all of the Tingleverse is kind of a rejection of that and saying I’ve got to capture the moment as I feel it right now.
Dr. Tingle: So they are intentionally messy; they are intentionally the first thought that comes out, and I think fortunately, I guess I, I am analytical enough that I’m going to say coherent, there’s a coherent something there. Really, the way I look at Tinglers is, you know, in music as a medium, there’s an entire genre of punk rock where the guitar is maybe played a little too sloppy, and the singing might be a little out of tune, and you just capture that, and then you put it out and everyone says, Oh, this is wonderful! This is dang punk rock. That doesn’t really exist in writing, and I kind of would like, I kind of feel like what I’m trying to do is the forefront of that with Tinglers, to say, Yeah, there, there are some errors in this, because it was written in a day. It is my raw, unfiltered thoughts on this, and it is interesting because in, in the literary medium, all you’re going to hear is, Oh my, that’s, that’s spelled wrong, that’s not , that’s all these things, but if you were creating a song in music, they would just say, Oh, wow, that’s a great punk rock song. It’s, it’s very interesting that it doesn’t apply to the medium of written word, and so I guess, I think with Tinglers that’s kind of what I’m trying to do is punk, punk writing.
And then for my longer form things, I’m still doing that, but what I’ve found is that with the – you know, I was kind of worried about Camp Damascus as far as, wow, I, I wrote that two years ago! How much are these issues going to really apply? I’m so used to a twenty-four-hour turn-around, but the thing is, is these issues are systematic?
Dr. Tingle: The, the, the oppression of LGBTQIA people, the tactics that conservatives use? The, are exactly the same if you look at what’s being said about trans people right now. It’s just the same, it’s repeating on a wheel, so it’s, it’s interesting that what I was worried about was, Oh, this won’t apply anymore, and then I come to realize, no, conservatives are never going to come up with a new dang tactic. It’s, it’s going to be the same, so these issues just kind of become systematic, and it’s bad for reality, but as far as the art goes, it does make it very current, no matter when these things come out.
Sarah: It’s true. Now, I have some questions from members of my Patreon community, who are extremely excited that you are back on the show, and Bransler, who just read Camp Damascus, said, “I’d like to know whether you’ve had experiences of your own with anti-LGBTQ religious communities as a young person. Some of the details of the church were very familiar –” Like you said, it’s a familiar map. “– and other things seem like a mix of traits from more than one denomination, which works because it is a fictional cult.”
Dr. Tingle: Well, you know, what’s interesting, I, I’ve, I’ve been kind of honored in that a lot of the reviews say, Wow, there’s no way Chuck – I guess we’ve learned something about Chuck: he must have been, grew up evangelical – guy, that, because they say, Oh, some of these details, you could only know of kind of being in these groups, and actually, I did not.
I have been pretty much, I would say agnostic ever since I was even aware of the thought of what is this? From very, very young. I think that basically what happened was, you know, I, I kind of, I’m wearing this mask. I have to, I have to disguise things about my life, but they’re all, they’re all actually true in their own way. The example I use is if I say, Oh, I, I pet a cat today, if I post that online, I, I probably pet a dog. But they are all, they are all kind of, in their own way, true; I’m just kind of protecting my privacy. And one thing about my life that I’ve just kind of recently started talking about is that I spent a good dang decade and a half of my youth traveling. I’ve been all over the dang country. Been shanking around, dang, meeting up with buckaroos; staying on dang couches; working little, little jobs; and basically a dang, dang Tingleverse Jack Kerouac novel was a pretty big part of my youth? And so a lot of those experiences kind of gave me inside looks on things. I am, and actually, I think, made me pretty dang tolerant, because I have a lot of buds from all walks of life.
And during that time, I had some evangelical buds that, I was not a, a Christian, and I would say, I don’t know what the heck you guys are talking about. This is very strange to me! But I’m glad we’re buds, and I learned a lot from just hanging around them. There’s a lot of things in the book that are directly from those times. I, I remember there were real, in Camp Damascus there is a, a root beer kegger, and I remember going to a dang root beer kegger. I remember it getting broken up by the police, and we said, Well, actually, there is no underage drinking going on here. This is all root beer! And the police said, What the heck, do you think we’re stupid? What are you talking about? And then we handed them a drink and them saying, Oh, oh my gosh. Okay! Well, carry on, young folks. So there’s some things like that; just little – I remember there’s a part in Camp Damascus where someone talks, says, Well, I’m so proud of them, and then kind of corrects themselves and says, Well, not proud. And I remember that happening to me with a bud where their, their, their parent said, Oh, well, of course I’m not real-, I’m not proud of them. And I just thought, Wow, what an interesting thing to, to be so worried about the sin of pride that you won’t even say you’re proud of, of your daughter, actually.
And so there were these little tidbits from being involved and, and having buds in this community that I picked up, and then now that I’m older, too, here, I’m living in Los Angeles, City of Devils! And I’ve a bud who was in a cult, actually, growing up, so I talk to them a lot and did kind of an interview about their experience in, in a cult, so that’s kind of where I drew it from.
Sarah: That makes a lot of sense! Bransler also added that they appreciated that you included a character who continued to find comfort and value in religion, even though that this particular church had harmed them in the book.
Dr. Tingle: Yes! Yes, well, I’m definitely not, I’m not anti-religious or, you know, I think you can make it broader, just say anti-spirituality? I, I am, I think that this book is specifically about using religion for, for an excuse for hate.
Dr. Tingle: And in this particular situation, they don’t even really think they’re doing it for hate. They, they think they’re doing it out of love, and then it’s kind of revealed, well, actually, they don’t actually believe anything that’s that unusual. It’s actually just, they’re just kind of a normal church. I think I, I got that, Jordan Peele is very big inspiration to me, and there’s been a lot of comparisons to Get Out that I’ve been getting of Camp Damascus, and it’s apt because there is a scene in Get Out – I think that that, the reason that movie works is because the family is a liberal family.
Dr. Tingle: When the dad, when the dad says, I would have voted for Obama for a third term, that, that is the key to that movie right there, and so I definitely tried to, to do that with Camp Damascus, for sure.
Sarah: Yeah, and it’s a performance of a particular kind of – not nobility – virtue. It’s a performance –
Dr. Tingle: Yes.
Sarah: – of virtue, and yet that same virtue is being used to harm people as an excuse for just hating them for being different.
Dr. Tingle: Yes! Well, you know what it is, it is, it is buckaroos who, I think, gosh, it’s almost like you can divide the dang world, and we’re all, most of us, the majority of people are trying to love and do right in their own way, and I think that the difference here is, in this particular church – and honestly most of the church in general – believe that love and control are, are synonymous?
Dr. Tingle: I think that the other side thinks, Well, you don’t really know how to love, so I’m going to help you through kind of overriding your agency, ‘cause I know best.
Sarah: Yes. It isn’t overriding of agency, and it’s a, it’s an insistence on a level of control that isn’t really, doesn’t really mesh well with human development and growth.
Dr. Tingle: Yeah, well, you’d think we’d learn that by now –
Dr. Tingle: – but it keeps happening.
Dr. Tingle: It’s that wheel over and over again.
Sarah: I have been saying that – especially when I’m on Twitter; this is where I see it the most – it’s as if the community is the sun, and there are issues that orbit hourly, that we talk about every hour, and then there’s issues that come up maybe once a month, and then there’s issues that come up every five years, and I’ve been online long enough that it’s like, Oh, wow, that’s a ten-year issue, and it’s back. Wow. Okay.
Dr. Tingle: That is – oh, that’s, you, thank you! You’ve given me a new, a new brain, a new vision for this.
Dr. Tingle: That is so, that is true.
Sarah: And when you see that five- or ten-year issue come back, and like you said, it’s the same map; it’s the same language. We’re, wait, we’re still doing this?
Dr. Tingle: Yes. That’s going to give me a lot to think on. I, I lo-, see, I knew, I knew trotting back here, I was very excited for this.
Sarah: [Laughs] Well, I have to ask, ‘cause you’ve been talking about erotic fantasy and horror, what led you to choose horror after writing so much? I mean, is it fair to call Tinglers erotic fantasy? I really thought about that for a solid five minutes. Like, what are –
Dr. Tingle: I –
Sarah: – the genre terms that I would use? But I, that was where I landed, and I’m curious if you agree.
Dr. Tingle: That is, that is actually, I would say that, well, we talked at the beginning about my relationship with calling them satire. I think, I think erotic fantasy is, is what I have always kind of thought the, of them as, ‘cause –
Dr. Tingle: – I think that now I’m kind of learning, well, you know, it’s different things to different buckaroos, and –
Dr. Tingle: – and really, really, the point of it is to, to elicit joy. So however that’s perceived is fine with me, but yes, I think erotic fantasy is, is probably the best, the best thing to capture it all.
Dr. Tingle: And then I, to move to horror, to answer the question, I’ve always loved horror. I think that horror and erotica and romance are very related. I, I’ve talked a lot – actually, I’m dang, doing my dang book tour, I’m a whole slideshow about this, but the, I say the trinity of maligned genres, and that is in three genres: it is erotica, comedy, and horror. I kind of see them related because, you know, they are looked down upon in a sort of, maybe the, the snooty, literary minds of, of a sort of – I’m doing air quotes for listeners – “intellectuals.” If you enjoy any of these genres, they are not serious or real art –
Dr. Tingle: – and, and I’m sure, you know, this is a big romance, so everyone listening to this knows what that’s like for romance.
Sarah: Oh –
Dr. Tingle: Here’s the same with, with comedy and horror –
Dr. Tingle: – and to, to various degrees, and I think that the reason for that that I have found is because those elicit reactions of the body…
Sarah: Oh, that’s a really interesting theory. I was just going to say, you’re talking about sex and arousal, love –
Dr. Tingle: Yes.
Sarah: – love, laughter, and fear, which are all –
Dr. Tingle: Yes!
Sarah: – they’re all physical responses! That’s, that’s very true!
Dr. Tingle: ‘Cause they’re primal, instinctual things, and so I think that a lot of, a lot of people have kind of – and going back to religion, you can see that religion…you’re not supposed to listen to your body. Your mind should override all of these things; this is the correct way. There’s an anti-body thing that has been going on for, I mean, since dang humanity began –
Dr. Tingle: – and I think that these genres in the current landscape are, are kind of taking the brunt of some of that. I will add, too, romance, all of that, plus the fact that it’s mostly women writing and reading, so that’s a whole other additional thing that it’s being kind of discriminated for –
Dr. Tingle: – just layers and layers. But I will focus on the body thing. Well, actually, those are kind of intertwined if you think about issues of abortion, women’s rights, people really want to control women’s bodies in general –
Dr. Tingle: – so maybe, maybe that’s why romance has really, really taken the brunt of that too. But for me, what I like in art – and I guess we talked about this at the beginning – is definitely not perfection. It is just honesty. When something floors you is when I, I can see the artist just bleeding on the page or the song or the screen without those dang filters – kind of funny coming from someone wearing a mask, but still, that’s what I like, and that’s what I try to create. And so I just find those three genres are really where I always like to play around, because that, to me, is, like, where the, that’s where the heart is; that’s where the honesty is. So I’ve always been drawn to those, and I think you can see that with Tinglers and now moving to horror. I kinda think honestly, that’s why, especially lately, you see a lot of people in comedy jumping to horror and being very, very successful.
Dr. Tingle: Jordan, Jordan Peele being a big one. Zach, is it Zach Cregger – whoever did Barbarian – was in that comedy, and so, you know, it’s, it’s just kind of this interest- – oh! What did I just see? Talk to me. Also, YouTube, the, the director of that did a YouTube comedy thing.
So there’s just this incredible kind of horror resurgence coming out of that world, and, and I just, I see romance as the same. There’s just all of these genres that aren’t afraid to play with reactions of the body.
Sarah: That’s very true! And they’re also very core emotions: arousal and fear and love are essential pieces of humanity.
Dr. Tingle: And the first ones! I mean, I honestly think if you are going to go back to the, let’s say cave person times, although I know scientifically there’s all kinds of things there, but just imagine, think about the first stories.
Dr. Tingle: You know, probably, first story I would say is probably a horror story out of safety saying, Don’t go out there! There’s a bear in those woods; there’s a bear in that cave…
Sarah: And that’s what was in the cave paintings, too, is animals to be aware of for hunting and animals to be aware of that might want to kill you!
Dr. Tingle: Yes! And then once you take care of that, you have romance and erotica. Everyone, you know – I can’t remember what they called prostitution, the first job or some-, I can’t remember, you know.
Sarah: The world’s oldest profession.
Dr. Tingle: That’s what it is! See, but yes. So I just, I do think there’s a sort of, a primal, human need and survival within these genres. Even comedy, laughter – I don’t know if they’ve really cracked the code, but there’s a lot of research to say that laughter is a, a survival response when hunting in groups to let others know that that vine is not actually a snake.
Dr. Tingle: And so instantly you’ll bring laughs, and then you say, Okay, then we can focus on what’s ahead of us. So all of these things are so deeply primal.
Sarah: And it, and I think that the idea of turning your nose up at these primal experiences and these primal physical and emotional responses is another element of control. I am completely –
Dr. Tingle: Obviously.
Sarah: – I am control of myself. I have complete control of myself. I don’t feel arousal-ness; I dictate it. I don’t, I’m never afraid. I am a grown person who is never afraid. Like, wait, that’s a thing? That’s a point you get to? ‘Cause I have, I am heading towards fifty and I am afraid all the time. So the idea –
Dr. Tingle: Yes!
Sarah: – that you can look down on somebody for having these primal emotions is a, it’s a performance of control.
Dr. Tingle: Yes! Oh, yes! And so, it’s so vulnerable –
Dr. Tingle: – and, and a lot, a lot of people think that being vulnerable is giving up your power? You know, I would say that, that it is not!
Dr. Tingle: It, you know, for me, the way I experienced this through most of my career is a lot of buckaroos will say, you know, Chuck Tingle’s my favorite author that I’ve never read, and part of that is, is kind, is, I understand they’re trying to be kind with this comment. A lot of buckaroos love my social media presence, love my covers and, and everything, but I think that, honestly, if they realize that I am being completely sincere and serious and actually read them, they might get some enjoyment, whether that is laughter or arousal. I guess maybe fear too, if they’re really, if it’s really a fetish they’re not used to, but some, some kind of exploring of that would be a vulnerable thing for most people.
Dr. Tingle: And so that comment of “my favorite author I’ve never read,” if you really pick it apart, what that’s really saying is, Wow, I love Chuck Tingle, but don’t you think that I would ever have an alternative sexuality. Don’t you ever think I would really enjoy this queer art.
Dr. Tingle: And I know they don’t, you know, I do appreciate, like, I don’t want to make those people feel bad or anything –
Dr. Tingle: – but it is just, it is so consistent to think, well, let’s pick this apart. What are you really saying? Would you ever go up to dang Stephen King and say, Wow, I just love, love you, Stephen King, my favorite author that I’ve never read! How insulting that is when you actually put it on any other artist –
Dr. Tingle: – and then you’ve got to think, well, what’s the difference, and it’s, well, this is sexual art, this is queer art. It’s neurodivergent art. So I think there’s that vulnerability: we’ve got to put up a wall there! I, say I, I like this, but not really like it!
Sarah: Right. I like it –
Dr. Tingle: Sex –
Sarah: – I like the performance of it. I am not in it.
Dr. Tingle: Exactly!
Dr. Tingle: So I, I experience this all the dang time. I think that’s why it’s such an important trot for me and, and such a big part of my art is that’s, that’s kind of what this whole thing has been about.
So, so to take it back to the full-circle nature of everything, with, with a traditionally published novel what I’m seeing is interesting to see buckaroos who have always loved what I do kind of forced to take it seriously, and that in itself is bringing a lot of joy. A lot, I’m getting so many messages saying, I can’t believe I saw a Chuck Tingle book sitting at, at the front of my Barnes & Noble. I mean, it’s, Camp Damascus, this is – and I don’t know when this will air, but as of right now it’s been on the USA Today bestseller list for two weeks in a row now, you know, which –
Sarah: I know! Congratulations!
Dr. Tingle: Thank you! It’s, it’s just, it is such a, these accolades, whatever you want to call them, whatever they mean to you, the most exciting thing about it for me is that that, that kind of takes everything we’re saying and then you, you’re kind of forcing buckaroos to confront that, to say, Oh, wait, this is a real thing.
Dr. Tingle: I think that’s the, the best thing that traditional publishing has done for what I’m trying to create –
Sarah: Oh, for sure.
Dr. Tingle: – is it kind of, there’s so, there’s a, that’s a whole separate piece of art, performance art happening right now with every buckaroo that walks into a bookstore and sees a big stack of Chuck Tingle books right now.
Dr. Tingle: What a beautiful, moving piece of art. I, I love just that reaction alone. That’s amazing.
Sarah: And not only the fact that is it, is it a, a new venue, but it’s moving your fandom, for lack of a better word, it’s moving your community from the very nebulous, nonspecific online space to physical reality!
Dr. Tingle: Yes! Yes! Absolutely!
Sarah: Now, you talk online a lot about your trot and your ways of proving love, and we talked about that way back, can you believe, seven years ago.
Dr. Tingle: Oh my gosh!
Sarah: How has your trot evolved since then?
Dr. Tingle: Wow! I, you know, I think that what I – it’s been an interesting journey. I put on, you know, this dang mask; I started to create things. I knew why, I knew what I wanted to say, and I knew what the outlet was for me. As with all art, you never really know completely. You know, the art knows before you do.
Dr. Tingle: When I started doing this, I knew that it felt good, and I also knew that I wanted a place to express myself, express my life, but I had these layers of masks and kind of said everything through metaphors, and as it’s gone, the more that I understood even what I was saying and why I was saying it, the more I’m trying to get to that honesty underneath –
Dr. Tingle: – and strip away these layers?
Dr. Tingle: So I think I’ve evolved in a sense of I hide less of myself because I now understand that this is an important part of myself. Buckaroos tend to think that Chuck is a character. It’s not a, I’m not doing a character; it’s not a bit. What it is is that, you know, long ago I had chronic pain, completely overwhelmed my life. I was going to dang emergency room every dang week. I kind of thought I would live in pain forever and, and maybe just live on pain killers, actually. It was a very dark, dark time –
Dr. Tingle: – and eventually, after years of this, what I discovered was, you know, my, my particular way of being on the autism spectrum – these are not completely related, but – is very methodical, very rigid. Everything has to be perfect, and I even have been to therapists who said, Dang, Chuck, your superego, to use a Freudian term, even though Freud was kind of bologna, but still, Freud had the ego, the superego, and the id. The ego is basically your core self; the superego is the disciplinarian that says, Do the right thing all the time; and your id is sort of your childlike self or your maybe primal core –
Dr. Tingle: – the animal self, sometimes; and so, you know, my therapist said, Your superego is very over-evolved. It’s basically strangling the other parts of yourself –
Dr. Tingle: – and, and I didn’t realize that until, you know, I started to be able to express the part of me as Chuck that is very wild, that is very just not perfect, like I said. Leaving those spelling errors in, creating punk rock writing with Tinglers.
Dr. Tingle: Speaking in a way that I want and just kind of expressing parts of my sexuality that might seem strange or unusual, and the more I was active under Chuck with this dang pink mask and give, gave myself a place to not neurotypically mask, the pain started to go away. And once I –
Sarah: Oh, that’s interesting!
Dr. Tingle: Yes! Because, well, because my body, what we later found, my body was clenched very tight. I, I also at the same time kind of went to a dang physical therapist, and they said, These muscles have been held like a dang rubber band ready to snap for years! And it was just constant neurotypical masking. I was on the spectrum, but you can’t really tell. I’m very good at mask. I think if you know me very well without this pink mask, you start to think, oh, okay, I can see that this buckaroo has certain quirks. But my way on the autism spectrum is very not visible, because I hold it in my body; I mask all the time. And so creating this space for me to unmask changed my life. It really, it, it honestly saved my life. I don’t, I don’t know what I would have done just living with that pain for forever, and so, so I have learned what this space means for me. I think, and, and kind of holding this space and honoring it has given me a, a chance to kind of be more, strip away the layers I don’t need, still protect my privacy, but just evolving, let it kind of just be the most raw, visceral part of me. Not a character, but an expression of my core, actually, and that’s just very healthy for me. So things have changed a lot! It really has evolved!
Sarah: Very much so! And even the way that you talk about your art has grown and changed since our last conversation as well –
Dr. Tingle: Yes!
Sarah: – which, I mean, it was seven years ago. I know a lot more stuff about myself as well, so that’s completely understandable.
Dr. Tingle: Yes, absolutely!
Sarah: What movies are you watching? What stories are you listening to or interacting with? What is in the world that you are really enjoying that you want to tell people about? The world is open! Whatever you want to say.
Dr. Tingle: Wow! Okay! Dang, let me see. I, I think that honestly, right now, if we’re saying what kind of art am I, am I interacting with? This is my first book tour? I’m doing these dang long signing lines, and just actually talking to buckaroos, giving hugs, shaking hands, signing books, and then you have this little, this little twenty-second moment where you’re sitting there signing the book and they’re standing, and then you have this twenty-second conversation, and I have been so fascinated by the, the medium of the twenty-second conversation? I, I’ve been, I’ve been so fascinated by showing up to different cities and seeing what is, what is everyone going to talk about? I give these presentations, and so almost the art piece that I’m interacting with right now is a live crowd. A live crowd, depending on what the city is –
Dr. Tingle: – the way that, the way that some pull certain things out of the art. Buckaroos will give me a bag that they made or something, and, and it’s so kind. Gifts, and I’m just thinking, Wow, what, what a potent moment! We have this, we have this twenty seconds that our timelines are going to cross –
Dr. Tingle: And someone says, I want, I’m going to put it all into this moment.
Dr. Tingle: And they, they’re writing letters, and then I take them and I open them and I read, and sometimes I cry my dang eyes out because they’re so powerful. So it is almost the medium, the artistic medium, because I think everything is art, whether you’re dang cooking yourself lunch or going for a walk in the park. I mean, breathing is art. It’s, it’s, you’re creating a breath. And so just being thrust into these conversations where I think, This person has to say everything that they feel in these twenty seconds –
Dr. Tingle: – they’re just, it’s hitting me like a truck lately, and I, I am, it’s so powerful, it’s so humbling and honoring to think that, that, that, you know, someone would care enough to, to make these things so to me is to every, every twenty seconds I’m trying to give that back in return in any way that I can mentally; just really being present for each one of those, but artistically that’s, that’s where I’m trotting is these little fragments that I’ve never really experienced. It’s so beautiful, and I have overwhelm – honestly, so overwhelming that right now I feel like I’m going to dang start crying.
But, so that’s the art that’s getting me going. I’m sorry if that is maybe the most abstract answer to that –
Sarah: Not at all!
Dr. Tingle: – question there’s ever been, but yes.
Sarah: But also that fits the, the larger theme of our whole conversation is the idea that being present and vulnerable is art.
Dr. Tingle: Yes! That is, that, you know what? Thank you for saying in one sentence what I’ve was able to hunt for dang five minutes about. Yes! That is exactly it. I’m, I am experiencing such visceral honesty in this tiny amount of time, and it is knocking my dang socks off every night. It’s, it’s so wonderful.
Sarah: Well, thank you so much for being here and being present and talking with me and creating this art for my show.
Dr. Tingle: Oh, gosh.
Sarah: Where can people find you if you wish to be found?
Dr. Tingle: Oh dang! Well, you know, Twitter is pretty much falling apart – in fact, not even called Twitter anymore – but I’m on pretty much every social media as Chuck Tingle or sometime, I think on TikTok I’m @realchucktingle; on dang Tumblr I’m drchucktingle. By the way, Tumblr is my new favorite dang social media.
Sarah: I love Tumblr. I love it so much!
Dr. Tingle: Me too!
Sarah: I love it so much!
Dr. Tingle: The, the, just, I don’t know what it is about Tumblr, but just the, the buckaroos on there is so art-focused, and then I’m, you know, trotting around on my, my book tour for Camp Damascus, and if you are interested in, in a Tingleverse horror novel, check that out, and because it is a traditional publisher for years was under the stranglehold of Amazon self-publishing, and, and a lot of buckaroos would say, Chuck, I want to get your book, but I don’t want to support Amazon, honestly, part of me seeing this dang book deal seems weird that that went to the big timers to make it easier for everyone to get it other places, but now you can get Camp Damascus at any bookstore; you’re in the bookstore. Especially right now it’s doing well, so it’s on a, on all the dang shelves. You can go get that, and now I’m not under the Amazon stranglehold with my horror novels, so that’s, that’s a good thing.
Sarah: That is a good thing!
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Dr. Tingle for hanging out with me. Thank you to Caro Perny for setting up this interview. If you have comments or questions or suggestions or you just want to tell me what you thought, come find us at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast, episode number 579.
I will have links to all of the books that we talked about and, of course, my previous interviews with Dr. Tingle in the show notes and on the website.
I do have a favor to ask before I get to the terrible joke, which is excellently terrible; I do have a small favor to ask. I used to have reviews on, on Apple Podcasts? I used to have some! People said nice things. I don’t have any anymore, and I don’t know why. I have no idea. They’re gone. Apple is a mystery and has always been a mystery, but reviews are really important – ask me how I know – and there’s a lot of podcasts for people to find, so if you are really enjoying the show and your thumbs are not busy at this moment and you would like to leave a review, I would be deeply appreciative. I know I had some; where did they go? Please – [laughs] – help me out! I don’t know where they went. It’s really baffling me!
And speaking of things that are baffling, I have a terrible joke. This is from Inkedupandsonic on Bluesky! Yes, I am sourcing jokes from Bluesky, and I’m on Bluesky at SmartBitches. This joke is especially for our Norwegian listeners like Bull. Hi, Bull!
What is the difference between regular wood and Norwegian wood?
Norwegian wood is a-fjord-able.
[Snorts] A-fjord-able! Yes, and you can make lots of pining jokes now too. [Laughs] A-fjord-able!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books – this here show – is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.
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