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SunLit Interviews

Interview: How a grasshopper moved David MacNeal from novels to “Bugged”

His book on the insect world drew inspiration from an obvious source -- the film "My Dinner With Andre"

Cover illustration from "Bugged" by David MacNeal. (Handout)

David MacNeal is a Denver-based journalist exploring the fringes of science, technology, and culture. His articles have appeared in Wired, Ars Technica, VICE, and other publications. Aside from geeking out over comic books, he bakes exquisite pies (especially blueberry) and drinks an array of whiskeys.

What inspired you to write this book?

Since I was about 17 or so, I knew I wanted to write a book. I made it about a third of the way with two novels, and later had an idea for a nonfiction book about gravity sports. But my interests evolved. And after dissecting a grasshopper—removing a jumble of guts—I was rendered obsessed with insects. A few years later, my now agent asked if I had any book ideas, and he helped me shape what would become “Bugged”—a book about insects targeted towards a general audience.

Side note: It was originally titled “Dining with Crickets,” which was loosely inspired by “My Dinner with Andre” … such a therapeutic movie.

“Bugged” by David MacNeal.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut. I remember crying the day he died. “So it goes.”

Also on that list is Chuck Palahniuk, whom I’ve met and shared a short story with (he even remembered it a year after I sent it to him, which was really encouraging), and Wells Tower. Coincidentally, those three fiction writers are also journalists.

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

My hope is that at least on a local level, readers might be interested in touring the Butterfly Pavilion, and perhaps invest in a diverse, pollinator-friendly garden. And now they’ll know about all the absurd fecundity the bugs are up to behind doors!

“Bugged” author David MacNeal. (Handout)

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

As far as the working on portion, it was the traveling to various countries and meeting like-minded weirdos. That was fun.

Rewarding? That’d be meeting the budding entomologists and teenagers with whom the book resonated. The most an author can ask for, I think, is to inspire others. That’s where the accomplishment lies.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

All of them were equally challenging when it came to deciding what information to keep. It’s no wonder there’s so much to be said about a phylum that are, essentially, our overlords.

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

That decaying human bodies—for forensic purposes—aren’t that bad up close.

What project are you working on next?

Originally, I was going to embark on another scientifically quirky adventure. I’d finished editing a book proposal that was going to be sent out October 2017. And then on the morning of Oct. 2, I learned my cousin had been killed in the Las Vegas shooting.

In short, she was like a sister to me, and the past year has been extraordinarily difficult. And during that time, seeing as public mass shootings have rapidly become our new Americana, I decided to write a nonfiction book about its science and history. Trying to answer why these things happen.

However, at this point, I’m thinking that the best way to tell this story is through a semi-autobiographical novel. This is a recent development and represents a challenge as I come back to writing fiction, but my hope is that it will better resonate with readers.


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Buy: “Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them” at BookBar.
Excerpt: In “Bugged,” even tarantula sex can be awkward.

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