April 17, 2006
News & Opinion: Q&A with Rick Yancey--Taxes, Drama, and Honor
Today being the last day to turn in your taxes (I live in Massachusetts, where we get special dispensation today for Patriots Day), heres an interview with Rick Yancey, the multitalented writer who has penned one of the best books on the IRS, Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Mans Tour of Duty. As noted in December, he followed that up with a terrific kids book, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. He took a few moments to explain how the two books are related. Q) Can you talk about whether your experience learning about a world of practically limitless power, nectar of the gods to the ineffectual dreamer, for whom life was not a pursuit of happiness, but a struggle for recognition and control (i.e. the IRS) colored the world of Alfred Kropp? A) Maybe the code Alfred discovers is the flip-side of unspoken code I learned while working at the IRS. Which is that Power (as embodied by the Sword) is not something to be used to dominate and control, but a trust to guard and use only for good. Perhaps high on the corny meter, but a verity nevertheless. Q) Along those lines, can you discuss the notion of duty as they apply to each of the two books? A) Alfred's duty is informed and guided by conscience. We were taught early on in the IRS that our duty was first to the government; we were Uncle Sam's zealous advocates, and our duty did not arise from any sort of solemn vow, as Alfred takes in the book. Q) In Confessions, the protagonist eventually realizes an explosive ecstatic epiphany where moral ambiguities suddenly vanish and he revels in the purity of mission. Henceforth the protagonist becomes a bit scary. The question here is: which Richard Yancey wrote Alfred Kropp? The conflicted individual at the beginning of Confessions, or the ruthless individual who finds deep satisfaction when he seizes a shiny Chevette beloved by a tax delinquent? A) The guy who seized the cars is also the guy who forced himself at great cost to face who he really was --- to face what he had become. The same happens to Alfred at the end. Embracing our identity is a big part of growing up. Q) After years of dealing with Form 668-Bs and IBIAs, was it satisfying to write about worldlier topics such as the sword Excalibur and teenage crushes? A) Every book I write expresses something important enough to me to sustain an effort resulting in a book-length manuscript. The satisfaction with every book is knowing I've told a story I had to tell, for whatever reason. Q) Kropp ends, in many ways, where Confessions begins. The protagonist stands ready to do battle and enforce an ancient code. Where do you see Alfred going? A) I see the Alfred series as continuing indefinitely. Book Two deals with two things very important to teens (or at least they were important to me as a teen): love and fear. Let's just say the next book, given those huge themes, is bigger, faster and (I hope) funnier than the original.