How much of you is in the hero?
I think maybe he tries a little bit harder, he doesn't quite worry about failing as much as I do. And I, for one, wouldn't settle for working in doughnuts for the rest of my life. At the same time, he loves doughnuts, so it becomes a passion for him — and I'm doing what I love. So in that way, we sort of connect.
So is writing akin to making doughnuts?
I always sit down with a dozen doughnuts by my side. No, no, writing is not like doughnuts at all.
This is sort of based on older video games. Would Wii or Rock Band have changed it at all?
There was a whole "rock band" section in college — he joins a band — but we scrapped it. There was a whole robot theme in there too. When you were elderly, you had to start the robot war. My editor wasn't too keen on that. Someone asked me if I thought this would be a fun video game to play. No, probably not. I probably shouldn't say that. If someone wants to make a video game out of it, that would be great. But you'd have to add in the robots!
In addition to writing, you edit the McSweeney's Web site. What does that entail?
We get about a 100 submissions a week, so I read all of those. There's a core of 30 or 40 people who submit regularly, and there's always new people, too. It's lots of fun, but it's also sort of surreal, because when I was starting out, my goal was to get into McSweeney's. Other than "Shouts and Murmurs" in the New Yorker, it's the place to be. And I always got these very polite rejections.
Has your voice become the McSweeney's voice?
The McSweeney's tone is thought of as very intellectual-slash-hipsterish and wry. I don't think that's always fair. It's gotten a lot sillier in the past few years, not just since I came on.
Besides all those submissions, what do you read?
It's a cliché, but I love David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell. . . . I read Dave Eggers, only don't write that because it sounds like I'm sucking up to my boss.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, the writer noted Dennis as the hero of the book, however, the hero of the book was not given name. The correction has been made above.