In exciting news, I did an interview with Midwestern Gothic on the Midwest’s influence on my writing. You can read the interview here!
Tag Archives: interviews
Dear Readers, Pints is very lucky in that I have been able to meet and become friends with some amazing artists (especially writers, because, well, I go towards what I love, what can I say?). And, so I like to share the bounty of my good luck with you dear Readers and introduce you to some of these incredibly talented people and so I bring you another EBCP interview!
M. Brett Gaffney writes in a way that hovers between the beautiful and strange, the haunting and real. Her characters are often at the edges of things or states of being. As a writer, Gaffney brings empathy to all that she portrays. I’m lucky to have an interview with her for this latest installment of EBCP (Extremely Brilliant Creative People)!
1.) When did you begin writing? And why?
I started writing sometime in middle school. My first love was drawing and it wasn’t until I started drawing Pokémon that I wanted to make stories for them. So really, my first explorations were in fan-fiction (a practice I still advocate to writers today). This led to poetry when I tried to understand my victimization from bullying and subsequent depression through writing. Pretty dark soul broken heart type stuff, but it opened doors so a belated thanks to Pokémon and bullies.
2.) Describe how you approach an idea for something to write.
I either get an image in my head (out of the ether or influenced by art), in which case I chase the imagery of it before the story. Or, I have a concept, an idea, or story first. Like my poem, “Zombie Girl,” started out as an idea, a want to write about body image and eating disorders through the lens of a zombie. Lately I’ve been very driven by music. I tackled a poem the other day about my time as a haunted house actor, but it mostly came about because I was listening to some fierce female vocals from rock band In This Moment.
3.) One of the things I’ve been very drawn to in your writing is that you have a great grasp of the line that can be toed between the eerie and beautiful. What draws you to this? And, how do you accomplish this tone?
First, thank you! That’s exactly what I strive for in my poetry. I write along that line because it’s honestly how I see the world. Most of my favorite artists’ work (music, film, writing, sculpture, etc.) is fairly disturbing in content but that’s what makes it beautiful. I’m bored by fields of flowers, but add a dark figure lurking by the tree in that field and then you have something that holds me there. The hidden menace. Underlying fear. And I believe fear is so inherently tied to love as emotions go, so really the eerie and beautiful combo makes sense. The ghost is both terrifying and beautiful because we fear death, and we fear death, because we love life (I had a sort of epiphany about this while re-watching Poltergeist at an airport in New Orleans).
Also I just find a lot of gross stuff interesting. And I want my readers to like it too. If they do, win, if they don’t, still win, because I probably freaked them out and then hopefully they’ll ask themselves why. I think I accomplish this tone largely through word choice, mixing up an ugly image with a lovely simile so that it’s this whole new thing.
4.) You’ve worked on a series of poems about Waverly Hills Sanitarium. What at first made you go towards this subject? Can you tell me about the writing process of these poems?
I first learned about Waverly Hills on a double feature Sy-Fy channel program, Ghost Hunters and Spooked, the Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium. I love these paranormal shows but that night something about the history of Waverly really pulled me in. Initially terrified me. Tales of a tunnel used to cart dead bodies to waiting hearses, painful treatments to cure tuberculosis, which at that time was still a mysterious disease, and of course the idea that spirits may still haunt the old hospital. Though the history is tragic, it’s not simple, and that more than anything is what made me start writing. In Kentucky, Waverly was a beacon of hope for so many TB sufferers and when the doors closed in 1961, many patients were reluctant to leave, as they had spent much of their life here, formed a family with other patients and staff (who mostly lived on the grounds). Programs like Spooked painted Waverly as a hopeless and terrifying place, and while I do believe it was for many (the body count well into the thousands), I also know that the stories of the people there are more rich and complicated than a cheap horror tale. And I want to give them a voice.
Writing the poems has been and continues to be a challenge. There are so many aspects of Waverly that I want to address and yet I don’t want to just regurgitate history. I’ve relied heavily on C.C. Thomas’ book With Their Last Dying Breath as a guide to the actual events of the Sanatorium, and from there fill in the blanks with images and memories. My grandmother suffered illness for many years and so I pull from those experiences as well to try and understand what it must have been like, not only to be a patient at Waverly, but to visit loved ones there, tend as a nurse, etc. Half of the poems are rooted in history while the other half involve the ghosts (literal and metaphorical) and hauntings of the building. I’ve been to three different tours on location and I intend to visit Louisville many more times while writing these poems. It’s a project I’m still working on and I would very much like to turn it into a full-length collection.
5.) Could you describe what you consider your overall style?
Still trying to figure this one out. But I try to write what I know I like to read. Narrative. Imagistic. Weird.
6.) I know that you’re a fellow horror fan. In what ways has horror influenced your writing style (if it has)? What are some of your favorite works of horror?
I used to be terrified of horror. I remember Michael Jackson’s music video Thriller gave me nightmares for weeks. My grandmother had books on unexplained mysteries (in the bathroom of all places) and reading about phenomena like the Bermuda triangle really freaked me out. And yet I kept going back to these things, even though they scared me, because they were also fascinating. Until I watched Poltergeist in seventh grade (at a Catholic school Halloween party mind you). That movie scarred me for years. I avoided everything horror until late in high school when I picked up the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. Then I was back in the game, and asking myself why Carol Anne and her abduction frightened me so much. In college I started binging all the horror movies I’d missed out on growing up. And now I’m pretty much obsessed.
Horror (film and literature) has taught me a great deal about how to use fear to get at the heart of certain subjects, how to use monsters as metaphor, among many other invaluable lessons. When I watch horror movies with friends that are not fans of the genre, I like to ask them why they react the way they do. Why does this or that scene gross you out? What about the monster made you leave your light on that night? I think fear is one of our most powerful emotions and goes a long way to characterize each of us.
Some (emphasis on ‘some’) of my favorite horror authors are: Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Emily Carroll, Anne Rice, Rick Yancey, Toby Barlow, Charlaine Harris, Joe R. Lansdale, and Henry James (because Turn of the Screw still gives me chills).
Some (again with the emphasis) of my favorite horror films are: Poltergeist, The Shining, REC, Grave Encounters, Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, Let the Right One In, Evil Dead franchise, Absentia, The Exorcist, The Exorcist III, High Tension, Rosemary’s Baby, Hellraiser franchise, Yellowbrickroad, The Devil’s Backbone, The Innocents (again, damn you Henry James), The Haunting in Connecticut, Shutter (2004), The Wicker Man (1973), Paranormal Activity franchise, The Descent, Last House on the Left (1972 version which I can’t watch again), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Phantasm franchise, It Follows, The Blair Witch Project, American Horror Story (Season 1), The People Under the Stairs, Black Swan, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Them (Ils), Martyrs, and I suppose I have to stop somewhere.
7.) What is one thing you think every writer should know?
Write what YOU want to write. Be open to criticism and growth, but don’t change for others. The publishing market will always evolve, popular styles and subjects will come and go, but you are the only you. Write you.
8.) Writer or writers you’d most like to meet
Patricia Smith, Mark Doty, Stewart O’Nan, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Toby Barlow, Suzanne Collins, Kouta Hirano, and so many more.
9.) Thing you are most proud of in your writing?
I love freaking people out. Recently I read some poems at a literary reading and out of all the people I talked to afterwards, a writer friend told me she would have a hard time sleeping that night because my stuff bothered her (in a good way I think). I’m pretty proud when my work frightens people because that means I’ve hit a nerve somewhere, made a connection.
Also, another friend told me she would write fan-fiction about my characters. That might be the most flattering comment I’ve ever received.
10.) You also act as an editor at Gingerbread House Literary Magazine. What do you most love about doing that kind of work? In what ways does editing, shape your own writing?
Being a part of Gingerbread House has been, and continues to be, the most rewarding experience. Somewhere around the third issue or so, I also fell into the role of Art Director as well as Editor, soliciting artists for work to match up with our poems and short stories. I love finding the right image for our publications, and it’s such a great feeling when it all fits.
I love seeing it come together the week before the release of a new issue. Our staff is made up of some truly remarkable and talented people, and we’re all very proud of our publication, our contributors, writers and artists both.
Reading through submissions, proofing the issues, I’m continually reminded of why I myself write, why I submit to journals. As an editor, I’m so excited to show others what we publish, for them to share in what we think is the essence of magic and story. It’s a daily inspiration to work on this magazine.
11.) The most difficult thing you find about writing in ten words or less.
12.) What is up next in the world of M. Brett Gaffney?
Pizza. My boyfriend (and fellow writer), Dan Paul, just ordered us some Mio’s, so I’m pretty excited about that.
M. Brett Gaffney, born in Houston, Texas, holds a BA in English from Stephen F. Austin University and an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She is an associate editor / art director of Gingerbread House literary magazine, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Stone Highway Review, Slipstream, Wind, Penduline, Cactus Heart, Exit 7, REAL, Still: the Journal, Licking River Review, Permafrost, Scapegoat Review, Zone 3, and Rogue Agent among others.
Hello Dearest Reader! Pints is back with a new EBCP (Extremely Brilliant Creative Person) interview. This time, I’m talking with writer Brontë Wieland.
I first met Brontë when I was working on the planning committee for UW-Madison’s very first literary festival (Madison Lit Fest). Brontë was only a freshman but was already getting involved on campus (maybe this is only surprising to the me, the queen of not getting involved). I remember being struck with how motivated he was as well as by the excellent ideas he brought to the planning table.
Because of this, I remained curious to see where Brontë ended up. He was writing, so I encouraged him to send me some of his stuff. He sent me a play at one point which I still think about years later. There was an originality and skill that I almost couldn’t believe. Later, I also read some of his short stories and was equally impressed. His writing was polished, engaging, and utterly original.
Since first meeting him, I’ve expected big things to come from him. And, I think, after reading this interview, you Dearest Reader will as well!
1.) When did you begin writing? And why?
Romantic version: I always had the heart of a writer and reader inside me and began writing short fiction in childhood. I had the insatiable urge to send a message and show the world my voice.
Real version: The first story I ever wrote was plunked out in all caps when I was ~9. A ship sailing through the Bermuda Triangle was wrecked on an island inhabited by fairies who saved the travelers and who many of the travelers eventually fell in love with. My second story was maybe a year or so later, written when I pulled a Pokémon book called Go West, Young Ash from my bookshelf and began copying it word for word, changing some words for their opposites so it wasn’t plagiarism. I stopped after about half a page. I was bored. The novel was called Go East, Young Klash. Luckily, it was never published. Then I didn’t write again until sixth grade when there was a short story competition my teacher forced us to participate in. I wrote about an average earthworm who always wanted to grow an afro. One day, he did grow an afro and eventually sacrificed himself to save life on Earth from a supervolcano. Mrs. Schroeder thought it was shit. Everyone’s a critic…
I didn’t start writing seriously until just before college. I’d always loved books, but that summer I read A Moveable Feast and learned to appreciate prose. I wanted to make something beautiful like that.
Why? Let’s go story by story.
Story 1: I had a tale to tell and it needed telling.
Story 2: I wanted to write something great.
Story 3: I wanted to have fun and do something that had never been done.
I think that accurate summarizes the motivations that keep my pen moving still.
2.) Describe how you approach an idea for something to write.
Every story is a little bit different. Sometimes I see a scene, an image, or a character. Sometimes I sense a story, a plot, an arc. Or maybe I feel an emotion. The first step has always been to let it ruminate. Gestation period varies. Sometimes months, but occasionally just hours.
My second step is usually to scrawl endlessly in a notebook in a script I can barely read. I get clips and blips of words and phrases and I jot them all down. Later is when I reorganize and then sit in front of my computer to agonizingly hammer it out at 1wpm over the next couple weeks.
I think that’s the most common, but there’s a lot of variance. On occasion I do just sit down and type until there’s nothing left to say.
3.) You write a lot towards the speculative and fabulist realms of fiction, what draws you to those kind of story elements? What do you think is the most important aspect to get “right” in this kind of writing?
I do, don’t I?
To me, these types of stories have always been the most real, the most Ur. Storytelling, from its infancy, has often been fantastic, grander than life, stretching the boundaries of existence. What I’m trying to do is tell the truest story possible. Real life has never been necessary to do that.
I feel like there’s something special, reverent, and liberating to tell stories in a way reflective of how they may have been told 10,000 years ago or 100,000 years ago. It feels like connecting with the minds that came before me, joining the ranks of hundreds of previous generations and thousands of previous storytellers. We’re all cut from the same cloth. We’re all telling the same stories starring the same people. It’s magic.
Or maybe I’m just scared my depictions of real life won’t be sufficient.
4.) You also write drama, did you come to one genre before the other? What sort of differences do you find in your writing process for these two forms? Do you prefer one over the other?
Fiction came first by far. I don’t remember reading or seeing a play before high school. I didn’t write a play until college.
As it turns out, my process is exactly the same. The main differences is I don’t usually write plays in LibreOffice.
They’re both beautiful arts and, you know, I can’t decide. I’m trying to think of moments I’ve had writing each that would sway my decision and keep finding examples for both and flip-flopping. That said, I think playwriting has informed my fiction more than fiction has influenced my playwriting. Stage constraints that I faced in playwriting changed my perspective of fiction completely. I had to learn how to make magic with just bodies, I couldn’t do any prosaic handwaving and neither could I weigh myself down with overexplanation. And I learned.
5.) Could you describe what you consider your overall style?
I don’t think I’ve found that yet. I’ve been experimenting and I have a lot of experimenting to go. The best I can do is say that I usually write in 1st person and I think a lot about culture, identity, and change.
6.) In your story “Empty Head, Flat Nose” (which can be read HERE), you write a science-fiction story that seems both absolutely futuristic and, yet, somehow still rooted in today—it’s one of the most brilliant aspects of the piece, I think. How did you achieve that balance? What sort of world-building went into this story?
My dad is a real down-to-earth guy. He sees things like they are, no illusions, and in a lot of ways has always kept me rooted while encouraging me to push forward. My mom tells me ridiculous things constantly and she always believes really wholeheartedly in what she says. One time my mom told me she heard about a guy walking home on New Year’s Eve. So, this guy, he was just minding his own business when a stray bullet fired celebratorily across town smashed through his noggin and got stuck in his brain. The guy survived. He was otherwise unharmed. No permanent damage. Obviously, sitting in the airport, listening to my mom tell me that is where and when “Flat Nose, Empty Head” was born.
I wondered what the chances were of surviving something like that and figured, they’re a lot higher if you don’t have a brain.
Anyway, I feel like the present day, real aspects of the story are my dad. The strange, futuristic ones are my mom. In terms of how I went about creating and maintaining a balance between these forces, I knew instinctively that this story needed to be as close to the present as possible or it wouldn’t work. There’s nothing special about a mechanical brain in a future that’s infinitely advanced. If this were in 1000 years, people would be rockin’ empty heads all the time and our skulls would be more a fashion statement than a body part. I kept that in mind constantly. I put as much of 2011 into the story as possible and only let the future seep through slowly. Another important chore was to make sure Sunny and especially Matt (since it’s his voice we’re hearing) felt completely comfortable in their world except for Sunny’s surgery which was a shocking innovation. Anything can feel like the present if the people you’re listening to believe it’s the present.
Part of all of this, of course, was the world building. Because I needed to feel comfortable in this near-future too. To gather the rhythm of the world, I wrote about the doctors who performed the surgery and their marriages and vices. I wrote about the company who financed the research and their intentions. I wrote about the lab techs’ hating their jobs. I wrote a bit about Matt’s parents. There was also an accompanying story about the time Sunny killed Matt’s cat when they were toddlers.
7.) What is one thing you think every writer should know?
We should all know what Junot Díaz said to an Atlantic reporter about gender and representation.
“I think that unless you are actively, consciously working against the gravitational pull of the culture, you will predictably, thematically, create these sort of fucked-up representations. Without fail. The only way not to do them is to admit to yourself [that] you’re fucked up, admit to yourself that you’re not good at this shit, and to be conscious in the way that you create these characters. It’s so funny what people call inspiration. I have so many young writers who’re like, “Well I was inspired. This was my story.” And I’m like, “OK. Sir, your inspiration for your stories is like every other male’s inspiration for their stories: that the female is only in there to provide sexual service.” There comes a time when this mythical inspiration is exposed for doing exactly what it’s truthfully doing: to underscore and reinforce cultural structures, or I’d say, cultural asymmetry.”
What we should do with that knowledge is realize how broadly it applies and constantly question our cultural structures.
8.) Things you’d most like people to get out of your writing:
An elevated heart rate. Because they liked it, because it made them think, because anything. If my work makes someone question their assumptions, I’ve succeeded. If I ever found out someone felt a sense of wonder at my writing, I’d probably cry.
9.) In many of your pieces that I’ve read, you incorporate folkloric ideas, along with ideas about the nature of storytelling. What draws you to these themes? What are some of your favorite folklore tropes or stories?
The nature of storytelling is something I’m obsessed with. I always love finding a new story or a story told in a new way. Like I mentioned above, I’m fascinated with how folklore and storytelling link us to the past and how they create a connection between cultures and peoples. The only thing more astounding than the Aarne-Thompson classification system is that we, over thousands of years, developed a storytelling framework robust enough to support it. The similarities, the differences, they’re impossibly complex. It says to me that storytelling has been foundational in our development as a species.
In my writing, I’m often trying to learn more about these traditions and do my part to extend and continue them.
Favorites are so hard. I think in general, my favorites are always stories about deception. Either being deceived or deceiving others. I also like talking animals.
10.) Writer or writers you’d most like to meet:
China Miéville, Haruki Murakami, Ursula K. LeGuin, Angélica Gorodischer, Junot Díaz
Sad fact: Could’ve met Miéville at Socialism 2012 in Chicago but I ended up not going. Terrible idea.
Then, there’s a list of writers that, because I follow on Twitter and occasionally interact with, I feel are people that could in some alternate reality be my peers. They’re doing the type of fantastic work I like to pretend I’ll be doing some day. I’d love to meet some of them.
They are: Sofia Samatar, Aliette de Bodard, Usman T. Malik, Alyssa Wong, Ken Liu
11.) Thing you are most proud of in your writing?
- That I’ve stuck with it.
- That other people have enjoyed it.
12.) Question you wish I would have asked?
Favorite thing I’ve read this year and favorite thing I’ve written this year.
Read: definitely Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon by Kirin Narayan, which I reviewed on my blog. It’s outstanding.
Written: a story that you and about three others have read so far called “Bilingual Cooking Night #1, Banana Bread.” I will optimistically say, be on the lookout for this one in the next year!
13.) The most difficult thing you find about writing in ten words or less.
Editing. Forcing myself to write. Not using the internet.
14.) What is up next in the world of Brontë Wieland?
A lot less writing than usual, actually. From now until June, I’m trying to live as much in the moment as possible. In June I’m leaving Spain, so I want to take in everything I can until then. In June I’m flying to Singapore, then Tokyo, then Manila, then Melbourne. So I’ll be trading writing time for experiences until August when I fly back to Chicago and work my way down to Iowa, where I’m starting in the Creative Writing and Environment program at ISU. From there, who knows? Hopefully fame, fortune, and glory.
To find out more about Brontë , visit his website here or follow him on Twitter @
Brontë Christopher Wieland is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Raised in Wisconsin, he’s living in Spain until August when he begins the Creative Writing and Environment MFA at Iowa State University.
I promised you, dear readers, more EBCP (my series of interviews with Extremely Brilliant Creative People) and now we’re back with an awesome bang! Tony Quick is an amazing writer who I’ve been lucky enough to work with, read the work of, and talk to about writing. His writing excites me because it feels like he’s doing something new and never standing still—I’ve yet to read a piece by him that feels the same. Also, and more importantly, he manages to create worlds that feel both excitingly new as well as completely lived in.
I think his answers to these questions help to reveal just why exactly he is such a gifted writer. And I hope you, Dear Readers, will check out the links to his work and website which can be found below the interview so that you, too, can become quick fans of Quick (I apologize, but there was no way I wasn’t saying it).
- When did you begin writing and why?
I started writing when I was six or seven years old. I’d take sheets of paper, fold and staple them to make little booklets, then write stories heavily inspired by the Arthur and Magic School Bus series. I’ve never wanted to be anything but a writer and thankfully, as I’ve grown older my writing has matured with me.
Now why exactly I started writing is a harder question to answer. I was just as awkward as a child as I am as an adult so I suppose writing was a release valve on my imagination and a way to use up the mental space most people set aside for social cues and remembering people’s names.
- Describe how you approach an idea for something to write.
Often, I’ll get a visual in my head that won’t leave me alone—a character, a setting, a situation playing out—and let that churn in my mind. That means daydreaming, spinning out scenarios, and letting the idea grow until I have something to harvest. From there, it’s a matter of sketching and outlining (I’m a firm believer of plotting on paper before writing the actual prose. Even if I veer off script, having a road map saves me a lot of time that would otherwise be spent wandering in the boondocks).
Music also plays a role in transitioning from idea to narrative. When I find a soundtrack that suits a story, it acts as an emotional primer that sets me in the scene and I can use it to return to a similar state of mind to the one I possessed during my daydreams or planning process.
- You’re currently working on a novel. What has that experience been like? Can you tell us a little about the book?
I’ve been working on a novel titled Scarecrow and Locust about three young people—Hugo, Phoebe, and Demetre—who live in a famine-ravished world after a plague decimates the planet’s crops. Desperate to survive, the three decide to assemble a team and pull heists against Scarecrow, the private military corporation that traffics what little food there is through Baltimore’s ports. As you might imagine, the situation quickly gets out of hand. Their group gets caught up in a war between the Scarecrows and the Ravens criminal gang in a struggle for Baltimore’s future.
Writing a novel is an arduous, backbreaking ordeal. Scarecrow and Locust began as a terrible short story that Rick Bass politely described as “Confederacy of Dunces-esque.” Not quite what I was going for. Renovating that original botched story into a serious first draft, then rewriting that from scratch took persistence, faith, and sixteen months of my life. That’s what writing a novel takes: tenacity, trust, and time.
Support also helps. I’m fortunate enough to have fantastic first readers such as yourself and Stefanie Brook Trout (a remarkable writer who I’m convinced will become a future favorite to scores of readers when she makes her debut). Having two talented writers tell me I’m not crazy for playing Ahab with this particular whale has been instrumental in keeping me afloat.
- You also write poetry. Did you come to one genre before the other? What sort of differences do you find between your writing process for these two forms? Do you prefer one over the other?
When I first came to study at Iowa State University, I kept a yellow post-it note over my desk that read “Fiction First” because I wanted to remember that my commitment to story came above all else. But poetry has always been lurking in my background. I had the opportunity to study with poets Karen Anderson and Jeff Coleman as an undergraduate at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and during my brief stint at Iowa State, I took a poetry workshop that grew my appreciation for the form.
Studying with Debra Marquart, I realized how useful examining the minutiae of language and the constraints of writing poems on such a small canvas helped my prose. I also realized how much I enjoy engaging in wordplay and manipulating structure in ways that wouldn’t quite fly with straightforward prose. And they can cross feed one another. All my poems have a narrative weaved into them and my short story “The Dictator’s Daughter” was first written as a sci-fi poem.
I’d highly recommend anyone that’s interested in strengthening their prose seriously consider studying and writing poetry. Trust me.
- Could you describe what you consider your overall style?
Honestly, I’m not sure yet myself. I’m early enough in my writing career that I’m still experimenting with different approaches and molding my style. The problem with evaluating one’s own writing is that you’re likely to project what you hope your style is rather than what it actually is. (You’ve read more of my writing than most. I’m curious to hear your description of my style.)
- We’ve had a few conversations about “Genre” vs. “Literature.” Can you talk about your feelings on that debate?
There are some writers and editors who prefer to segregate between capital “L” literature and small “g” genre. And there are some on the other side of the fence who love their genre fiction but won’t read any works that lack speculative elements. But I think it’s important to remember these prejudices, like most, are constructions without any real bearing. Many literary classics—Milton’s Paradise Lost, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Hamlet—have speculative elements. This need to divide and subdivide seems to speak more about those who take part than the content of the work itself. The quality of writing is what matters in the end, regardless of whether the protagonist is a 19th century ghost in Louisiana, a middle aged academic battling alcoholism and age, or a 22nd century detective locked in orbit.
- What is one thing you think every writer should know?
Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. Returning to the keyboard day after day, soldiering forward when the words aren’t flowing, and then honestly assessing what can be used in the next iteration and what must go requires tenacity. Especially when it comes to novels. Short stories are flings—fun, exciting, and meant to come to an end after a few weeks or months. Novels are relationships, commitments that last for years. That means work, adaptability, and compromise.
Don’t quit. Soldier on. To me, the difference between a capital “W” writer and someone who just likes to write is the willingness to continue putting down words even when it doesn’t seem fun, even when rejection letters are piling up. There’s this line in John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire that I always come back to. “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed.”
- Things you’d most like people to get out of your writing.
Entertainment, above all else. I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and my favorite books are those that I have to put down while I’m reading them to say “Holy shit!” and digest the latest development before continuing on. I feel like a shill for Big Library saying this but reading should be fun! And I don’t necessarily believe that entertainment comes at the expense of character development, theme, or any other element of craft.
Prose writers are competing with the golden age of television, so-so cinema, and the omnipresent world wide web. Rather than complain about potential readers opting into these diversions, we need to make sure we’re creating content worthy of competition with these entertainment juggernauts. In a non-stop world we’re asking people to set aside time to read our words and it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re giving them a good time in exchange. When someone reads a Tony Quick story, I want them to take their next steps barefoot because I’ve knocked their proverbial socks off.
9. In some of the writing of yours that I’ve read, there has been some dealings with ecology and environmental issues. When/how did this become a part of your work?
Ecological issues began to feature in my writing after I began to study at Iowa State University. The MFA program has an environmental focus and though I decided to leave the program, I was still interested in writing about some of the potential challenges that come when man clashes (or cooperates) with the nature.
That said, I’m not interested in using my fiction as a soap box or political treatise. The pandemic in Scarecrow and Locust, for example, is the result of a mutating version of modern day wheat stem rust. As a fiction writer, I’m less interested in writing about how mono-cropping and the lack of diversity in agriculture makes us more susceptible to this particular brand of ecological devastation than speculating on how characters might react and adapt in the midst of that disaster. I trust my readers to negotiate their own interpretations.
10. Writer or writers you’d most like to meet.
11. Things you are most proud of in your writing?
“When your characters are stuck in a tree, start throwing rocks.”
I don’t know which writer is responsible for that line but it’s advice I try to follow as best I can. The problem is that my characters become more tangible and dear to me the longer I’m with them and scuffing them up mentally and physically as the story progresses wrenches my heart.
Hard as that can be, there is something gratifying in sculpting characters that feel—to me at least—like real people that I worry for and fret over even as I’m putting them in harm’s way. Kind of a bizarre thing to be most proud of, huh?
12. Questions you wished I would have asked?
I’m actually impressed by how thorough you’ve been so this is a hard question. Maybe a question about what I’m reading right now. I’m cycling between Plot & Structure, a craft book by James Scott Bell and Women Destroy Science Fiction, a gargantuan 400 page special issue of Lightspeed Magazine featuring female authors. I’d particularly recommend “A Burglary, Addressed By A Young lady” by Elizabeth Porter Birdsall and “A Guide to Grief” by Emily Fox.
13. The most difficult thing you find about writing in ten words or less.
Can I answer in haiku form?
The hardest part of
Writing words on the keyboard
Is the lack of ducks.
14. What is up next in the world of Tony Quick?
I’m planning on writing some new short stories and editing this second draft of Scarecrow and Locust. I’m beginning to research literary agents for later down the road when I’m ready to send out queries. I’ve also marked out a couple of days for crossing my fingers and picking four leaf clovers because, you know, better to be lucky than good.
Check out some of Tony’s writing here: “The Dictator’s Daughter” (in Devilfish Review)
To find out more about Tony, visit his website here
Tony Quick is an African American fiction writer and poet, born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in nearby Prince George’s County. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and has held various positions, from undergraduate English instructor, to accounting assistant, to fiction editor for Iowa State University’s literary magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. His fiction has appeared in the quarterly speculative online magazine, Devilfish Review and his poetry is featured in Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland.
Back when I first started running occasional interviews with some of my favorite EBCP (Extremely Brilliant Creative People), I began it all with writer/ actor/ all-around extraordinaire Ean Weslynn. I’m happy (well insanely delighted would be the more apt word) to say that since the interview Ean’s webseries, the hilarious Day Drunk Gays, has appeared to much acclaim! And, so I decided to ask Ean some more questions and hopefully get some of you (yes, YOU, there reading this!) to get some links to Day Drunk Gays in all of its glory!
So five quick questions for Ean Weslynn— the OEBCP (the Original Extremely Brilliant Creative Person):
2.) What was the best thing about the filming process?
the best part about filming for me is actually getting to sit at the table with my boys, surrounded by the crew and knowing that we wouldn’t be there if i hadn’t spent all that time rewriting that silly idea i had that i thought others might find funny.
3.) The most unexpected thing?
4.) If you had to describe Day Drunk Gays in a ten word pitch:
5.) What’s next in the world of the show and the world of Ean Weslynn?