Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interview Yourself

There are so many blog quizzes flying around packed with seemingly unrelated questions and not really geared toward those of us who explore our world on a textual footing. (i.e. Essay Questions). This is mostly made up of the questions people ask me all the time (with their assumptions included). I came up with 21 of them off the top of my head. Feel free to add or subtract as it suits you. If you've a hankering for a more writerly meme to answer and pass along, then answer these 21 questions with your usual writerly thoroughness. All of these have the understood “And why?” attached to the end.

1. What do you write? (Poetry, Songs, Articles, Essays, Books, Screenplays, Plays, etc…) I write short novels, blogs, articles, short stories and the occasional spot of poetry

 2. When did you decide you were “A Writer”? I hear this question dickered over a lot. Are you "A Writer" and "When can you say you are a writer?" The problem is that people conflate "Author" with "Writer". The former connotes a certain amount of output and recognition and carries a certain cachet that "Writer" simply does not. Everyone who writes is a writer by definition. Furthermore, I would argue that since Author does double-duty as noun and verb, not everyone is an author because of the implication of intent. Anyway... Fourth grade. No fooling. I sat down one day with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper and the rest is history. Honestly - I usually say I don't know why I decided to do this but that's a lie - it was a book I read that made it happen. Not a good book, a bad one. I read something I thought was crap and realized "Pfft! I can do that!" and set out to do it. I haven't stopped writing since. Even in art school, I wanted to be a writer.

3. What book did you read that most influenced your decision to take up writing? It was that kids book, which I hated. If I tell you which one, I run the risk of getting spammed with those who loved that book or author, along with all their reasons and so forth. Suffice to say it was a classic and I'm perfectly comfortable thinking certain classics are overrated. That being said, never forget that even a bad book can have a positive effect and reading is never a complete waste of time.

4. Do you actively seek out/avoid other writers? I don't actively seek out or avoid anyone. I've been lucky enough to accidentally acquire a huge and diverse group of friends, many of whom are writers (and authors) of one sort or another. I'm not really into book groups or reading circles though. Mostly it's that shyness thing...

5. Do you prefer to read writers who are stylistically like or unlike yourself? I don't personally feel like I write like anyone else insomuch as I don't strive to do so. I know people who do, I'm just not one of them. I read everything I get my hands on from blogs to books to cereal boxes. I'll read people's tattoos if they stand still long enough.

6. Do you listen to music while you write? Yes... sometimes. Unless I'm writing something heavily dialogue-centric, in which case I have to be sitting in relative silence. Lyrics can interfere with the magic voices talking to me as I put their words on the screen. (Is that weird?)

7. What is your favorite book? I don't have just one. There are plenty of books I re-read all the time: The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy, Neuromancer, The Hobbit, Catcher In the Rye, Treasure Island, American Gods, Neverwhere, Sherlock Holmes, Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorry & Thorn" trilogy, The Chronicles of Amber... and any number of short stories squirreled away in one anthology or another across the spectrum of genre and literature.

8. What is your favorite literary character? I usually say Falstaff, Corwin of Amber or Holmes. At the moment, though, it's Arthur Dent. I love the everyman, gobsmacked-by-events aspects of the character and how carefully Adams built that story around how strange and incredible the things going on around his protagonist. It suits my current mood. Ask me again next week and I'll tell you someone different.

9. Who is your favorite author or poet (living)? This is a stylistic decision for me rather than a "I can't wait to read their next book" decision. It was John Updike, but he passed recently so I shall have to choose anew. At the moment, it is a dead heat between Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and Cormac McCarthy.

10. Who was your favorite author or poet (deceased)? Roger Zalazney for reasons both stylistic and sentimental. I learned clean prose and concise storytelling from this man in a time when much of the rest of what I was reading wasn't worth reporting here. He bore me through and back to literature of greater weight and content. Poet would be Tennyson.

11. What is your favorite poem? Pretty much since my dad died it has been "In Memoriam A.H.H." by Tennyson.

I sometimes hold it half a sin 
To put in words the grief I feel: 
For words, like Nature, half reveal 
And half conceal the Soul within. 
 But, for the unquiet heart and brain, 
A use in measured language lies; 
The sad mechanic exercise, 
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain. 
 In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er, 
Like coarsest clothes against the cold; 
But that large grief which these enfold 
Is given outline and no more.

 That being said, I did read "Purple Cow" at the funeral and that goes gallumphing through my mind from time to time, wreaking havoc with Tennyson's measured language lies.

12. How structured is your writing? Not at all. I know what's going to happen in broad terms and I know what I want the book to convey in terms of a theme, but I frequently have no idea what will happen next or the route I will take to reach my desired ending. Characters tend to write themselves once you become familiar with them and it's occasionally surprising where I end up.

13. Is there a common or frequently-revisited theme to your writing(s)? The gulf between our impression of our heroes and the lives they really live or lived.

14. What is your favorite time of day to write? I used to be a 2:00 am writer almost exclusively. I have forced myself into a ritual of mornings at the coffee shop, followed by work, followed by cleaning up what I wrote that morning. It's been working for me for the most part and I feel lucky to see my pillow (and my wife) a bit more often than of old.

15. Where is your favorite place to write? The cafe, but I'll write anywhere.

16. How much of your personal history do you mine for your writing? I take a nip here or there, mostly an emotional overlay more than actual events. Though I must say that sitting at my keyboard, every situation faced by my characters is first filtered through the "What would I do in that situation" filter.

17. What do you hate about writing? The look people get on their faces when you tell them that's what you do for a living.

18. What do you like most about writing? The look people get on their faces when you tell them that's what you do for a living.

19. Who would you most like to write like (stylistically)? I would like to be a stylistic blend of Cormac McCarthy and Michael Chabon.

20. Why do you write? Because I have to. My brain gets overloaded if I don't write it all down and get it out of there.

21. Can “inaccurate” cinematic adaptations really “spoil” a book? No. In a book you can get inside a character's head -- tell the reader their deepest thoughts -- but this just doesn't come across well onscreen. Shakespeare got away with soliloquizing and it can be done onscreen just as it has been onstage, but not with every character lest you have bedlam. And even then, it is rarely accomplished with any real flair. The two mediums are so vastly different that just I don't see how it could possibly "ruin" anything. If anything it's more like reading a second book by the same author in which similar themes are discussed in different ways.

1 comment:

  1. What? A "quiz" designed to have thought put into the answers?

    I like this, I really do. Well done! And I like that I have the book that is on top of the stack in the picture.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).