Better Late Than Never: THE NEXT BEST THING
Meg Wade, my roommate and personal RPF (Real Poet Friend), did this tag-a-person-in-an-interview-post-thing to me, and I don’t mind. It reminds me of those long questionnaires we would do on Myspace and AIM back in the day – “favorite color?” “mountains or beach?” “chocolate or vanilla?” “singe or taken?” – but way cooler. Maybe ten years later I will look back on this and think, like I do about that Myspace junk, that it wasn’t that cool after all. But what I love about stuff like this is that it’s so innocuous that absolute, time-standing cool factor isn’t ultimately an issue. And as every good Ignatian knows, a little self-interrogation isn’t ever a bad thing. So here we go:
What is the working title of the book?
Heart of the World. Heart of the World means two things to me. Firstly, it refers to the core questions of and behind and in human life—everything on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, from top to bottom, the things that are our pulse. Those questions are the pulse behind my stories, my characters, and myself as a creature. They are, really, all I can write about. Secondly: I am referring to California, my home place and a place situated so far west that, in a spinning world, it is necessarily the center. I’m moving to Sacramento to work on it, so we’ll see what forms it takes from the capital city of one of the most (at least socio-economically) significant land states in the county—perhaps world.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Two answers. One, I did an MFA and I had to have a thesis. Well really, that’s it. No number two. I don’t think I’ve gotten so far as the idea for an actual book on my own. But the ideas behind the stories…? At first I had this idea to write about suburban chains like Target, Safeway, and Chili’s, which did and didn’t happen. I had it because I know those places really well, am always there (exciting is my life). Then I had this idea to write about fish and oceans and lakes and water and stuff, which did and didn’t happen. I had that because I am obsessed with aquariums and swimming and used to be a lifeguard. Then I learned not to think in terms of idea structures so much. It made me too worried and uptight and anxious all the time, and when you’re anxious your ideas get trapped and you can’t do anything, especially write well. So I was re-reading those parts in the Bible where it says, “Do not be anxious”, which I love (people on all sides of the religion question just say Jesus says not to masturbate and frankly I think that’s missing a lot of important points). So I started focusing on the reasons it gives for not being anxious, and that’s back to that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs bit I mentioned earlier, ideas and questions about what’s really important in and to life.
What genre does your book fall under?
Fiction. Short stories, if you must press that.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
God I have barely started figuring out the writing thing and now you want me to be a casting director? No thank you. Next question.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
“People doing stuff in places.”
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I don’t know. I’m not done yet. Also, I’m still wondering how you quantify your work time. All the “work” I do consciously never seems to pan out, and ideas that work seem to come magically out of my backburner-lit subconscious, or a weird 6-hour spurt of sitting down with a whim. I don’t know—can you time your dreams?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The best parts—my only successful stories yet—come from people I have serious beef with in the deep dark of my heart, but beef I can’t or won’t or didn’t talk about out loud. Probably everyone (er at least, my family and close friends) is going to wonder who or what that is or if I’m writing about them. And I’m not—I haven’t actually done this consciously yet, but when I looked back through this collection of work I realized I knew exactly where the successful stories were coming from in my real life. The less-successful ones had no focal point of anger or frustration behind them. You don’t have to write about people to write about them, you know? It’s not a one-to-one correlation like that—in fact I feel very uncomfortable doing that and it often trips me up when I try to plan things that way. But if I can harness how I feel about a given situation and put that into a character, then—it seems to work. Fiction is a way of being generous with people whose necks you want to wring. It is a way of giving them what you want to give them but what they won’t take, and what you can’t give without being a total bitch to them anyways. Also, having to actually write takes you away from public, and forces you to be angry on your own (i.e. not out gossiping or being a jerk) away from everybody, thus saving the world from having to deal with your bad attitude. By yours I mean mine. I have actually lost a lot of writing steam from having friends who let me vent to them so often, I’m pretty sure. I apologize to all parties, including potential readers of stories I didn’t write because I was busy whining. Art, I’m certain, is what happens when we make our whining pretty.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know about all that publishing stuff yet, but I have a story about two boys who want to kill their sister, one about a fat kid snorkeling, and one about a rascaller — so if that’s not your cup of tea, I don’t quite know what else to say.
My tagged writers for next Wednesday are:
Get to it, amigas!
"Being aware of the energy you add or take from interactions is a sophisticated technique that radically changes the outcomes of the conversations that fill your day."
"It seems important for an essay to spring from confusion. The best ones grapple with some kind of uncertainty and give it shape. Which is another way of saying they should come from a deep need to be written, as all the best stories do."
"‘Listen. Look. Desire is a house. Desire needs closed space. Desire runs out of doors or windows, or slats or pinpricks, it can’t fit under the sky, too large. Close the doors. Close the windows. As soon as you laugh from nerves or make a joke or say something just to say something or get all involved with the bushes, then you blow open a window in your house of desire and it can’t heat up as well. Cold draft comes in.’
‘It’s not a very big house, is it,’ she said.
‘Don’t smile,’ he said.
She pulled in her lips.
‘Don’t smile,’ he said.
‘It’s not supposed to be big at all. It should be the closest it can to being your actual size.’"
Aimee Bender, “Motherfucker”
Some of these are kinda hard…. Here’s lookin’ at you #5
For some reason I always spell “savvy” as “saavy”