So, Wisconsin writer Lee Kreckow (www.leelkrecklow.com) tagged me for this “blog tour” activity where writers need to share their answers to the following questions. Read along and find out what lucky three writers get to keep the ball rolling!
What are you working on? Novel about a woman suffering from anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) who becomes determined to found the ideal cult—conflicts arise with revolutionary compounds, secret societies, and other spirited fanatics. Currently also revising short stories I composed while doing the MFA in Fiction at Bowling Green State University. On the scholarly side, improving a paper dealing with “monstrous sacrifices” and getting together an anthology that collects fiction and poetry exemplifying the literary fantastic.
How does your work differ from others of its genre? Everyone wants to feel special since we’re unique dastardly beings. Some demons driving my work have their own peculiar flavor, so in a novella there’s a French fellow determined to master the arts of occult puppetry and in a short story there’s a man obsessed with elbows. Bizarre subjects that involve humane ties to authentic experience—or at least the compelling illusion of recognition mixed with disconcertion.
How does your writing process work? How does it work indeed? No foolproof method. It depends. When I’m keeping disciplined, I set time each day; otherwise, I’ll splurge on a weekend or day off. Sometimes I’ll put on a t-shirt, necklace or a ring and play music that I associate with getting in the creative mode. There’s a lot of fun delving into narrative possibilities, but there’s torture too. So many doors that could open—paths in the perpetual maze. The whips of guilt, self-doubt, and the perpetual gap between conception and execution will harry me along those corridors until some exit is found. Then it’s back inside to find a better path. Whatever resonates best with the characters’ personalities and their decisions. Eventually the work gets done.
For that initial drafting, I try not to self-censor and just find a place of energetic mischief and let the chaotic torrent pour out and then take out the scalpel, machete, scimitar, what-you-will, to hack off digressions and such (that’s what blogs are for, right?).
And then it’s time for revision. Aside from the cutting, I’ll reflect on a range of readers and what they might need for clarity—sometimes imagining what questions might get raised by writers who’ve advised me in workshops and past peer review. And there’s the waiting game: stewing in the tar pits of the mind, the drawer, the bugged computer file. Fresh eyes on old stories find new work to be done. We dwell with Sisyphus. Time to turn off the phone ringers, logoff the internet, and write before the pendulum strikes and the pen must be set down forever.
Why do you write what you do? If my pet rock is silent, that decision depends upon which voices in the head are most insistent, what characters demand doing. The unease grows unless the writing flows. I follow characters down paths of compulsion: how they’re haunted by their own predilections, the terrible logic of dominating impulses. More than rationality and free will, humans seem defined by raging, euphoric, and sorrowful feelings. Or rather, in the tension between rationalization and impulse, diabolism brews and personality emerges. I remember one guy talking about trouble with some relationship misunderstanding, and he said, “I’m going to make it worse”–and laughed bitterly. Self-destructiveness and unintended disaster resulting from ambition, revenge, love, pursuit of knowledge—these are some of the journeys that I find compelling. Sometimes it’s a matter of pursuing the narrative consequences of a humorous situation or conflict, and you just have to go with that premise and see what might develop. Satire often intrigues me as well.
On a few occasions, I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate, such as with some folklore projects and scripts (see works with Birke Duncan below on this webpage). I’ve done some screenplay projects too, but Spielberg has yet to call.
Next up, in about a week, check out responses on their blogs or Facebook pages to the same 4 questions from these 3 writers (by the way, all of them did their MFAs at Bowling Green State University):
Justin Carter is co-editor of Banango Street & a PhD student at the University of North Texas. His poems appear/will appear in The Collagist, Hobart, The Journal, Ninth Letter, & Sonora Review. He can be found online at justinrcarter.tumblr.com
Michael Czyzniejewski is the author of three collections of stories, Elephants in Our Bedroom (Dzanc Books, 2009), Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions (Curbside Splendor, 2012) and the forthcoming I Will Love You for the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2015), as well as the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2010. He is an assistant professor at Missouri State University and Editor of Moon City Review. For twenty-five years, he has also worked as a vendor at Wrigley Field. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=20920945&fref=ts
Suzanne Hodsden is an Ohio native but spent most of her twenties living in Eastern Europe. She has her MFA from BGSU and is current tech editor of Mid-American Review. Her work appears in Crab Orchard Review. Sometimes she blogs at zannahsue.wordpress.com