Note: I reserve the right to alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homie.
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Seven weeks ago, a book blogger invited me to do an online author interview. She sent me a list of questions concerning my creative process and my opinions on writing. I answered everything with unfiltered honesty. I emailed it to her, and she gave the OK and set a posting date. On the morning of that day, I received this email from her:
Hi Hans, I have just been going through your interview and will have to ask you to clean it up a little. I appreciate that you say things how they are and your words are raw and from the heart but unfortunately some people will be offended if I publish your interview as it is. I have attached the document and highlighted the words that need amending. I hope you are not offended and I await to hear from you.
I was surprised, but not terribly. I opened the document and looked through it. Some of her highlights were understandable. Others corrupted the narrative, and a few were so silly they made me laugh. I wrote her back saying I wouldn’t change a word. She declined to publish my interview, and stated, “These are crazy times and people are super sensitive.”
I thought about her statement; she was right on both counts. The problem is our current situation is almost entirely the result of people lying. And, barring a bit of descriptive flair, I answered her questions honestly. For this reason, I am publishing my interview uncensored. If you bruise easily, you probably shouldn’t read it.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
There are many, but one that sticks out in my mind, happened when I was three … I was in my grandparents’ backyard sitting on the lawn; I call it this, but it was really a square of sunbaked earth ringed with tufts of grass. I pried up dirt hunks with a stick. I collected a dozen or so, then I started building. I made a door and four walls. I added a ceiling, another four walls, and a roof. The structure was rickety and lopsided. Roots and worms wriggled from every face. My uncle came outside in his Hawaiian shirt and flipflops. He looked at my creation and smirked, “Is that a house?” he asked. I thinned my eyes at him and smiled. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s a fuckin’, shittin’ bitch-house!” The laughter started at my uncle’s toes. It ran up his calves and buckled his knees and jerked his thighs from side to side. His torso shook like a tree in a hurricane. His head cracked open at the jaw and he howled at the sky. I sat there and watched his body go haywire. I knew then words had power.
What does your family think of your writing?
I write about my life and it’s been a crazy one. My style is candid and vulgar. Recurring topics are drug and alcohol abuse, casual sex, women, violence, love, madness, and death. I spare no detail and take great pleasure in describing the goriest. I hate political correctness and don’t give a fuck who knows it. All this makes for writing that can be very polarizing. Amongst family members, the effect is magnified. There are those who savor every letter, the dirtier the better; those who look past the filth and see my heart; those who sit in silence judging what they read; those who find my work asinine and ignore it; and those who hate it with the heat of ten bonfires and have no problem telling me to my face.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
If we’re talking about my immediate family, the answer is yes. My mother, father, and sister have bought and read my books, bankrolled much of their publishing, given me a place to write while recovering from disease and alcoholism, thrown parties to celebrate my literary achievements, and always tried to provide me with sound advice whenever I hit a roadblock … If we’re talking about my extended family, the answer is yes and no. Some have been pillars of support throughout the process, some have promised a lot and delivered little, and some haven’t given so much as a corn-riddled shit.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I owe my honest opinion of them, my feelings at the time of our meeting, my thoughts as I got to know them, no matter how brutal, ill-conceived, or embarrassing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Women have made my life a nightmare; they’ve teased my dick, drained my cash, fucked my friends, used my heart as a coaster and my balls as rearview-mirror dice. Women have also made my life worth living; they’ve given me love when I didn’t deserve it, nursed me back to health when I was near death, made me laugh when I felt like shooting myself, and been the only spots of sweetness in a year of pure hell … The hardest thing about writing women is the hardest thing about loving them: you might lose your mind.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
“Writer’s block” is defined as, “The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.” In my experience, this is a load of crap. I write about my life, so it’s never a question of being unable to think of what to write, and only a question of doing something worth writing about. As for how to proceed with writing, if you can’t figure that out, you’re a greater fool than words can help.
What is the most painful part of your artistic process?
I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life. I’ve cheated strangers, hurt loved ones, lied, stolen, maimed, killed, and everything in between. The most painful part is moving past my fuck-ups, then being forced not only to look back at them, but to curate, examine, and describe them as if they were hideous, prehistoric creatures trapped under museum glass.
What do you think makes a good story?
Anything can make a good story. Christ, I’ve heard toenail fungus described in a way that kept me engaged. What it takes is a good writer, one who catches the little things then spins a tale that blows your eyeballs out their sockets. You can have the most interesting material, dynamic characters, great setting, but if you’re a bumbling wordsmith, the whole thing ain’t worth spit.
What is the biggest trap for aspiring writers?
The biggest trap for any writer (or artist) is worrying about what other people think. If you spend your time pruning your words of their truth because you fear the wrath of a Twitter mob, then quit writing now.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A big ego will hurt anyone for obvious reasons. However, a medium-sized ego, especially on a writer, can be quite helpful for the following reasons: it can push them to find their target audience despite great barriers; it can guard them from the terror of public opinion; it can ground them after months of imagination and insanity; and it can give them that little shot of dopamine after a job well-done.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. I fill my books with quirky facts, obscure references, plays-on-words, and names with double meanings. I do this because I want fans to discover something new every time they reread one of my books.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Probably “The Brotherhood of the Grape” by John Fante. It’s an autobiographical novel, where the main character, Henry Molise, a successful writer in his fifties, returns home to find his crazy Italian parents in the midst of a divorce. His father Nick, who’s an alcoholic and a stonemason, has been offered a job building a smokehouse in the hills. In an effort to reconcile differences and save his folks’ marriage, Henry agrees to help his old man. What ensues is an adventure with hilarity, color, and poignance I’ve seen matched by only a handful of novels. It changed the way I read. Christ, it changed the way I write.
What does literary success look like to you?
For me, literary success is not having stacks of bestsellers, loads of money, and arenas full of adoring fans; it’s having a handful of well-crafted books, enough money to live comfortably, and a fanbase that is small but loyal. I don’t wanna be the guy at the party who everyone knows. I wanna be the guy at the party who one person knows, and they point to me and say, “Motherfuckers, do you know who this is?”