Tell me everything about you the fewest words possible.
“So what kind of books do you write?”
“So what’s your story about?”
I’ll kick the chair out on this post by saying that these are not inherently bad questions. Any question about my work is mega appreciated, and I appreciate the time and concern any m-fer takes to stop and ask damn near anything about FPP or my book; whether it be with glib tepidity or genuine curiosity. At some point I’m sure the most prestigious (prestigiousess) authors are no longer asked these kinds of questions, though the world can surprise you, that crazy plate of rainbow coloured spaghetti it is. They probably just ignore them because they can. I’ll probably never get to speak with someone like Rowling or King, but I wouldn’t ask them about their work at all in fact. Fuck shop talk. It would be the kind of ‘bumping shoulders’ question that a minnow might sidle up beside a whale and whisper before it gets knocked 40 fathoms to the flank in a heartbeat for thinking their frames were anywhere near the same size. I would, however, refrain from socio-politics with one and car accidents with the other.
Anyways, I hate these questions.
Not because of the banality, the mediocre nature of the phrasing and/or the beige-tinted scent of an obligation to half-heartedly continue the conversation that they started and have no panic button to fuck themselves off with. Oftentimes, such questions do reek of disinterested friendliness like the way you would ask a child what they’re drawing with dem widdle cwayons on dem widdle sheets of paper.
It’s because they bring me to the stark reality that I can’t describe my own work for shit. Worse, I can’t articulate in a swift manner what even one of my novels or even my short stories are about without either describing the whole goddamn book, or underselling how badass it is. And trust me fam, they’s badass literaturations.
In version one, I over-explain the novel in a near-indulgent way to make sure I am selling high on Sam, Cava or the nameless narrator. I debilitate the flow of said summary by stopping to make sure they ‘get it’ and are sure to value the process and the philosophical benchmarks I painstakingly fleshed out. I have to give a detailed account of the secondary characters and be convinced that the listener (who by this point probably wants me to shut my yap and listen to them) is cognizant of the depth and craftsmanship that went behind sculpting an multi-dimensional, trope-upending cast. To add a cherry on that bloated pile of frozen cream I just oozed, I might even, unsolicited, try to describe why this work exists. Though often, people do ask some of these questions: people are so fucking polite.
The second version is a feels like disservice and leaves me regretful like I had a bad first sexual encounter after a decent date with a beautiful woman, scared to call her again because my performance was so out of line with how I felt about her. “It’s about a guy who wakes up beside a raptor,’ ‘It’s about a bunch of girls and boys in a shitty town,” “ok, so… there’s this… no no no, wait… have you ever read Faust?” and the list goes on. This is the most common type of answer from me. I don’t want to give anything away: issa surprise! But, I also don’t know how to take months of writing, contemplating, planning, editing, smoking, pacing around with my hands behind my back, not sleeping, forgetting to eat, getting weird, and trying to live the character in my day-to-day life to condense a story for someone sitting on the other wide of my wood. That’s a bartop ye dirty-faced pervs.
You’re a stranger and the fuck I look like spilling the frijoles to you? If you’re interested then subscribe, seek out my greatness and read about it. It’s my job to write, not to explain. Rizzle?
Nah. You wrong, Papa. And, kind of a dick in that last paragraph.
You see… It is my responsibility to generate interest. If you write, you are your own greatest accomplice, you are Batman and, ugh, Robin.
Ever wonder why they went through so many Robins? The Dark knight don’t need no Dark Squire. Just sayin’.
A common prelude to any response is for moi to laugh coquettishly like a Japanese school girl, cover my mouth, bow, and explain that I don’t know, ha-ha. Lame. Ultra lame, I know. But, once again, I don’t want to scare these strangers off from my bar. I also don’t want to get familiar with this nosey cat, given our master-servant relationship.
Even if it’s my best friend, I want them to be peeled when they read the motherfucker. Why pay for the cow etc…
It has been in the back of my mind, but came rushing to the front when I had to write some summaries for COWARD and THE FURIES. Luckily, my editors said that they would vet the garbled offerings and help me Frankenstein together synopsis worthy of rear the cover description. It’s not easy and I want to either say too much or too little. I hope I found that even-flow.
Still, I wouldn’t spit that spiel to a real person standing in front of me. You ever tried reading your work out loud to another human? It’s bizarre. Like that scene in Spider-man 2, the McGuire one, where he’s reciting a memorized poem to MJ. That shit’s out, man. It’s something that I’ll have to work on, describing the book in a way that doesn’t give too much, that doesn’t come off as an after-thought, and still preserves the intense passion that I have for my babies.
As of now I have sold my book to several custys, not intentional, but that’s awesome, their awesome, and I thank them for giving ya boy a look.
I can tell you, if I wasn’t an independent or nobody author, and if I didn’t work in a yoked-like position vis-à-vis people whose opinion of me directly reflects my compensation; I’d say fuck it. I’d ask those benignantly ignorant cats to restate the question in a way that doesn’t belittle or slight me, or make them sound corny.
‘What do you write about?’
Things, motherfucker, things! I write about complex shit that takes me months to unravel, spitball and vomit on to a page. It takes me just as long to mop that bile up and regurgitate it all over again in a way that doesn’t make me lose friends and never get laid again. I’m putting a galaxy of things into a wood-chipper and turning it to ground beef-like substance that can be digested with relative ease. I write about drugs, sex and sexuality, mental illness, dinosaurs, real and imaginary places, zombies, addiction, weapons, fire, love, villains, killing, racism, robots, myself, murder, religion, and anything that I want to or gets stuck in that boney capsule between my ear holes. I write stories about misheard song lyrics or decades-old events that I always thought were neat, or some shit that happened a week ago. I write about pain and pleasure and happiness and sorrow. I write in sliced-up metaphor or things so on-the-nose that need to go cross-eyed to see it. I write in the present, past and future. I write for the sake of writing.
I write fiction: Black humour and pretty fucking absurd shit on the real.
You say absurd and people think you’re taking the piss. Maybe I am and I don’t know what an absurdist story really is. (I will be honest, I don’t fully understand labels; I don’t set out to fit in a box, I want to be my own box.) if your answer is too esoteric or isn’t to their satisfaction, people are quick to give you the checkered eye, maybe an gas-faced expression, or worse, they turn their back. Never turn your back in the wild, fyi. Instead of asking a follow up question, they leave it and move on. They will never think of you again until you are caught on a cellphone running naked through the streets singing I am the Walrus and pleading that you are not your characters.
Maybe I just need business cards. If you know a guy, holler…
I look forward to the day, should it ever come, that I sit down with someone who is not my ma, who actually reads my work, and Kalashnikovs questions at me until I fall asleep. One of my goals is to be interviewed and be asked some genuine, thought-provoking questions about my work, the way Joe Rogan does. We don’t even have to talk about my work, but writing, reading and whatever, together. I have had to entertain the same questions as a shucker for years now: ‘How many do you shuck a day?’ ‘Have you ever cut yourself?’ ‘What’s your favourite sauce?’
I saw some interview with Tyler, The Creator, Lil Wayne and Jerry Seinfeld. They ripped in to the interviewer for asking such boring questions. Jerry was mad that the interviewer was asking questions that didn’t relate to him. Tyler and Wayne were tired of having the same old question launched at them. Tyler even said that the questions were those which he had answered a million times and the answers were, at that point, common knowledge of sorts. I first felt pity for the interviewers; they were just asking questions, just trying to illuminate the artists’ personalities to and for their audience. Then, I logged in well over 300 days a year doing something that is different to what most people do. I would be elbow deep in brine and shell and working my balls off and some out of ton yank or dopey cracker would lean over and ask ‘how many these do ya shuck a day? Ever? Whaddaya guess?’ 300 x (let’s say just 1 per day) x 7 years. 2,100 times I’ve been asked that question. Jerry, Tyler, Wayne: I’m sorry. I get it. I tried to be funny, different answer, lie, cheat, steal hearts. But, fuck, but, fuck…
It also depends on the day. Sometimes your sprightlier than others, granted. And, I have no catalogue of interviews to gesture towards. I’m just a dude with a Peter Pan knife cracking sea rocks for editing and advertising loot.
But, with the writing shit, it feels different. Cats aren’t observing me write and undertake the process, and aren’t necessarily invested in copping the product. It’s part of my duty to get them there; copping the product, that is. They are asking me about something that is as serious as the death of a child in a tone that drips of murking time until your ‘sters are done or your soup has arrived. There’s a blanace to be found.
And for my part, I have a few ways to answer them and all of them suck ass. And every time I’m asked, it reminds me of how much better I need to be at selling and summarizing my life’s work in a succinct and tantalizing way to turn a stranger in to a fan, or hater, both will buy the book, only one will (probably) burn it after.
Thanks for reading, this ended up being longer than I thought,
Sorry for cussing,