lunes, 11 de febrero de 2013

An interview with author Michael J. Seidlinger

I recently decided to start doing author interviews for this blog. The last two years or so have been a blast and I've had a chance to meet and read some truly talented writers. As a book reviewer, sometimes reading the book and publishing a review is not enough: you want to know something about the author behind the words. To kick this thing off, I decided to send some questions to Michael J. Seidlinger. He made an impression on me with The Sky Conducting and then followed that up with My Pet Serial Killer (you can read the review of MPSK I wrote for The Chiaroscuro here). Michael is a very talented writer and his economy of language and mixed-genre narratives are a must for anyone who enjoys a good, intelligent story. The interview was a lot of fun and Michael shared some dark secrets, so make sure you read the whole thing. Off we go.

GI- You could easily find a job in the exciting world of fast food, so why did you choose to be a writer instead?

MJS- I can flip the pages better than I could ever flip burgers. I mean, think about it - fast food is the bare minimum of being able to cook. What happens to those people that couldn't cook even a hot dog? I'm one of those inept people that can't do anything better than toast. And guess what - I burn my toast every single time. I wish I were lying but I'm not. This is depressing, actually. Now people know something about me that I would have preferred to keep hidden. I'll burn your kitchen down if you let me and it will have been an accident.

GI- With every new novel, you seem to reinvent a genre. With My Pet Serial Killer, you turned the serial killer novel and the psychological thriller on their heads and created something entirely new and very twisted. Do you start out trying to make genres feel new or are you just incredibly lucky?

MJS- I definitely don't intend on reinvention and I am most definitely not lucky. My life decisions and my checking account can both attest to this. However, what I usually do when it comes to creating a potential concept for a novel is I tend to write down the first details, always received in the form of images, down in a notepad. These images feed off each other and, if there's anything worthwhile, they tend to fit together like a puzzle. Images become ideas become actual plot points, characters, and scenes. I am not usually confident enough to get started until the concept has resonance. I define "resonance" as the underlying marrow, the spine of the narrative, but without having to do with the narrative itself. It surrounds, smothers, and accompanies the narrative. It's not only a web of themes to be explored but also philosophical/sociological/theoretical commentaries. In the case of The Sky Conducting, the resonance of the piece came from the use of artifacts, the spoilage of material objects, and the consumer effect (the mall under the mall). With My Pet Serial Killer, the resonance of the piece came from the italicized scenes, the choice to keep the entire story confined to apartment, school campus, and party-locations, and frequent fourth-wall breaking. All of these ingredients form that so-called "resonance," the texture and depth of the novel. They are born from a list of topics, themes, and thought points that I keep in a separate reference document when writing a novel. Sometimes, one point might just be, "Repeat [character name] every 4 lines to induce sense of preoccupation/obsession." The fact that The Sky Conducting fits into Dystopian Fiction and My Pet Serial Killer fits into Thriller/Serial Killer novel is a wonderful coincidence.

GI- Your economy of language is one of the elements that make your prose so enjoyable. When did you start writing like that? Why?

MJS- It took a very very long time to find a balance between the stated and unstated. If you dare look back at my first novel, The Day We Delay, you will find a catacomb of linguistic carnage. It's a novel among my early work, when I was fresh to the rhythm and depth language can bring to the full-length narrative. I killed off more novels than I kept words on the page. However, I believe I started to find that so-called balance when I actively abandoned the act of formal experimentation - that is, the use of experimentation on the surface via arrangement of words, limitations enforced, etc - and committed to bringing the experimentation into the underside of the work itself. I buried it into the narrative. It's still there - the experimentation with words. I can't write if I'm not experimenting with something. The biggest change was when I decided to use the story, the narrative as the battleground where words are born and beaten to a pulp.

GI- You mentioned wanting to get My Pet Serial Killer to be the McDonalds happy meal toy for a whole month. How's that going?

MJS- I've met with a man claiming to be Ronald McDonald. I found him on Craigslist. We met at - where else? - a McDonalds and he was disappointed when he found out I was 27 years old rather than the 7 or 8 year old he "assumed" I'd be. I was disappointed that he wasn't in the clown makeup.

GI- A bird told me there's something called Makeout out there, a promotional novella. Can you talk a bit about that or is it one of those things that you'd have to kill us all if you gave more info?

MJS- I'll give you the basics - it's limited to a couple dozen copies and it's going to disappear once those copies find homes. That's all I'll tell you.
If you know where to look, the details about the novella may have already been revealed.

GI- I know where to look. If you want to get your hands on Makeout, click here.

GI- You've been on a roll in the last 3 years; what's next?

MJS- Thanks man. The current plan is to keep doing what I'm doing. I'll keep writing for as long as I enjoy writing. I have some stuff written and complete that I'll be showing around, pitching the broadstrokes of the narrative, and we'll see.

GI- Good books and films you've been digging lately, go!

MJS- Recent notable reads include - Crapalachia (Scott McClanahan), "I Don't Know," I Said (Matthew Savoca), Rontel (Sam Pink), Criminal (Ed Brubaker), Satantango (Laszlo Krasznahorkai), and Me and the Devil (Nick Tosches).

Recent films include - Killer Joe (William Friedkin), The ABCs of Death (various), Amour (Michael Haneke), The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson), Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh), Beyond the Black Rainbow (Panos Cosmatos), and John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli).

Now it's your turn. Give me some recommendations. I'm always looking for more books, films, and music. Videogames too. Those are great for getting away from projects.

GI- Nice list. I'll be checking some of those out. Rontel was amazing. Here are some great reads I've been digging: Blake Butler's Sky Saw, George Saunders' Tenth of December, Benoît Duteurtre's The Little Girl and the Cigarrette, Mark SaFranko's Hating Olivia, Frank Bill's Donnybrook (coming in March), David J. Osborne Low Down Death Right Easy (coming very soon), The Heroin Chronicles, edited by Jerry Stahl, Justin Grimbol's Drinking Until Morning (absolutely hilarious), and David W. Barbee's Thunderpussy. There's more, but I'm blanking right now. As for movies, I'm going through the hate part of my love/hate cycle with cinema. I'll get back to you on that.

GI- MPSK is great for many reasons, but I'm sure no reviewer has been able to read your mind yet. What do you like the most about it? Please, don't be humble.

MJS- I like that it's probably about as "base" as I'll ever get with a novel. I'm not going to say that I won't write anything this transgressive ever again but what I am saying is that I like that I've been able to delve into a very deliberate and strange sort of darkness. I like that I survived writing it. It wasn't easy. I was very antisocial during the writing of the piece. There was a time when I went over a few days without communicating with the outside world. In fact, I actively fled social situations. After writing for the day, I used to drink whiskey and watch old cheesy 80s horror films to unwind. I like that a lot of the atmosphere of the novel mirrors that particular time in my life. What else... I like that the origin image, that of someone watching from outside a curtained window a murder of some sort, quickly evolved into the "pet" device that anchors the novel. I like the fact that I can actually go back and read this one. I normally can't stand reading my own writing after it's finished but with My Pet, I am able to flip through and read a few sentences without feeling extremely self-conscious.

GI- What's the best thing about writing/designing books?

MJS- I enjoy that part of writing a novel when you're maybe halfway there and doubting the effort. There are plenty of these moments where doubt surfaces and the piece is questioned in terms of quality. The best part is when you're chugging along and you stumble upon an unexpected occurrence that revives the confidence and banishes all doubt. It adds fuel to the fire of writing. You look back and sometimes wonder where the hell that idea came from. I rarely know why, but the excitement it draws is enough to keep me up late into the night typing away.
I enjoy the moment when a cover starts taking shape. I'd say that 80% of the time the original idea for the cover fails and I come up with something else. Much like with the writing, it's a mixture of chance and falling into state of concentration. I tend to drink while I design covers so the mixture of alcoholic buzz and zooming in, zooming out, shaving away at a texture, toying around in Curves - it is at that point that something happens. I bet it's the buzz that gets me to risk it and just chase after some wild idea.

GI- What would the Gentleman Killer think/say about MPSK?

MJS- He's out there somewhere. Lucky for me, he's not getting out of that prison. Then again, he might figure me for yet another one of Claire's pets. We're both victims. We might be good, great friends.

There you have it, folks. Now head on over to Amazon and grab a copy of My Pet Serial Killer. You won't be disappointed. If you still have doubts, click on the links to read the excerpts published at Keep This Bag Away From Children and ManArchy. Also, make sure you follow Michael on Twitter at @mjseidlinger, look him up on Facebook,and visit his space on the web here.

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