On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Fernando Sdrigotti

On Fiction Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

shitstorm packshot

 

Fernando Sdrigotti

was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1977. His writing in English and Spanish has been widely published in print and online. He is the author of Dysfunctional Males (LCG Editores, 2017), Shitstorm (Open Pen, 2018), and Departure Lounge Music (LCG Editores 2018) among others. He lives in London and is the founding editor of the online journal Minor Literature[s]. Twitter: @f_sd.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write fiction?

To be fair I can’t remember. I always had a rather prolific imagination and one way or the other I was always writing little short stories, comics, that kind of thing. But I can tell you that the first time I said to myself, “hey, this is amazing; I should try to write something like this,” at an older age, was when I read Julio Cortázar’s Bestiario, which is his first book. I must have been 18 and I went home, got my mother’s Olivetti Lettera out and wrote a short story of about 800 words in one go — I still have it somewhere in my desk. The story is shit — it’s pretty much a knockoff of Cortázar. But it was then, almost twenty-five years ago, that something was activated and I haven’t stopped writing ever since.

2. Who introduced you to fiction?

Do you mean as a reader? We read very little fiction in school; actually we read very little beyond the school texts, that were all quite bad. Luckily, there were always books around when I grew up, as my mother is an avid reader. I spent my early years reading encyclopaedias, that kind of stuff — more the caption to the images than the text, of course! But the first time I really got hooked with a fiction book was with Jules Verne, when I was 8 or 9. There was a very cheap collection — I think it was a book per week — and my mother bought all of them for me. When I read Journey to the Centre of the Earth my mind was blown. I never tried my hand on that kind of writing but my love for reading fiction was born there and then.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older writers?

The canon is there, no doubts. But it’s not something I care much about. I move in very underground / indie scenes, where there is an openness to what’s new, and perhaps an extreme aversion to what’s old. In any case, as I have all but abandoned my mother tongue as a writing vehicle, the canon that lurks in my unconscious exits in a different language, and it’s somehow less menacing.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a daily writing routine as such, beyond writing every day, at whatever time of the day I can, wherever I am, on whatever I can (paper, laptop, notebook, etc). I’m not blessed with the privileges of a life untainted by work, so I can’t set aside the same time every day; I’d like to but it’s not feasible. That said, I haven’t missed a day since 2008, as I’m a very regular person and I believe more on frequency that intensity. So far it’s working fine.

I work always on several projects at a time. Not on the same day; at least not always. But having several projects beats the so-called “writer’s block” for me; if you can handle the anxiety of taking longer to finish projects I think this is the best way to work. And what more… Well, when I’m really immersed in a manuscript and I need to beef it up I tend to put a daily word count and I stick to it. Anything from 500 to 1000. When I reach the word count I leave said project and write something else (if I have the time). I rarely miss the word count; if I do I’m impossible to talk to.

5. What motivates you to write?

I don’t know. It’s something I do. Having a rampant obsessive compulsive disorder helps to create habits, to be fair. Mostly bad habits. I don’t think writing it’s different from that for me. If the day has been particularly busy and I can only write an hour or so before going to bed that day sucks — I’ll be in a bad mood until I can sit down to write. Writing is almost physical to me. I just need it.

6. What is your work ethic?

Writing isn’t work for me. I make little money with it. I have no wish to participate in the fantasy of pretending writing pays. People who do that generally come from a wealthy background, or are shacked with someone who fronts the bills, or have a side job that they keep secret. That clarification made, perhaps it’s more about what’s my ethic for existing in the “literary scene”? I try to cut out the bullshit and not be an arsehole. But then that’s something I do in my life as a whole. Many things can be achieved, many friendships made and sustained over time, by cutting out the bullshit and not being an arsehole.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

Because I write in a second language I’m not sure they influence much beyond some passing references I leave here and there for some readers — very few, I guess — to make connections with other stories. The good thing of abandoning your mother tongue as a vessel is that you start from Ground Zero. That has good and bad aspects. One of the good aspects is that you shake off the burden of influence quite effectively. At least it doesn’t show that much!

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

In English I very much admire the work of Susana Medina and Joanna Walsh. In Spanish, actually from Argentina, I admire Nicolás Mavrakis — who very much influenced my own fiction writing, particularly through his critique of digital technology and society — and Martín Rejtman, who is a great filmmaker and who has an unique way of writing fiction… I mean, there’s a lot of great writers out there, and editing a magazine I bump into many exciting stuff. But these people I not only admire but I have let them influence me, which I guess it’s the best for of admiration, right? And I know them in person too. Which is great because I can pick their brains via direct channels.

9. Why do you write?

I guess it started as a form of making sense of things. At this point it’s just what I do — as I mentioned above I create habits very easily! I guess we could say “not writing would be worse”. Someone said that before but I can’t remember who it was. Was it Kafka? I don’t know. But that.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I’d say you are either asking the wrong question, or at least you are asking the wrong person. I’m not interested in “job titles”. I write. I’m not sure I’m “A Writer”. Certainly not “An Author”. I don’t care about those things, really — there seems to be a world out there of writers and authors and many people who want to “get it” but it just doesn’t make sense to me. Once I get that out of the way I’d say it’s better to try to stick to the practise and create a body of work and let the Wikipedia editors worry about the nouns that will define you (there’s no Wikipedia page about me, by the way). And if you stick to the practise the readers will come. How do you arrive at the creation of that practise? I think that’s the tricky part. That for me took discipline and a natural tendency towards obsessive repetition. Everyone works different I guess.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’ve been a bit lazy lately when it comes to new projects. The thing is that several older projects are coming together in the coming months and juggling that, my “real life” and writing new things is impossible.

I have a book out with Open Pen, soon, the launch is November 8 and the book hits the shops November 22. This one is called Shitstorm and it deals with public opinion, social media, and the Outrage of Everyday Life. It’s a very short book, 20,000 words. In December I have an anthology of short stories out, Departure Lounge Music. This one will be published by the American publisher of my first book in English, LCG Editores. There are essays in two anthologies. One edited by Andrew Gallix (the editor of 3:AM Magazine), called We’ll Never Have Paris, which is out in May 2019, with Repeater Books. And the second one is Under the Influence, edited by Joanna Walsh, out anytime soon, with Gorse, from Dublin. And then there’s another book out in February but as it hasn’t been announced yet I can’t tell you right now! This ones is a parody of the “Parisian Novel” and I have co-written it with my old friend Martin Dean.

I hope to go back to finishing new things in the new year. I am half-way through a novel called Siren Orgasms and a new collection of short stories called Tales of Despair and Organic Quinoa. I have work for 2 more years with these! I guess new projects will be born soon. I hope.

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