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 fiction writers you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Shane Jesse Christmass
is the author of the novels, Belfie Hell (Inside The Castle, 2018), Yeezus In Furs (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018), Napalm Recipe: Volume One (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017), Police Force As A Corrupt Breeze (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2016) and Acid Shottas (The Ledatape Organisation, 2014).
He was a member of the band Mattress Grave, and is currently a member in Snake Milker.
An archive of his writing/artwork/music can be found at www.shanejessechristmass.tumblr.com
1. What inspired you to write fiction?
Not sure if there is one thing, or actually anything, that inspired me. I am always dubious on whether or not inspiration is an actual substance that is required to stimulate someone in order to create. I wanted to write novels, so I wrote novels. The urge pushed the outcome. I know I didn’t talk much as a child, and one of the things I liked doing was reading a lot. I feel that I perhaps hallucinated, maybe fantasised intensely is the better choice of word, but was terribly miserable, and was probably left alone a lot, and therefore just simmered in my imagination by myself. I wasn’t particularly gifted in anything, except reading a lot, and that is especially not a great skill, I just made time for it, because I was terrible at other academic quests, or sports endeavours. I think there are benefits to speaking in an incoherent manner. Writing is just a small human sacrifice in a suburban supermarket. Inspiration is just the cataleptic attack.
2. Who introduced you to fiction?
Well you kind of have to don’t you. You have to learn how to read and write, so therefore you have to read all these little dinky stories and books. I don’t have fond memories of these sort of things. I don’t really like thinking about these things. I just spent a lot of time at the library. I nagged people in my family to take me to the library a lot, until I was old enough to go by myself. And when I was there I asked the librarians lots of questions. They pointed to the books for the answers. My father was this sort of person who was very detached, but did amazing things like purchase the complete works of Shakespeare, or the Romantic poets, in these Encyclopaedia Britannica type of leather bound books, something you probably bought from a salesman, or from a catalogue. They were on the shelf. I remember asking him once who all these books were for. He advised me they were for ‘us’ – meaning me and my siblings. I commenced pawing through them. By no means am I saying people should go read Shakespeare to be a writer. He’s definitely not my taste. I got it done early in life. I couldn’t imagine reading him now. That would be so boring. I just read him because it was in my house. I also read pretty much anything. I read my mother’s ‘Cosmopolitan’ magazine for example. I probably enjoyed that more than Shakespeare.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older writers?
Massively. You don’t want to do something that someone did originally and more uniquely – that would just be very disappointing. But – you do also wish to do something in the experimental tradition, perhaps extend something further, or add upon something that came previous. I’ve had odd moments where people have commented that my writing is like a certain author that I have never heard of, or I have checked out an author that is new to me, say Saint-John Perse, and I can see massive similarities, but ones that are just magical coincidences. Someone once told me that my writing reminded them of Thomas Pynchon, a writer I wasn’t terribly familiar with, and who to this day I have never read. I mean why would I go read a writer that people say is similar to myself, or that I am similar to. One of the reasons I write the way I do is because I couldn’t find the fiction that I wanted to read.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
You know that shot in ‘The Omen’ where Lee Remick is pushed over the balcony balustrade and falls – and the fall causes her to miscarry? I once saw a documentary where the director, Richard Donner, explained how they set up and executed that particular scene and then how they shot it. Go watch it, it’s an amazing piece of filmmaking, but watching the documentary, I can only now watch that scene and think know about how they did it. The wonder that I had of initially not knowing how they did it has evaporated. Telling people my daily writing routine might be equivalent to watching that documentary.
5. What motivates you to write?
Because no one believed I could do it. And as mentioned in the opening question, it was always just something I wanted to do, I didn’t have much faith in my ability to do anything else, but this seemed somewhat natural, and I certainly felt less anxious doing it than other tasks. Fretted-about signs always show up in the skull housing, you can keep them inside, or you can plaster them onto a page and publish. I chose to plaster and publish.
6. What is your work ethic?
Cold hands, in a cool climate, need to tap some words out each day. And that’s the key, every day, something has to contribute to the writing of something. What that something is will be particular for each writer. Just don’t die wondering that you never put your crystalline vision into effect. Don’t get to the end, and as a luminous patient … suddenly think: I could’ve done more, I should’ve written more. One of the things that use to upset me, especially when I was young, was this equivalency, and this is particular in my family where my parents came from working class stock when they were children, and then moved themselves into a lowly middle class position, was that reading books or writing was equivalent to being lazy. My work ethic is inspired to prove that that equivalency is false, and that perhaps the benefits of doing something like that are not entirely immediate. Does sitting in an armchair and looking out a window thinking, or ruminating on a thought, lack substance or profit? No … it’s ghostly work. As Evelyn Underhill wrote, some natures have a special sense, an attempt to reach a transcendental consciousness, the contemplation allows us to reach it. My point is that a writer’s work ethic shouldn’t just be to write all the time. Contemplating, how you’re going to write something, why you’re going to write something, should have a worth ethic to it, in that it should be just as rigorous and productive as the actual writing, but it is no less valuable.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
Yeah good question. Guess if I was going to make a list of my top ten favourite writers, or some list that is defined similarly like that, favourite writers or some such, most of the writers on that list would probably be favourites from when I was younger. The only book that might go onto that list, that I only just came around to, would be Gary Indiana’s Horse Crazy. I guess how they influence me today is a bit tricky to answer. I don’t put those books into any list, or hold them close, because of any exact influence on my writing, or an influence on the topics I write about. To a greater degree, most of the books, or these favourite authors, are the ones that I felt gave me permission to make early attempts at this writing business. Certain books made me realise I could do this. It gets back to your question regarding the dominating influence of older writers. I read less fiction these days, and what fiction I do read these days is more for entertainment purposes, meaning when I was younger I would read novels, but would take notes, mental or otherwise, regarding how the novel was written, all the mechanical and technical elements on what makes up a novel. So the reading of novels then was more from an educational aspect, whereas the type of books that influence my current writing, whether indirectly or directly, would be non-fiction work, and that’s not from a position of incorporating direct facts from non-fiction texts, but more to provide a feeling, or tone to inflect into my own work. I just read that famous work by Robert A. Monroe about out-of-body experiences. This in no way means that there will be a plot, or a character directly, in my next manuscript that has these experiences, it’s more just to provide some nebulous science fiction, or scientific, tone.
P.B Shelley is a volatile substance that did cast a slow expiration over me for a while though. Around when I was 14 years of age, and then for a long time afterward, but still, currently, very much presently, and probably forever actually. His words were some type of nauseous gateway to perfection. A natural faultlessness for me to read. There was a proportionate unity, and a particular shape to his work. Everything I had read prior to then reading Shelley just seemed like teabag stains in comparison, limp flints. A sudden jet of ceaseless elation.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Oh where can I start! Lots of people. Isabel Waidner. Rachel de Moravia. Candice Wuehle. Nadia de Vries. Darcie Wilder. Why? It seems very unlikely that writing could make a physical change to a person’s anatomy, but perhaps these writer’s may assist in a human’s evolution. Are we just vegetable matter? The future will have visual differences from what we currently see. Why can’t we have writers, like these, that act as handbooks, guides, to assist us when we encounter those visual differences? You can either be a body, or a bystander amongst the rubble, or you could read those writers. The interior of their books is like a telepathic reading, lurking emulsions of forward-looking designs and approaches. It’s good shit.
9. Why do you write?
The most common question to ask an author, but the most difficult for authors to respond to. Maybe there is no reason, except I just happen to write, it’s what I always wanted to do, and it’s what I always did. Do you know about the clinamen? The clinamen has numerous definitions, but I’m interested in how it was defined within pataphysics. Originally the Roman poet, and philosopher Lucretius, defined the clinamen as being an unpredictable swerve of atoms. Alfred Jarry, the writer who penned the main tenets of pataphysics, came to understand the clinamen as a slight change that can cause a greater, or the greatest meaning. For example: changing one letter in a word to make a new word, and that new word obviously caries a completely new meaning. I’m interest in the clinamen, but not a slight change, a delirious upheaval. A repetition of images, tweaks of images causing dislocation and jump-cut in narrative, the death of certain images only for images to reappear later, interchangeable images causing interchangeable narratives. I write, to perhaps take pleasure, or to promote the instability of meaning, and through that instability, reach new meanings through new forms, instructions or procedures. I want to create stories that start at any point in the manuscript, as this aligns with the spasmodic and aleatory experience of modern time, a somnambulist drift between tenses, a relentless overload of information. Shifts of attention to something irrelevant or disconnected – the clinamen. That’s how I feel today, my reasons will probably change completely tomorrow.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
I know I shouldn’t answer a question with a question, but I might ask – ‘What sort of writer do you want to be?” I have a certain sphere as a writer, a speciality, but certain specialities might just be another name for limitation. Unfortunately there’s no glib answer to that question that suffices, except what they probably already know. I’ve seen so many interviews with writers, and I’m talking really famous and rich writers, who when they get asked this question always answer – read more. Yeah, no shit, thanks for nothing. Isn’t that the most asinine and dainty response you ever heard? I’d probably advise not to get distracted by the idea of being a writer, don’t get distracted by all these accoutrements of a writing life. Don’t get distract by finding some perfect, decorated writing space, or finding some enlightened pencil. But one thing I would say is, everything is a story, everything that happens can be a story. And everything you can possibly conjure up in your imagination, is a story.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I’m nearing the end of a large piece of work that is, at the moment, unwieldy and a bit broad in its scope. I originally started out with the idea that I was going to write a memoir, not based on my life, definitely not based on my life, but a memoir based on the movements of two childhood male friends. These two friends, over the years, become on-again, off-again sexual partners with each other, but with an absence of love or any affection. One of the male friends, is very loosely based on Herb Mullin. And definitely not based on the life of Herb Mullin at all, but an idea that Herb Mullin had. He thought that a small killing would prevent a major catastrophe to occur. He believed, at the start of his killing spree, that his killings could stop a massive earthquake from occurring in the San Francisco area. Actually he believed that all the deaths caused by the Vietnam War, up to that point, were enough to forestall this earthquake, but as the war in Vietnam was winding down, he’d need to advance the killings himself. Anyway – I was intending to write a massive cadaverous tragedy that plays out with these two male friends, based on this livid idea that an individual waging a war on society, that unfortunately involves bloodshed, could stop a massive war from commencing, or that could finish a massive war between two nations. Oh and it’s a love story. I’m really enjoying writing it and it is fucking nuts. If anyway wants to read it, by all means hit me up.