If you could cook dinner for any author, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you make?
I would love to cook dinner for Richard Bruatigan and I think that I would make him dandelion soup. I want to bug him about his book, Please Plant this Book.
What scares you the most about the writing process? How do you combat your fears?
Getting started. My biggest fear begins and ends with the words, “is this idea good enough?” How I combat my fear is by looking for other media which aligns to what I’m trying to do; I look for similar pieces and people and then I just start working.
Who is your biggest literary crush, author or character?
Robert Langden from Dan Brown’s novel series; I have wanted to become Robert my whole life--it’s the closest thing I have to a crush.
What books are on your nightstand?
Astoria by Malena Morling and The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan.
Favorite punctuation mark? Why?
The semicolon, it is the most aesthetically pleasing piece of punctuation.
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did?
To Kill a Mockingbird.
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgements?
South Mountain for being my home for so many months.
If you could write an inspirational quote on the mirrors of aspiring writers, what would you write?
True genius is just hard work.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Energize, I can write for 40 days and 40 nights without stopping to eat or drink.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Thinking that you have nothing to say. Everyone has a voice--learning how to wield it is the hard part.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The fear of needing to get everything published. The fear of wasting my time.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Yes, it took me 9 years to read Jonathon Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. I could never make it past the first chapter.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes, writing is not always about sudden inspiration--passion comes in all shapes and sizes.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I had some very influential mentors circle in and out of my life over the years and the best advice they ever gave me was to at least write something that I’m interested in. That helped me form a style and voice that was unique to me and helped shape my later work, especially.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think that if I wrote another book in this vein I would want them to be interconnected. I think John may have more to say about his little slice of heaven in the Southwest.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Well, it wasn’t so much the publishing but my commitment to publishing. Turning writing into an actual 9-5 job for the course of 6-8 months really helped me change the way that I think about creative writing and the art of writing.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The $8 it cost me to get Malena Morling’s Astoria at bookmans--her book changed my understanding of what lyric and descriptive poetry could be.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
Jonathon Safran Foer
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
The first time I cussed in school.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Beasts of No Nation
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
An agave plant
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Well, I based my character off myself and James Woods in the movie Salvador; so, I guess I owe myself a beer and James Woods a movie ticket.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Three, and three that will never see the light of day.
What does literary success look like to you?
Finding the perfect home for your work.
What’s the best way to market your books?
Readings and alumni networks.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Getting the motivation right. Understanding their needs in relation to their desires.
What did you edit out of this book?”
Jeez, half the poems maybe. I found myself writing better versions of the pieces already in there and decided to go with the new work instead.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Well, I’m a teacher so there’s that.
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