Interview with Stephen Moles

I said that I was going to post it with the book review, but I yapped on there so much, that I thought the blog post would be too long. So now I post the interview, which I enjoyed reading very much. Thank you, Stephen Moles.

1. What do you think is the best in the process of writing? Just going through with it, slamming keys, getting everything down, or reading and editing?
It’s rare that I write even a single sentence without redrafting it at least once, so I progress very slowly and then go back for more redrafting once the manuscript is complete. I’m definitely not a key slammer.
2. Who is your writer crush?
I’m polyamorous (in a literary sense), so I have many ongoing writer crushes, but the most intense is probably William Burroughs. After all these years, he still makes me go weak at the knees with his “right-brained” interpretations of “left-brain” phenomena.
3. Do you have a soundtrack when you write? If so, what albums or artists? If silence, where’s your comfy writing spot?
As much as I like listening to music, I’m far more productive if I minimize potential distractions, so I usually go to a library to write. My soundtrack is therefore the sound of strangers whispering and coughing.
4. What is that one book you read over and over, or read portions of? That one book you will save from a fire?
If a fire broke out in a library or somewhere like that and I had to go in to rescue one book, I probably wouldn’t make it out alive (due to indecision). I doubt I’d even get past trying to decide which Kobo Abe novel should make it into the running for best book before being overcome by fumes.
5. Who’s that one writer(s) you wish everyone would shut up about?
Most people accept that because the average mainstream celebrity is incapable of expressing an original idea or even forming a coherent sentence, their “autobiography” has to be written by someone else, but the idea of celebrities having other people write novels for them is a step too far (I’m thinking of the novels “of” Katie Price in particular). When Salvador Dali signed thousands of blank canvases so that forgers could create “authentic fakes” it raised some interesting questions about notions of authenticity despite the fact that it was done primarily for financial reasons; but it was only made possible by the fact that Dali’s signature conferred some kind of artistic worth to the product because he was an expert in his field. The idea of someone with no experience in a field trying to confer worth to something they played no part in creating is either the nadir of creativity or a postmodern joke so sophisticated that I’m unable to appreciate it.
6. What book-to-movie adaptation disappointed you greatly?
Every single one except for The Wizard of Oz.
7. What book(s) is on your current reading list? (It could be your Goodreads list, on your night table, in your book bag, in your purse, etc.)
It’s a very long list, with books being added quicker than they’re read, but next up it’s Frances Yates’ Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition. Bruno suggested in the 16th century that the stars existed in an infinite universe and could be suns surrounded by planets fostering life; he also denied certain Christian miracles and was burned alive for heresy. It’s sensible to consider whether certain ideas in existence today which seem outrageous and result in persecution when expressed (such as the idea that human beings don’t need to be controlled by a government) could in fact be the modern equivalent of this.
8. What was the worst thing you have ever written?
I wrote a lot of bad stuff when I was younger, but the thing that haunts me most is a poem I composed around the age of 15. It’s the only teen angst poem I ever penned, but it somehow won a competition and was read out to loads of people at an awards ceremony. As I sat in the audience and listened to it being recited, it dawned on me that it was a pile of angst-ridden crap, and I vowed never to write anything like it again. After that, I enthusiastically embraced surrealist writing techniques, so it was a useful experience.
9. When working on whatever writing project you’re on, do you focus on a schedule of words counts, pages, or just finishing that one chapter? For example, I’ve read that most writers would just write 1,000 words a day.
Since I’m two metres tall and usually write in a public library while hunched over furniture that seems to have been designed for Lilliputians, I usually stop writing when I come to a natural break in my spine rather than a natural break in the text. I suffer for my art in a variety of ways.
10. What’s that one book you wish you wrote? There was a guy, I don’t remember his name, but I heard somebody talking about him, who rewrote F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, every word. Just so he could feel what it is to write a hit novel.
That’s an interesting idea, although I prefer the excitement of not knowing how a work is going to be received while I’m writing it. I did have a similar idea that I started working on a few years ago, which was to read a classic novel and then try to write it myself from memory while drunk. I started doing it chapter by chapter with Jane Eyre, getting extremely inebriated in the name of art before each writing session. It was an experimental project, but since I set myself the rule that I wasn’t allowed to edit the writing it in any way whatsoever, I envisaged the end result being an amusing, semi-coherent, typo-filled piece that could be read as a simulation of what Jane Eyre would have been like if Charlotte Brontë had written it while drunk. I didn’t get very far with the project… for obvious reasons.

11. How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember. I wrote my first book at the age of ten. It was about a boy who gets abducted by aliens and taken to a planet in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, but it was better than my teen angst poem.
12. What do you prefer in reading and writing? A character-driven or plot-driven story?
I prefer a language-driven or ideas-driven story. Plot is the least important thing to me as a reader and a writer because I see it as just part of the basic structure of the story. If there’s no meat on the bone in the form of the development of characters, concepts or metaphors, then it’s lazy writing. If you’re skillful enough as a writer, you can dispense with the plot altogether.
13. Do you write during the day or night?
I like writing at night as I’m a night owl, but if I want to be really productive I have to go out to do it, which means writing earlier in the day to fit in with the opening times of libraries. I pray that one day a library near me will announce it’s opening at night (with a bouncer on the door to keep drunk people out) and updating its furniture.
14. Have you self-published or traditionally published a book (small press or Big Four publishers) or are you in the process of doing that? If so what’s it about? If you haven’t published anything, but were published in a literary magazine or anthology, talk about that.
I’ve had stuff published by literary magazines and small presses. My most recent work is Paul is Dead, a novella published by CCLaP. The process of getting the book ready for publication was very thorough and professional thanks to Jason Pettus. The novella is about a man whose life is robbed of meaning because he has the same name as Paul McCartney, but he slowly begins to reclaim that meaning after discovering a big red button that causes the death of a celebrity whenever it’s pressed.
15. And finally, what’s your quote or motto? It could be one by a favorite writer or your own.
One of the few mottos I find really useful is: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.” Since we can’t know everything, it’s a mark of intelligence to be able to factor your ignorance into an equation like a mathematical x rather than remain ignorant of it. When someone is certain about something, they’re closed to new information, which creates cognitive dissonance and irrational behaviour when that information inevitably comes knocking on their door. Knowing your ignorance is a form of knowledge.

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