Tuesday, January 1, 2008

an interview

An Alleged Encounter with a Supposed (Future) Literary Rock Star
By David Taurino
reprinted with permission of the author

(c) 2008

I've been asked to interview a lot of famous people in my time. Normally there's a demand from the readers or an interest from on high or just good common sense that tells me who I'm going to bother for money today. Well, my squirrel literati, today is different. Today I was asked to do a piece by the person it would be on. That's normally kind of self-indulgent fluff, so I was going to say no, but then I found out who it was.

Who am I interviewing? A nobody. A wanna-be.

And why not? It seems as good a subject as any. In fact, it might even be better. Talking to established authors is nice and all, but they've made it. They're comfortable and they have an image to maintain. They're the lottery winners of the literary world. They've got everything to lose and little more to win.

Then there's the rest of the aspiring writers. The ones who haven't made it or didn't make it or won't make it but don't know that yet. For every published author, there's a thousand that will never see the light of day in the publishing world. Just the harsh truth. So how could I be fair to my profession if I didn't bother to report the other side. The faces you don't see; the people who still have everything to prove and nothing to lose.

Today's guest is an aspiring novelist from the middle of the frozen tundra of Omaha, NE. After our new poet laureate came out of there, it seems like in certain circles the midwest is the place to be. It isn't. I showed up on a cold, cold January weekend, with ice and wind and general nastiness.

His name is Matt. But he prefers to flit around online under the handle of Literary Rock Star (his website is visible at http://literaryrockstar.blogspot.com). As in THE Literary Rock Star. An enigmatic and all-encompassing symbol of the transcendental power of uber-success. It sounded pretentious to me, but Matt seems unassuming. He's only 22, and while he's got a good head on his shoulders he's shy and soft-spoken at first like most other writers. He's also one of the few males in the midwest who wears his hair long and isn't sporting a mullet, visible tattoos, or any drug paraphenalia. It's surreal seeing someone so out of place in the middle of the northern Bible Belt.

When we sat down over drinks at his local bar of choice, we made small talk for the first ten or fifteen minutes as I got him warmed up. It wasn't of import. Just things about the city and my flight. I decided that he was just good at upselling himself and that he had nothing of importance, so I decided to turn the interview into a short one and call it a night. But when I asked him about his work that I started getting responses that are worth printing. In fact, they're pretty damn good. And he definitely switched to his A game the moment I turned the discussion to writing. This was a topic that interested him. It was like talking to a whole other person.

David: So, about literary rock star...
Matt: How about literary rock star, huh? It's a pretty wild idea. I know it sounds like the most horrible lie ever, especially coming from someone like me. I understand that at first glance people are going to go "how arrogant is he to label himself worthy of that kind of title." But the point is that literary rock star isn't a title. It's a philosophy.

D: A philosophy?
M: Let me explain. There are a lot of ways for people to go about writing. But the way I propose is to go at it like a rock star. A rock star is an entirely special breed of human. A rock star is absolutely insane, but for good reason.

Writing requires a lot of risk and investment and you get really involved with it. You don't become a writer just because and make it a living. Some part of you has to want it. Otherwise why bother? There are much easier careers out there. Writing isn't something you just fall into.

So if you're going to front all of that effort and time and take the risk, you might as well go for it full force. That's where a rock star comes in. You see, the rock star is different than the musician in that while the musician makes music, the rock star lives the ideal of music. When a musician performs, he shows off his piece, and then he goes and writes more music. A rock star jumps out on stage and all his life is suddenly given over to this performance.

D: So it's about effort?
M: Effort and risk and work ethic. Look, rock stars are prone to excess and self-destruction. Guess what? So are most writers. But you can be defeatist or you can refuse to give up. There are the rock stars who give up, who kill themselves or stop performing. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of rock star who can trash his hotel room and then go and give the best show of his life. Or can be coked out but still prop himself up and manage to get through his set because that's what's important. The kind of people who live life and bring it all with them when they're out there. When they perform, they are who they are. There isn't a whole lot of calculated safety going on. They just let it all hang out.

D: And that's what makes them special?
M: Sure. Why not? Look, a lot of people have dreams. We're growing up and we have these conceptualizations of what we want our life to be. It's just that most people end up giving that up for something different, saying that their dream is too impossible or afraid of failure.

A rock star doesn't do that. A rock star lives the dream. They defy anyone who would give up their dream. It doesn't matter who you are or how many problems you have. You live the dream and you make it real. That's what matters. A rock star isn't just a crazy, insane musician. It's a figure that lives and breathes dreams, showing people that it can be done.

That's what I strive for. To live the dream. It's just a writer dream, so I chose literary rock star. It's got a nice feel to it, I think.

D: So your blog is the speculative memoirs of a literary rock star. Could you tell me a little bit about what that means and the theory behind it.
M: Well, I chose speculative memoir because to me that's the perfect description for almost all description. It's supposed to represent truth, but what does it really represent? How the writer perceives truth. It's not always going to be true true, in that everything I say isn't always right and I might not always agree with it, but I write it because at that moment it seems true to me.

The hope is that the blog will serve as a personal touchstone between myself and anybody who reads it. Writing is inherently a lonely activity. You go out there, and it's just you and your word processor of choice. Nobody's there beside you, and you're succeeding or failing on your own merits.

That's fine and all, but I'd like to establish some sort of community. People who understand what that's like, or people who are just interested in the life and times of a writer who's a little bit crazy. If someday I publish, perhaps it'll be a good place for fans to figure out what makes me tick, and allow them to communicate with me in a more direct way. That's kind of foreward thinking, I suppose, but I'm not above being optimistic.

D: So you're doing it for people, then?
M: Well, don't get me wrong. It's not just for them. I get something out of it, too. I mean, I like having a sense of having people out there who are interested in what I have to say. Especially since I'm not published yet, the words that I toss into a blog are my only window to a readership. It's a good ego-boost to know people appreciate the content I'm putting out.

Also, I use it as a sounding board for things that cross my mind that wouldn't fit into my writing. Or when I'm editing, my blog allows me to keep writing new content and not go completely mad. When I'm in the middle of a new story, it's less intensive, but I keep trying to keep things updated.

D: Outside of the blogging and writing then, what do you do? Certainly an unpublished author still has bills to pay.
M: And how. (laughs) Yeah, I have a job. I do corporate work. It's nice, but I don't really worry that much about it. It's a job to keep me afloat while I write. So I don't talk about it, because it's not an important part of who I am. I probably won't mention it ever.

D: So what else are you working on?
M: Well, there's always the books. And the blog. But I'm also hoping to get an audio podcast up off the ground and a webcomic as well. I'd like to just dabble in those other media. There are things that spoken or visual mediums can do that written words just can't, and I'm really looking forward to exploring those things.

D: What are your aspirations then? Do you want to be a writer, or do you want to be an artist?
M: That's a hard question. I would rather be an artist in the general term. Doing things that fall under the general definition of art. My main work is my writing, and I don't think that'll change, but people seem to have a hard time believe that a 'writer' can be good at other things. So instead I can just be an artist if it'll make people more receptive to my work. It also excuses slightly more eccentric behavior than writer does.

D: Do you want to talk a bit about your books?
M: No, that's all right. I'm still working on them, and they're not for sale yet, so I don't really feel like I should try to chat up what they mean or how good they are when someone can't go out an get one should it tickle their fancy. When that day comes, I'll be happy to talk about my books all day long. Until then, I'd rather just keep working on them. I'm hoping that when I finally do get them published, they'll speak for themselves.

D: What do you hope that people will take away from this interview, or from your blog, then?
M: Well, I want them to know that I'm right there with them. I don't have any answers, either. I'm just struggling through life like everyone else. But I refuse to give up on what I want, and neither should anybody else. We all have something great we can achieve if we go out there and do it. I hope that I can inspire people to go out there and grab that thing. To live the dream. In the end, I'd like every person I meet to be the rock star of their own life, literary or not.

D: Thank you.
M: No, thank you. It's been a pleasure.

I'm left wondering what to make of the encounter. I mean, he seems genuinely concerned with people on a level not completely unrelated to batshit insane. And sometimes he spouts platitudes like a zen master out of an after-school special. But I'm not sure if that doesn't make him invalid or not. He made a lot of sense, and he had conviction. In the end, that conviction is what made the entire evening worthwhile. He might be trying to do something difficult or impossible, but he believes in it. It's not often I come across that kind of dedication.

Next time we'll return with another popular author. Coming up is Andrea Glauster, author of several popular novels and soon coming out with her fourth book __________. But for this installment, here's to all you writers who haven't quite made it yet. The ones who have a dream and not much else. Everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Live the dream. Rock out. And don't stop trying.

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