Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Interview: xtx leaves a mark on the soul and searches for affirmation
The author of NOBODY TRUSTS A BLACK MAGICIAN talks about prose and poetry, blogging and private identities, among other things one would expect from a writer as wickedly talented as xtx.
Sheldon Lee Compton: You once said something to the effect that you went from being someone who maintained a blog and wrote stories to being a writer who maintained a blog. Can you talk a little about that switch?
xtx: Well, it just was a natural sort of progression. I blogged every day. Because I kept my identity private, I couldn’t maintain a blog that talked about life specifics. The way I had to write about my life became more of a creative endeavor; wrapping my life events in the elements of prose, poetry or fiction. Eventually, the scales tipped from me mostly blogging to me mostly just writing prose, poetry and fiction. That’s when I began submitting to online zines. So, now I sort of blog less and write more when before I blogged more and wrote less.
SLC: Caleb J. Ross said in a review of your collection NOBODY TRUSTS A BLACK MAGICIAN the stories were a blend of the shocking, the heartfelt and the poetic. I agree with this in regard to the collection and also the rest of your work. How much of this holy trinity is planned? How much a beautiful accident?
xtx: I guess it’s sort of accidentally on purpose. In regard to “Nobody…” my editor, P.H. Madore, just asked for a number of words. He didn’t tell me how many pieces or what types of pieces he wanted. I guess I wanted the pieces selected for “Nobody…” to be a mix of everything I write; a sort of calling card for anyone who had never read my stuff before.
As far as it being “shocking, heartfelt and poetic”, well, I just write what I feel. I don’t sit down to achieve these things. I think that whatever someone feels about a piece of writing or a piece of music is different from what the next person might feel. I am happy with whatever someone feels about my work because I am happy to be making someone feel anything.
SLC: Late last year we corresponded and at that time you were considering leaving behind the pen name xtx. Where are your thoughts today on this possibility?
xtx: Still contemplating this. I feel I need to fish or cut bait, but, right now, something is telling me to hold on this. Don’t know why. We’ll see…
SLC: Prose and poetry. You've had success with both forms. If you could only recommend one piece of your writing to a new reader which of the two forms would you choose and why?
xtx: I think I would steer them towards prose, just because it’s a bit more free-form where poetry is a bit more ‘limited’. I think they’d get more out of a handful of my prose pieces than my poems, but what the eff do I know?
SLC: Your story "God's Eyes" in Bull, Fiction for Thinking Men, is a fine example of the steady flow of thought and rhythm so often found in your work. Is this pacing something you feel works particularly well in flash fiction?
xtx: I guess so. I mean, I don’t really think about those types of things when I write. I just write and go over it, editing until it feels ‘right’. I don’t set out to create a rhythm or flow; if it happens it happens. I am not answering this question very well. Sorry.
SLC: Who were some of your influences and have you since killed these writers off or do you still follow their work?
xtx: I have always been an avid reader. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, Jonathan Ames and Bukowski. But as far as them influencing me, well, I don’t really get my influence from writers. I mean, the way they influence me is more of that I admire their body of work and the creativity they present within it. I am more influenced by things I experience personally. However, I do feel a sort of resonance when I read Chuck or Bukowski…a humming feeling of, YES! A sort of affirmation of something inside me. Hard to explain.
SLC: You often include stories, flash pieces and poetry on your blog, Nothing To Say. How do you choose from your body of finished work what you will send out for publication and what you will share on your blog?
xtx: I used to put everything up on my blog first. I’d see what sort of reaction I’d get. If it was a strong one, then I’d submit the piece. But then when I started getting these pieces published, I’d blog the link to the story/poem but realize that everyone who reads my blog already read the story/poem so it was becoming redundant. (for them)
So, now, I tend to write a lot more for subbing instead of blogging them. I figure then, if they get published, my readers will get to read them as something ‘new’ and not something they’ve read before. I guess, also, my confidence in what I write has grown as well and I can get a sense of if something is okay or not without getting audience ‘approval’ first.
The pieces I still put on my blog are usually ones I ‘don’t care’ about. i.e. Pieces I don’t plan on sending anywhere. But, sometimes this backfires, like in the case of my Michael Jackson piece that I blogged and got a crazy reaction to. So much so that Roxane Gay decided to publish it alongside my previously accepted piece in the July 09 issue of PANK. If I get any sort of strong reaction to one of these ‘don’t care’ pieces, I will save them for submitting because maybe it was something I overlooked as having any merit.
SLC: One of the many things you are known for as a writer is an ability to lay open any subject matter or character with a sharp eye for honesty. Have there been moments when you felt hesitant to apply this unflinching voice? If so, share an example.
xtx: Jeez, well, I am enamored with fucked up shit. (surprise!) I think even if I felt hesitant to write about ugly things I would go ahead and write them anyway. Fucked up, horrible shit lives in this world which is a world that I live in and take things from to write about. (Sentence deleted which mentioned some fucked up shit I still want to write about, but after re-reading it felt ‘hesitant’ to leave it in this interview because it makes me sound horrible.)
I get ‘motivated’ to write from whatever leaves a mark on my soul. Ugly things make me feel strong feelings that need to be expelled from my insides with words. It’s pretty simple.
SLC: Along with fellow-writer Mel Bosworth you completed the SHUDDER PAGEANT project last year, a collection of stories and photographs that have garnered high praise. You've said the collaboration was a positive experience, so can we expect more tag-team efforts in the future?
xtx: I would love to tag-team Mel again. (ahem…hee) Currently, I know we’re both busy with some other projects, but when and if we both have a quiet spell, who knows? I hope so…
SLC: If you weren't writing, what else would you be doing?
xtx: Masturbating, watching porn and playing video games even more than I do already. Sad, but true. I really have no other hobbies. Oh, maybe I’d read more. Okay, yeah, add read more books to that list.
"What’s got you down?” he asked her. “Tell me the story—I’ll give it a happy ending."
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