Friday, August 30, 2019

My Life as a Writer: Exclusive Interview with Chad Lewis, author of the soon to be published, Sylvia

What has been your favorite book published in the past twelve months?

Stranger Things: Darkness On The Edge Of Town, by Adam Christopher.

What subject have you found it most challenging to write about?

Redemption, without a doubt.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?

I would have to say Clive Barker. I believe he is often over shadowed by Stephen King in most reader's eyes. I really do not know why. His words are pure genius.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

Mary Higgins Clark.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

"Read a lot. Write a lot.” Stephen King.

To what extent, in your view, is writing a political act?

I believe we have the ability to sway people's hearts and minds through the power of fiction. We can if enough of us try, guide people one way or another through the souls we create in our stories. We can encourage them to make better choices. To make a stand where normally they may have not. They find something in what we create to stir up or motivate a voice within themselves that lay silent for too long.

Do you have any writing tics?

None that I can think of.

What is the first thing you ever wrote?

A short story called "Ensivian" about a man who kills fourteen girls under the guidance of a deceased relative who turns out to be a reaper looking for revenge.

How, in your opinion, should we measure a book’s success?

Positive feedback. I would rather see a great review versus selling a lot of copies, but that could just be me, I'm fucking weird.

Where did you grow up? How did this place influence your writing style?

I grew up in West Memphis, Arkansas and there was a murder there when I was younger involving three little boys. The whole thing turned into quite the witch hunt and even now they still don't know who did it.

When did you start writing? When did you decide to pursue writing as a profession?

About three years ago I tried to kill myself but the gun jammed. The next morning I started writing down everything that was inside of me. A year ago I decide to pursue it for a living ( we will see how all of that works) either way I'll keep writing and publishing.

What were some of your favorite narratives (books, movies, tv, etc) growing up?

Cujo: Stephen King, Congo: Michael Crichton, and anything by Poe/Plath.

Do world events ever offer any inspiration?

Sometimes, yes. The tragedy of it all seeps in once in a while and it is always the victims that I pity.

Once you have an idea, how do you approach the writing process?

Without fear or restraint.

Do you have a daily writing routine, or do you await the muse’s song?

I write a thousand words a day in the morning Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday I take off. It's the ghosts that get you man.

After completing a manuscript, do you give yourself time to recoup or do you just jump into the next narrative?

My current manuscript, "Sylvia", is almost done. When I finish it, I will lock it away for a month before coming back.

What impact can a book have on the reader?

A good one depending upon your view of good. I think given the right ingredients, a book can conjure and awaken the reader to a quest all their own where the answers are not what they were ever expecting.

End of Interview

Chad Lewis is a horror writer out of Tulsa, Oklahoma where he lives with his wife and their children. He is also an avid reader of sci-fi, horror, and DC comics, and credits his love for writing to his mother who gave him his first graphic novel, “The killing joke.”

Follow his journey on Facebook

Monday, August 19, 2019

My Reading Life: with Kelli Hansel (Haywood)

What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Griffin & Sabine series by Nick Bantock
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
Kinfolks by Gurney Norman

Honestly, why I like all of these books and many others is the familiarity and realness that is exhibited in their unglossed worlds.  Even in books with a fantastical element like Griffin & Sabine, I cannot keep reading if I there’s no way to ground myself.  I need a balance of lightness and dark.  Sometimes, an overabundance of dark feels ok too.  Too much lightness in any work feels like escapism and fakery, which isn’t what I am looking for when I read.

What is a book you didn’t like, and why?

I didn’t like The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne and this is probably more to do with the situation in which I read it than the book itself.  I tend to not make myself read books that don’t intrigue me to want to keep going.  If I get over halfway through, I can usually find a reason to finish it even if it isn’t great, but I can usually tell within a chapter or two and will stop.  However, in this case I had to read the book for a college class on adventure literature and my instructor insisted that we believe the book was homoerotica.  When my paper did not reflect this belief, as that is not what came to me through the book, I got a B instead of the A I felt it deserved. LOL  So, I was pissed.

What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?

I read fairly slow, so I cannot brag that I’ve read as much as others who call themselves readers, but I can say that I remember what I read for a very, very long time, if not forever.

How did you first fall in love with books?

I grew up in a home with books and my grandparents and parents always read to me.  I received Golden Books with pen-pal inscriptions as a child and that was like magic.  My great grandmother would order books that would have my name printed in them as a character, and the names of people I knew. But, I have to say that it was 4th grade that solidified me as a lifelong lover of books.  My teacher read to us every day after lunch and the way she read and the books she chose made my heart flutter with all sorts of emotion.  She will forever be my favorite teacher because of it.

What book or books are you planning to read soon?

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

What book do you always recommend?

I don’t have a book that I always recommend.  I try to recommend based on what people are looking for.  However, this year when people are asking for a novel I’m recommending Fire is Your Water by Jim Minick.  It’s an excellent book and will refreshingly surprise you.

What book/books changed the way you see the world and your place in it?

The Dollmaker by Hariette Arnow… It’s not so much that it changed how I see the world, but it affirmed a lot for me about what it means to be from the mountains and the way the bigger world sees us.

What was your favorite childhood book?

Bridge to Terabithia

Do you have any favorite literary journals?

Appalachian Heritage and Pine Mtn. Sand & Gravel

Have you ever read anything that made you think differently about fiction/nonfiction?


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Maybe I should say Night Garden by Carrie Mullins

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

I need to give Don DeLillo another try.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I don’t think I was old enough to appreciate what he was doing when I read him.  I’m curious to see what I’d think now.

What book have you read that has most influenced your life?

Honestly, there’s not one in particular.  I carry them all with me if they spoke to my heart at all.

Who are your favorite writers?

I don’t have a favorite writer.  I have a hard time not appreciating them as individuals for what they have shared with me.  To pick just a handful feels like a slight to me.    

What do you read on holiday?


Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?

I think in the bigger picture many Appalachian writers are way underrated.  For example, I think Night Garden by Carrie Mullins is a book that should be getting way more attention during the times we are in.  A beautiful work.  I hope to see more from her.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

I don’t tend to read many famous authors or genre work.  I don’t pick up a lot of “best sellers”.  So, I don’t know among the famous folks.  Maya Angelou is definitely NOT overrated for example.

What is your favorite book published in the past twelve months?

Shoot… I don’t read that way.  I don’t scan new releases at all.  I just read what I’m drawn to.  So, I’d say Fire is Your Water might be the most recently published book I’ve read.

Did your parents read to you when you were young?

Yes, they are both readers themselves.

Which book have you given most frequently as a gift to others?

I don’t know many readers, so I don’t tend to gift books.  And, when I do, it’s never the same one twice.

Which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Probably the boring answer, but no one in particular comes to mind.  I don’t tend to fangirl enough to leave my introverted hole to have a drink with anyone. LOL

Where do you buy your books?

Sadly, Amazon because there are so few options of places to buy books here and those places specialize.  However, when I am out, I try to buy from a local store.

What impact can a book have on the reader?

It can blow everything they ever thought they knew out of the water.  I could write a book on it.

End of Interview

Kelli Hansel (Haywood) is a writer of lived experiences. She is the author of multiple published works, including long form journalism, radio journalism, creative nonfiction, fiction, and blogs. She is also a 200 hour registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance and a certified Buti Yoga instructor.

Follow Kelli on instagram: @darkmoon_kelli

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Sorrows of Work

I have had many jobs throughout the course my life but the one job that was without question absolute bullshit, was what time I spent working for a large American trucking company, which Iegally I can’t name, due to a non-disclosure agreement I was forced to sign in order to remain eligible to receive my severance package upon being subsequently laid off, due to ‘restructuring.’
My official title was Driver Development Coordinator. People would often ask me what that title actually meant, but I never had any idea what to tell them. If you can’t easily summarize what you do, by definition your job is pointless. I suspect my job was originally just an empty space filler, created so that someone could boast about the number of employees they had working under them.
My job, I shit you not, literally took me two hours a day to accomplish and an hour or more of that time was spent compiling unnecessary reports. Essentially, I was paid to be bored. Especially towards the end. I actually ended up spending the majority of my time pretending to work. However, I soon discovered that being forced to pretend to work was the most absolute indignity, because it was impossible to pretend that it was anything but what it was: pure degradation, a sheer exercise of the boss’s power for it’s own sake. Being forced to pretend to work is one of the worst indignities a person can suffer. Because it makes clear the degree you are entirely under another person’s power.
I was also purposely mis-trained and disorganized by design in my position, so that my job was repeatedly and consistently done wrong. My unofficial capacity was to serve as a buffer. In other words I existed merely as an entity that other departments could then use to blame as to why things never worked out the way they were supposed to, despite my near constant feedback and recommendations for solutions and improvements, none of which of course were ever implemented.
Once I realized my role in the company was basically pointless, I lost all motivation and with it the ability to concentrate on the job itself. So I devoted most of my working hours to more productive and meaningful activities; such as reading and writing. I was essentially trying to reclaim a little of my time from those who were stealing it. It wasn’t a very effective protest, granted, since I still had to sit in that depressing room and fill out enough spreadsheets to keep from getting fired.
Working at the Illinois Terminal, was also one of the most abusive environments I have ever worked in. I was in an environment where nobody spoke to each other. An environment where you had to be constantly on the defensive as someone was always trying to throw you under the bus. It didn’t matter if you were responsible for anything or not. Everyone consistently tried to make themselves seem more important to the company than they in fact were. This is also why our Terminal Manager, I suspect, spent so much time running his own bullshit reports. He wanted to appear more useful than he was. It was obvious to everyone there that if he were gone nothing would fundamentally change, but even if it had changed, it would actually have been for the better.
I didn’t recognize the effect all of this had on my body while it was happening, but in retrospect I see what a huge impact it had on my physical and mental health. A terrible job erases our sense of self and I ended up becoming an entirely different person. Easy to anger. Depressed. Hopeless. And I have very little doubt that the stress and anxiety I was forced to endure played a significant part of why I had to be hospitalized.
But the absolute worst part about working a job you hate is really the humiliation. It’s soul crushing. Couple that with the fact that most people in upper management positions completely and totally identify with their own misplaced authority, making our lives even more unbearable. They themselves are often to stupid to realize that they were only given a little authority so as to make themselves more compliant, more readily willing to accept orders. Most managers, especially middle managers, are pointless and those hired to work under them invariably know it and resent it.
I actually think the fact that more people aren’t deeply offended by the existence of “supervisors” and “managers” in our modern workplaces, is a testament to how far capitalist culture has removed us from our self-respect. Our workplaces have become virtual plantations. What adult needs another adult to watch over them? And notice how the people who argue in favor of supervision will never admit that they need it themselves. It's always the rest of us that need it. All of those "stupid" and "lazy" workers who need to be controlled.
In some of his writings, social psychologist Devon Price has written that “laziness,” at least in the way most of us generally conceive of it, simply does not exist. “If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you,” he writes, “it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.”
Some of the first factories in London actually went bankrupt because laborers refused to work all day, every day. To the factory owners, this proved that the workers were indolent loafers, so they reduced wages to the point that workers were forced to put in even more hours to survive. But this was really doing the workers a favor, the owners insisted, because otherwise they’d just get drunk and lie about. Now we’ve all merely internalized this view of work. Which is also a view that is extraordinarily convenient for the ruling classes.
We like to think that we have an open society because we can criticize our government, but the company we work for has far more of an impact on our daily lives, and if you criticize them publicly they can, and often times will, fire you. The private sphere is still run like a dictatorship, by thousands of petty little tyrants.
Kim Stanley Robinson once said, “If democracy and self-rule are the fundamentals, then why should people give up these rights when they enter their workplace? In politics we fight like tigers for freedom, for the right to elect our leaders, for freedom of movement, choice of residence, choice of what work to pursue - control of our lives, in short. And then we wake up in the morning and go to work, and all those rights disappear. We no longer insist on them. And so for most of the day we return to feudalism. That is what capitalism is - a version of feudalism in which capital replaces land, and business leaders replace kings. But the hierarchy remains. And so we still hand over our lives, our labor, under duress, to feed rulers who do no real work.”
Bosses, executives, investors: these people do not "create jobs.” They use wealth they already possess to create more for themselves. Workers are always in need of money since a series of laws has made money necessary to survive over the past few hundred years. They beg for some of that money by helping someone with more money make even more. The people with more money offer as little as they can get away with, which leaves the employee with less. So yes, money is a zero-sum game. You have less because your boss, and everyone else who has taken from you, has more. If you don't want to see it that way, then fine, but an employee should never be an open supporter of capitalism.
However, the real degradation doesn’t even begin until you get home from work. Because it’s then that you have just enough mental energy left over to realize what you could be doing with your life. And as you’re sitting there, trying to stay awake long enough to eat your dinner, you realize a couple of very important things. Hard work is not a virtue. Taking your job seriously is not a virtue. Stressing out to please your boss is not a virtue. And more importantly, that the start of work means an end to freedom.