Exclusive Interview with Author Will Link
What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I’ve been able to write. I’ve always considered myself a natural born storyteller. I love relaying even the most mundane story about my day to friends, like a simple trip to the dry cleaners, and finding a way to turn it into an adventure. Even in elementary school I would be that way. Writing stories was just a natural progression of that desire.
Do you write alone or in public?
Never in public. I can brainstorm and sit around a coffee shop with my notebook, jotting down ideas, doing a lot of pre-writing, but when it comes down to finally starting the book or script or essay, I need to be alone. If I’m in public I’ll just end up eavesdropping on everyone else’s conversation instead.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Crazy About Kurt is my first novel, and I’ve been pretty lucky with the reception it’s gotten. I mostly wrote screenplays before this, and if you want to hear criticism, spec scripts in Hollywood. I feel like I can’t pinpoint one specific or consistent criticism, but the endless rejections you get in that world are hard not to look at as a big criticism, even if the reality is it’s just that writing is subjective and most gatekeepers in creative industries are terrified to say yes to anything. Because once they say yes, they are on the hook.
What has been the best compliment?
Crazy About Kurt takes place on Long Island in the 90s and is about teenagers, and nothing brings me more joy than when a reader sees themselves in my characters. Says something like “I grew up in that town,” or “my friends in high school were just like that too!” My number one goal was to portray an experience everyone could relate to or remember, whether you grew up on Long Island or Walla Walla Washington. So when people compliment that aspect of the book, I get the most excited.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?
Getting notes from managers or development people are the things that always amuse me. Like the time I was told to take out all the commas. All of them. Why? I will never know. Or the time in a zombie script I wrote I was told to never use the word zombie. Pointless notes just given to give notes. I didn’t do either of these things and thinking about them I still laugh.
What do you love most about the writing process?
The best part is that moment when an idea suddenly just comes to you. The idea that brings everything together, finally. I’m working on a new book now and have been struggling to figure out how I want to structure it. And literally I was just walking down the street when the fix came to me! It’s thrilling to finally solve these problems. It boosts your confidence to, when you figure these things out. Reminds you that you might actually know what you’re doing after all.
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
When people ask what I do, I always say “for love or money?” Writing is what I love, but yeah, until I can find a way to get Crazy About Kurt turned into a film, I’m not seeing much money from it. So I do have a soul sucking office day job. It’s 9 to 5. When I started Crazy About Kurt I was unemployed. In my mind I thought this would be good, I’d have time to write. But the stress of having no income made it much harder to write. So having this day job, as much as it takes up most of my time and gives me total imposter syndrome, is actually very helpful to me being able to concentrate on writing.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing energizes me. The idea of starting to write exhausts me.
What are some common traps for aspiring writers?
I think people get down on themselves too fast. They keep re-writing the same page over and over until it’s perfect. Or worse, try and plan things out ahead of time until its perfect and then they don’t write at all. I am not a perfectionist and think the idea of perfection kills a lot of inspiring writers and artists. Just do. Just write. Get it out of your head and on to the page! Worry about fixing it later. And the more you write the better you will get.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
A healthy ego is important in anything you do. Everyone who publishes a book has some ego. The very idea that you think someone wants to read your work or cares what you have to say, means you have an ego.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I think everyone’s Kryptonite is getting started. When I write, I write fast. If I’m doing an essay, I can knock it out in an afternoon…but that’s after 3 months of not starting!
My other Kryptonite is that I am bad with character names and titles. Crazy About Kurt was not my first name, I ended up taking it from a repeated bit of dialogue in the book. And character names, I pull a lot from my real life because most names I come up with just feel phony to me, even if they feel real to everyone else.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
I don’t know how you can be a creative person at all without feeling emotions strongly. I think you have to have an understanding or at least a curiosity, of how people feel in order to write characters.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
There’s no one route to success and that your idea of success will change a lot over the years.
What does literary success look like to you?
This again gets to the idea of my view of success changing. Every time I get a new positive Amazon or Goodreads review I feel like a success. I connected with someone, a stranger, and that’s huge!
I guess having a fan base of people who will return for my next novel would be a good barometer of success. And let’s be honest, I started as a screenwriter, I went to film school, movies even more than books are my original love. I think Crazy About Kurt is a fairly cinematic novel. Its touchstones are American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused, so the idea of it becoming a film would be the highest level of success, personally.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I don’t consider myself a spiritual person but I think writing is deeply personal and can put you in touch with yourself and the world in a way few things can. Is that spiritual? I don’t know.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Unlike a lot of people I know, I don’t set goals. If I only have a half hour in me that day, so be it. Other days I’ll sit around and write for six or seven hours. It all evens out.
If thinking about writing counts, then I think I’m not alone in saying, I’m writing every hour of every day. I do write best in the morning, right out of bed. That’s the one thing that doesn’t work about having a day job.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often?
Crazy About Kurt is all about my teenage years. Nostalgia for those times in the mid-90s. But until then, I had never written about my younger self. It’s always about my present views. The book I’m working on now deals with more middle-aged thoughts. Failure and death. Fun stuff!
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I will read everything written about me. It goes back to that ego thing. I used to do movies and TV reviews for some YouTube channels and I would always read the comments. Some people loved me and some found me annoying.
Bad reviews have never really bothered me. I’m very confident about Crazy About Kurt. I feel I wrote a good book. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. I could see the bad reviews hurting more if I was somehow unhappy with the final product I created, but in this case I’m not.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
It’s been said to death but just getting started.
What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?
The Road, The Stand, The Great Gatsby, The First Bad Man, Assassination Vacation.
A book like The Road I love because as much as I love post-apocalyptic stories, I could never write something like that. Same with The Stand. I would never have the patience to write something that dense and descriptive, but I admire the hell out of it.
I wanted to include Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation on this list because her essays were an inspiration for me when I began essay writing and I feel like this book was a turning point for her. I also wanted to include Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, because she is an artist that brings such relatable humanity to everything she does.
The Great Gatsby speaks for itself. Is that obvious? Who cares! Great is great.
What is a book you didn’t like, and why?
I am always reading something, and have been that way since I learned to read. So in high school I was always overly resentful of books we were forced to read. I’d rather read what I wanted to read. Some books I did end up loving, but one that might have been overhyped for me was Catcher in the Rye. I just found Holden whiny. I did not like spending time with him at all. I have thought about revisiting it as an adult, that maybe as a teen he was hitting close to home. But I don’t think so.
What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?
Not sure I have any. I’ve been using the same bookmark since 1998. A cheap giveaway bookmark promoting the movie Pleasantville. I have no idea if that’s a funny or interesting.
How did you first fall in love with books?
My father would read to me constantly. He’s a big reader. When I was a kid he’d read me these abridged children’s versions of classics like A Tale of Two Cities. He also got me started on Stephen King, who is probably the first author I began seeking out and devouring everything he wrote.
What book or books are you planning to read soon?
After the 2016 election I bought all these books on politics but found them way to depressing to read. I’ve been using books as escapism even more than ever. Because of that I’ve been reading more thrillers, just stories I could have fun with, like Riley Seger’s Final Girls. I have read shamefully little Jane Austen and recently decided to correct that. Also I hear Charlie Kaufman has written a novel that’s coming out soon, which I will put to the top of my reading list immediately.
What book do you always recommend?
I’ve recommended A Confederacy of Dunces to a lot of people over the years, to varying degrees of success.
What was your favorite childhood book?
The first book I remember reading and rereading and laughing and loving unconditionally was Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I mentioned Miranda July earlier and her novel The First Bad Man and her collection of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You definitely deserve to be talked about more.
Who are your favorite writers?
Like every one of my generation, Stephen King will always be responsible for forming so much of my formative years as a reader. I haven’t picked up a new book of his in some time, but he’ll always be the greatest.