More interviewing fun, this time courtesy of friend and fellow writer Chris Lynch, with whom I had the great experience of co-writing the story “This is My Blood,” published in Dreaming Again.
1. What are three of your creative keystones — books or experiences from your childhood that had a big impact on you as a person and writer?
1 – When I was a kid, my brother and I used to play a lot of “dramatic” play. Batman and Robin, Legos, matchbox cars, stuffed animals. In the damp basement of our house, we created and destroyed civilizations, staged wars that raged for generations. We fed off each other in that way that kids do, talking through the game as we enacted it. “So now, this car, he’s using his superpower, making hundreds of little tiny force fields to change the currents of the water and make a tidal wave.” “Yeah, and Limousine, he’s all like, ‘Why this is terrible, my wax job is simply going to be ruined.'” etc. I suspect that early play helped assure that I’d develop a healthy (?) sense of imagination.
2- My first semester at college, I nearly hyperventilated the first time I went to a meeting of the campus LGBT support group. Once I managed to get in the door I was overwhelmed by what I saw – women with butch haircuts, guys making feminine gestures, piercings and dyed hair everywhere. It all felt so marginal, so freakish, so gay. And then I felt terrified that I might be part of this, that I might be one of these freakish people, that all those taunts of “faggot” had turned out to be true. A few months later I’d pierced both my ears and dyed my hair red.
That’s really just one moment that’s emblematic of a whole bunch of experiences, when the ideas of “me” and “us” and “them” are not so certain, and the world is full of terrors and possibilities.
3- A few years ago I was mostly reading and writing science fiction, and it just wasn’t working for me. I had moments of writing good stuff, but I don’t think I’d really written a successful story yet. Then I started reading slipstream/surrealist writers like Aimee Bender and Kelly Link, and I felt this intense sense of familiarity. I didn’t exactly think, “I can do this” – because who can do what Link and Bender do? But it opened my mind up to another way of writing, driven less by plot and more by metaphor, moment, and voice. It felt very liberating, letting my writing go in that direction.
2. Imagine you’re writing a thesis proposal. What’s your thesis topic?
Is it cheating if I tell you the thesis I already wrote? “God and Human Suffering in Puerto Rican Literature” was my college thesis in comparative literature, because, you know, I never go for the grandiose.
3. You sometimes worry that your stories are light and upbeat — though I think too few do it well, and nothing beats a well-earned happy ending. But in any case, you’ve expressed a desire to torture your characters a bit more. Most of your stories explore identity in some way, so creating identity out of a struggle with darkness makes a lot of sense. But I wonder what darkness you think lies within identity. Have you ever explored, or considered exploring, identity through an anti-hero?