Without telling us what your favorite passage / scene in the book is, can you describe how it felt when you wrote it? Was there anything unique about your writing set-up when you wrote this passage?
Years ago, probably decades by now, I had read a passage that said something to the effect that good fiction is often a metaphor for an argument for or against a proposition, and that an author posits a question and then explores that question through the extended metaphor which makes up the narrative. I thought that was an interesting suggestion and that it had more than a little merit. Whether this is done explicitly or subconsciously by the author is likely a case-by-case basis.
But I decided to execute that very idea, and the execution was really dependent on the story’s opening paragraph. I cannot say how I felt when I wrote the piece but I am certainly proud of it. I think there is a confidence in the passage that completely sets the tone for what follows.
I suppose I’ll have to tweak the question a little, as I don’t know if I have a favorite passage or scene among the eleven short stories in my collection that I can also connect to a specific emotion. For instance, I’d say that my overall favorite story is “My Unshaped Form,” but how I felt as I wrote it? Probably a sense of relief, as the story had been started out of sheer boredom during a holiday.
Sometimes, a short story can take me several months to finish, so even certain passages can be written and rewritten over such a span of time that I really can’t say how I felt. A handful of stories have been started, only to be finished years later. And almost every story seems to exist outside myself, like I slip into a kind of hypnogogic state. Imagine a kind of tunnel vision but the tunnel is filled with words and I am arranging, rearranging, and listening.
However, every once in a while I finish a story in one sitting. The concept and characters come to me, as does the beginning and the end, and I will sit down and type away until the piece is finished. There are two such stories in Now That We’re Alone, though only one of them managed to give me goosebumps as I wrote. I managed to give myself the creeps while writing. That had never happened to me before.
Can you briefly describe an experience that played a role in how you wanted to develop Now That We’re Alone?
I always had an affinity for the novella Cycle of the Werewolf. I was a little kid obsessed with monsters and Bernie Wrightson’s illustrations for Stephen King’s lycanthrope were a revelation. I still have my beat-up trade paperback. The book will probably go to the grave with me.
I knew that I wanted my collection to have its own illustrations, and the very idea was part of the impetus for assembling the collection.
If you could ask any deceased artist one question, what would it be?
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Do you think fiction has any function or purpose outside of the entertainment realm?
Seb Doubinsky asked a similar question in the Q&A he puts together (though mine hasn’t surfaced as of this writing), so there is going to be a bit of overlap here, however, I’ll keep this iteration a bit more concise:
Roger Ebert wrote, “I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”
That’s a sentiment I fully endorse, and I don’t believe that there is a profession that speaks louder for civilization, or demands more of its empathy, than writing.
Of all the entertainment media available, pick a SUB-GENRE and explain why you like it or hate it.
I enjoy books by—and about—comedians, be they autobiographical or otherwise, and I’ve read numerous titles by various comedians over the years. Comedians are, after all, storytellers and I find that I learn a lot from their observations. And I should say that it isn’t always the observations themselves, but in the way that a person or situation is dissected by the comedian. Storytelling is often a matter of set-up and execution. Who better to observe than a comic?
Comedy has always been a bit of an obsession. Some people know, some don’t, that I worked for a period of time on the Adult Swim program Tim and Eric Awesome Show. That was a doorway to a whole world of comedians and it was an experience I will always treasure. I got to meet, and work with, some enormously talented and lovely people.
I’ve even performed on stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Los Angeles. That was a lot of fun. But it was also a lot of learning how to be a storyteller.
In my own work, I’ve found that improv classes actually inform a great deal of my dialogue and character creation. In particular, there is a game called “Yes, And” that has proved invaluable to me. I won’t go into game specifics here, but would encourage those interested to Google the phrase. I remember Tina Fey mentioning the theory in her book Bossypants, which I wholly recommend.
But, the idea behind “Yes, And” gets boiled down by Mick Napier in this quote:
“Declare what you honestly want and live that vision fearlessly.”
As applicable as that is to comedy, the theory can be grafted to the process of writing fiction. One may even wish to turn their life into a game of “Yes, And.”
I don’t put a lot of stock in “How-To” books, especially when it comes to writing fiction. “How-to Fiction” often reads like it should actually be called “Here’s How I Did It” and that simply is no help to an aspiring writer, as writing—especially writing-as-a-career—will never be the same from one person to the next.
But I do own and recommend Truth in Comedy by Charna Halpern and Del Close.
Which book do you think is overrated?
Robert McKee’s Story
Can anyone be a “good” writer?
Writing is a skill. It can be, and is, taught. One can execute a perfunctory story if one is inclined to put in the effort. With enough time and money, anyone can get an MFA in Creative Writing.
Often, I think that the idea of a “good” writer is particular to the individual reading. What one person reads and enjoys will not necessarily be read and enjoyed by another. And with respect to that, I can only say that, yes, anyone can be a “good” writer.
But that’s a very general observation. My own personal opinion, no, I don’t think that any and every individual can be a good writer. Further, though everyone is capable of shitty writing, consistently shitty writers rarely achieve “good,” to say nothing of “great.”
This does not stop one from being published, especially in an age of print-on-demand. The dedicated self-publisher doesn’t need to worry about “good” as much as they need to worry about sales. And to some, being published is good enough, while sales are simply icing on the cake.
Good writing is where you find it, regardless of the avenue of its delivery.
Writing, all of art, is incredibly subjective. The definition of good can change based on experience and expectation.
Like all media, genre fiction is trendy; what is one literary trend that you despise? Is there one that you think is interesting?
I don’t think I despise any one particular trend. In all honesty, I don’t think I could name a current trend. It’s all marketing nonsense, anyway. Is the story good? That’s the only trend I care to engage.
Not really a trend, but one thing I do see that I find irksome is the need to label an author as the next so-and-so. There has been an awful lot of “the next Stephen King” that’ve come and gone in the last thirty years. The reality is that there has ever only been the one Stephen King. And he’s still alive and still publishing work.
Which book or other piece of art do you think is underappreciated? (misunderstood)
Berry & Fulcher’s Snuff Box is a woefully underseen and underappreciated slice of British television that originally aired back in 2006, and has gone on to become a cult classic among comedy fans. The show is filled with pitch-black humor and profanity, being at once a deconstruction of the workplace sitcom (the main characters are a drunken executioner and his buffoonish assistant) while also being a celebration of music and sketch comedy. There is really nothing quite like it.
Nicholas Day was born in a hospital that no longer exists. The elementary school he attended was bulldozed. His old apartment in Cincinnati has been destroyed. Much of the Hollywood neighborhood he lived in has been torn down and rebuilt. His memory is a total shitshow. When he’s not running from oblivion, Nicholas writes assorted bits of genre fiction. His novella, Necrosaurus Rex, was published in 2014. A collection of short stories, Now That We’re Alone, was released in the summer of 2017.
He also co-owns Rooster Republic Press and Nodacoy Games with Don Noble.
Nicholas studied at Southern Illinois University and Seton Hill University. He is currently working on a new novella and two full-length novels.