I'd like to share with you an exclusive interview in which I recently took part. With what publication, you ask? Mind Your Own Damned Business, Inc. That's who. Don't worry about the legitimacy or accuracy of this piece. I promise, it's entirely factual. It was fact checked by, oh, let's say Chuck. Chuck Dickens. And with a name like that, you know you can trust his work. Now, before you can ask anymore asinine–I mean astute!–questions, let's just begin, shall we?
Q: First off, where do you get your ideas?
A: Really? That's how we're going to start this?
Q: Why? What's wrong with the question?
A: Nothing. [J.L. Sorensen sighs.] Nothing.
Q: Hey, if you don't want to–
A: No, no, it's fine. Where do I get my ideas? Well, typically they come from life. Rarely from a dream. And more often than not from something that makes me angry. Like you.
Q: Me? What did I do?
A: You asked me a question without an answer. Without a good answer, anyway. What do you want from me? [J.L. Sorensen jumps up, extending one clawlike hand to the sky, striking a pose that would have been at home in a Shakespearean play. When next he spoke, his voice was brimming with melodrama.] God spoke to me in a vision, and They told me to write a story about the brutal murder of that [expletive deleted] who refused to use her turn signal the whole five miles I followed her through town? [J.L. Sorensen sits] I'm sorry, but I haven't done LSD in years, so talking to God is kind of out of the question right now.
Q: Okay, I get what you're saying. I'm sorry I asked.
A: It's fine. Thanks. Let's just move on.
Q: All right. Would you care to speak about WHY you started writing? Is that question more to your liking?
A: Well, honestly, no. As anyone who knows me personally can attest, I'm not huge on talking about myself. But in this day and age, a writer can't just sit in a room, get drunk, and vomit all over the page–metaphorically speaking, of course; although . . . but no, we won't get into that. There might be children reading. Of course, if there are any children reading this, I sincerely have to question the judgment of their guardians. I'm like lead. While your children won't necessarily die from it, they'd certainly be better off having not been exposed to me at an early age.
Q: Speaking of children, I heard a rumor you're supposed to be having a child sometime soon.
A: Yes, as soon as the damned waiter gets here with our meals.
Q: What? We . . . we're not in a restaurant. We're sitting in your living room.
A: . . .
Q: Are you feeling all right?
A: No, but who is these days? I seen this one [expletive deleted] on the news a couple weeks ago that made me sick. Some dude was drunk and drove his car over a bridge.
Q: I'm sorry, are you quoting Eminem lyrics?
Q: Eminem. Marshal Mathers. Award winning musician. Guinness Book of World Records holder for fastest rapper alive.
A: Yes, we all love Eminem. But why the [expletive deleted] are we talking about him now? This interview is supposed to be about me.
Q: But you don't like talking about yourself. You literally just told me that.
A: We all, from time to time, have to do things we don't want to. I'm sorry. I'll stop dodging your questions.
Q: Great. Thanks. Are you working on any interesting projects currently?
A: Yes, actually. I just finished my, I don't know, sixth novel. The writing part, anyway. Still have to edit it.
Q: Six novels? Wow, that's quite impressive.
A: Not really. The first two were pretty bad. I was still learning the ropes, trying to relearn all that stuff I should have been paying better attention to in school–about grammar, sentence structure, et cetera. The third, I can only imagine needs a massive rewrite. I was still working out the mechanics of writing at that point. Then, my fourth novel, well, let's just say drugs were heavily involved. It's a good story, but a bit . . . I don't know, muddled, I guess is the best way to describe it. But maybe that's all in my head. As I said, that novel had problems from day one. We're up to novel five, right?
A: Okay, novel five was a fun one. I'd like to release it sometime, but seeing as I'm still looking for a Literary Agent and trying to get my foot in the door, I figured it was best not to release my first novel outside the genre I'm trying to break into. Maybe I'll release it for free somewhere, or on Amazon, or under a pen name. I don't know. It is a good novel. A NeoVictorian mystery. I'm really proud of it. But I don't want to give my readers genre whiplash right out of the gate; who am I, Dean Koontz? Anyway, that brings us to Number Six. Hopefully soon to be known as the best selling breakout novel from a bright new author. But hey, I'll be happy if it sells enough copies to put a down payment on a new–which is to say used–truck, or even buy it outright. Mine is . . . not . . . very . . . good. I think “Deathtrap” describes it best. The gas tank fell out, you know? Twice.
Q: The gas tank fell out of your truck? More than once?
A: Yeah. Short story is: one of the factory bands holding the tank to the frame snapped from rust–thanks New York–and the tank hit the ground. Then, a year later, the other factory band rusted out, which in turn caused the other one, since replaced, but with slightly smaller banding, to also snap. So out popped the gas tank for a second time. [expletive deleted] rust bucket. But that's just a small insight into my regular life. A peek behind the curtain. We should get back on subject now.
Q: Right. Okay. What is your sixth novel about?
A: I'd rather not say at the moment. I'm still editing it, which means parts can be added, removed, reworked. But at its core, it's a sci-fi/cyberpunk novel about a woman learning to control her destructive anger issues.
Q: Interesting. I assume you must have anger issues, then?
A: WHO THE [expletive deleted] TOLD YOU THAT!? I SWEAR, I'LL KILL . . . no one. Whew. That was a joke. I butchered the delivery, that's all.
Q: It didn't sound like a joke to me.
A: WELL IT WAS! OKAY? Next question.
Q: Why did you start writing in the first place? Ready to answer that one now?
A: Yes. In a single word: Therapy. I was in a very dark place, not handling a breakup in what one might call “a healthy manner.” It wasn't that I was suicidal, I just plain didn't give a [expletive deleted] if I woke up on any given morning. Nothing mattered. It was a very numb, meaningless, frustrating, lonely, and confusing time in my life. The best years of my life, from what I'm told. One's early twenties. Yeah, I wasted mine like a [expletive deleted] no good piece of [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] garden hose [expletive deleted] ramming [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] French maid [expletive deleted] with no [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] sense at all.
Q: Uh, all right. So did it at least help? Writing, I mean.
A: Oh, yes, immensely. I was able to learn so much about myself, and the world at large, by the act of writing. It's a very reflective process. You piece the world together when you write, uncover hidden truths, lay bare wounds from a safer, more observant distance. I would suggest writing to anyone going through a rough time in their life. Poetry, short stories, novels, even journaling. Just get your thoughts out there, and once they're on the page, you can shuffle them around, edit them, and make sense of them. Writing is quite insightful.
Q: What's an average day like for you? As a writer? Walk us through it.
A: As a writer? That narrows it down.
Q: What do you mean?
A: My wife works mornings, I work evenings. Other than half an hour between when I get home and she goes to sleep, we only really have the weekends to spend together. Ever since moving into the house we bought, I haven't been getting a lot of writing done on weekends. Four days a week, though, I buckle down. You want to be walked through the day in the life of this writer? I don't know why, it's really rather boring, but here it is: I wake up around 10:30, go do last night's dishes while I wait for my water to boil and my tea to steep. By 11 I'm at my computer. I typically spend the first part of my workday editing what I wrote the day before. Usually half an hour or so. Around 11:30, give or take, I start writing, and I don't stop until between 12:45 and 1:15. In that time, I'll get anywhere from about 700 to 2000 words. My average is about 1200 words per day.
Q: 1200 words a day. That's a lot, isn't it?
A: Yes and no. It depends on perspective. Any forward progress is good. Stephen King writes no less than 2000 words a day. I tried to hold myself to that standard. It worked well for a while. Then you know what happened?
Q: No. What?
A: I burned out. The stress was too much. Writing became a nightmare, a chore, a grueling task to be slogged through. Not fun anymore, is what I'm saying.
Q: That must have been tough. What did you do?
A: Felt bad for myself. Got angry at myself. Spent a lot of time liquored up. Took it out on my wife. Killed a couple hookers. Drank their blood. Got involved with a plot to assassinate Abe Lincoln. You know. The usual. But eventually I just lowered my standards.
Q: You lowered your standards? And that helped?
A: Yup. Instead of striving to hit 2000 words a day, I set the bar at 500. 500 is very reasonable. It's a couple/few paragraphs. But you know what happened? Once writing became fun again (don't get me wrong, it's still work, and is still mentally taxing), I blew past that goal. Before we moved, I was writing more on my weekends, something I hope to get back to when we're more settled. On those days, not constrained by menial day jobs or things like having to cook dinner quickly so I could go to bed, I could get around 3000 words done. My high score was one twelve-hour writing session that netted me 8000 words. Boy, was I whooped after that. But my point is: I never did that well when I HAD to hit 2000 words. I only did that once I set my bar lower, then hurtled right the [expletive deleted] over that bar. If you set reasonable goals, you'll find you achieve them in record time and with ample energy left over to give it that All American, 110 Percent, College Try. Aim low, kids.
Q: “Aim low, kids.” You know, out of context, if we just attributed that quote to you, it would make you look like a jerk.
A: Go ahead. You don't even have a magazine. In fact, I get the distinct feeling I'm talking to myself. But that's not possible. That would be crazy. And I'm not crazy.
Q: Whatever you say.
A: . . .
Q: I'm afraid we're running out of time.
A: Yeah, you are.
Q: What's that mean?
A: Huh? Nothing. Ask your last question.
Q: What's in the immediate future for you? What's your five year plan, so to speak?
A: As I said, I just finished my sixth novel. I think I'm finally at the point where I'm ready to get myself out there. I bought a website not too long ago. www.jlsorensen.com I printed up business cards. Over the next couple months, I'll be editing the [expletive deleted] out of this novel. I'm putting all my weight behind this one. Kind of a sink or swim moment. Scary as all get out. But you can't win if you don't play. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. Clichéd reductive platitudinous generalization. You get the idea. After it's edited as best I can get it, I send the manuscript (a technical term) to a handful of agents at a time. Then I wait between six months and year to not hear back from seventy-five percent of them, and get form letters from most of the rest. But again, I'm confident in this novel, and I think I've grown enough as a writer and as a person to take that first real step into the industry. So, in five years, it's my sincere hope that not only will this novel be published, but at least one other, as well. One a year would be nice, but again, who am I, Dean Koontz? Stephen King? I can't write a whole novel on a leisurely Sunday evening stroll and have it to my editor by the morning. Either way, I hope to have a Literary Agent, a publishers, a couple novels under my belt, and enough sales to at least live comfortably and never ever EVER have to go back to working a regular job that I can only describe as “an eight hour suicide watch.”
A: That's great. I wish you the best of luck. Thanks for talking to me. Unfortunately, that's about all the time we have. Is there anything else you'd like–hey, what are you doing with that knife?
For some inexplicable reason, that's where the interview ends. Go figure. Anyway, I hope that helped you learn a little bit more about me, where I'm at, and where I hope to be in the near future.
Until next time, friends and enemies.