Greg Rhyno’s debut novel To Me You Seem Giant was published by NeWest Press in September 2017. His writing has appeared in PRISM International, Vocamus Press, and is forthcoming in Riddle Fence. In addition, he has toured and recorded with such rock n’ roll outfits as the Parkas, Phasers on Stun, and Wild Hearses. His music has been licensed to television and film, including shows like Scrubs, Greek, and Dawson’s Creek. Currently, he is an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph. He lives with his family in Guelph, Ontario.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Weirdly, people seem legitimately interested in reading my novel. I love short stories, but they’re usually a harder sell. I think people have some residual bad vibes about the short story from high school. English teachers like me have ruined the form with questions about ‘theme’ and ‘complicating incident.’
2 - How did you come to music first, as opposed to, say, fiction, poetry or non-fiction?
I’m not sure I did come to music first. I wrote a lot when I was a kid, but I put more time and energy into playing music because it seemed like a more obvious way to meet girls.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My first drafts are like big chunks of rock I have to chip away at with the tools of editing. I like to get a lot of help, a lot of feedback, and I also like to take the time to come back to a piece with fresh eyes. My work tends to laze around the house for a long time before I tell it to get out there and find a job.
4 - Where does a song or work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
For me, short stories, novels, and songs all come from different places. Short stories come from square peg moments in my life that are so incongruous or embarrassing that they don’t sit well. I need to find a way to own them. My novel was inspired by real-life events that I collected over time and then completely fictionalized for the sake of the story. Song lyrics can come from a lot of places – a moment in time, a weird turn of phrase, a guitar player needing something to sing ten minutes before we have to record.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I’m about to do my first public reading on Thursday, September 7th at the eBar in Guelph, Ontario. All are welcome. I’ll let you know how it turns out!
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I think one of the most important questions in storytelling is, how do you channel voices that aren’t your own? As I step further and further away from the comfort of autobiography, I want to tell honest stories from multiple perspectives. That said, I’m basically Whitey McPatriarchy, and as much as I want my stories to have different points of view, I also want them to be respectful and authentic.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
We’re living in this mess of a time when what’s empirically true is frequently being shouted down as false by some very loud, very powerful voices. But then, at the same time, I’m interested in writing fiction and using falsehoods to say things that I think are true. There are some tricky waters to navigate, regardless of whether you’re a writer of fiction or non-fiction. What should the role of a writer be? I don’t know. Rock the boat. Fuck shit up. Shout louder than the liars, or at least use better lies.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I’m going to go with ‘essential.’ I love the editing process. I think the only way to get better as a writer is to shelve your ego and really see what your story is and isn’t doing to its reader.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
My friend Justin Armstrong once told me that if you can’t write every day, you should at least try to be in contact with your work every day, even if it’s just for five minutes. That’s worked out pretty well for me.
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (fiction to songwriting)? What do you see as the appeal?
They’re different headspaces, for sure, but in the end they’re both just different ways to play with words and tell stories. I think songwriting has made me a better writer of fiction, because it forced me to think about structure and how language sounds. Also, writing rock lyrics is a real lesson in density. You’ve got about three verses to get it all out.
11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Now that I’m going back to school, I think I’m going to have an opportunity to write with a real schedule. In the past five years, my routine has been get the kids in bed and start cranking until I’m too tired to see the screen.
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Honestly, I just keep writing until something catches. I just hope that the part of my brain that invents stories can stay a few steps ahead of the part of my brain that writes them.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Eau de Pulp and Paper Mill.
14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?
I love movies. I think watching movies- good and bad (maybe especially bad) is an awesome lesson in how plot and character can shake itself out in two hours. Songs are also huge, not so much for their lyrics, but for their structures. I wish I could write short stories the way Sebastian Lippa structured his songs. Now go look that guy up, he’s awesome.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
There’s too many to catalogue, so let me desert island this question. What one artist do I need to get by? Bruce Springsteen. That guy makes it okay to get up most mornings.
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
A backflip. I just want to be able to walk into a room and be like, hey, check this shit out.
17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?
One of these days I might take a real crack at being a high school teacher.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
It’s something I can do on my own. I think you need something that’s just yours. Or at least, I do.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Oh, jeepers. Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. The last great film was The Lego Batman Movie (Will Arnett is our finest Dark Knight). Did I mention I have kids?
20 - What are you currently working on?
Happiness. Wish me luck.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;