Friday, August 14, 2020

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Christopher Linforth

Christopher Linforth is the author of Directory (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2020). His stories have appeared in Grain, Epiphany, Hotel Amerika, Denver Quarterly, Southern Humanities Review, Gargoyle, Day One, SAND, New World Writing, Popshot, Notre Dame Review, Meridian, and Consequence.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book came out a number of years ago. I barely remember it! My new work is a lot more experimental, formally interesting, probing.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

All these years later, it's hard to piece that together exactly. I remember always reading and writing silly tales, Poe-like, and drawing my own comics. At various times in my life, I have written essays and poetry, but that impulse didn't hang around.

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?

It's a slow process of writing and seeing what works. No notes. Just me and the screen.

4 - Where does a 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?

Generally, no. I work on short pieces. With Directory the book started to form very quickly and I knew what I was writing was a longer work.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I try to refrain from readings. For me, the relationship is between the book and the reader.

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?

In my book Directory, a collection of experimental flash, I interrogate the relationship between trauma and identity, violence and mental illness, erratic behavior and bodily autonomy. There are no easy answers to questions of fractured existence, but I aimed to explore some of the manifestations of these issues in the book.

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?

Tough question. Over the last few decades, writers (and an interest in what they have to say) have been sidelined by TV, movies, music, etc. Some writers do like to be part of that central cultural conversation and write their books for wide, mainstream audience. Personally, none of that interests me. I work on what interests me, and if it gains an audience, so be it.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I love working with editors. Most journals offer minor editorial guidance, but some really good journals I've published in recently (Epiphany, Meridian, Day One, Grain, and The Dalhousie Review) have taken a fine scalpel to my prose and helped realize the vision for that particular story.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

"Always remember the last thing you've stolen." --Denis Johnson

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to essays to the novel)? What do you see as the appeal?

It depends on what writing mood I'm in. I do need an extended period of time when working on my novel, say 3-4 weeks in a row. Other projects I'll work on in an intense writing session of a few hours.

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?

I write for a few days, then have a few days off. Basically, I write something to the end. Then I take a break.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I go and read a story, or collection, or novel. Sometimes, I take a walk, a mile or two, and then have to rush home to write it down before I forget.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

Damp pit bull.

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 have a background in visual art and that has crept into some of my stories. In my story collection-in-progress, I have two stories that revolve around art: photography and sculpture. One is a rather odd story about a woman living in a darkroom. It's forthcoming this fall in The Arkansas International.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Live in Italy!

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?

A professional loafer.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I was surrounded by books as a kid, and I always wanted to have one (or more!) with my name on.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

The classic Withnail and I.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I'm finishing up a collection of stories set in the former Yugoslavia. They examine social class, ethnic cleansing, trauma, and reconciliation. Most of the stories have been published now, and so I'm working on some final edits, finessing the collection as a whole.

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