C&C: Tell me about your job as a foreclosure agent. I know that’s not the right word….
I believe the best term for it is process server. And it mostly involved driving around Detroit, taping foreclosure notices to doors and trying to drive away before anyone noticed I was there. Although a lot of times people did notice I was taping paper to their door letting them know they had a short amount of time to get out of their house. I had guns pulled on me, beer cans thrown at me, and I did battle with a few raccoons. Sometimes I had to tell people they were getting sued or divorced. Basically I drove around ruining people’s days. I felt like the grim reaper.
I realized I could be getting lots of writing done. I just started recording my voice as I was driving and then transcribing later. It made me mad I hadn’t started before. I think dictation is the secret to being a prolific writer, or in my case even ever finishing one novel. It made the story flow a lot better when saying it out loud instead of just hearing some quiet voice in your head. When I’m telling the story to myself it just seems to keep flowing and flowing for as long as I can keep talking or until I get to the next house. And the quality of the narration has improved greatly.
All of my favorite writers seem to be sitting there in the room when you read the story. Chuck, Clevenger, Ellroy, Leonard. Those are the type of writers I really look up to. And I got to see so much being out there on the front lines that I’ll never lack for inspiration or material. So I’d recommend all young writers to work as process servers or taxi drivers. And record yourself. Love your voice.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
It was a long weekend so I have a white lighter. A High Life Bottle Cap. And a liquor store receipt. And an EBT card and my driver’s license.
C&C: What do you listen to while you write?
The best music to write to ever is an album from 1999 by Dj Krush and Toshinori Kondo called Ki-Oku.
C&C: Tell me about ‘Valhalla Blues’, and the making of that.
Valhalla Blues is a short film that I wrote and my younger brother directed. Our friends have all worked on big Hollywood movies as grips and stuff. So they were able to make it look very professional without spending a lot of money. I think it came out amazingly well for having zero budget. We spent most of the money renting out this camera called a RED. I hear it was used on that movie Shutter Island. There were all kinds of weather problems. It took forever to get the shots set up so we had to cut a lot out. But I really enjoyed being part of a film crew and I can’t wait to start filming the next one.
C&C: And your cameo?
In Valhalla Blues I played a brief cameo as a corpse. I just thought it would be cool to be in the movie. But I’m too shy for any speaking roles. So a corpse seemed like the perfect part for me to play. It was funny. The art department did a good job of making me look even more pale than usual. I borrowed a suit from one of the actors. The scene involved me getting carried by the two protagonists from a church all the way to a car across the street. And of course it had to be shot a few times. I felt bad for the actors who had to carry me. I think I did a good job playing a lifeless husk of meat.
C&C: What do you think of Justin Townes Earle’s newest album? I liked the previous one better, but in reality I think he should just record live albums.
I liked the new album. It sounds like it is from a different region than his other ones. It seemed like a gospel album, too. I loved the title of it [Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now]. I think I only skip over one song, so it’s cool. They should have put his cover of Springsteen’s “Racing in the Street” on the album though.
C&C: What was the first book you bought with your own money?
The first book I ever bought was Michael Crichton’s Congo. I remember being impressed that it said it was going to be turned into a major motion picture on the cover. Then I was very disappointed by the movie. But I dug the book. He was really the author that made me want to make a living as a writer. I remember always being so impressed by his wild concepts. As a kid I’d day dream for hours, trying to come up with similar cool ideas. But they were all just lame compared to his. The Great Train Robbery was another good one. And Sphere.
C&C: What’s your favorite cartoon?
This is kind of a hard question because we are living in sort of golden age of cartoons. But I’d have to say my favorite is the one called Regular Show. Its on Cartoon Network. It’s about a bunch of animals who work at a park. It’s marketed for kids but it is a very sophisticated show if you’re paying attention. I’d recommend it to about anybody as it can teach many valuable life lessons. And make you laugh a lot.
C&C: Have you ever been punched in the face?
I have been punched in the face many times. It never was deserved though. I think that much like Pete Campbell from Mad Men, I have a very punchable face.
C&C: This is uncharacteristically writerly for this place, but what is it that you hope to accomplish ?
I have suffered from a stuttering problem for my whole life. I have tried everything to fix it. I had some moderate success. However I still never felt I had control over my voice. Then when I started recording myself telling my stories, then listening to my voice as I transcribed them, I finally started to gain some control. So I think I may have discovered a new form of speech therapy by accident. I think I might call it “Art Speech Therapy.” I have great sympathy for the other people who have a hard time talking. It is a miserable way to go through life. And I think this process of writing novels by “self-dictation”(if that is a thing?) might be a way for people to finally master the instrument that is their voice. So I want to write books, and help other people write books, as a way to improve my own voice, and all those other struggling voices around the world. Then maybe start a publishing company one day. The sky is the limit! I’ll probably just end up a janitor or a dock worker, though.