and here’s the final entry in the i never finished this essay trilogy. it took place in april of 1999. hope you enjoy it.
How long have you been writing for?
Since I was 7. I started writing comics cause I wanted to draw them so I needed stories to draw. I only discovered I was any good at it by accident when I was about 19 or 20.
What did you read growing up? What/who inspired you? What taught you how to write and what taught you how not to write?
I read nothing but comics, it seems. Though I guess I read the Great Brain books and a few other young adult type of things. When I was about 18 I got really interested in literature, probably through interest in LOVE and ROCKETS and American Splendor, which seemed very literary to me at the time. I guess writers like Salinger and Bukowski and Kerouac and such were big influences at an early age, and I can certainly see their influence in things like LOWLIFE, as well as the aforementioned comics. But I wouldn’t describe them as influences anymore, and would cringe at the idea, in fact. Anything I learned about writing from reading was probably learned from Kundera’s book, the Art of the Novel, and some of his other books. And just reading nonstop, in general.
Did you always write comics or did you start by writing other forms?
It’s always just been comics, though I did write movie reviews for a Seattle weekly paper called the Stranger for a few years. But i was bad at it.
What do you try to convey in your stories? What do you hope your audience walks away with?
With each piece it’s different. I usually am exploring a theme in each story, exploring a question. Which is all you can do as a writer, ask questions from as many sides as possible. So I guess I would hope a reader walks away with either their own answers, or some different perspective.
Do you write just to express yrself and get the stories off yr chest or do you write to reach an audience or both?
Who knows? Obviously, the stuff is published, so the audience is important.
When you sit down to write what goes on in yr head? What kind of preparation do you do?
I usually sit down to write when I feel too guilty not to anymore, though I have occasionally been able to maintain some sort of schedule. Lately I write for about 2 to 3 hours a day, two weeks or so out of each month and the rest of my time is reserved for drawing. Some days, when deadlines are looming, and cash is low, I will write for as many as 12 hours straight. Usually the process is intuitive, knowing where a story needs to go, and finding the right path. Also, I take a lot of notes, just scribbled ideas on the borders of the other parts of the script or something. I usually have a fairly detailed list of stuff that I hope to include in a story, but you never know what’ll actually make it in.
Do you have a clear idea of what you’re writing about before you start, or do you just start writing?
I always know what I’ll be doing. I have whole notebooks just devoted to story ideas and themes I want to explore and such.
When do you write? What time in the day what days of the week work best for you?
Mornings seem to work best. If I don’t get started by about 10, then I won’t get much done.
How much research goes into yr stories?
As little or as much as necessary. Research is just another tool. Sometimes I’ve been researching a subject and become so fascinated with it I’ve wanted to use that research somehow. But I guess I’m not too into elaborately researched type stuff. You just do as much as you can get away with, so as not to be lazy. Laziness is my worst enemy. It’s the same with drawing, you need to take pictures or do drawings of trees or cars to get them right.
Is there a different process for when you write yr own stuff vs the stuff you do for dc?
Yeah, I never write anything for someone else to draw that I would want to draw myself, and to some degree I take the audience into consideration. Think about what they might like, while still trying to do something good. I also force myself to write even when it’s not flowing, because of deadlines.
How much do you rewrite?
More and more with each project it seems. Each script becomes covered with scratched out lines and the margins filled with rewrites, and then I rewrite while I letter too.
Do you feel like yr stories are ever done or do you just stop writing them to be done?
I always feel they are done. I hate that feeling that an ending was forced. Endings can make a story good. Many times I feel a good ending has saved a work.
How do you sustain yr stories once they’re started?
Patience, and I guess, discipline.
Is music important at all to yr writing process?
I can’t have any noise at all when writing, but I definitely have been inspired by music, in some way. there are some musicians or songwriters who are exploring similar terrain as me.
Here’s the inevitable. How much of what you write is auto-bio and how much do you make up or change to make it more interesting?
The Lowlife work was pretty auto-bio, but I always changed stuff around to make it more of a story. I didn’t make up too much of things, just minor scenes to get points across. Mostly I just left stuff out.
How do you determine what auto-bio material to use?
Just what needs telling, I guess. What seems to be a story.
Is there a particular period in yr life that you use a lot of material from?
Not really, there’s always things happening, even if you never leave your house.
Are you breaking way from or have you broken away from the auto-bio stuff?
To the larger degree, yes. But as always, your life seeps into your work, no matter what you’re writing.
What gets you through a creative block or slump?
What’s yr cure for being blocked or stuck?
I don’t really have a lot of them, honestly. If anything, I get stuck on getting from a to b in a story, and I just think it through for a few days until a solution appears.
What are you reading now?
In comics, a lot of things, many things I get from DC that I don’t think too much of, but some are entertaining. My current comics hit parade would be… Hicksville, by Dylan Horrocks, Eightball, Acme, Yikes, Palookaville… And not much else. In books, anything by Steve Erickson, Kundera, Philip K Dick, Ross MacDonald, Haruki Murakami, Raymond Chandler, Patrick Suskind, Paul Auster, Kafka, Osamu Dazia, Knut Hamsun, Dashiell Hammett… And lots of other trash.
Who or what inspires you now in writing, art, music, anything?
Much of the work I was talking about above, in books and comics. In music, I don’t know if inspired is the right word, but I’m pretty into Will Oldham, Mark Eitzel, and Elliott Smith.
How old are you now? And has yr outlook on writing changed as you’ve grown?
32, and yes, considerably. The kinds of things I wanted to write about at 20 seem really unimportant to me now. I feel much more attracted to the idea of craft and structure than just insecure self-expression. I like to think of myself as an explorer, though that’s probably pretty pretentious.