Though born and bred in a diminutive rural town, Tony now helms from a suburban area of Center Point, Alabama. He is currently hard at work on obtaining his Bachelors and moving into his career as an Elementary Teacher. In what little downtime he has, Tony writes as much as his imagination will create, acts in community theatre productions around Birmingham, and spends as much time as he can with his family–his husband (Mark) and their five fur-babies (Sookie, Flo, Pink, Koontz and Sheldon). Tony has a deep love for music, movies, television, tacos, ice cream and Yankee Candle candles! His website is Bedbug’s Writing, and he is hard at work on what he hopes to turn into his first novel, “In This Day & Age”.
It was a fantastic interview, and I grew envious. That’s why I stole his questions.
I’m not giving them back.
Hello. I am a simulacrum of Tony Lovell. Ready? Let’s start with the basics. What is your name, online handle, and blog name & link?
My name is Eugene Uttley, and I usually go by just Uttley. My blog is ‘wee ditty’ and can be found at weeditty.wordpress.com…
What inspired your blog name?
Well, I composed a wee ditty, you see, which rides just under the title at the top of the blog… I think it’s the catchiest. Just by reading it, you can hear its music. And it’s very me. I think of it almost like a bio. So yeah, I named the blog after the little song.
How did you find out about blogging? What brought you become a blogger?
Oh, man, do I even remember? No, I don’t. I don’t remember.
Where are you from?
Do you currently live in Indiana? Have you lived there all your life?
Yes, I do, and no, I haven’t. I’ve lived in Alaska and New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and in South Korea for almost 5 years.
Do you find that your writing is influenced by the culture there in Indiana, or do you try to steer your writing away from that? Why?
Indiana has a culture? Okay, yeah, I guess it has to doesn’t it. It’s just… it’s like our accent here – it’s as if we don’t have one, most of us. Of course, we do, but it’s not northern or southern or eastern or western… it’s the accent of the anchor on the national news. Our culture, same same. Nothing seems to stand out about it. There’s very little to grab onto and hold up to the light and say aha – Indiana culture! There’s no traditional clothing or dance, no unique holiday… unless I guess if you count red-and-white-striped cloth pants, a good game of cornhole with a Solo cup in your hand, and tailgating at an IU game. I don’t write that. I steer clear. Does that answer the question?
Sure it does. So. What are you currently reading?
I have several Bukowski books which I dip into now and then, like on the throne you know. And a dear friend just sent me Lang Leav’s excellent Love & Misadventure. I spend a hell of a lot of time skimming blog posts and online articles and whatnot. Actually, I’ve done more reading (light reading) just here lately than I had in years before beginning to blog as heavily as I am blogging. I am blogging heavily. I am not reading novels. The last period in which I worked my way through a stack of books was a couple of years back – when I was gearing up to write Way Out. They were memoirs. Augusten Burroughs’ memoirs. You know Augusten? Running with Scissors?
Yes I do. Some people have expressed difficulty reading his books, and I haven’t even attempted to yet. What do you think interests so many people in them?
Well, he’s mad. And somewhat despicable. Or at least reprehensible on some levels. But he has this way with language… that his storytelling chops are phenomenal is simply undeniable.
His chops. I see. Well, belated congratulations on getting Way Out published. What are you currently working on, if anything?
The blog, man, the blog. Weeditty is essentially a creative writer’s playground. I work from prompts, mostly – small sets of words, or just one word or theme, a question or series of questions, a photo… Each prompt is provided by another blogger you see. And after I fashion some flash fiction or poetry or whatever after the prompt, I link up with other bloggers who have done the same. I show you mine you show me yours kind of thing. Lately though too, I have been devoting some of my energy to a sort of low-key advocacy for the mentally ill. Fighting the ungodly harsh stigma on mental illness. Through education. By example. By just keeping the issue in play. From the news media and the entertainment industry, we glean a very inaccurate impression of mental illness. I feel that working to educate people about the realities of M.I. is a worthy use of my time.
Indeed. Of your time and of your talent… Admirable. But moving on… When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Hmm. You know how early childhood is shrouded in a sort of fug of forgetfulness for some reason? Well I came out of that fug a full-fledged writer. In first grade, I got a kindergartener who could draw a bicycle to illustrate a couple of my short stories. I have a poem I wrote sometime even before that. It’s great. It goes like this: “I like hats. There’s hats on my coatrack.”
Whatever happened to those first grade stories? Did you hang onto them? Do you ever feel a pull to rewrite them now that you’re older?
I’m pretty sure Mom has them somewhere. I could never rework them. They’re too morbid. People bursting into flames and people bleeding out on the sidewalk… Not my focus these days, you know.
Do you write for a living or pleasure? If pleasure, what do you do regularly? If for a living, tell us all about it!
A finished book is a lottery ticket. There’s always the possibility that it could go. So in a way, with three completed titles to my name, I am at least throwing my hat into the ring – putting myself in a position where it is possible that writing could put food on the table. But no, no. Pleasure. I take great pleasure in the writing process. My own favorable estimation of the writing I do counterbalances my typically low self-esteem. So it’s powerful medicine for me, writing is. It balances me out. Being balanced is pleasurable.
If you were to create a title for your first collection of short stories/poems, what would it be? Why?
Funny you should ask. I just created a title for a collection of poems earlier today. After some lamentably uninspired brainstorming, I decided to take the title of the poem I liked best of the batch, and put “And Other Poems” after it.
Do you have any hobbies besides writing?
Is writing a hobby? Is blogging a hobby? Doesn’t ‘hobby’ connote a certain fruitlessness? To me, these are labors. This is the good work. My hobby, maybe, is… no, I don’t think I have any hobbies. I was going to say listening to music, but that’s more like eating.
Okay, let’s get real. What was the last thing you binge-watched? Do you find yourself going back to one or more shows all the time? (I do! I watch shows over and over again…) What are your favorites?
Stranger Things. That was my last binge. No, wait, after that was Luke Cage. I don’t have favorite shows that I rewatch though. Watching TV is too passive for me. Even movies… I mean, you’re just sitting there, right? No interactivity. No expressing of opinion to speak of. Unless I guess you’re watching with someone and talking over the show. I wouldn’t know much about that. I am el lobo solo.
So you prefer a more interactive form of entertainment? Is that where blogging comes in?
Absolutely. You said it. My thought, your words.
I see. What inspired you to start writing? Do you recall? Was there a favorite book or story as a child that possibly inspired you to begin writing?
Well see, there we’re back in the fug. I came out of the fug reading voraciously. I remember the first time I independently perceived, um, symbolism I guess, in writing, was when I saw that Aslan in the Narnia books represented Jesus Christ.
You have written three books, right? Please tell us about them.
Haha. Can I just refer you to a blog post or two? I’m forever injecting synopses of my books into whatever post I happen to be building. In fact, I’m about sick of huckstering my books. Do you mind if I defer?
Well… I understand your latest work has been a series of novellas. What inspired you to choose that format, that form, that vehicle? I’m always interested to know what inspires people to write certain things, and a series of short novellas is so unusual, really, that I’m incredibly curious.
My concept was that the publication of each novella would influence the course of events in the next. Is that abstract? In the first novella, a man is framed for robbery and subsequently murdered in such a way that the murderer goes unpunished. In fact, he is rewarded. But then the book comes out, the authorities get ahold of it, and the jig is up. They know it was a frame-up. So the murderer goes to jail. But his family members bust him out. The jail-break occurs in the course of the second novella. So when the second novella is published, the details of the jailbreak come to light. And so on. The narrator is essentially ratting out himself and his accomplices right and left.
Are experiences in your writing based on someone you know, your own life, or completely fictional?
The novellas are pure fiction. The other two books. You already know this. The other two books are faithful to reality.
Do you have a particular writing style? Describe it to us.
The voice I found in which to write my first book, The Boon, was very true to my own. I wrote it as if I were speaking to the reader. Writing Way Out was a bit different, because it involves a remove. It is a memoir, but mocked up as a biography. I told the story of my life and times from the perspective of a confidante. Is that clear? As if I had told my story in intimate detail to a friend, who had then put it down on paper.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in the shower, writing by candle light, writing in the nude, or only using a pen and paper first)?
I marathon-write. I’ve always written more successfully when I put down big chunks every sitting. I don’t just add a few sentences to what I’ve got. I add a novella. I don’t eat. I chainsmoke and go through pot after pot of coffee. I don’t quit until I come to a grinding halt. I don’t write long-hand first, and no, I can’t recall ever having written much in the nude. Underwear, a t-shirt, and a ballcap.
Is there any particular subject you believe you will never write about? Why?
I won’t dishonor my mother. Not that there’s anything… any grounds to do so. What I mean is, I’m not going to follow in Augusten’s footsteps and demonize my parents.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose names based on liking the way it sounds, do they have a special meaning, etc.?
Names within names upon names… some meaningful to me, some plucked from thin air. I can’t say I’m prepared to answer that question, really. Sorry.
No worries! Is there anything you find particularly challenging when writing?
I have to be careful not to become bogged down in a character’s thought processes and internal dialogue. I’ve received some very valid criticism in that regard. Also I am a klepto of words. Images too. If I ever get my hands on any money, it may well be taken from me on grounds of intellectual property theft. I’m picking your pocket as we speak. Hope you don’t mind. Hope I hope I hope.
I’ll let it slide. What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
Influences. Okay. Here goes. Haruki Murakami. Charles Portis. The Amises: Kingsley and Martin. J.P. Donleavy. D.F. Wallace. Thomas Pynchon. Jack Kerouac. Alan Watts.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard of J.P. Donleavy before. If you could put your finger on one thing, what do you think it is that you learned from him which has informed your writing?
He writes. Like this. In bits. Broken down. Mere clauses. Terrible grammar. I love it.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
My friend, you’ve really got to look at Way Out sometime. I’ll give you the ARC.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I want to set foot in the southern hemisphere.
What secret talents do you have, besides writing?
I am a tournament-level Scrabble player. And I can juggle.
What were you like as a child? Did you have a favorite toy/game? Do you find your writing to have any inspiration from your childhood?
I collected comics. Marvel, almost exclusively. My favorite game was ‘school’. I was always making my friends let me teach them things. I played RPGs and was usually the DM. That means I put my friends through mazes and fed them riddles. I also very much enjoyed being the president of the club. Up until the age of maybe ten, I always had a club. A gang. And I was Spanky.
I always wanted to be Ororo Monroe (Storm). I thought the ability to control the weather was awesome! What was your favorite superhero?
Hawkeye. Or Nightcrawler.
Do you have or have you had any recurring dreams/nightmares you’d like to share?
What is your biggest fear? Logical or irrational.
Frankly, I fear that the medication I’m on is going to cause me to develop tardive dyskinesia in the long run.
What literary character do you think you are most like, or that is most like you?
Ooh. Good one. I’ll go with Ingatius J. Reilly from Confederacy of Dunces.
I think that choice potentially says a lot about you as a person–or at least how you see yourself. Or are you just being silly?
Serious as a housefire.
If you had a superpower, what would it be, what would your costume look like, and would you be a hero or villain? Why?
I would be able to see in pitch dark, be pressure-proof, and breathe water. That way I could go to the bottom of the ocean. No costume. Neither hero nor villain. Neutral.
What drew you to Grammar Ghoul Press?
Oh, I noticed a post on a blog I follow, made by a writer I admire, entering into a flash contest with you guys. Monkey see, monkey do!
What value do you place on writing and reading, in general, in society?
Inestimable value. Engagement with the written word is evolutionary and revolutionary. Pardon the word salad. This has been a long interview. We done?
Yes. Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed your answers.
Phew. You’re very welcome. Thank you. Good questions.