So I was chasing down the dope on this new writer I found out about, Jack Binding, and there he was being given the most charming interview over at The Scribble Bug and well, you know me, I just had to have that interview for myself. Here’s hoping The Scribble Bug is fairly big-hearted about such things!
TALKING WITH EUGENE UTTLEY, AUTHOR OF THE BOON, WAY OUT, & THE DIAMOND GRENADE
Let’s start with the fiction, shall we? The Diamond Grenade is your first piece of published fiction, right? – what has the response been like so far?
Haha okay, well, if you want to call The Diamond Grenade “published”…
Isn’t the ebook available on Amazon? Under another name, but yours, right?
The way Amazon KDP is currently run, one can simply upload a .doc file and sell it.
Well I’ll be. So… How would you describe your fiction writing style? Is there a genre for The Diamond Grenade?
The novellas are narrated by principal characters within the story, so the voice of the writing is dependent on the inclinations and mood of the character telling the story (in which he figures prominently). Does that make sense? In The Boon and even Way Out, it’s my own voice I’m using, whereas with The Diamond Grenade, I’m using voice to attain depth of character. I hope it works. There’s precious little depth to the characters otherwise. And without depth of character, what have you got? A course of events. The Diamond Grenade is Literary Fiction. That’s a genre, isn’t it?
In your writing you have a tendency to take the mundane – an everyday experience or a common object like a hand grenade – and make it uncanny… Is that a conscious choice?
Everything acts. Anatoly Antohin, a professor under whom I attempted film-making once (don’t take that the wrong way), Anatoly taught us K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) and always said that every last object in a screenplay ACTS. The elevator has too many flashing lights or is too dark and goes too fast or too slow; it acts. In The Diamond Grenade, there is a stone which acts. Every object is a potential symbol, too, but more importantly, everything acts.
Top three authors that have inspired your writing.
Augusten Burroughs, Haruki Murakami, D.F. Wallace
Why did you go the self-publishing route with The Boon?
Have you looked at it? It’s billed as an open letter, but it’s been called a tissue of self-indulgence. Haha. Why do I always trot out the bad reviews first? Worst foot forward. There have been some nice things said about The Boon, too, but all I seem to remember is that one DNF (did not finish), and this other review from a brilliant man who said that he did not trust my narrator as far as he could throw him. But the reason I self-published? Oh, I’d wanted to try CreateSpace for a while. All the formatting was a welcome challenge. CreateSpace is fabulous, truly. Makes dreams come true. Free. Like Amazon’s KDP and ACX. Just outstanding services. So yeah, I’d wanted to self-publish, but really The Boon didn’t stand a chance of being picked up by a Press. It’s essentially a reader’s journal. It’s a lot like a journal. The fact that I’m schizophrenic probably elevates it to the status of an open case history. That’s something…
You’ve mentioned plans to make your books free. The Boon was free for five days. The Diamond Grenade is free through a link on the sidebar of your wordpress site wee ditty. What’s up with Way Out at the moment?
Free for the asking as a .pdf in your browser.
How do I ask?
Contact form on the site.
Talk us through the writing process you underwent with Way Out.
The working title was Over the Transom. That’s because I happened upon the fact that in the early days of publishing, books would be shoved through the little window over the door of the publishing house… you know, unsolicited manuscripts… and boy did I ever push Way Out over a lot of transoms. I submitted to every small press I could find whose terms of engagement would permit me to do so. When I landed the deal with Pen-L, they sicced an editor on me, so there was that part of the process – which among her many observations and suggestions to act upon in the rewriting of the damn thing. Like I wanted to rewrite. It was perfect! She made me change all the times I used the word ‘alright’ to make it ‘all right’ so that her spellchecker didn’t put a red line under it. And she wanted it chronological, which would have ruined it completely. She made me put all the dialogue in conventional form with quotation marks and indentations, which sapped some of the more literary aspirations of the book. But maybe you meant more the first draft – writing that – the process. That was epic. It came out of me like a baby. Nine months. Maybe a little less. From conception to good-enough-for-government-work.
What would you say was the hardest part of writing Way Out (or writing in general)?
Hard? Nothing is hard about writing. Writing is easy. Rewriting can be hard. Okay, so what’s the hardest part of writing in general? Getting anybody to read it.
How important would you say editing is for you as a writer?
What’s editing? You mean when you go back and change stuff? Isn’t that cheating?
You did the cover design for The Boon yourself – how was that process?
Just a Createspace wizard you know. Plug in an uploaded photo and choose a template and go. Don’t ask me where I got the photo. It’s of a place where I spent a good deal of time. A tourist attraction on the island in South Korea. Jeju Island. I lived there for five years teaching English. The tourist attraction is a maze park. A full-on symbolic labyrinth. But the photo’s not credited…
On your blog you’re pretty much detailing your journey as a writer – how has blogging informed your writing (if at all)?
Oh, it’s excellent writing practice, blogging. Especially when you let the prompters have their way with you. There are bloggers issuing writing challenges left and right if you know where to look. They offer a set of words to use however you want, or a photo to write to, questions to answer…. and all of that writing counts. Practice is important.
You’re also pretty outspoken about mental illness – do you think writers need to be ballsy?
Well, who am I to say what a writer needs to be, but yeah. Have the balls to care about something. About some things. And act on that. Writing is in essence educational, if only in educating the reader about the writer. And writing is persuasive in nature, too. At the very least, it seeks to persuade the reader to continue reading. Ballsy. Hmm… Good word. Haha.
You’ve not given a great deal of consideration to branding – personal and literary – I mean, your books seem to be under all different names… how valuable do you suppose a recognizable brand is to you as a would-be seller of his books?
Meh. Anybody who would care to pick up one of my books will probably have noticed my blog, and if they wanted to go further into me and my writing beyond one book, would know where to look.
Has it benefited you to have pseudo-anonymity?
Yes. At work. At school. In the job-hunt. The stigma on the big secret that my books let out about me is such that I would be treated very differently in those contexts I just mentioned should word emerge, so to speak. I mean to say that my various names protect me from discrimination. Not to mention incrimination. Haha. Ha. Actually, my editor made me put Way Out under a name different from Eugene Uttley, because she said if Uttley wrote it, then he must turn out okay, and she wanted the reader to be on the edge of the seat about that. That’s why it’s cast as a biography, though it’s actually a memoir.
How do you feel about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature?
I took my liberal arts education right when a few movements were getting underway. Political correctness for one. Also celebrating diversity. And then there was the movement in literature to consider various new formats as fair game, as proper texts, like movies, songs… Dylan’s body of work warrants the prize. No doubt. Don’t get me started gushing about the man. I know all of Subterranean Homesick Blues by heart.
Do you see yourself becoming a full time word slinger?
Oh yeah. Sales are bound to pick up any time, right?