ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version: Kris
consists of 15 pre-set questions. Authors have published
at least one novel or short story/poetry collection.)
Why did you begin writing, and how long have you been
began collecting as a very young child. I had a sort of
talismanic relationship with words (with the emphasis
on “manic”). They were living things to me.
Or, if not animate, then just as mysterious as magnets
or petrified wood. I’d bring out my collection in
the same way that Anthony Draper (who could turn his eyelids
inside out) would show me his snake skins. Then one day
I saw the number 8 next to the word “together”
and I realized that my squiggly 8 reminded me of a snowman
and that “together” was actually “to
get her” and I wondered why the snowman wanted to
get her and who “she” was, and so, like my
collection of football cards, the words began to organize
into a kind of a game. I still think the best stories
have this quality.
What does your writing routine consist of?
routine has changed entirely of late, in that I’m
writing as much as I can. I’m working on two novels
simultaneously, one of which has become a genuine obsession.
I’m writing this one very fast and thinking in terms
of whole dramatic scenes which seem to take shape like
a waking dream.
Have specific events ever flung you into an extended and
productive period of creativity?
involved in one right now, thank God! It’s like
an illicit sexual affair. It was not one of my major ideas
when I started—just a short story I thought—and
one I figured I might get around to one day. Then for
some reason I remembered a reflection in a puddle of a
neon DeSoto Cab sign just off Geary Street in San Francisco—and
a strangely disconcerting little moment mistakenly walking
into a Women’s Restroom last year. And that—as
they say—was that.
4) What are common sources of inspiration?
think we carry a lot of interesting “fuel”
around with us all time in our heads and in our notebooks—things
that have happened to us, or that we’ve heard or
read about. But it takes an inner crisis to provide heat,
and a chance breath of wind to create ignition.
Near the end of my marriage I was with my wife’s
family at a football game and I went to the restroom (the
right one, I might add). We should’ve been having
a good time together but we weren’t. While pissing,
I noticed the pattern the backwater flow made on the splash
panel of the urinal. It was these weird but beautiful
elongated figures—like space aliens or the sacred
beings you see in Aboriginal rock paintings. I realized
how alienated I felt at that moment, and yet these images
were fascinating to look at—hiding there in plain
sight in the urinal. I didn’t want to rejoin the
family group, I just wanted to stay and observe the Beings.
That to me is where real inspiration comes from—not
in big themes or obviously interesting conflicts and dramas—but
in seemingly incidental moments when the Other World peeks
What does a book need to do to get you to read it from
beginning to end?
needs to demonstrate surprise, precision, ambiguity and
a multi-levelness. I want to have that feeling you get
when the anti-virus system on your computer warns you
that some program is behaving in an unauthorized way,
trying to access channels you might not even have been
aware of. (Interesting words: “authorized”
/ “unauthorized”). At the same time, I want
to be moved in some very specific ways too. Any work of
fiction that is not at some point funny, erotic, intellectually
intriguing or frightening bores me.
Who are some of the authors you most admire?
a cannibal pirate crystal radio kind of reader, picking
up stray signals where I can, scanning the frequencies
and harvesting parts as I find them. There are a lot of
writers that I admire for certain things. What I thrive
on though, are people with fetishes, totems, obsessions,
fixed ideas, theories, paranoid fantasies, recurring dreams,
an eye for the ludicrous and an ear for the conflicts
and conspiracies that lie just under the surface of human
interaction. I like writers who build interesting machines,
ask unexpected questions, have some secrets of their own
and are excessively curious about other people’s—and
who aren’t afraid to let their creatures out.
How familiar are you with the literary canon?
A loaded canon still makes a good long range weapon but
it has been known to backfire.
What's your take on politics and literary endeavor?
Richelieu, one the richest and most powerful figures in
the Europe of his day, exerted his enormous and frequently
insidious influence while suffering severe anal ulceration
and offensive suppurating sores. The most interesting
part of “politics” always comes back to individual
psychologies and pathologies, and if that’s not
an important element of literature, I don’t know
what is. The problem is that the focus tends to be on
ideologies. Plus the long lead time for publication and
the fear of becoming “dated” scares many writers
What are your feelings about formal vs. free verse?
armadillo or the jellyfish. I say as long at it moves,
can find its own food and has a sting in the tail, it’s
Do you feel "flash" fiction (300 words or less)
is a viable form, or nothing more than a writing exercise?
Études are exercises for the piano. Picasso’s
immense and under appreciated print works were exercises
for his technical skills and craftsmanship. Some people’s
exercises are art (and most people’s art is an exercise).
enjoy flash fiction very much. The works of some the most
important writers in history (Heraclitus, Nietzsche, Novalis,
Kafka, Borges) can be seen as flash fiction. So too, with
Braughtigan, Bukowski and many others. Any problem with
it is really one of packaging and the economics of publishing.
11) When not writing, what do you do for amusement?
I mull. I paint and make mistakes I call sculpture. I
think about sex and try to have as much of it as I can.
I hike with the dogs and the girlfriend. I think about
getting my kayak out. I read. I think about sex. I try
to remember my dreams.
What's one of the most annoying things you can think of?
Random police checks. Loud obnoxious children eating plastic
food. Strident feminists. Boorish men. Roadworks conducted
on major routes at peak traffic times. Fundamentalists
of all persuasions. And when the phone rings when I’m
having my lunch.
Briefly describe what you consider to be one of your standout
sister had a special genius for covert operations. When
the McMurtry’s, a prunish older couple down the
street, stiffed us for payment in a peanut brittle fund
raising drive, we vowed massive retaliation. The McMurtry’s
hated Halloween and would do anything to be away from
the house on that night, except they were stingy. So we,
with some old stationery and my mother’s typewriter,
agonizingly crafted a plausible enough letter informing
the M’s that they had won a “Special Halloween
Weekend” package at a motel down in Carmel Valley,
with a FREE all-you-can-eat buffet and early check-in.
We included a little map of the area that our mother had
saved—and a branded complementary chocolate—and
got the envelope sent to them Special Delivery to get
around the postmark problem.
to my astonishment, my sister actually pulled off a confirmation
phone call to them. She was a monster for detail. Halloween
was on a Friday that year, and sure enough the McMurtry’s
loaded up in the late morning to get down for “early
check in.” We meanwhile, had skipped school, which
was a sacrifice, as I was defending champion in the Costume
Parade and a shoe-in to retain the title. But we had other
things on our minds—like breaking in to the McMurtry’s
and decorating for the huge Haunted House Halloween Party
to which every kid we knew, even those we hated (especially
those we hated) were invited. We’d made flyers and
gotten them printed using our slush fund. Friends were
passing them out school. We posted some in the library
and the post office. If our victims hadn’t fallen
for it, I don’t know what we would’ve done,
but my sister had a cool head when it came to these types
of things—and I had the smarts to take the phone
off the hook. The McMurtry’s had a lot of parents
fooled about their hatred of kids, so most people didn’t
question it. Some did call though we found out later,
and when they got a busy signal, they just thought, “Oh,
well, there are probably a lot of people wondering about
But here’s the reason why, even at 12, my sister
could’ve run the CIA. In case any parents physically
stopped by the house to check things out, we’d coerced
a friend of our dad’s and his girlfriend who we
had some dirt on, to drift around the house with sheets
over their heads, acting like ghosts. Everyone thought
they were the McMurtry’s. (Access to the McMurtry’s
liquor cabinet greatly assisted with this crucial element.).
Late that afternoon, when some pressure was applied, and
all through evening when the goblins and witches started
showing up, if anyone asked “Where are the McMurtry’s?”
my sister and I would just say, “Oh, they’re
ghosts…haunting the house.”
that lovely,” our mother said. “They’re
really getting into the spirit of things.”
Meanwhile, just as we’d predicted, once the McMurtry’s
got all the way down to Carmel, they weren’t going
to turn around and come home on Halloween. No, they stayed
away while God’s own Haunted House Party raged—kids
spewing in the bathroom, jack’o lantern cake smeared
on the walls. We’d put down sheets to protect the
furniture (and to add to the spooky ambience) but it was
more or less total devastation.
Best of all, we’d made a whole group of parents,
who were just glad the festivities weren’t happening
at their house, accomplices in the crime. When the shit
hit the fan, and it did, we had a lot of shoulders to
offload responsibility on. I’m only sorry my sister
later went straight. She was the real deal when it came
to the Big Con and could’ve conducted a mean briefing
in the Situation Room.
What are your upcoming projects/works in progress?
focused on two novels as I said. One is part of the cycle
my first book ZANESVILLE began, but which is set back
in the 19th Century and is filled with odd gadgets, mass
hysteria weapons and religious theories about tornadoes.
The other, my mistress, is a psychological/supernatural
detective story centering on a woman who knows things
that shouldn’t be known and sometimes wears beautiful
underwear, and other times nothing at all.
Care to conclude with a sweeping philosophical statement?
systems of a given frequency can reduce other oscillating
systems to the same frequency—and those people for
whom the glass is always half full just don’t like
what they’re drinking.
ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version
2006 by Robert Scott Leyse
© 2006 by Kris