Thursday, January 06, 2005

I am

My first book, As My Sparks Fly Upward & Other Stories, was first published in July 2002 by The Fiction Works out of Lake Tahoe, Nevada. In May of 2004, Sparks was rereleased by Murphy's Law Press. It took five years to find my first publisher; always digging back into the stories after each volley of rejection slips, tweaking, tightening, chopping, rewriting, rewriting, and rewriting.

After finishing grad school in 1997, I moved to Dublin, Ireland, where I roamed Drumcondra, Rathmines, Harold’s Cross, Dolphin’s Barn, haunted by the voice of Windsor bellowing through my nerves the words that God Himself used to banish Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden: “Gird your loins, and get the hell out!”

Here’s the first reaction my work received from a reader I don’t know: “Obscene filth!”

In 1996, I received a telephone call from actor Owen Wilson, responding to a letter I’d sent him, complimenting him on Bottle Rocket, and pitching a story idea of mine. Alas, I was out of town at the time, and missed the call—bad luck on par with the young Hemingway losing the valise containing the only drafts of his early stories.

So, now I live in the exclusive enclave of LaSalle, Ontario, listening to Jethro Tull and Tom Waits on the stereo, manipulating the keyboard of my PC like a musical instrument, continuing with my writing.

I recently wrote in a letter to a local publication, “St. Mojo, the God of James Brown and John Belushi directed me to contact you (though I won’t tie my book to a brick and hurl it through a window of the Upfront editorial offices as I was directed by his explicit instructions). I am a writer who has written a book. And now it’s time for people to hear about my book. It’s called As My Sparks Fly Upward... the title is a misremembered quote from the Bible.

“If none of the above moves you, please know that I am an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, out of Modesto, California. My namesake, St. Amand, is patron saint of bartenders, waitresses, wine and beermakers...”

One afternoon, when I was seven years old, I was out for a car ride with my mother.

As my mother tells the story, I was unusually silent during the ride. At one point we stopped at a red light and I turned to her, and said, “We’d know by now if I was retarded, wouldn’t we?”

The moment I realized that I wanted to become a writer occurred on an autumn day when I was fifteen years old.

I was just after buying a book of Bob Dylan’s songs. Before I got to strumming through one full song I put my guitar aside, and simply read the lyrics: I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now; Tolling for the deaf and blind, tolling for the mute/For the mistreated mateless mother/the mistitled prostitute; When your good gal’s gone and she’s long gone a-flying, and your heart feels sick like fish when they’re frying...

My first exposure to literature came in the form of the films I watched each night on the Channel 50 Eight O'Clock Movie, broadcast out of Detroit, Michigan.

It was on the Eight O’Clock Movie that I first saw Robert DeNiro in The Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull. Where I saw John Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home; Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico; Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man, and Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor.

In April 1985, the 10th anniversary of the fall of Saigon—and the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam—ABC showed Apocalypse Now. It was one of the few films I’ve seen that changed me—I didn’t see the world the same afterward. Another film that recently left me with this same experience was Zacharias Kunuck’s Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner).

Since my pre-writing days, my cinematic favorites have come to include Mark Tuit’s indie film, Bar None, Mark Borchardt’s Coven, Jason Nadon’s Office Dead, and Chris Pickle’s Finding Electra. Also Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, Faraway (So Close), and Paris, Texas. Atom Egoyan’s work has also greatly influenced me, particularly Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, and Felicia’s Journey.

Not until I was fifteen years old, working my first job at a video shop, did I ever meet a “real reader.”

His name was Larry, and he was three years older than I. Didn’t take long to realize he was about the coolest guy I’d ever met—smoking cigarettes, driving a 1961 purple (hand-painted) Falcon, buying cassette tapes by the armload. He was always reading something—Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, novels by Tom Clancy and Stephen King.

Larry lent me his copy of Stephen King’s Different Seasons, and so the first thing I ever read by King was Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.

No comments: