JOHNNY: I would have been 12 when Cobain died. Almost thirteen. God, was I really writing dirty stories that early? It must have been after his death. I went through a lengthy Nirvana period, followed by a lengthy Hole period. Live Through This is still one of my favorite albums.
That’s awesome, about your mother. My mother won’t read my stuff, and I don’t blame her. But she did get yelled at by a Border employee for trying to take a picture of the table of contents from the first anthology I was published in.
I don’t write in long hand often. Generally only out of necessity. The best instance of it was my story “Local Legends,” from Never Easy. That story crashed into my head late one night and I grabbed a notebook that just happened to be near my bedside and furiously scribbled out about four pages. The next day I took the notebook to work and wrote another eight. It felt right for that story, which is a kind of backwoods erotic folk tale. I didn’t think about it much, but there’s a strong influence from Stephen King’s The Body (which was adapted into the movie Stand by Me) in that story, with an older writer looking back on another time in his life. I eventually finished it on my laptop. I write most everything on my laptop. I type faster than I can write, and I think a whole lot faster than I can type (although I’m a pretty fucking fast typist), so typing is the best way I can get the thoughts out of my head and into some locked down form. Do you write longhand?
Do you jot ideas down as you get them, or hold onto them in your head until you have a chance to write them?
BENJI: I tend to write a decent amount of poetry by hand, but not so much fiction. One of the reasons that I like poetry is that the form generally forces you to go slowly, to consider where the words are and what effects they’re producing.
Otherwise I don’t write much longhand. I once wrote this whole, ridiculous sex story as a teenager by hand because the family computer crapped out. It involved a guy from Indiana who gets involved with this nightclub/whorehouse with all of these terribly anonymous “hot guys.” I’m going home (NYC) tomorrow for a few days, I might retrieve that notebook and do a quick rewrite of that story. Maybe that’d be fun (if I can stand my own writing long enough).
Regarding ideas, I usually just let them percolate in my mind for a while. If they outlast the competition then I figure there might be something. Almost all the longer projects that I’ve worked on have been things that I’ve chewed on so to speak. Just letting them simmer in my mind, developing, designing, plotting. For better or worse my thinking is that if characters and plots don’t stick with me then how can I sell them to other people? That said, I do try to keep track of my ideas, or I’ll start stories that I don’t necessarily intend to work on right away just so that I can get some mood and texture down, you know?
What’s the most beloved idea you’ve had (recently or of all time) that you haven’t written yet? Your unwritten masterpiece, so to speak.