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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Monday, October 22, 2012 10:01 am
Hostile Questions: Joe Hill
Posted by: Daniel Kraus

Oh, Joe Hill. Joe, Joe, Joe. Where did things go so wrong for you? First you wrote Heart-Shaped Box. Hearts… as in love? Boxes… as in candy? Definitely a romance novel, far as I can tell, and yet not a single romance reader has said a durned thing about the prose setting their loins a-tingle. Next came Horns. Pretty sure this was a biography of Bruce Hornsby, and though his honeyed crooning is prized by all sentient beings, I just can’t see Daniel Radcliffe as Big Bruce H. in the upcoming movie version. And coming in 2013 is NOS4A2. It’s simple when you sound it out: “Nose for Achoo,” likely an examination on why sneezes come out of our noses. I’m sorry, the topic just doesn’t do much for me.

What’s next for this literary wanderer? Self-help brochures? True-crime limericks? Mad Libs? Hey, maybe he’ll even try his hand at horror.

Let’s all pray that this interview¬†¬† ends very soon.

Just who do you think you are?

A small motor for converting tea and pie into genre fiction*. Also a semi-pro geek. Also a big believer in analog over digital… I do at least some of my daily work on a typewriter while listening to records. And I am awesome at naps–I can do them anywhere and at any time.

* note: this is, I think, someone else’s joke. I’m better at taking naps then I am at providing proper attribution.

Where do you get off?

I’m going to pretend you’re asking me what I get off on. Currently: (1) the novels of David Mitchell, (2) Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, (3) the music of Iron & Wine, (4) Breaking Bad, and (5) Japadog.

What’s the big idea?

“Reading… is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.” Only that’s not my big idea, it’s David Ulin’s, beautifully expressed in his essay, The Lost Art of Reading. I’m not great at proper attribution, but sometimes I manage.

I dunno if I have any big ideas myself. Maybe just that short things are awesome. Short stories. Short sentences. Short skirts. I’ve got a novel coming out, NOS4A2, that’s, like, 700 pages long. But even that is just made out of a lot of short little bits, kind of all Lego-ed together. I never ever sit down to write a novel or a short story or a comic. I sit down to write one good scene, a scene that excites me. String a bunch of those together, you’ve got something.

What is your problem, man?

Just read a book by Austin Kleon that argues artists do their best work when they make a few problems for themselves. Like the novelist who decides to write a novel built only around dialogue. Or the writer who decides to work longhand (or on a typewriter) instead of on the computer. I try and make a few problems for myself every time out. Seems like the easiest way to do something fresh.

Haven’t you done enough?

Nah, more like not nearly enough. I’ll never write ten percent of all the stuff I want to write. I’ll never read even one percent of all the stuff I want to read. At the same time, I’m always fighting to slow down, to set smaller, more reasonable goals for myself. I’d rather know one acre of ground well then travel the world and never see a thing.



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