Monday, March 23, 2020

A Slight Concern That This May Be the Apocalypse: Interview with cal chayce

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
I have a very special post today to take your mind off of all the things: an interview with cal chayce. He is the author of deep, dark novels such as All the Fine Hungers and Dead Dog on Morningside, in addition to being a co-founder (with me) of Forest City Pulp, and a fan of lower-case letters. But enough about cal, here's ... actually, it's more cal. On with the interview:

P.T. Phronk: I feel like every conversation will start with this for a while: how are you holding up in light of COVID-19?

cal chayce: I'm doing okay so far, taking it in stride, I do, however, have a slight concern that this may be the apocalypse and we'll all soon be hunted down by red necked and red capped folks for sport. You know they're out there right now, don't you? Oiling their pieces and giggling silently. Awaiting.

PTP: So you’ve had an interesting life so far. How much of your writing is autobiographical?

cc: None at all. At least, not at the time. After every book has aged a couple of years, though, I find they're all blatantly about me and I'm shocked that I had so completely overlooked the obvious. It just takes me a while to let me know what's really going on.

PTP: I was thinking about Dead Dog on Morningside, which seems like a very intimate portrayal of a family fleeing The Troubles in Northern Ireland to live in Toronto. Now that it’s aged a bit, what’s going on there? What was the inspiration behind that novel?

cc: For that one, I was at least partially cognizant. I knew I was the child narrator while writing. But it was eye-opening later on to find I was also, in part, the cousin, Danno the father – and Farley, the villain. I took no joy in the discovery of that last bit. But maybe he’s just Everyperson. He represents the personal demons that Danno realizes he should try to excise and bury in a deep hole. And maybe those of us who couldn’t make use of a decent spade are few and far between.

Dead Dog on Morningside cover

PTP: Some of your novels, like All the Fine Hungers, also bring up important stuff about the human condition and the current state of the world. How do you go about incorporating deeper themes into your work?

cc: It's the other way 'round, actually; it's the work that gets incorporated into the themes. When I discover interesting, new-to-me, common characteristics in people, those traits grow and intertwine and spread and swirl until a suitable story forms around them, manifesting in the guise of characters and settings. Then I just fill in all the bits that don't look like a book. But yeah, the core is always about the human experience.

PTP: That’s cool. Do you think fiction plays a role in improving the human experience? Especially in times like, you know, these.

cc: Fiction doesn’t just play a role; it’s vital. Who we are as a species has been vastly shaped by The Story Teller. Our hopes, our ability to deal with situations with which we have no experience, our very morals and personal ethics. Our being. From ancient religious stories to Greek mythology to that weird foreign film you saw last week on Netflix, all play their part. 

Someone should write a story about a society that developed without story tellers. What could that look like? I’d read that shit. 

PTP: Maybe music plays a part too. Do you listen to music while you write? I ask because I just wrote about that here on Across the Board. Any music you’d recommend people check out?

cc: You mean, some people don't? If anyone can write fiction without music, and not have their characters hop off to god knows where, they have my respect and admiration. The music, for me, is my only chance to keep the unruly bastards in line. If it's music that feels like the character I want to write, they just might stay in their designated lane. Many still break free, of course, but with music, there is hope. 

And no, I have nothing to recommend. What I listen to is what cuddles up to my lived experience and allows me to be the little spoon for a while. Everyone else's experiences have been different than mine. What cuddles up and spoons with me, might make another flee in terror when it pokes them in the back.

PTP: What’s next for you? Planning on spending any more time writing while you’re stuck inside?

cc: I stay inside all the time anyway, so there's been no difference. If it's a beautiful, warm day, I might admire it from the kitchen window for a few minutes before retreating back to the deepest recesses of my cave.

What's next for me is a kiss-ass commercial endeavour. I've never tried that, and to be honest, I'm not certain I can keep inspired to the end. It’s an experiment. Things blow up and men punch each other. Sometimes they punch each other while in the midst of blowing up. Because that's what the people like. That, and a little naughtiness, because they’re all pervs.

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