I think it varies from story to story and is continually evolving. But no matter what the case is, one thing reading and writing always helps me with is understanding—myself, others, the world. It’s hard for me to remember things if I don’t right them down. It’s hard for me to understand emotions unless I put them on paper. In a way, without writing, I feel like I don’t fully exist. Some stories are more selfishly cathartic than others, but I always hope to give my readers an emotional experience that they can relate to while at the same time entertaining them unabashedly.
The novella I’ve entered in this year’s Summer Writing Project, Static Age, is admittedly one of my more self-indulgent stories in many ways. At the time I started writing it I was dealing with an upsetting breakup, not unlike the story’s protagonist, Nathan. Through a friend-of-a-friend sort of situation I found myself on the fringes of a punk group (by fringes, I mean more like how a child sits outside the bars of a gorilla cage at the zoo, tossing in occasional peanuts even though he’s not supposed to). These were some real punks, and I was fascinated by how rude and crude and ‘couldn’t-give-a-damn’ their attitudes were. The second time I was around this group someone told a story about a friend of theirs who jumped onto the hood of her boyfriend’s car with a handgun and tried to kill him through the windshield. He lived. I thought, What is this notion of love that has compelled this girl to murder? –to risk life imprisonment over a boy? I considered my own conceptualizations of love, lent mostly from a very conservative upbringing, specifically notions that had been shattered over the years—how radically different these were from the very un-romantic dispositions of my new punk companions—and I thought it would be entertaining and therapeutic to put these somewhat polemic sets of values together in a story, a story which eventually became a novella. I think most people’s grasp of ‘love’ and relationships evolves as they age, so hopefully this will be a point of the narrative that readers can all relate to on some level.
As I evolve as a writer, my newer stuff tends to lean more toward an interest in history and offering social commentary. The most ambitious project I’m working on right now is a dark comedy—an odd hodgepodge of pseudo-sci-fi lunacy (possibly comparable to some of Kurt Vonnegut’s work) threaded with events from modern history, like the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster. The narration winks a lot at the reader as its characters are continually undermined by their world’s absurdly blind faith in science and other meaning-making systems. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed poking fun at the foibles of zealotry, I feel like I’m also writing something very humane, and that has been equally if not more rewarding in a different respect.