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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#58 Jessica Anya Blau

20 Questions with Mourning Goats
Jessica Anya Blau

I was lucky enough to meet Jessica a few weeks ago and sneakily stole her phone, sent myself an email requesting an interview, and then wrote back to her with the questions... she may have handed me the phone to do it, but I say what I want, it's my interview. She's fantastic, her books are fantastic, and YOU are fantastic for reading them. Enjoy the one, the only, Jessica Anya Blau! 

1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?" 

Rutting bucks. I realize goats aren't bucks but a mourning goat just reminds me of a rutting buck. And a rutting buck reminds me of a guy with a bottle of imported beer in his left hand.  So I guess you could say that I think of guys drinking beer when I think of mourning goats.

2. When Nick Hornby speaks, people listen, what happened after his glowing review in The Believer? 

My publicist sent the review to me when I was out running errands. I was on a hectic schedule and couldn't stop and read it so I forwarded it to a friend (while at a stoplight) and had her read it to me over the phone. And then I just laughed. It made me immensely happy. As for what happened to the book . . . I guess we'll see, right? The book just came out. 

3. What's it been like publishing through Harper Perennial?

Oh, I love all the people I work with there. They're funny and fun and authentic. No one seems to be playing any part--they're all exactly who they are. And my editor is brilliant. I feel very lucky. Also I have a great publicist who takes good care of every book he has even when you're not Cheryl Strayed or someone like that.

4. You didn't start writing until you moved to Canada after college, what was the prompt? 

Loneliness.  Pending lunacy. I found I felt okay about myself, my day, my life, when I wrote. 

5. For your novel WonderBread, you have a blurb from another Mourning Goat Interviewee, Paula Bomer and you're email pals with Nick Hornby who answered the goats questions last year, do you think that with the connectivity of social media more authors are becoming pals and then helping each other? Do you think it's a necessity in these hard publishing times? 

Well, Nick wrote me after that review and, of course, I had to write back and thank him for the review and all that. He is a supremely generous person. I met Paula when she asked me to read with her in New York and found her to be so fascinating and smart and funny, too. I don't think it's "necessary" to help other people out but I do believe that we're all in this together.  We writers.  And even we people on Earth. It's hard to write and it's hard to get published, and it's even harder to get a published book noticed.  If we look it as a community, a group of people who love each other, then it makes sense that we help each other out the best we can. So, no, I don't think it's necessary but I do think it's the right thing to do. We should treat each other kindly and as generously as possible. 

6. Are  any of your books being optioned for the big screen? Which would you most like to see? 

I think Wonder Bread Summer would make a great movie and I'd love to see it on the screen. Drinking Closer to Home would probably be the most difficult to make into a movie.  I think Drew Barrymore should play the mother in Naked Swim Parties. It is hard to think of her as a mother, but she is the age of the mother in the book.  And she'd be perfect standing at the grill, making pancakes, with nothing on but an apron. 

7. Do you have an average timeframe that it takes you to write a book?

About two years.  And then there's the year of revisions with my editor if I'm lucky enough to have sold it.

8. Have you ever had negative feedback from anyone you've written about? Either way, does that change anything? 

No.  My family is used to me writing about them and I pretty much just crack them up. Other people don't see themselves the way I see them. I've had many, many people tell me they thought one character or another was based on someone in particular and they're usually wrong. 

9. What are your thoughts on social media? Does it help or harm writers? 

I'm on book tour now (actually I'm on an airplane right now) and more than one person has come up to me at a reading and said they showed up because I posted the reading on Facebook. So I guess it helps. I get sick of myself pretty quickly, sick of the sound of my own voice (and my voice in my head, too), so I try to tweet and Facebook post about other writers, ideas, and images as much as possible.  Then I stick myself in there from time to time because I do want people to come to readings and I do want people to read the book.

10. How did you get your agent, Brandt and Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. New York, NY? What was the process like? 

I met Gail Hochman in the French House at Sewanee.  It was late at night and we stood on the porch and talked about kids. She showed me pictures of her kids.  I didn't know she was an agent.  Later, after we had talked for a good long time I said to someone, "Who was that woman? She's hilarious." They told me who she was and I wrote her name down somewhere.  When my book was done, months later, I sent it to her and . . . well, here we are.

11. If someone were to tell you one thing before you started writing, what do you wish it had been?

You aren't as dumb as you think. 

12. What's the scariest part about giving a reading?

Standing there and having people look at me. It's terrifying. I try to pretend I'm someone else. Someone who isn't scared out of her mind and trembling inside. I fake myself out. I also try to remind myself that no one really gives a shit about me and even if I bomb, the only one who will remember is me. Nothing I do will make the news, so it's stupid, really, to be so afraid. I once stepped out of a jacuzzi in a women's locker room, and vomited and passed out, NAKED, in my own vomit. Sometimes I tell myself that no matter what happens, it probably won't be as bad as that. 

13. Did I hear right? WonderBread is taken from a lot of real events you've been through? 

Yup, sure is. Here's the round up of stuff I've encountered in real life: 1. The bread bag full of cocaine. 2. The girl (moi!) working at a dress shop that's really a front for cocaine dealing. 3. The quadriplegic with the head pointer who makes "erotic" films (in real life the guy made sex films that he called "art", in the book the guy makes porn). 4. The blind date with the quadriplegic (my blind date was with a paraplegic). 5. A guy named Vice Versa (the real one wasn't a hit man). Hmmm, there's more, but I can't remember right now. 

14. What's the hardest thing you ever had to write? 

The hardest things for me to write are promo/ad copy sort of things. Fiction is way easier than stuff like that. Actually, the hardest things to write are mission statements, essays, statements of purpose.  The kind of stuff you have to write to get into colonies.  I find that kind of writing agonizing.  

15. Did I hear that the very first story you sent out was published? What did that feel like?

It did and I was shocked.  I was staying home with my baby, pulling weeds from the lawn with my crazyass next door neighbor who had screws in her mouth for teeth and liked to weed my lawn with a fork. I was sitting in the park all day, talking to other mothers, watching my crawling baby eat sand and crawl up the steps to the slide and then slide down face first.  When she napped I wrote. I didn't tell anyone, it was my secret. I had no idea if anything I wrote was good or not. Getting that story published gave me the courage to apply to graduate school. 

16. I saw your first two books have book trailers, is The Wonder Bread Summer going to have one? What do you think they do for the book? 

I'm not sure they do anything for a book.  In fact, I'm pretty certain they do nothing. But they're sort of fun to make and fun to look at. I think shorter is better. I don't' think any book trailer should be longer than 60 seconds. We are making one for Wonder Bread. We were going to shoot it last week but my schedule got too crazy.  I think we're shooting it next week.  

17. Have you ever considered doing the audio book version of your books? 

Hey, I'd do the pantomime version of my book if someone wanted it! 

18. Do you participate in any writing workshops, or is it just you and your editor? 

I have a writers group.  It's me and three guys, they all have at least two books out and they're all great writers. We eat dinner. They drink wine. We talk about everything. And then we give macro responses to each other's work. No one's really into the minutiae and that's how I prefer it. It's our editors who get into the micro. 

19. On your website it says that you have a novel in progress called Running from Vice Versa, are you nervous about giving away too much too soon? 

Really? Does it say that?  That was my working title for The Wonder Bread Summer. My webpage was recently updated.  I don't think it says that anymore, does it? OH, maybe on the HarperCollins page for me it says that, doesn't it? 

20. Other than Running from Vice Versa, what's next for Jessica Blau? 

I have five things going at once and I'm feeling somewhat paralyzed. I'm feeling a bit scared and I don't know why. I think it's because I'm in the middle of promoting Wonder Bread and so I can't get my head away from it enough to really dive into something else. I have three first chapters to a new novel (three different novels). And I have short stories I'm writing. And other stuff, too. I need to pick one thing and just dig in. I need to ignore myself for a while (my constantly critical self-doubting, niggling voice) and just do it. I'm starting tomorrow. I swear. 

Thank you! 


And as always, don't forget to "like" the Mourning Goats Facebook page for all the latest interviews! www.mourninggoats.com 

Friday, June 21, 2013

#57 Jesus Angel Garcia

20 Questions with Mourning Goats
Jesus Angel Garcia

This interview has been over a year in the making, but after the festival with Iggy (yes, that Iggy) and the Stooges, we got some questions answered. So, without further adieu, I give you Jesus Angel Garcia and his book, badbadbad! 

1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"

The remorse of a 14-year-old Catholic boy, masturbating.

2. Do you consider yourself more of a novelist or musician? 

I've played music and written "seriously" since 8th grade. I'm glad I'm still able to do both, but what's more important to me is how I live, quality of life. I'm just trying to be a decent human being and enjoy what's left of my time.

3. That being said, you have 30 shows lined up for 2013, already. When are you going to have time to write? 

Yeah, I've got a lot going on with my string band Three Times Bad. Most of my writing right now is song lyrics. I've also begun to write my next book -- a collection of stories and prose poems based on Billie Holiday tunes. I make time when I can, when I feel like I need to get something down. I like flying because I'm trapped on the plane and all I do is write (and read). It's a respite from everything on the ground demanding head space. I'm doing a writing retreat in Portland this summer, so I'll crank out some more Billie Holiday drafts then (and learn to play this banjo I recently picked up). I'm also seeing this beautiful poet who won't let me not write. We're talking about launching a transmedia publishing company.

4. What was the idea behind doing not only the book and music for the book, but also film? Was it all marketing? 

Nah, less marketing than unrestrained creative impulse, I guess. It's hard to remember exactly. I think the multimedia stuff for "badbadbad" started out simply from my interest in exploring the novel's themes through different lenses, just to see what that would look like. I did originally plan to make a couple of videos from the audio-visual material to promote the book outside traditional literary channels. I've always been into music, and at the time, I had just bought my first point-and-shoot camera and editing software, so I was fired by the possibilities. As I got deeper into writing songs and interviewing people on the street, the whole thing sort of took off and I could see these distinct yet interrelated projects coming into being. I couldn't stop once I saw what they could be. I wound up with a complete soundtrack and a full-length documentary film that extended the breadth of the novel beyond the words on the page. It was an unexpected outcome.

5. What's going on with Down in a Hole?

That's my second novel. It took me six years and fifty thousand drafts to get it right. The manuscript's on my hard drive. I should probably print a hard copy. I haven't shopped it much, focusing instead on Three Times Bad. No luck with the few indie presses I've hit up. I should probably put more effort into getting that book published. It's a paranormal anti-romance historical fiction existential meditation on mortality. Got any recs?

6. What was it like working with New Pulp Press? Any plans to go back for another book? 

New Pulp's editor/publisher Jon Bassoff is a great guy. He's easy to work with and incredibly supportive. But I don't have plans to write anything new in the transgressive noir vein, and his aesthetic is pretty much twisted crime fiction, so I'm gonna have to look elsewhere for a home for my next books.

7. What's your writing schedule look like? Do you have one? 

I travel by plane as often as possible.

8. It seems as though you're a full-time musician and novelist, is that right? What else do you do to fill your time? 

I freelance: First Church webmaster, reiki massage therapist, mile-high entertainer on those private jets where CEO's and politicians lick each other's billfolds.

9. Mud Luscious Press just closed up shop, where do you think indie lit is headed?

From what I can tell, indie lit is a luminescent, Hydra-headed beast with boundless energy, badass attitude, and an appetite for self-destruction. Indie lit is hungry, and it feeds on itself. When one braintrust dies, a new one rises from its rotten corpse. As there's no end to cynicism in the indie lit world, there's also no end to the idealism of bleary-eyed writer/editor/publishers-in-training. Have I mentioned that I'm starting a press? Of course: "Unsolicited submissions are not being accepted at this time."

10. What's your take on e-books? Are they killing the printed word? 

E-books are... eeeevil? Nah. I don't care. Go on and lick your laptop/tablet/cellphone screens. Me? I eat words on paper. I like acoustic instruments and I like books that smell.

11. Have you received a lot of backlash from BadBadBad? You hit on some pretty rough topics. 

Some but not so much. Suffice to say, the book has triggered a range of reactions, most positive, most passionate.

12. You said in one interview that, "the haters tend to hate it with a passion," do you think that those who hate, and share their hate, actually help sales? The whole, any press is good press. 

Sales? Surely you jest.

13. You compiled nearly 80 gigabytes of film for the documentary, how did you choose what to include? 

At first, the editing process was complicated, searching for connects and just-right juxtapositions and narrative sequences among so many faces, voices, and words. It was easier once I homed in on the sounds. Then I just constructed the film like you'd compose an extended musical work. Once I listened, it was obvious which parts to include and which to cut.   

14. It seems as though you're almost angry about how digital the world has become, do you think we're going in a negative direction with how connected we are or does it amplify reality? 

I AM NOT ANGRY!!! Maybe we've always been as pathetic as we often appear to be while sucking the digital teat all the livelong day. My biggest problem with e-obsessive/compulsive behavior is that a lot of people seem to have forgotten how (or have simply given up on developing the capacity) to communicate and connect face-to-face, eye-to-eye, skin-to-skin. It seems to me that a lot of us use digital media as a way to tune out, not tune in. Information overload, clickety click culture, always-on oversharing... all that stuff tends to be, I think, a diversion from or disruption to more meaningful nuanced communication, one-on-one connection, healthy sleep patterns, etc. That's a sad misuse of the technology and it makes me feel like too many of us are little more than two-legged hillbilly cyborg dogs.  

15. I've never heard of a dating site used for novel research, what went down on OkCupid? 

Hunger, hunt, gorge, vomit, repeat.

16. Do you think that being a musician transitions to the way you write? Do you feel that your writing is almost lyrical?

I hope so. Yeah, I think they're connected. They can't not be, right? I've been doing both for so long. My first writing was poetry, so there's that.

17. You're all over the social networks, do you think that they're a necessity in today's self-promotional world? 

I guess. I dunno. I'm not sure. I'd like to quit. I guess I would if I wasn't a cyborg dog.

18. What's been the most exciting news you've received about the book, the band, or the film? Each have so many exciting things happening! 

Hard to say. Excitement is fleeting, ya know? What goes up... anyway, when you first see your first book in print it can't not feel like something that matters. But then reality kicks in. Do you know how many books are published every year in the United States alone? Still, my favorite moments with the book were probably when a legit critic wrote a thoughtful review and I was like, yes, this writer gets what I was trying to get across and he or she took the time to articulate it. I'm super appreciative for the times that happened. With the band... we just played all three days of this badass Ink n Iron Festival in Long Beach on the Queen Mary, a historic cruise ship, with headliners Iggy & the Stooges and so many other world-class bands. That was an honor. Also, our on-stage partnerships with burlesque dancers are kinda magical dream-come-true experiences. There's nothing like a performance that kills. With the film, getting an acceptance email from the first film fest I applied to was a good day.

19. Are you reading anything that you can't stop telling people about? 

Anne Carson's "Autobiography of Red" is kicking my ass and reminding me what language and story can do when you push yourself to write big.

20. What's next for Jesus Angel Garcia?

At this moment, a much-needed vacation with family and old-school friends I haven't seen in way too long. Maybe after that, a new chapter in creative publishing.

Thank you! 


Check out his other places on the web, at www.threetimesbad.com and www.badbadbad.net and as always, go "like" the Facebook page for the newest interviews, updates, and pages to chew. www.mourninggoats.com 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

#56 Seth Godin

20 Questions with Mourning Goats 

Seth Godin 

I've been following Seth for a few years now, and back in February sent my first email to him. Once he agreed to the interview, my first thoughts were, "Goat, what have you gotten yourself into this time? Seriously, what do you ask someone who's been touted as the greatest marketer of our time? Someone who sold their company (Yoyodyne) to Yahoo for $30 million? Someone who's written over a dozen New York Times bestsellers?" 
After some research, I came up with these twenty. I hope you enjoy, I know I did! 

1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"

Nothing. At all. Sorry.

2. Congratulations, you just had your 5,000th post on your blog! Why do you think your blogging has gone longer than any of your other professional projects?

Blogging is magical because there's no business objective. I just get to share. Since there's no peak, there's no end. It's me, thinking and sharing and ranting and musing. I guess I'm hooked.

3. You've had a plethora of New York Times best sellers, what do you owe your success to? Marketing, subject matter, timing, a mixture of it all?

Certainly a mixture. I've been fortunate enough to stand up and name things that needed naming, and to do it at a time when ideas were easier to spread than ever before.

4. You've resisted the pull of social media because it would take you away from what's most important to you, but for the rest of us, just getting started, do you think that social media is a necessity or does it all come down to putting the time in to create something and continue on that path, letting things fall where they may.

I think that for just about everyone, Twitter is a time-waster, not an asset builder. There are exceptions, but not many. Facebook and LinkedIn can amplify your work as a generous connector, but they are more of a symptom than a cause.

Do work that scares you.

5. I usually get your emails between 5:30 and 6:30am, what's your writing schedule for the blogs, the books, and everything else? Do you try to keep any kind of schedule? Is that possible in your world?

I'm super disciplined about many things, it makes it easier to be crazier when I need to be. So yes, there's a discipline to the blog.

6. You recently did a search for a two-week internship and one of the asks was that the person gave back to society in some way, I also saw that you give 5% of profits from Squidoo to charity. Are you a big believer in Karma?

I'm a big believer in doing what you can, when you can. If you can't be generous, who can be?

7. Are you still in contact with your 9 six-month MBA students? Are there any who are really standing out?

I hear from them all the time. I'm incredibly proud of the paths they're choosing to walk.

8. As someone who hardly watches any television, do you read fiction at all? Or is your creative reading in the non-fiction world?

I read junky fiction, but I find I lack the patience for real literature. That's my loss.

9. In one interview you said that a successful book of yours led you to a book that was a failure, led you to another successful book. What deems a book a success/failure in your eyes?

For me, every book is a success, in that if I thought it was a failure, I never would have sent it to the publisher. But many of my books haven't met the publisher's hopes for sales, so in that respect, a failure.

10. One of the questions you included in the internship interview was, "Where are you going?" I'd love to ask you the same, where are you going?

I'm trying to build a reputation, a platform and to leave things a little better than I found them.

11. In one interview, you were asked if you were "satisfied creatively" and you responded, "not even close." Do you think as a writer and as an entrepreneur, this is the biggest driving force in what you do? That feeling that there's always more to explore?

Exactly! It's hard to say, "this is perfect, it's done, I'm done." Some people can do that, but I can't.

12. Mourning Goats published an author interview book in May called Chewing the Page. We went through a traditional publisher (Perfect Edge Books) and I was wondering, do you think kickstarter is a good way for up-and-coming authors to help build their audience and procure a publisher?

Read this: http://www.thedominoproject.com/?p=2228

13. Your thoughts on education are dead on. Do you see passion, experience and insight being something that schools look at and implement in educating students in the future?

We can hope! I think it's going to take longer than it should.

14. I feel like your thoughts on goals and making money are a lot like a fiction writer's. Put hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into a project, do your best work, do something that you're proud of, and if it makes you any money, good for you. Is that about right?

I'd add: make generous connections. Contribute as much as you can to the community that you depend on. Raise the bar and teach what you can...

15. You once said, "When anyone can publish an ebook, anyone will." Do you think this helps or hinders what's put out into the world?

Both. Without curation, it's really difficult to choose. On the other hand, without curators, there's no gatekeeper to keep the undiscovered off the market.

16. 900 rejection letters? Many of the authors who read this interview just fell in love with you for pushing through! What's the best piece of advice you have to get past rejection and on to success?

Rejection isn't about you. Rejection merely means that the story you told to someone didn't resonate with them. Blame the story or blame the rejector, but the work is the work. I saw rejections as, "no for now."

That doesn't mean you shouldn't learn from what doesn't work. But failure is an event, not a person, as my friend Zig used to say.

17. In fiction, most, if not all of us fail, a lot, before getting published; did you write any unpublished books before Permission Marketing took off?

I created 120 books as a book packager--YA fiction, books on gardening and business and many things in between. Some I wrote, some I commissioned, some I built teams for. The Information Please Business Almanac, for example, took 6 people a year of full time work to put together. The original Kaplan review books were a huge project as well.

18. In 2010, you said that Linchpin would be your last book you publish in a traditional way, how do you think this has played out for you and where do you see it changing in the future?

Well, it's been true. I love people in book publishing, but an always not-so-good business model is now officially a terrible one.

19. I started this interview site back in 2010 and have interviewed over 50 of my favorite writers, so far. Who would you go after next? Which authors out there do you think have the most to say?

Charles Darwin?

20. Finally, I've seen a ton of similarities between three of the Mourning Goats interviews; you, Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Hsieh. Do you think most successful entrepreneurs, as well as authors in general, are the ones not scared to take the risk of failure?

Entrepreneurs don't take risks. We see opportunities.

Thank you, Seth! 


Also, this interview, along with the other 55 will be moving over to Facebook, one at a time, over the next 22 days. "Like" the Mourning Goats page and follow along! And finally, don't forget to grab the book over on Amazon! Chewing the Page: The Mourning Goats Interviews