20 Questions with Mourning Goats
INTERVIEW FIFTY NINE
Michael J Seidlinger
Michael Seidlinger is one of the biggest and best promoters I've run across online, not only for himself, but everyone he loves and respects. After having the opportunity to speak with him, I'm pumped to hear about the things he's a part of and can't wait to see where he goes. Enjoy number 59, Michael Seidlinger!
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
I picture a field of dead, or dying grass, with a dozen or so cows standing around posing as other animals. But not as themselves. How a cow poses as something else… I have no idea but really the cows would have no clue that they’re posing; they’re cows. It would be the person theoretically looking at this fucked up scene. I guess that person would be me which means… I have no idea. What was the question again?
2. I've found with most authors I talk to, they don't normally come from a background of one career choice, but jump all over the place. As someone who's been everything from a professional boxer to a construction worker, do you think the reason for this is that creatives get bored easily?
I think we all get bored easily. Everyone. Nothing lasts forever and after the first impact, the first taste, everything has a tendency to filter away with each repeat experience. It’s a reason to enjoy the first time as if it were the only, or last, time. If you decide to do something, go into it believing that it’s one-of-a-kind. There’s really no guarantee it’ll be anything but that.
3. Do you think writers have a choice to become writers? Or is it's something that just...happens?
I think it just happens but, then again, so many writers are far more certain and confident about their choice to write than I am. I fell into writing after quickly becoming enamored by all sorts of modern/contemporary experimental literature. Ask someone else and they’ll go on about how they have dreamed of being a writer from an early age. Though everyone writes, at some point the inclination to tackle an longer written piece (like a novella or novel) is a conscious one. It is an incredible challenge that is never fully completed. The completion of one novel fulfills its specific constraints but no “one novel” will ever fulfill a writer’s ultimate challenge to write what is in their minds to be the best they can produce. There is, and will always be, better. And so you write. Even in a less than conscious state, you write.
4. What have you done in your life that makes you most proud?
I don’t know. I’m still living it, I think.
5. I see how much promotion you do on your Facebook page, for not only you, but others. Do you think social media is a necessary evil for authors these days?
It isn’t evil if you look at social media as a tool. So many people are quick to call Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc an evil presence on their lives. I have always looked at it as nothing more than a promotional and social tool. It is highly beneficial of writers and “creative” in general to incorporate social media into their routines. You will not only be able to reach an audience but also you’ll find other writing/art that you wouldn’t have discovered without it.
6. What are you most excited about with Civil Coping Mechanism? Anything you can talk about?
Cheesy answer but: I’m excited about the future. All of it. So much great work in the world and I’m merely glad to have CCM to help bring that great work into the world. Specific details? Keep that ear to the social networking channels. I’ll mention more there.
7. In one interview you said that the book that you remember starting your path toward being a writer was House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, how did you come across a 700+ page beast like that and decide to get it, let alone read it?
I don’t actually remember. It was during undergrad. I believe I found out about it via a friend who had mentioned it in conversation. Something about how it was basically The Blair Witch Project if it were a novel (not via premise but via the sheer ambition to go against film/literary conventions of the time). That was enough for me to go ahead and pick up the book. Upon purchasing it, I ended up reading it cover-to-cover over a single weekend. I barely slept, completely captivated by the piece. It certainly was the harbinger that led me down the literary path. After that extremely positive reading experience, I was lured into the wormhole of postmodern literature – Vonnegut, Coupland, and, yes, Palahniuk before I started on the experimental stuff like the Oulipo authors, Joyce, and so on.
8. You're currently in NYC and it sounds like you're leaving in August, do you think you'll ever make it a more permanent home?
Good question. I hope so. As of now, it doesn’t seem like a possibility. I go where the opportunity is and lately I haven’t founded a permanent funding source. The labels “poor” and “nomadic” seem to be good descriptors for my immediate future. Comes with the territory, I guess.
9. Cameron Pierce said that your new novel, The Laughter of Strangers, is the "most original boxing novel ever," can you give us an idea of what to expect?
The Laughter of Strangers is about a boxer celebrity named Willem Floures on the tail end of his career, struggling to remain the current “most noteworthy” version of himself. This is a world where fighting in the ring means fighting yourself. You face the versions that decided differently; you wage war with the versions that want to be the penultimate, the one that best represents “Willem Floures.” This is a story about the version that had it all and yet still wants more, he wants to keep fighting and is willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means losing himself in the process.
10. Since your first book came out in 2010, you've had six books published, while at the same time going after a master's degree and working on a ton of side projects... when do you have time to sleep?
Secret’s out: I don’t sleep. Ever. Well, the reality is that I am an insomniac. If you are already a workaholic and also suffer from insomnia, you end up, more or less, where I’m at.
11. What's the reasoning behind the Master's degree? Do you want to teach?
I am actually pursuing a master’s in business primarily to learn more about the world of publishing and business at large. There exists a greater purpose that has to do with working with and/or operating a successful business; the postgraduate program, in theory, will help me get closer to this goal.
12. What are you reading these days? Is anything knocking you on your ass?
I find myself gravitating towards indie/small press work these days. Big surprise, I know; however, I really do think the writing being produced within the smaller and independent presses (everything non-Big Five) is more exciting than another 400-500 page hardcover from Doubleday or Knopf. Lately, notable reads include "Crapalachia" by Scott McClanahan, "Go to work and do your job. Care for your children. Pay your bills. Obey The Law. Buy products" by Noah Cicero, "I will never be beautiful enough to make us beautiful together" by Mira Gonzalez, and "I Don't Know I Said" by Matthew Savoca.
Of course, this excludes all the CCM material that knocked me on my ass, aka surprised me, enough to publish it. It's a great time to be involved in the indie press community.
13. The Summer Rooftop Reading Series you host looks like a good time, is it more focused on the reading or the camaraderie and drinks afterwards?
It is all about the camaraderie and drinks. It’s highly informal and in many ways is my way of denying yet another “reading” to exist. There are so many readings in any given city; it’s kind of ridiculous. You have the commodities, the reading series that consistently put out a great event like Franklin Park Reading Series championed by Penina Roth. Those sorts of readings are important; however, for every Franklin Park you have a dozen meaningless ones that end up feeling awkward, sterile, and docile. Whatever happened to just having a writer stand up and read? When did it become more about accolades? I mean, what the hell? Anyway, yeah, I’m not a fan of the standard reading format if it isn’t done well (curated and planned correctly).
14. Do you have a writing schedule or are you a write when the feeling hits kind of guy?
I adhere to a quota. Depending on the novel it can be up to 2000 words a day. By default, I write 1000 words a day. This is the minimum; I always attain more than 1000. Quality matters too. I edit as I go so that I don’t end up with filler that merely exists to exist. There needs to be purpose to each paragraph, each scene. If I didn’t maintain this sort of quota, I’d likely grow lazy.
15. Do you have a favorite book you've written or is it always the one in progress?
It’s always the one that’s currently in progress. Once it’s done and out in the world, I begin seeing them as their own entities. Never “my books” just “a book.” A book always takes on a life of its own. Being its author merely entails that you were responsible for its birth.
16. What would you say your writing style is? Do you feel you fit into a genre?
You tell me because I really don’t know. I’d hope that the world “literary” is somehow attached because I have made it a personal goal to always provide more than a narrative; a story that’s merely a story is hollow. There needs to be an underlying substance that fuels the reason for those words to exist at all.
17. In June you wrote something for Melville House on famous writers rituals. Do you have any?
I need coffee at my side, even if I don’t end up drinking it. I need music, something atmosphere and preferably without any vocals. This is likely why I am so into post-rock. I like to lie down rather than sit up; I also prefer solitude to a hectic coffee shop. However, I can adapt to any setting as long as I have music and headphones to block out the humanity.
18. There are many definitions of "a writer," what's yours?
You could say that all people are writers; however, the one’s that brandish it as part of their being are a breed of person that tries to make sense of the sentences work in a grander scheme of things. Whatever that scheme may be has usually to do with the exploration of deeper themes that only a certain level of creation can achieve.
19. What advice would you give someone who wants to break into the writing world?
I truly believe that it’s important to care about the work above all else. There’s no reason to write if you are only doing so for the satisfaction of publication. If you are looking to become a writer because you want to be a million seller and/or turn novel-writing into your day job, I’m not going to say it’s impossible but I will say that it’s going to make it far more difficult to write because you will treat the craft as more a struggle than a worthwhile challenge. As for “breaking in,” I wish I could tell you because I don’t believe I have any advice to give. It almost feels like “breaking in” isn’t something that happens; rather, it is something that is always, one hopes, happening. It’s the constant fight to find and discover. Hmm. Advice to give. Write what thrills you and fuels those late night writing sessions. Odds are you’ll leave something beautiful imbedded into those sentences.
20. What's next for Michael Seidlinger?
There’s always a novel, always another project; I am always working towards what I distantly see to be something exciting. Other than that, we’ll see.
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